Recently my sister-in-law Nadia, told me about a new program she was trying out to help her manage her projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, and other lists. We often “talk shop”, as Nadia’s husband calls it, and swap ideas on household management, everything from organizational tips, menu ideas, and helpful computer programs or apps, to laundry solutions or child training ideas. It’s often very helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else who’s in a similar stage of life, and get ideas on how to do what we’re doing faster or better. This program is called Todoist, and it has been a game changer for me.
I love lists; I love making lists, and I love checking things off my lists even more. I’m constantly trying out new methods of list-making for various projects and seasons of life. I’ve used Excel Spreadsheets, Word documents, Apple Reminders, Google Keep, Evernote, random mobile apps, post-it notes, notebooks, scratch paper, and more. At various times in my life, all of these have been helpful, but this new system tops anything else I’ve used thus far. I don’t use this as a substitute for Google calendar (where I put actual appointments like dental appointments or dinner at someone’s house), but it’s perfect for all those daily things I can’t forget to do or the house would fall apart, but there’s no exact time for them.
Here are some of the most helpful features:
Todoist has a regular desktop app that syncs with their servers, as well as apps for Android and iPhone. I know lots of other programs do this too, but this one is a serious upgrade from other productivity apps that are mainly designed to be used on a phone and then have some sort of clunky browser extension or webapp on the side. We’ve used Evernote for years, and spent months trying to make Any.do and TickTick work for us, but this is the first to-do app that has really clicked with me.
Yes, each of the other tools had one or two cool features (like Any.do’s automatic phone call scheduler, or Ticktick’s great notification widget), but Todoist’s desktop app, as simple as it is, enables it to do lots of cool things. I love being able to sit at my computer when I have a quiet 10 minutes, and just type as fast as I can think. I use the computer for mass input, then just reference my lists on my phone during the day or when I’m away from my computer. Of course, you can enter tasks with your phone, it’s just a lot slower.
Nested Categories and Projects
This program also allows me to make projects, sub projects, and sub-sub-sub projects. I’m not sure how many layers deep you can go, but it’s a lot. I’m still adding categories, but for now I have four main categories- Shopping, Household Management, Personal, and Business. Under Shopping I have about 10 sub projects- one for each store that I regularly shop at. Infinitely nested projects could be a pain to navigate, but the desktop app enables you to completely reorganize everything with simple dragging and dropping with the mouse, but the best part is that you don’t have to use the mouse.
Not just for social media anymore, and I promise they will make your to-do-lists a breeze. From the home page, I can hit the hot key “q” to start adding a task. By marking each task/ item that I enter with a hashtag, it gets filed under that particular project, without having to use my mouse to switch back and forth from one list to another. I don’t know about you, but I can’t sit down to write a grocery list without thinking of a bill that I need to pay tomorrow, something I want to bring to church on Sunday, a book I need to order from Amazon, or random things like this blogpost. The beauty of this system is that requires so much less clicking and mouse action. Just keep adding tasks and using hashtags to file it under the appropriate project, no switching from list to list with endless clicks.
Simple Date Management
If you don’t put a due date on a certain item, it will just sit there waiting for you to look at it, and never show up on your “Today” list (for example, grocery lists. I don’t want to have to look at or scroll through my grocery list every day as I’m trying to figure out what I need to do this morning.). So, as you are entering in tasks, you also have the option to enter a due date. And what I love about this program is how smart it is at figuring out what I mean as I type, so that I don’t have to fiddle with the mouse to look at some tiny little popup calendar as I try to remember what day of the week it is. Just enter things like, “call Mom tomorrow“, or “make food for fellowship meal on Saturday“, or “schedule dental appointments next week“, or “clean the bathrooms every Tuesday“, or “weed the garden twice a week“, or “pick out church clothes every Saturday night.”
The program then automatically turns that into a specific due date, or recurring dates, and then it disappears from sight until the relevant day. You can also assign a specific time for something, “take the trash out every Monday morning” (which automatically assigns it to 9:00 in the morning, or whenever you decided you want “morning” to mean), or “start dinner at 4:00 every afternoon.” If you pay for a Premium account, you can even get reminders that will start beeping on your phone at the appropriate time, but otherwise it will just show up on your list in the right order, with a time next to it. So, all your morning tasks will appear at the top, your tasks for that day without a time stamp will show up in the middle of the list, and the evening tasks at the end.
In the free version of this program you can have up to five collaborators on each project. Which means you can share a shopping list with your husband, so that if he stops to get gas on the way home from work, and wants to know if you need anything, he can just look at the shared list and check things off. That being said, shopping lists seem to work better in Google Keep, since you can see items that have been checked off easier, and then re-add your regularly purchased items easier. Even though I generally use Todoist to keep track of things to buy, our Costco list still lives in Google Keep so we can split up and watch each other check things off as we go.
Shared projects in Todoist work better for things like actual projects to do, or a hospitality list with families you want to invite over, or a Books to Read Together list. Or if you have teenagers who have computers or phones, you could have a shared list with them for their school assignments or chores. You could even put recurring chores onto each child’s chore list- basically a grown up version of a chore chart that you can access anywhere, and add things on the go, or at home in the evening when planning the week’s activities.
It’s also really easy in this program to reschedule tasks that come up on your daily to-do-list. Oh, it’s been two weeks since I mopped the kitchen floor, but I’m actually out running errands today, so with one tap on my phone, I can easily reschedule it for tomorrow, next week, or any date I want. I could also just let it sit, unfinished, and then tomorrow it will be in the “overdue” section at the top, but I try to keep my app uncluttered and so I can reschedule the mopping to come up on a different day when I actually have time.
There are some other premium features such as, being able to add comments to specific tasks, add labels to tasks so that it’s easier to search for things, integrate the program into your email so that you can automatically add a task or event from an email, and as I mentioned earlier, the ability to set reminders for yourself that will beep at a certain time or location. However, at $30 a year, I haven’t felt these extras add enough to make it worth it for me, at least not yet.
I’ve been using this program now for a couple months to hold all my daily household tasks and grocery lists, but it’s also the main tool for keeping myself organized on the long distance work that I do as an ad manager for a homeschool organization. I’ve already entered all my deadlines for the next six months, and set tasks with due dates to remind myself of all my publication dates, event times, email blasts, when to contact specific advertisers, etc. No more wondering when the next thing is, and worrying that I’ll get busy and forget to send the appropriate files and reminders.
I have already noticed how much less time I spend trying to remember stuff that I need to do or bring somewhere. I also spend a lot less time getting stressed over how long my to-do list is, especially when it was a multi-page document that contained everything I was trying to accomplish in the next several months. I love having a place to store my ideas and tasks for the future without having to stare at them every morning, particularly when it also makes it so easy to add new ideas and projects.