10 Tips for Todoist

Todoist has been my choice of task management app for almost a year now. In that time I’ve learned a thing or two about it. Here are ten tips to help you get the most from it.

It worth noting that most of these tips can only be used with a premium subscription to Todoist. At just $29 (US) per year for a subscription to Todoist Premium, that’s less than the cost of a cup of coffee a month. Bargain if you ask me.

1. Archive Projects For Better Focus

While you might like to be organized by amassing a collection of tasks in a number of different projects, you probably won’t be able to work on all these projects at the same time. Not a problem. Simply create your project with its tasks and then archive it to work on it later. Archiving the project keeps it out of active tasks but also keeps it out of your focus.

The archive command can be found in the menu that appears when you hover over a project with your mouse and click the ellipsis on the right hand side of the highlighted section. At the bottom of the menu that appears you’ll find the archive command.

2. Create Linkable Tasks

Sometimes we would like to reference something online in a task. It might be support material for the task or a product relating to the task. How nice would it be to include that URL in your task? Well you can! Todoist uses the following syntax to include URLs in a task:

http://matthewlang.co.uk (Must hire this guy!)

This will create a nice clickable link in your task and will also hide that nasty long URL.

Bonus tip: As well has hyperlinks you can also include bold or italic text in your task!

3. Capture Tasks With Email

Todoist is available on lots of different devices and platforms. If you have a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone then there’s a Todoist client made for it. What if you’re using a public computer to check your email and you’d rather not sign in to Todoist on it?

Tasks can easily be added to your projects and inbox by emailing the task to Todoist. For each inbox and project, there is a seperate email address that allows you to email tasks in. Simply send an email to the correct address that can be found in the tools section of the inbox or project, and use the subject as the name of your task. Hit send an it will be added to your list of tasks on Todoist.

To find out the email address for your inbox and projects, click on the tasks actions icon at the top right hand side of the list. On this menu you’ll find the Email tasks to this project command where it will show you the email address you should send your tasks too.

4. Location Based Reminders

Reminders are great for when we do things at a set time or date, but what if you’re running late? Instead of setting a reminder for a time or date, why not set a reminder for the general area that a task or project relates to?

Got a meeting with a client downtown at your favourite coffee place?. Set a reminder when you arrive at this location to get the coffees in before your client arrives. A nice way to start the meeting on a positive note!

Location based reminders can be found when you edit a task and hit the reminders icon. Simply flip the reminder from a date and time to a location and you’ll be able to the reminder for a location.

5. Backups for Accidents

Deleted a project by accident that contained a list of tasks you entered the day before? Don’t worry. Todoist’s premium plan backups up your entire to do list every day. Just download the latest backup of your list from Todoist and re-import that project to save yourself the time of creating it all over again.

Backups can be found in the settings section of Todoist under the Backups tab. A list of recent backups is always kept here.

6. Group similar labels by colour

Labels in Todoist are a great way to group tasks, but Todoist only offer so many colours to choose from. What if you run out of colours? Easy, group similar labels by a single colour so that not only do they give you more choice of colours, each label has a contextual colour that is easy to recognise.

7. Recurring Tasks Save Time

At the end of every month I invoice a single client for the work I did for the month. I’ve been doing this for over a year. Recently though I got fed up re-creating the same task in Todoist. Using Todoist’s ability to create recurring tasks, you can have the same task repeat at times that you need. No more re-creating the same task over and over again!

8. Start Projects Quickly with Templates

Starting a new project can involve setting the same tasks up as previous projects. Why bother creating the same tasks though? Templates are plain text files that contain tasks that you can import into a project as a template.

Templates can be created from existing projects or by creating them yourself in a plain text file.

9. Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts

Using the keyboard is a great time saver when you know the right keys to press. It’s the reason why us developers are the most productive people on the planet. Right, that’s not 100% true, but pressing keys can still be quicker than figeting with a mouse.

10. Reviews Projects and Labels with the Visualiser

When you view your Karma score there’s a link to viewing all the completed tasks you have done. When you click this you can analyse how many tasks you have completed over a period of time for a project or label. This is great to use for reviewing your progress on a project.

There we have it. Ten tips for Todoist. Now go forth and be productive!

How I Use Filters in Todoist

Last week we looked at labels in Todoist and how they provide context to your tasks. This week we’re going to look at how I use Todoist’s filter feature.

Before we talk about filters, let’s just recap how we can already group tasks in Todoist. The first is by assigning tasks to a project. This is ideal for tasks we know that belong in a specific place. The second is by using labels which are more of a form of tagging in Todoist. You can label tasks across different projects thereby bringing similar tasks together.

Filters in Todoist are similar to labels but they can bring together more tasks depending on your filter. A filter in Todoist is a search term that matches tasks and can then be saved for future use. The benefit here is that filters allow you to bring similar tasks together rather than focusing on tasks from a single project or label. Combining dates, labels and some boolean logic allows us to filter for specific tasks and labels to give us a list of tasks that are suitable to our location and environment.

Here’s a few ideas for filters that I am using at the moment:

Low Hanging Fruit

Filter: "(@Low & @5mins) !@Errands"

I use this all tasks labelled with these and complete when I’m stuck for something to do.

Errands & Emails

Filter: "@Errands | (@Email & @Low)"

I sometimes opt for public transport when I need to head into town to run some errands. It’s good, as it gives me a chance to walk to the bus stop and get some air, but also there’s 10 minutes on the bus where I can carry out some email tasks before getting into town to do some errands. This filter is great for those tasks when you’re out and about.

Upcoming Posts

Filter: "14days & @writing"

I’ve started scheduling blog posts into specific days so that I’m keeping my writing varied. Rather than using a calendar though I find it easier to put due dates against the tasks in my writing list and then tag them with @writing. Combining this with the 14 days term and I can get a list of blog posts I’ve got scheduled for the next two weeks. If there’s any gaps I can pull an idea in and schedule it with a date.

Filters are one feature that set Todoist apart from other to do list applications. Using filters you can build custom lists that are more than just a single project or label. You can build lists that can be done in certain locations or at specific parts of the day, thereby making yourself a little bit more productive. It’s worth noting that filters using a boolean operator is only included in Todoist’s premium subscription.

That’s it then for Todoist. This is the final post in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it. If you’ve any questions about Todoist then I suggest you check out their help and support sites which are full of help and advice.

How I Use Labels In Todoist

I’ve already mentioned how I use projects in Todoist. Well this time it’s the turn of the humble label.

The label. This is Todoist’s context tag that can be applied to any task if you need to organise them by more than just their priority. Let’s get something clear before we start. Colour coded labels are a premium feature in Todoist. If you’re using the free plan on Todoist, you can still use the labels suggested below but not the label colours.

Having decided that tagging tasks with labels would give me more flexibility I started tagging everything in my list with labels. It quickly turned into a nightmare with inconsistent labels, labels with typos and even obscure labels that didn’t end up making sense to have. I needed a strategy, so I took the advice of Mike Vardy and started using labels in a more structured manner.

Looking at the range of colours available I started to setup label groups by colour. First off I created six labels for my six personal compass points giving each compass point its own colour. This is the basic categorisation of labels regardless of where they are in Todoist. Almost all tasks get labelled with a compass point.

Next I took the groups that Mike Vardy suggested. Using the colours for these labels I grouped them under time, event, person, location and energy. What I eventually ended up with was a wide range of labels for different contexts as well as having a couple of free colours left over that allowed me to have labels that could be used for general purposes.

Labels are also useful with Todoist’s email feature. As well as emailing tasks to your inbox, you can append labels in the subject or the body of the email and they will be added to your task when Todoist receives it.

So what’s the point of labelling everything then?

Well, aside from the fact that it provides some meta-information on the task, it also allows you to search for related tasks. Do you want some low hanging fruit to pick in the morning? Search for the @5mins and @low labels. Kids birthday coming up and you remember taking a note of their preference for a Minecraft book. Search for @birthdays and your kids owns tag using their initials.

You can search for individual tags, combination of tags, tags in a project, tags due on a specific day. There are lots of possibilites to using this and Todoist keeps a nice count of how many times each label has been used so that you can weed out the ones that are unused or break down a label if it’s being overused.

All this now means that I can quickly filter and sort my master list according to labels that provide context. This leads on to next week’s post about filters. Be sure to check back for this and see how you can utilise labels to group tasks together using filters.

How I Use Projects in Todoist

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.

Getting the Most from Feedbin

There’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of years that RSS is dead and it certainly didn’t look good when Google closed their RSS reading service, Google Reader. Since the news that it was closing though there has been a number of new RSS services that aim to fill the gap. Having tried a couple I evetually choose Feedbin. It looked promising from the start and I’m glad to see that today it has grown into an amazing application and makes managing and reading your RSS feeds easy.

Over the course of the last year or two, Feedbin has added a number of great features to the service. I thought I would round up some of my favourite features that I use daily to manage my RSS feeds.

Time To Unsubscribe?

One of the problems I had with Google Reader was that it was difficult to see when a feed was last updated and how active it was. Overtime people lose interest in keeping their site updated so eventually feeds start to stagnate. It was hard to see this in Google Reader. Unless you were aware of the decline in posts, which is easy if you only follow so many accounts, there wasn’t a way to check your feeds to see which were active and in-active.

Feedbin solves this problem on the feeds page of your account. Not only can you search and unsubscribe from feeds, you can also sort them according to when they were last updated and also how active the feed is. This makes it easy to spot the sites that are slowing down in posting and might be worth unsubscribing from.

Showing the feed activity on Feedbin

Take A Shortcut

Google Reader had a great set of keyboard shortcuts. I even created a mind map for the shortcuts to help me memorise them. They were essential in allowing me to quickly scan through all my feeds and mark those that were worth reading later on in the day. You’ll be glad to hear then that Feedbin also has a great collection of keyboard shortcuts at your disposal. With these you can navigate around your feeds, search, action articles and even share them to your own connected services such as App.net and Twitter.

If you’re not a software developer then you might be more familiar with using the mouse when it comes to navigating your applications. For applications such as Feedbin, I say give the keyboard a try. While you might hit a few stumbling blocks at the start, trying to remember what key does what, keep at it. Using the keyboard is a much faster way of interacting with the computer and the keyboard shortcuts for Feedbin are minimal. There are only 20 sets of shortcuts to remember with most of them being a single key, but even learning just a quarter of these will make such a difference. And the best part, just press ‘?’ on your keyboard while using Feedbin and it will display all the shortcuts you need.

Action!

One of my early gripes with Google Reader was the lack of automation. Some feeds I subscribed too always needed a specific action or used for logging purposes. For these feeds I wanted them starred or marked as read as soon as they came in. In Google Reader this wasn’t possible, but it can be in Feedbin.

Feedbin has a section in the setting page called Actions. Here you can define actions that meet one or multiple feeds. The two actions available are starring an article or marking an article as read. There might be more in the future but for now these make automating the management of your feeds a lot easier. Why would you do this though?

Showing the actions for Feedbin

Some feeds are always interesting. I subscribe to the Caesura Letters newsletter through an RSS feed. I star the article every day so that I can find it at lunchtime for further reading. It’s one less action to do on a daily basis but it still saves a bit of time.

Searching your RSS feeds is a routine thing for me. Maybe I’m looking for a specific set of articles or articles that feature a specific keyword. What happens though when you want to do that search over and over again? Well you save it!

Feedbin has a great feature called saved searches that lets you save the searches you carry out over your feeds. These appear in your sidebar with the search icon beside them so that you can differentiate them from the rest of your feeds. One saved search I have is my ‘Recently Mentioned’ search.

Showing my saved search from Feedbin

I follow a number of blogs that are part of an relaxed circle of bloggers. We link to each other’s posts for other people to see. It’s not a traffic building thing, we just link the stuff we find interesting from each other on our blogs. I was getting mentioned a few times when I thought about having a search for this. With my saved search now, I can see when I was last mentioned. You might call it an ego thing, but I prefer to think of it as a validation tool to see what people find interesting. It helps to find out what people link to on my blog and whether I should publish similar content.

Use Your Favourite Reading App

Feedbin also has an API that allows other apps to connect to Feedbin. While Feedbin excels as a great application on the big screen of a desktop, laptop and tablet, I find the mobile interface not that easy to use for scanning feeds. My app of choice for checking my feeds on my iPhone is the wonderful Unread by Jared Sinclair. With simple gestures for quickly scanning and actioning articles, it is by far the best app I have found yet that connects to my Feedbin account.

Feedbin is a great RSS reader and I use it daily, often multiple times a day. The best part of Feedbin though is the automation. The actions and sharing to your favourite services are the best time savers for me. With feeds handled automatically in the background and one key press to share to other services like Instapaper, I can breeze through hundreds of articles on a daily basis.

Small Is Good

Twitter and Facebook are huge in terms of the number of users they have, but is this always a good thing?

Not a week goes by where I’m reminded of the popularity of social networks. Whenever there’s a global event happening, you can be sure that there will be lots of updates about it. Not only that but when you turn on the television now every company and brand has a related Facebook page or a Twitter account. Twitter and Facebook are everywhere. It seems that everyone is on one or the other. Well okay, not quite everyone but it’s safe to say that most are.

Last night was the opening night of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Aside from the first part of the opening ceremony with the giant dancing Tunnocks teacakes, it went fairly well. Like most big events I wondered if anyone was talking about it on App.net. I fired open my App.net client to check. No one had mentioned it. Not one post. Up until the first hour I don’t think there was a single post about it. I breathed a sigh relief.

Why the relief? Well there was no negative comments, bitching or snide remarks. You didn’t have to cut through the negativity. In this case you didn’t have to cut through anything at all. It was refreshing to not have to filter through people’s views, posts, pictures and other stuff.

And that’s what I love about App.net. It’s a small community of people. Okay it might not have the millions of users that other social networks has but if the people in your timeline are not sharing in the same event as yourself then it’s okay. They might just be doing something else that matters to them. It’s a nice reminder that despite what happening around your part of the world, there’s other things happening around the rest of the world too.

If App.net continues to gain users at a slower rate than other networks then that’s okay. As long as it remains profitable and continues to serve it’s users I’ll keep on calling it my little part of the social internet.

Productivity is About Processes

Dazzled by the lights of new task management app? Before switching, make sure you’re switching for the right reasons. Productivity isn’t about the apps.

Read any productivity book and you’ll find a common observation among them. Rarely is a specific tool mentioned that makes that specific productivity method work better.

I spent a good couple of years hopping from app to app in search of a task management app that met my requirements. It wasn’t a wasted journey, I did get to try out a number of different apps but I didn’t have a productivity method in mind that I would use with the app. I was simply trying some apps out. I was going about this the wrong way, you see it should be the other way around. Productivity is about processes not tools. The tools we use should compliment our preferred productivity method.

Look at any productivity method and it’s about the processes and workflows involved. Capturing, reviewing, planning and executing are the most common processes involved in most methods. I use all four of these processes in my own method which centers around a single list of actions. I then use projects and tags to group actions, filters to review and a calendar for scheduling those actions.

The processes I use means that I could use just about any task management app, but it’s in the details where you can find great task management apps. Here’s a list of requirements that I finally settled on.

  • I need to be able to capture anywhere.
  • I need to group related actions into projects.
  • I need to group actions by tags.
  • I need to see different views of my list.
  • I need my list available to me wherever I go.

Looking at these requirements I can think of a number of task management apps that could meet all these requirements. After reviewing a number of apps that I’ve tried in the past I found a couple that worked for me. I choose TaskPaper as it gave me the ability to keep my master list in one location in raw text. After a few months though my list became difficult to manage. I started looking for a replacement.

One task management application that I hadn’t tried up to this point was Todoist. I started moving my master list over to Todoist. That was eight months ago. Today I’m still using Todoist. It meets all my requirements and also provides a number of other features that I didn’t look for before in a task management app.

With a crowded marketplace of task management apps it can be easy to be dazzled by the new kid on the block, but productivity isn’t about those apps. It’s about the processes. If you’re on the market for a new task management app or you’re simply looking for a change, make sure you are looking for an app that fits your processes.

Mastery takes time

Yesterday I mentioned I was embarking on a last attempt to master a different text editor. If I’m to succeed at this, then one truth I must face is that this will take time, just like mastering any new skill does.

I always find that learning something new starts out to be fun. I have a clear goal in mind of what I want the end goal to be and with that in mind I start. Whether it’s a new programming language or an application, those first few days are where my positiveness is at a high. After a few days though, the stumbling blocks kick in. I don’t feel as productive as I did before. Even though I know I’m in unfamilair terroritory, I start to wonder if this is in fact the right time to be learning something new. A few days further on and I’ve only mastered a small subset of this new topic or skill. Questioning myself again, I throw in the towel and abandon the learning process. I’ve done this so many times in the past.

The recurring mistake I’ve made in the past is forgetting that learning takes time. Mastery takes even longer.

For the moment I’m content to simply learn Vim. This means getting to a stage where for most of my day I can write and manipulate code without resorting to looking up keyboard shortcuts. Finding files, finding text in files, managing files in different panes, navigating a file, search and replacing within a file and basic text manipulation represent groups of keyboard shortcuts that I need to learn in order to use Vim effectively. I’ve given myself a month to learn most of these shortcuts. After a month I should be able to assess what I can and can’t do in Vim. For all the things I can’t do, these will become the focus for the next month of using Vim. Repeating this process for six months will evenutally get me to the place where I want to be. To have mastered Vim.

Learning can take hours or days, but true mastery can take weeks, months, even years depending on what you want to master. This is the key to successful learning and mastery, you need to put the time in.

Rebooting

Yesterday I wrote about coasting along. Good for when you’re driving and taking in the good views, but when you’re coasting for everything you do, you’re just ticking the boxes. Today marks the first day of a reboot to purge this nasty habit.

If only everything was as easy to fix as a reboot. Got problems with your computer? Reboot and try again. It’s amazing how often this works. I’m not technical support person, but the amount of times I’ve given technical support to family and it was simply a matter of rebooting their PC is astounding. It’s not this easy for everything though.

Rebooting yourself takes a bit more thought, a bit more time. Let’s face it, we’re complicated entities. Our brains have the accrued knowledge and memories of a whole lifetime. We have habits, whether good or bad, engrained in us. How we approach problems and solve them is different for others. This rebooting lark then is going to take some time then. I’m not expecting a change overnight, but I am expecting to see good results as each day comes. I’m not trying to achieve everything on day one, just making sure that for each day, I’ve made a positive change to how I work and what I do.

This is the first day of the reboot. So where do I begin? Well, this morning I decided to ditch the MacBook and went out for a cycle. I haven’t done this as much as I would like to, as I like to use the Friday to catch up on a few things. Those things can wait though. This morning I just wanted to clear my head and start again. I put on my bike gear, grabbed the bike, walked my oldest son to school and then headed out.

The west of Scotland is having a period of sunny weather so it could not be a better time to head out. As it was the morning, the heat hadn’t reached it peak and the trails were great. Dry hardpacked roads mixed with some dry grassy paths further up. The descent back down was even better.

The bike ride was good. It gives me a chance to clear my head which is something I wasn’t doing often enough. Using the Friday morning for a bike ride, even if it’s just 90 minutes is a good use of time. Everyone knows that exercise is important but what’s also important is the chance to leave a few things behind. The feeds, the timelines, the inboxes, the emails, the messages, the tasks. They can wait. They’ll still be there when we get back. The difference now is that with a clear head I might be in a better frame of mind to take a few of these on. And that’s a good starting point I think for the rebooting process to begin.

Still There

Last night I took my oldest son to his coaching at the golf club. He had a great time. Chatting with his new friend, hitting some balls on the practice ground and getting some tips from the club’s new professional. I sat and watched him from the clubhouse, just making sure that he was keeping his focus for most of the session. At the end I met him on the practice ground, grabbed his bag and shoes and we headed home to catch the opening game of the World Cup. The conversation in the car comprised of who was playing in the football, the plans for a golf compeition on Sunday and the many epic shots that my son said he hit. A good night.

This week hasn’t always been this good though. I now understand why my parents frequently referred to themselves as being ‘broken down record players’. I finally get it. It’s just taken me to having a kid of my own to understand. Every day this week, my son has got himself into trouble for the stupidest of things. It’s been a frustrating week. It’s at the stage where you continually repeat yourself. My son does listen. I know he does, but in between him thinking about golf, football, food, gaming and getting outside, there’s only a small window of opportunity for the message to get through. I feel like I’m on repeat. I shouldn’t be too hard on him though. I was reminded yesterday thay I’m fortunate that I see him every day.

Last night I read about the sad news of Eric Meyer’s daughter, Rebecca. For those that don’t know Eric, he’s a noted expert in HTML and CSS. Eric is a respected member of the web community and many developers and designers are familiar with his work and contributions since the early days of the Internet.

Eric’s daughter passed away last week after a long fight against cancer. Yesterday was her funeral service. Eric has been writing about Rebecca’s progress on his blog. Reading his ‘Never’ post was especially difficult and put things into perspective. They are beautiful words for tragic circumstances. That’s the only way I can describe it. If you’ve got a few minutes I suggest you go and read it.

I started to think about my own kids. Their future is a mix of maybes, possibilities, and definites. A lot can happen, more to the point a lot will happen. For the many times that they get into trouble, do the wrong thing or play up, they’re still healthy kids and they have the rest of their lives ahead of them. As parents with kids or even as guardians to the kids in your life, we might not appreciate seeing these them grow up and the experiences they will go through.

That’s all been taken from Rebecca’s family. The chance to see her grow and all the experiences that she would have gone through in her life. I sincerely hope that the Meyer’s find some peace in the future. I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through but it’s something that no parent should experience. We take it for granted that our time will come before our kids, but that’s not alway the case though. Next time I get frustrated about repeating myself to them, I should remember that they’re still there in front of me, even if they are continually getting into trouble.