the to-do list called todoist

Be warned: mention Todoist in conversation and everyone will hear to do list. Maybe it means I mumble. Maybe it means that people hear what they expect to hear. Maybe it means all the good names have been taken and app names are becoming more contrived. Maybe I am over-thinking this.

Todoist is quite a decent browser-based task management app and the basic version is free. Its user interface is reminiscent of GQueues: clean, simple and colourful, with a list of projects on the left and a task list in the centre of the page. The app is easy to use and can be set up to work with a getting things done® workflow. There are mobile versions for the iPhone and iPad.

Entering and sorting tasks in Todoist used to be irksome: you had to click on the ‘add task’ button, click on the ‘save’ button and then on the ‘I’m done adding tasks’ button. Re-arranging the order of tasks in a project used to be similarly cumbersome. A recent update has simplified these processes and introduced interesting new features, so you may want to give this simple but powerful app another chance.

The main building blocks of Todoist are projects and tasks. The screenshot below shows the project view.

Clean and simple: the project view in Todoist.

You can enter tasks manually or email them to a project. The subject line of your email message becomes a task; the content a note. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Todoist can sort tasks by name, date or priority. You can also use drag and drop to reorder tasks manually. You can assign your tasks a priority, a reminder, or multiple notes. One of the best features of Todoist is the use of labels, which enable you to manage GTD® features such as contexts (@boss), moods (low energy) or duration (15 mins). Clicking on the ‘@’ symbol underneath the search box brings up a list of all your labels. Todoist has a great search function and supports queries using multiple labels. For example, the query ‘q: today, overdue @boss’ will list all tasks that are overdue or due today and involve your boss. A useful career damage control device, no?

Some functions, including reminders, notes, email and calendar integration are available in the premium version only. At $29 per year, the premium version also provides productivity stats — essentially a series of bar charts showing how many tasks you completed each day over the past week. Four additional bars show the weekly total for the past four weeks. The bars are colour-coded by project, so you can see at a glance whether you have been focusing on one or two projects over the past week or whether your effort has been more diffused.

Todoist’s seven-day view, with productivity stats displayed.

I started using Todoist at work as a replacement for ToodleDo, which had started behaving erratically after three years of solid service. I really liked the uncluttered and colourful interface of Todoist, its seven-day view and its productivity tracker. Todoist was fun to use and equal to the task of managing several complex projects. On the downside, I experienced some errors with recurrent tasks (in an otherwise very stable app) and I also do not like how all subtasks remain visible until the parent task has been completed. It would be great if that was an option that could be toggled off in settings. [Correction: I have since discovered that shift-clicking will send a subtask to history; see developer’s comment below].

Todoist will give you:

  • a solid tasks management app with a clean user interface
  • effective use of colour to flag projects, labels and priorities
  • support for a GTD® workflow (inbox, projects, labels, project and task indentation)
  • great today and seven-day views
  • a range of keyboard shortcuts
  • compatibility with older browsers
  • portability: browser version, free mobile versions for iPhone and iPad and a desktop version (Mac only)
  • reminders, notes, email/calendar integration (premium version only)
  • capacity to track productivity over the past week/month (premium version only).

Points to consider:

  • does not support team collaboration (they have a separate app for that: Wedoist)
  • occasional errors with task recurrence.

I am preparing a post on what are, in my view, the ten best browser-based task management apps for individual use (rather than team collaboration), and Todoist will certainly figure in that list. Apart from Omnifocus, GQueues, Producteev and ToodleDo not all that many productivity apps support nested tasks. Todoist complements that feature, which is so important for project management, with effective colour-coding, multiple tags, fast searches and a user-friendly interface.

Please leave a comment if you have used Todoist. What were your impressions? And if you are a GTD® adept, do you use the productivity stats feature to inform your weekly review?

Update (09-08-2014): Asana and Todoist compared.

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4 thoughts on “the to-do list called todoist

  1. a not bad GTD tool which I was using for a long time, but:
    1. from time to time server can be down
    2. very buggy and not really usable mobile apps

    overall a nice web app with minimalistic interface (what I like), but I switched to RTM

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    • Thank you for your comment, Alexey. I personally have not experienced any server troubles with Todoist or bugs in the iPad app. The latter is indeed basic and I do not use it a lot; but at least you can have your data with you. If you are into minimalist apps, you may want to check out workflowy, an outliner that many people appear to be using as a task manager.
      Ozengo

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  2. Ozengo,

    thank you very much for your review, we’re glad you enjoy using our app 🙂

    Please note that you can make a sub-task go to the history right away if you hold the SHIFT key while checking it off in which case it won’t be listed until the parent task is being checked off.

    Also, feel free to contact our Support: https://todoist.com/Support to clarify the issues you’ve experienced with recurring dates. Some date formats, if not mentioned on this list: https://todoist.com/Help/timeInsert may not be fully supported. Please let us know what dates you’ve been using so we can identify the issue and fix it.

    Best regards,
    David

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    • Thank you for your helpful response, David, and for pointing out that shift-clicking will send a subtask to history. I have inserted a correction in my post. I will also try to recreate the conditions under which errors with recurrence occur. Kind regards, Ozengo

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