light and fluid: asana and todoist compared

copyright Ozengo 2014Some task management apps seem inspired by steampunk: bells and whistles, lots of brass, faux leather, wood veneer and plenty of levers to throw. Others are light and fluid, almost zen–like in their barely there simplicity. Do not underestimate these ethereal apps, dear reader, for they may have a lot of potential bubbling away under the hood, ready for you to unleash.

Okay, that was fun. Down to business now: today I’ll be comparing two slender high flyers:  Asana and Todoist.

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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

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. 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!