Organizing my life with Todoist

If you're reading this in May 2021, this is an ongoing project and I'll be updating the status here as the month progresses!

For the month of May, I wanted to commit myself to doing something I've been trying to ease into for a while now - finding a better way to manage my To-do list than pen/paper.

I've tried slowly migrating from paper to digital in the past, leaving myself with the mess of having to compare the physical and digital lists to determine what I should be working on.

So for May, I'm diving in and going all digital with Todoist - even if this ends up not being the perfect platform for me long-term, I want to stay with a single platform for the whole month just for testing purposes.

Week 0

The first part of this experiment was to get things set up for my newly more digital lifestyle. I quickly checked over the features of a few different To-do apps and decided on Todoist since I had used it (very) briefly before.

The most dreadful part was determining how I wanted to organize things, which Todoist is nice enough to offer a quick quiz to help get started with. Based on the quiz, I am best suited for Task Blocking/Batching/Day Theming - which tracks based on what I know about myself.

The way I set Todoist up at this point is with the following Projects:

  • Personal
  • Work
  • Photography
  • Shopping
  • Housework

Photography is a bit of a flex spot, since Photography could just as easily be slotted in as a label under the Personal Project - but I'm going to feel that out as the month moves along.

Additional Science

Along side Todoist, I'm also exploring Toggl to help motivate me to focus more on single tasks at a time (Which is partially why I'm even writing this article). I'm not really sure if I'll do anything with the time track data, but I know that putting a timer and task name together is a solid way to motivate myself!

Week 1

With the first work week of reorganizing my life in the books, I really like Todoist so far. The one thing I realized is super annoying is that the push notification reminders at the time the task is due is locked behind their "Pro" subscription paywall. Even so, most of what I'm using this for is things I need to be on my computer to do anyways, so that's not the biggest deal (right now).

I've re-grouped my projects a bit. I removed the "Shopping" and "Housework" projects since both of those felt like they could just be a tag in "Personal" and added:

  • "Blog Posts" as a place to throw any ideas for posts that I have (cleaning up my dashboard on DEV a bit ๐Ÿ˜…) . The biggest advantage to having the ideas in Todoist over DEV is the clear subtasks of what needs to be done yet on each post. No more having to go to edit mode to see which posts are still waiting on a header image!
  • "Templates" as a place to create a task that will be recurring, but not on a set schedule. This is heavily inspired by Ali's post and seems to be the best way to handle creating a template task in Todoist.

I'm noticing that I might be creating too broad of tasks right now - and/or not leveraging sub-tasks enough because of the extra step to get to the add sub-task page. After next week I might circle back to see if I still feel like this is happening.

At the time of writing, I currently have 37 tasks (not including templates).

Week 2

The theme for this week is Granularity. Now that a majority of my bigger tasks are set up, I've been adding the associated sub-tasks and smaller tasks to do when I have a spare 10 minutes.

My largest complaint with Todoist is still the hiding of push notification reminders behind the paywall - especially with trying to schedule sub-tasks.

At the time of writing I have 32 tasks (not including templates).

Shorter update for this week because I'm trying to work with what I have set up without making too many changes too quickly ๐Ÿ˜…

Week 3

Maybe this is a bit against the nature of a To-do list and what Todoist is meant for, but holy wow would I love to have a way to create a "note". Even though this would likely devolve into an organization nightmare for myself, I found myself looking for a notes section for each Todoist Project that would allow me to add static notes that aren't things to be done, don't have sub-tasks, but would be good to see as periodic reminders when working within a Project.

This week I've been expanding my lists to include more of my non-work tasks with some mixed results. Anything that needs to be done at a computer has been working perfectly, but I never really check Todoist on my phone, so not having access to push notification reminders really prevents it from fitting nicely into my life. If I continue to try and leverage Todoist after this month, it will almost certainly involve adjusting my passive app checking on my phone or splurging a bit for the pro plan.

At the time of writing I have 50 Non-template tasks - this really shows my expansion to include more outside of work tasks.

Week 4

Time for the thrilling conclusion - how did things go this month?

First off, we'll start with the non-todoist portion - I completely gave up on toggl after the first week. It just wasn't having the effect I was hoping for and was more a hassle to try and figure out than a motivator to get more done for me.

So now for Todoist. Something I noticed looking through my tasks for this review is that some items have been sitting in my queue for the whole month, but also... they weren't really intended to get done this month? I ended up creating a sub-section to throw long term tasks in and I think that's fine, I just need to remember to look through them once a week to remember what all is out there.

Overall I think this month was successful from a work perspective, but not so much for my personal life/goals. The lack of push notifications for specific tasks meant that even when I did things I had scheduled in Todoist, I wasn't checking them off until the next day 9 out of 10 times. After the second week, I had largely started ignoring the daily task notification (since it doesn't tell you what the tasks are, just opens the app). I do believe this would be corrected with the pro plan, but I'm not sure if I want to go that far yet. Maybe if my work life is still feeling good in Todoist next month I'd be able to justify taking the leap.

At the time of writing I have 40 tasks (non-templates) and completed 151 tasks this month (38 scheduled and 153 completed once I publish this I suppose).

This was a fun experiment and I look forward to continuing for at least the short term to continuing to use Todoist for work!