My first month with a task management app

Don’t ask me why, but one month ago I was in this exact situation:

I’m not exaggerating here: it was midnight, and I literally woke up to explore GoogePlay looking for a task management app.

tl;dr

One month later, I can feel the benefits in my personal life and my professional life. I have adopted many routines and progressed on many long term projects. I’m still experimenting to find my ideal method, but the fundamentals are here and it’s more about continuous improvement now.

Why Todoist

From the very beginning, I have felt the simplicity of creating new tasks. You can just open the application, click the “+” button and create a task.

You’ll say that this is the same for every task manager, even Google Tasks supports this (it has been my tracker for a while).

What is great with Todoist is that the text of the task will get interpreted. So without leaving your keyboard you can quickly:

  • specify a due date
  • create a recurring task
  • set a priority
  • assign the task to a project
  • attach many tags

What I love here is that it offers a great user experience that adapts to different contexts:

  • you’re in a hurry and just want to track something: you add a simple task like “Do my expenses
  • you have more time and want to create a recurring task: just type “Do my expenses every month p2 #routines @work

In the first case, the task will go in your Inbox and you can do it or refine it later.

In the second case, Todoist will detect that the task:

  • should repeat every month (I’m always amazed by the natural language processing here :) )
  • is a “priority 2”
  • belongs to the “routines” project
  • and has the “work” label

Said differently: you have no excuse to not track your tasks!

Getting the first tasks done

  • everything in the Inbox 😱
  • by projects
  • by tags
  • by priority

And to be honest, at the beginning I felt a bit lost with so many possibilities.

I have started to create some projects and some labels and quickly felt that I could lose myself in organizing tasks rather than doing them…

So, the next day, I took a step back and went for a very simple organization with three projects:

  • Private: my personal tasks
  • Pro: everything related to my job
  • Repeat: every recurring task, because when I look in #Private and #Pro to reprioritise the tasks, I don’t want to see the ones that are just repeating.

I kept this for a week. My goal was really to focus on getting things done rather than spending time configuring a tool.

One month later, I still have the same base projects!

Continuously improving

The first and most important one is the productivity methods quiz.

The quiz helps you in finding a productivity method that will fit your needs and your personality. It’s not a magic tool so it may be wrong, but it asks questions that will make you think about what you really want to achieve. And if you’re not convinced by the proposed method, you can go and read about the other ones anyway.

In my case, eat the frog seemed to be what I needed. So I have started to build something inspired by it. Once again, super simple: I have just started to use the p1 priority to identify my frogs. And every evening, I’m looking at what should be my frog(s) for the next day (the fewer the better of course).

When my day starts, I’m focusing on these tasks first. Even if I have to switch to something else, it’s easier to come back to them since I have already started.

I kept this for 2 weeks and used it in my professional and personal life. I must confess that at the beginning I have failed many times at eating my frogs, but seeing it, it’s easier to improve.

The key point was really to think about your priorities the day before so you can really start them immediately when you start your day.

Where I am today

After looking a some of the great videos from Carl Pullein I have created:

  • a “Priorities” project where I list what I would like to achieve during the current week
  • a @morning label and an @evening label that I assign to the routines I do before starting my day (e.g. “Exercise 30min”) and when I end it (e.g. “Empy my inbox”, “Identify my priority for tomorrow”…)

With these 4 projects and 2 labels, I have customized my Todoist homepage to reflect my day:

  • This week priorities: so that I keep them in mind
  • @morning routines
  • Pro tasks for today
  • Personal tasks for today
  • @evening routines
  • Priorities backlog: so that I keep in mind what will come next

It works pretty well.

Benefits

  1. The obvious one is that I can easily add tasks and track them. So I’m less prone to forget anything now.
  2. Same applies for routines: I have a lot of them (daily, weekly, monthly…). It could sound a bit overwhelming, but in fact, I feel that it reduces my cognitive load.
  3. Managing my current routines has led me to adopt new ones that I was thinking about for years:
    Journaling: I take a moment every evening to write about my day.
    Reading: I now take some time to read a book every day (the task is about reading >10 pages).
    Learning: I take 10min a day to improve my English vocabulary.
  4. The priorities help me to focus on my goals, like writing this article ;)

It has improved my well-being a lot. It’s super satisfying to achieve a goal, either in professional life or personal life. And by reducing procrastination it reduces the cognitive load, you have fewer things to think about.

A few pieces of advice if you have read until here:

  • Start simple: the tool and method you choose are here to help you, they shouldn’t be one more burden.
  • Iterate: don’t try to achieve an ideal setup from the beginning. Start with something simple, see if it works, i.e. that you’re getting things done. Change only if you feel that something is missing.
  • Start to describe your tasks with a verb: just a word may not be enough to remember what you wanted to do.

Thanks for reading.

Architect lead at Adevinta. Interested in social-architecture and related topics (Domain driven design, team topologies...)

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