December always gets my mind churning about the new year that’s just around the corner. Like most people’s, I suppose, my mind turns to what worked well this year, what didn’t, and what I want to do differently with the “clean slate” of the year to come.
One of the things that I’ve been aware needs a revamp for a while is how I am organizing my days. I adore working from home and having a flexible schedule that lets me adapt to the extremely fluid demands on my time right now. But I’m also inherently a creature who thrives on structure and organization. I tried using Asana for a while with some success, and also experimented with a fairly intensive paper day planner, but kept finding gaps in my system. While discussing this topic with my Fic Whining Circle author friends, I got to doing a little research on the systems they use such as Kanban Flow.
Entirely by accident in that digital meandering, I discovered Todoist. While I’m not generally a huge fan of organizing my life via app, this one is my new favorite thing! It downloaded onto my computer cleanly and I have the option to download it to my phone in the future if I want for across-the-board up-to-date coordination. (I don’t need that right now, but it’s nice to know I could. I intend to experiment with it as a single point of control for things like shopping lists and erranding organization down the line.)
The top five things that are making this app work for me:
It organizes All The Things in one spot. I can keep long-term projects, immediate daily to-do lists, and “don’t forget this” notes all in one place. The sub-tasks function lets me break big projects down into bite-size pieces, too, which I can then easily move between lists or schedule into individual days where I have time.
It has a timing/deadline function. I’ve never actually worked with a system before that had a super-functional timing feature. For example, I can type “give dogs vitamins daily” and it auto-adds that task to my list every day. Likewise, I can schedule recurring tasks for every couple weeks, every month, etc. and Todoist auto-adds it so I don’t have to keep track! While I still like having a paper planner for a visual monthly spread I can quick-reference, this feature is already proving incredibly helpful in getting stuff off my mind. Knowing that I scheduled it and don’t have to worry about remembering or wondering when I last did something frees up a shocking amount of mental space.
It has a Week At A glance feature. I unexpectedly love this because it means I can quickly and clearly see where I have free time or overly-scheduled days. Moving something from an over-scheduled day to a lighter day is as quick and easy as click-and-drag. This, combined with the fact that it tells you the number of things you have scheduled, is proving enormously helpful in being realistic about what I can get done. 30 things on the day’s list? Probably not a recipe for success. Time to move something. Only a couple things for tomorrow? Instant prompt to grab one of the smaller tasks from a side project and slot it in!
It gives you kudos! I know this sounds like a small thing, but it’s a great boost to see the counter give you a little congratulations for knocking five, ten, or whatever number of tasks you’ve accomplished off your list. It feels like progress, even when your tasks (as so many writing project tasks are) are bits and pieces of something bigger with no immediate payoff or sense of completion. Plus, when you check off everything for the day, it tells you to “enjoy your afternoon/evening” with a little image of someone doing something fun – a powerful reminder of the value of rest and play in a world that tends to promote overwork and guilt.
It helps me log my work. I am currently on the roster at three different content writing companies. (I’m still looking to get on a few more and then eventually weed out the underperformers.) While this multi-company setup isn’t helping me much now, since business is slow during the holidays, I expect that once the new year hits and everyone gets back on their game there will be a lot more work. With each company running on different deadlines, different billing setups, etc., Todoist provides a centralized, integrated platform that I can use to track what I have due and when across the board. I expect this to be hugely helpful.
As a bonus, the system offers a weekly review checklist that I love. It incorporates nearly all of the best practices I’ve seen in business, productivity, and time management books while also being compact and realistic to use.
Todoist may not be for everyone, but if you or a friend is looking for something new to help them tackle the challenges of life and time management – big or small, personally or professionally – I recommend giving it a try! All the features discussed above (and more that I’m not using yet) are free and it takes very little time to set up, so there’s nothing to lose. : )