“My System” has been revised many times over the years to fit my lifestyle. I added and subtracted many productivity apps. Today, I need an app that works on the web, OSx, iOS, and Android operating systems. Today I am using Todoist from todoist.com for my list management. The tool is excellent, and ahead of anything else I used. I am a premium user for just over a year (I am a Grand Master, in Todoist Karma). “Todo” tasks are something I do every day and take seriously.
I define todo items that are not bound by double time constraints (start date/time with a required end date/time). I use calendars when there is a duration of a start and end time. For these durations, I use Google calendars.
A todo event is an action. It can be held to a day or time (but those are optional).
I add tasks at the simplest level possible. For example, If I were going to sell an item on eBay, it would not be one task (action). I would have a set of tasks. For example, I want to sell a camera lens. I would create with least four tasks: 1) prepare an item, 2) photograph item, 3) list item, and 4) if sold, package and ship item. To me, each task is a separate todo item or action. It is not just one task of “sell my lens.”
How I come to name tasks. In my corporate life, my manager would assign me a task, for example, “Start Style Guide,” he would ask for progress each week in our staff meetings. I would tell him, it is complete because the task “is started.” The task event title was poorly written. The task title was too “start” the task, and it did not include all the next logical or indicated steps. It should have listed any other tasks required. He did not get it, oh well. Today, I try to use action words in my todo’s.
I have on my todo list to “walk my dog 7 AM”. Why do I need to be reminded? My dog is good at reminding me. My day is full of surprises, and my schedule may change to have me work another problem, so the dog’s walk may not happen at 7 A.M. After 7 A.M., the text turns red, again a reminder that I need to do the task. I have many tasks recurring, my walking the dog is one that I do every day. Yes, I will get him out for a walk, but it may be long after 7:00 AM.
When I am walking my dog is when my brain gets a chance to decompress, and it reminds me of many tasks not yet captured. Since I walk and listen to music, podcasts, or audible books, ideas will pop into my mind, if I do not capture them, I lose them. Often these are details to a bigger task, but I must capture them. I use Google Now integration to todoist. I open my phone, and speak, “OK Google” to use voice to text technology. I say something like, “create note” and it will recognize my words, and prompt me for the text for the note, I will say something like, “re-read page 118.” I use Google Now in two steps for better results, if not it will often just open a web page with search results when I want a note created. The first time you will try this you will need to choose Todoist from the list of apps.
I have goals and themes, but they are not set in Todoist or Google Calendar, but in the default notebook in a single note in Evernote. Goals are listed by five years, one year, or smaller, such as seasons. Then the goal is reviewed when I sense I need to, such as when I take the time to focus. The goals and themes get applied in my todo projects. I have a year goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I have a recurring todo task to remind me each day to read 20% of the book I am reading.
Projects and labels and filters
Projects are big for me. I have like 26 projects. Some projects do not hold tasks, they are set in all CAPS and have sub-projects (which does contain tasks). Seeing all caps reminds me not to add a task to that project. For example, I have a Fitness project nested in the PERSONAL project and inside the Fitness project is a project for each day of the week. For Monday, I have like four tasks for some weight lifting. Each task contains the “lift”, the “reps-weight”, followed by a comma for the sets. I have a label for what area I am working, in the example, this is my chest. I use prefixes for my labels, “F-” for fitness, “S-“ for shopping and many other labels.
Labels are important to cross reference items. The above example is for Monday, it has labels (F-Chest), not all chest exercises are done on Monday, using labels I can see all chest exercises.
I also color codes, for example, stores that I use are in blue. I buy some items from to a particular store. So when I arrive at Vallarta (a grocery store), my shopping list is filtered on only items that I have identified that I need from that store.
When a store has a wishlist feature like Amazon. I add the item to the wishlist only (because prices change). I should create a todo item to cleanse out old wishlist items and make it recurring, like every six months.
I use filters to cross check other items, like what is coming up on Tuesday, so if I have a change to my routine, I can be aware of items to clear or finish prior. I also, use “No Due Date” filter to see items that do not have a due date, so I check them regularly and add due dates. I created a monthly task to review those tasks if any. If is funny, that I use tasks to remind me to do other tasks.
My todo lists examples
A todo date constraint example
To apply for a job. I have it set to every weekday, but not constrained to when I do it in the day.
A todo date constraint example with a time constraint
To take out the trash barrels on Thursday evening. It is constrained by a date (Thursday) and time. It does not have a duration of time (a start and end time, that would be a calendar item). I can take them out anytime in the evening. So, my do list item looks like “Take out Trash Barrels, Thursday 7:00 P.M.”
A todo example with start and stop time constraints
This example becomes a calendar item because it is a start and end time. Calendar items are required so that I not have conflicts, such as being in two places at the same time. I have a meeting starting on Tuesday, at 6:00 pm and it runs to 8:00 pm, but first I have dinner with our speaker (4:30-5:30). I add travel if required. Traveling, in this case, is about an hour, so it is a calendar item.
I use reminders to help me sort items during the day. I can create one item with a time 7:00, next item, 7:01 and so on. I priorities for sorting as well.
I may have many items to do when I arrive, but since they have no time order, they are a todo item. I may have them geographical based and or time-based. To visit my storage unit to pick up some item my daughter wants which may have a location reminder, and is triggered when I arrived in the area. I use this method when I know to visit my storage unit but not sure when I will be visiting. Sometimes, it is a random thing, oh, I need to go to the storage to pick up that art piece, and I am reminded to get other items as well when I arrive.
My System is always changing and adapting to my needs. Some may think this is very too structured. I organize only when I want a return on my time.
Some items are routine, and others are unique. Lots of them are date based, and others are geographically based. I use each for the level of organization that fits. Also, I do not complete all tasks each day, if I get behind I just move them to the proper day or into the future as my schedule changes.