Beeminder Forum

Making Todoist sustainable?

I’d like to get back to using a todo list manager, so thinking about giving Todoist another shot. In the past I’ve found todo list applications to have a certain half-life, determined by the rate the items in them become too numerous, stale, and irrelevant to manage or be helpful. What techniques have you all found to combat this, and how have you used Beeminder to support these techniques?

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This is my experience again and again and again. I’m interested to hear the feedback.

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I highly, highly recommend My Life Organized. There’s no other program even close to it as far as managing tasks.

A couple tips from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, which I also highly recommend:

The weekly review is really important to keep tasks current. Basically you have to go through it once a week, at least, to catch up on everything and make sure it’s current.

Another good technique is to ask the question “What is the next physical action” to make sure that your tasks listed are actually things you can do. Too often I put something vague, or the name of a project, on my to-do list, and it never gets done because I need more planning. If it’s not a specific, concrete physical action, it won’t get done.

Finally, a good tip is to separate out (1) gathering all the stuff you have to do by writing it down, without worrying about dealing with it or doing it; (2) processing it by figuring out what the next physical action is; and (3) actually doing those actions. A lot of problems happen when people confuse these three categories. For instance, a lot of people have trouble with Inbox Zero because they think they have to fully complete everything in their inbox, when you just have to put it on a list.

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Currently, I use Notion for everything. To Do Lists, Calendars, Time-Blocking, Note-taking, learning…you name it.

Reason for this is I’ve found my brain gets very cluttered if it’s switching between things. Notion is the all-in-one solution for most things, and with formula and database knowledge it becomes extremely powerful.

I currently use Beeminder to beemind habits that I want to stick to in the long term. I do not go overboard, and I’m sticking to 3 habits. Other than that, everything else is in Notion. Reason being is that the other tasks are either difficult to beemind properly, still won’t motivate me and force me off the road, or are tasks that don’t require willpower in the first place.

So I currently use Beeminder for my exercise habit (20 minutes a day), my Glossika language learning habit which is automated with rescuetime (That’s learning Mandarin for 90 mins each day), and my unproductive hours habit, which again uses rescuetime to restrict me to 3 1/2 hours a week (30 mins a day) of unproductive time such as youtube, social media etc

I find that if you can’t automate it, it’s harder to motivate yourself. So everything else stays in Notion. Beeminder is a life-saver for my language learning. Mandarin is the first language I’ve decided to learn, and the only way to stay motivated to do it is using rescuetime + beeminder to track hours spent on Glossika.

I have tried Todoist, Asana, Google Calendar, Plan (This is a time-blocker with a to do list built in), among others. But I always come running back to Notion when my brain gets tired of all the switching. Notion maybe isn’t as good as these apps if you’re a beginner to Notion, but with the right knowledge, you can design the To do list YOU WANT in exactly the way you want it. That’s what makes Notion arguably the best in my opinion.

I know Thomas Frank has a Task + Project system template for Notion that you can try for free. Don’t know If I can post it here, but I’m sure you can find it.

Notion will never get stale because you can just redesign how your to do list looks.

I also don’t include tasks that go too far into the future.

Another possible method you could try is the Eisenhower Matrix. So you have important and urgent tasks, important but not urgent, not important but urgent and finally neither important nor urgent. That might be a good way of separating your tasks so you know what is relevant and what isn’t.

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I’ve struggled with Omnifocus for last 5 years, from time to time leaving it to test an alternative (ranging from Apple Reminder to Todoist), but actually hating them all, exactly for the reasons you write. And then finally I decided to read the original GTD book - I mean from the beginning to the end. It gave me four important things:

  1. Change of attitude - that includes periodic reviews and a bunch of other stuff. But I actually think something deeper in me changed so that now I really enjoy the reviews and other routines over my GTD files. And Beeminder can certainly help here.

  2. I realized that in GTD terminology “project” is not a project! It’s anything that takes more than 1 action (or step) to achieve. Project can be e.g. “Decide the location of your team’s next off-site meeting”. Suddenly the whole Omnifocus started to make sense to me and I realized how badly I used it for previous 5 years. Now I have tons of “projects” in it, with hundreds of tasks. And it’s smooth.

  3. I learned how to really work with “contexts” (tags in omnifocus).

  4. Don’t use “due date” unless it’s the real hard and unchangeable deadline. And use “defer date” much more frequently.

Summary: I need such an app that’s good for 2, 3 and 4. From all those I tested it’s really only in Omnifocus. That’s why I returned to it. And the underlying routine can be kicked-off by Beeminder.

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Can you elaborate on this? How were you thinking of it before and what were you doing before?

“defer date” is great - my preferred application for GTD, MyLifeOrganized, has something similar, a “review date” field that tells you the last time you’ve reviewed each task.

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I tried Todoist (premium, iirc) and didn’t get on with it. Currently using Things for tasks and Roam for context.

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It’s worth trying a lot of different programs - I think I went through about a dozen to-do list type programs before finding one that would do what I needed. The others were designed for very different brains than mine!

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A quote from Getting Things Done on this topic:

"In following up with people who have begun to implement this methodology, I’ve discovered that one of the subtler ways many of them fall off the wagon is in letting their action lists grow back into lists of tasks or subprojects instead of discrete next actions. They’re still ahead of most people because they’re actually writing things down, but they often find themselves stuck, and procrastinating, because they’ve allowed their action lists to harbor items like:

  • Meeting with the banquet committee
  • Johnny’s birthday
  • Receptionist
  • Slide presentation

In other words, things have morphed back into ‘stuff’ instead of starting at the action level. There are no clear next actions here, and anyone keeping a list filled with items like this would send her brain into overload every time she looked at it."

(ch 12, p. 260)

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Complice, because it forces you to review your tasklist every single day. I used Premium Todoist for a year and Complice is loads better.

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A major limitation of Complice is that it only allows you 10 projects!

Yeah I doubt you’re going to be able to use complice as a complete solution for gtd. Don’t think that’s what they’re trying for. :wink:

I am using Todoist heavily. I follow David Pullein’s tutorials on YouTube. I use tags for today, next three days, this week and this month. In a Kanban like system, I pull each day the daily tasks.

I found GTD too outdated for today’s context for me. It worked 10 years ago. I use some ideas from it, weekly review for example.

I created a Beeminder goal to make me accountable for doing at least 5 to-dos in Todoist every day, but it’s not helping me much. It allows me to be off track and doing nothing for 14 days.

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Can you explain this comment? I don’t understand how simple procedures like asking what the next action is and making lists of your projects and actions could have become “outdated.”

What recent change in the world broke to-do lists?

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I have been using GTD right from the beginning, but also used Covey, and PEP. They were all created at the end of the 90s beginning of 2000s. Those times, e-mail was still a novelty, I was kind of a nerd using my Psion 5mx to keep both my calendar and adress book on a PDA. I found that organising my e-mails and tasks into folders was a good approach, review and plan everything, setting up priorities was great.

Today, I get 250 e-mails a day, much more messages in MS Teams, plus I have my Linkedin and Facebook feed.

I have a huge backlog of tasks at work.

There is simply no time to capture and process all of the things. It is more about staying on the top, finding what matters now, and use an agile iterative approach.

My issue today is more about that useless activities such my time both at work and at personal time.

I went to the GTD summit 2 years ago, and it felt all the same - no response to todays’ needs around me.
If it works for you, great.

There are still ideas in it which I find useful, and use, but as a whole system, I just couldn’t keep with the volume, if processing it with GTD.

I find approaches like in the book “The Time Cleanse”, The Time Sector method from Carl Pullein, or Personal Kanban.

I also find Daniel Pink: When, very useful, which talks about more that chosing the period of the activity, and scheduling the sequence of tasks has a huge impact. This alone doubled-tripled my productivity.

See the labels for Todoist here: Use Todoist Labels To Avoid Having To Date All Your Tasks - YouTube

But I don’t think any of this is the holy grail, I also find that certain time management approaches fit certain personality types better. I find the GTD is great for planning and detail oriented personality types, an S-J in MBTI.

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GTD is rooted in timeless principles and is more about the structure of organization. It applies equally to people not using any electronic devices and to people with nanotech implants in the 2100s. It’s simply a way of unpacking all the things on your mind and sorting through them. Not doing that means that there are things stuck in your mind that you haven’t been able to collect or process. That will never make you more efficient.

David Allen has worked with corporate CEOs who get way more than 250 emails a day and who have a much larger backlog of tasks than you. It applies at any level. If you have no time to capture and process all the things, you’ve taken on too much and you don’t have the time to do what you need to do. GTD is all about the response to your current needs. It doesn’t actually increase the volume of work you have to do - as he points out, everything in it is something you would have to do anyway. It’s just a matter of doing it in an organized and efficient way.

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I didn’t say GTD cannot work for others, including you and the CEOs you mention. I found it doesn’t fit me anymore and found other systems that fit me better today. Is that ok with you?

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fair enough - I just got defensive when you called it “outdated” and a product of its time, lol. Sorry!

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I cannot offer much in terms of how to use Beeminder to support a task list, but I think the tools used for managing tasks are much less important than the system you use. GTD has been mentioned in other comments and several other systems as well. These systems do not rely on a specific tool, but are concepts and processes that work together to ensure you do what you need to do.

Personally I use Michael Linenberger’s MYN system.I started with his free One Minute Todo list and it instantly clicked for me. I then bought his book about the full system and this has worked well for me for years. I used to use Toodledo for his, but recently I’m just using the task system built into Outlook. The tool doesn’t matter much as long as it has a few mandatory features.

I tried GTD several times over the past decade using various tools and that has never worked for me. I always felt that managing my system was a task in itself which meant I had less time to do the real tasks. My current system doesn’t feel like a task to me, so I have no problem sticking to it.

But at the end of the day we are all different and different systems will work best for different people. I can only recommend trying out some systems and finding one that works for you. Then you can always implement tools to support the system afterwards - including Beeminder… :slight_smile:

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I am interested. Can you recommend an article, blog, YouTube tutorial to explore MYN? I can Google, but maybe you can point to a good one.

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