Inspired by Mike Vardy’s series on using Todoist, I thought I would share how I use Todoist and the benefits I get from using it. In this post we’re going to look at the projects feature of Todoist.

Todoist’s projects are a fairly standard feature. It’s a place where you can bring together related tasks. However that’s where the similarity to projects ends. Where you might be expecting a start date and an end date for the project, there aren’t fields for this in Todoist. A project is just the name and the colour that you’ve chosen to assign to it.

Keeping this simple means that projects can be used in different ways. I try not to think of them as projects and instead think of them as lists. Lists can expire, be completed or be allowed to run on forever. The idea of a list triggers a more flexible collection of tasks than a project, which is why I always think of projects in Todoist as lists. I have a number of projects that behave more like lists then projects:

  • Reading - All books that I plan on reading in the future. Fiction, programming and career and some others as well.
  • Writing - A list of writing ideas for my website. It starts with scheduled ideas planned for the near future and graudally moves down to ideas that I might one day use. Home - I have a list for everything related to family life. Golf coaching, birthday parties, shool activies, days out. They all go here.
  • Sharpen The Saw - Recently I started capturing things I didn’t know about the tools I was using. Everyday I pick one of these off and find out more about it. It’s a quick way of learning more about the tools I’m using.

Todoist has a feature where you can indent projects under one another. I try to avoid doing this. In the past I did indent a number of projects but quickly I ended up with three level deep projects and it made getting a top down view of my list more difficult to read. I try to use the indentation of projects as a last resort and even then it’s only a temporary measure until I can find a better place for a group of tasks.

I use Nicholas Bate’s idea of a personal compass as a basic grouping for tasks. Six compass points that represent six aspects of my life. It’s a fairly easy way to ensure that you can group things sensibly and that you’re not allowing one part of your life to have an adverse affect on the others. Using this I give each compass point a colour. When a project is created it is assigned the colour of the compass it closely relates too. This makes tracking my progress on different compass points easy to do since I can only ever see six colours of my compass points in the productivity trend window of Todoist.

That’s it for how I use projects in Todoist. Nothing should surprise anyone here as most people must use similar ideas. Projects in Todoists are simple but flexible and can be used to group your tasks accordingly. Next week I’ll discuss labels in Todoists and their use.

Update - You might want to read my thoughts on deciding if a project is in fact a context.