I love productivity tools, but many just don’t work for me due to being overly complicated to navigate (Trello ToDoist) or too simplistic and lacking critical features (Workflowy, Ritual). I don’t mind complexity in setting up a system, I just want data entry to be easy and the interface to be inspiring, not distracting. I heard about Amazing Marvin (http://amazingmarvin.com/) through one of the Beeminder daily emails, so of course I had to try it. After playing with it for a few days, it seems to be hitting the sweet spot of functionality and clean design.
The initial set up is not intuitive. I highly recommend watching the help videos first.The basic premise to the app (which is now on iOS as of this week) is that it contains both a master list of tasks as well as a daily schedule of what needs to be done that day. Tasks and even sequences of tasks (e.g. morning routine) can be set up pretty quickly.
What makes Marvin stand out is that there are large variety of strategies available, and each one can be enabled or disabled, pending user preference. So, for instance, I can set up time tracking to track the length of time it takes me to complete a task–and there’s a timer available on each task that just takes a click to start. Or I can add rewards to certain tasks. I can enable prioritization of tasks or “eat that frog” to highlight the most difficult task of the day. I can group tasks into various arrangements–by time of day or by essential/non-essential. Each strategy can be turned on or off independently, so you can have as much complexity or as a little as you want. Once you’ve added tasks to a master list, it’s easy to drag them to the current day. And if any new task arises, it’s easy to just add it via typing into a bar at the top of the page. There’s even a progress bar showing degree of completion for that day’s tasks.
The Cons are that it’s a subscription-based model, though one subscription seems to work across all devices. Not having an app for my iPhone was a huge negative at first, but the app is available now, so I can bring my list with me and hear the satisfying sound of completing each task.
The design of the To Do list is truly beautiful and elegant. It makes it a pleasure to look at. On the other hand, their Icon and mascot is a brown square, making it look like a poop emoji on my iPhone screen–not very pleasant to see each day
So far, the few hours invested in setting up a master list and learning how Amazing Marvin works has been worth it. I’ve completed 95% of my tasks in the past three days. I feel on top of my schedule. The founder, Christina, is fantastic about quickly responding to any questions I’ve had or bugs I’ve found. For example, yesterday I found a bug in the Firefox version. I alerted her, and she had a Firefox update within an hour or so.
Disclaimer: I’m still using Workflowy btw. It is a handy tool for doing a “brain dump” of long lists of tasks, and it’s easy to share with my colleagues and grad assistants. For me, though, it’s not ideal for daily planning. My lists are just too long and overwhelming. I now use it as a repository for all the tasks and projects I can think of, and then I refer to it when doing my long-range and weekly planning.
PS. I also heard about Fabulous in an email, and I’m not liking it very much so far, but that’s a conversation for another day.