Over the years, I’ve been a serial monogamist when it comes to task management apps. There have been relationships with Producteev, Remember the Milk, and Wunderlist, but I’ve finally settled down with Todoist. So, what’s different this time?
Firstly, and most importantly, Todoist works across different platforms and devices, so I can manage tasks from my PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet; I can also use the web-based version on shared computers. As I mentioned in my post on smartphone apps for researchers, the Todoist widget makes it brilliantly simple to quickly add a task when I’m on the move.
Todoist’s integration with GMail helps me transform emails into tasks and get them out of my inbox. It then creates a link back to the original email from my task list, so I can easily find it again. It also integrates with MS Outlook and Thunderbird. I’m currently trying out an app called Sunrise, which integrates Google Calendar with my Todoist tasks. It’s early days, but it’s useful to see both appointments and tasks on one screen (although it has absorbed a huge chunk of my phone’s storage space).
The interface has also prompted my commitment to Todoist – the design is simple, but the functionality is extensive, and it doesn’t attempt to impose a particular way of working. I used to love Producteev, but the developers suddenly decided that everything was about teams, which isn’t great when you mostly work on your own. There are features for collaborative tasks in Todoist, but they’re unobtrusive. With Todoist you can create different projects, each with its own set of tasks. This is perfect for me, as I have what you might call a portfolio career. I have a project for each book I’m working on, one for teaching, one for blog posts I’m planning to write, and a general one for daily bits and bobs. You can specify a priority for each task and filter them accordingly. It’s also possible to add labels, if you want to get really fancy.
Among the other useful features are reminders (by SMS or email), backups (vital if you have a vast and complicated task list), and the ability to add file attachments to tasks. I’m also smitten with project templates – a method of reusing common task lists. I have a template for all the steps involved in publishing an ebook, for example. This means I know exactly what I need to do and am unlikely to miss an important step. Using the notes field, I can also include information that I always forget, such as the dimensions for a Kindle cover.
If ticking off your tasks isn’t satisfying enough, you can also track your productivity with the Karma feature. I must warn you, however, that this is rather addictive. Here’s a colourful graph showing my output over the last week. The colours denote the projects on which I’ve worked.
The premium version of Todoist, which gives you the full range of features, costs £18 per year – very reasonable for such a good tool. There’s also a free version with reduced functionality. I strongly believe that having a good task management tool is essential to being an effective researcher these days, and reckon Todoist is as good as they get.