ten great apps for getting things done

podium2This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first time, in a quest for ‘objectivity’, I got bogged down in a treacly mix of scoring apps against criteria that were of my own choosing anyway. This time around I am opting for an unashamedly impressionistic approach: these are the task management apps I like best.

They are all compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, capable of supporting basic to complex project management and with at least one mobile app (iPhone or iPad, ideally both). Despite meeting those criteria, Things, asana, FacileThings and several other pretty solid apps did not make the grade. Only ten apps will fit into a top–10 after all (I was reasonably good at maths at school).

My ranking is exactly that: a personal top ten, reflecting my preferences (I like a nice UI), my approach to productivity (David Allen’s GTD®), my hardware (I am a Mac user), my needs (as a sole operator I have no need for team collaboration features or enterprise–based software) and my experience (I have tested ~30 task management apps over the past two years).

Granted, my illustration is a bit of a spoiler, but please read on if you want to find out which other apps made it into my top ten. Continue reading

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does your to do list feel bloated and stale?

IMG_0822bLet’s face it: if you follow David Allen’s sensible advice and collect all your tasks, notes and ideas in a single ‘trusted system’, you will be spending a lot of time interacting with that system, whether it be paper–based or centred around a productivity app. Ideally, accessing that system should inspire you to achieve things. It should be a favourite mental hangout, where you catch your breath, regroup and plan how best to spend the next hours or days of your life.

For many of us, the opposite happens: we dread opening up our task manager as we know we will be confronted with a seemingly endless list of tasks. It can be an overwhelming and disheartening experience. Many of the tasks (‘build cubby house’) seemed fun when you first entered them. Months later, here they lie, these bleached and broken dreams, shipwrecked on the cliffs of distraction, washed up on the shores of procrastination. When it gets really bad, it seems as if merely looking at your task list sucks all the life and energy out of you, like a Dementor in the Harry Potter novels.

So what can we do to keep motivated and energised? What can we do to keep our task list lean, informative, stimulating? We cannot complete all tasks quickly, so how do we prevent frequently deferred tasks from going stale? Continue reading

getting things done with gqueues

GQueues is an attractive and powerful online task manager that integrates with your Google account. Its colourful and easy to use interface is built around folders that contain lists of tasks (called ‘queues’). You can drag and drop tasks, tag them and add notes or due dates. GQueues is highly customisable and can be set up to support a Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) workflow.

The ‘lite’ version of GQueues is free and provides enough functionality to be used for individual task management. The paid version costs $25 per year and adds full team collaboration, integration with Google Calendars and access to mobile versions for the iPhone and iPad and Android phones and tablets. Continue reading

what do you want from a to-do app?

Fools rush in, they say, where angels fear to tread. I thought I would create a diagram, using XMind, a free mind-mapping program, to ‘shortlist’ selected task management programs from a couple of user perspectives.

There are no winners: most of the listed apps have the capacity to boost your productivity enormously. Choosing a productivity app is largely a matter of personal preference – you have to feel comfortable with how data are entered, with the views on offer, with the workflow and the colour scheme. Some of that takes time; an app that dazzles you in the first week may feel suffocating and uninformative once it needs to handle a couple of hundred tasks.

You can question many aspects of my diagram. For example, most of the listed apps support various degrees of customisation; I have only listed omnifocus, gqueues and toodledo as being extraordinarily versatile in that area. For ‘bug free’ I have set the bar equally high.

There are also gaps in my diagram. I have not included apps that I have never explored (call me traditional), nor apps that are primarily geared towards note taking (such as evernote, that swiss army knife of productivity) or team collaboration (such as basecamp or flow). I have not included other parameters, such as whether file attachments are supported. There is only so much that will fit on a page.

My aim in posting this is not to provide complete or authoritative advice, but to provide a couple of pointers for people who are trying to find a task management app that may work for them. I would appreciate constructive feedback!

integrate evernote with your to-do list

Most to-do lists nowadays provide the capacity to attach a note to a task. These notes can vary from a couple of lines to extensive web clippings or file attachments. The gold standard these days seems to be whether the productivity app provides integration with evernote. I will look briefly at four that do: omnifocus, nirvana, nozbe and zendone – although ‘integration’ seems to mean something quite different in each case.

A word of warning: this is a rather dry, technical post and if you would rather bail out now I am happy to direct you to a very funny post by a fellow blogger who recently shared his anxieties about niches, target audiences, flagging readership and the like. I can relate to that – my WordPress country stats show me I am yet to make headway into South America, China, Africa and Iceland. Most places, actually. Where are you folks?

If you are still here, thank you. Here we go: Continue reading