Software for Getting Things Done
In a fit of organization (masking, of course, a bout of procrastination), I spent time last week looking for a new method of organizing my to-do list, which is always insanely long and thoroughly intimidating. Since January I've been working the "Getting Things Done" system (see book by David Allen) and liking it. To me, GTD is a useful philosophy for clearing your head, getting your commitments listed and organized, and then getting them completed.
Unfortunately, my GTD implementation (a classic one, with each task on a separate sheet of paper, and hanging folders to organize my list by month and by day) just wasn't working for me. My computer is my lifeblood, and my files and to-dos were all in a desk drawer behind me. Maybe that shouldn't have mattered, since they were all of two feet away--but it disrupted my computing. It didn't fit how I worked, or thought.
So, like many people who are familiar with GTD, I spent some hours looking through the growing list of productivity software dedicated to (or compatible with) GTD. As a Mac person (I'm bilingual, but prefer my Mac), I had quite a few good choices, though most seemed to lack something here or there I thought critical. Since much of the available software is still undergoing development, things may change. My top favorites were Midnight Beep Softworks' Inbox, iGTD, and ToodleDo. I also considered Todoist, Tasks, TaskToy, Frictionless, ThinkingRock, GTD Inbox for Gmail, Nozbe, Remember the Milk, and many others, though they didn't make the final cut so I won't discuss them here.
Midnight Beep's Inbox is a slick piece of software--easily the prettiest to look at, and definitely innovative. It's smart enough to let you collect potential tasks from your documents AND e-mail, automatically. I also loved the two-minute timer, which helps you finish email messages and other tasks quickly (so you can focus your precious time where it's most needed). I see a lot of promise for Inbox. Unfortunately, the current version works best with Apple's Mail program, and I'm a dedicated Gmail user. I also want an app that will let me import and export my to-do list without much trouble if I end up wanting to move to (or from) another app. I'm not even finished writing down all my to-dos, and my list already has 166 tasks. I'd hate to retype all of those into Inbox! I reluctantly removed Inbox from contention without giving it a thorough test...but I'd be happy to take another look down the road when it permits easy import/exports. The developers apparently have a lot of great ideas for version 2.0.
ToodleDo is web-based, so it's available for ANY computer, Mac, PC, or Linux, with an Internet browser. Some reviewers were concerned about potential security/server issues (i.e., having all your data stored on a server you don't own/can't back up)--but a web-based to-do list is much more convenient for me, since I use several different computers each day and could log in on each and see the same list. ToodleDo also has fantastic import/export capabilities, so you're free to backup or move your data as often as you like. I nearly went with ToodleDo. I appreciated how easy it was to create new tasks (and even add notes), liked its Goals area, and loved the Hotlist of high-priority and urgent tasks at the top of the page--which gets emailed to the user every morning. Awesome! But ToodleDo doesn't let you choose to show just the "next action"--the next item in each project/folder that needs to get done. In the end, it was a gut feeling--I couldn't figure out how to interact with ToodleDo in the way I wanted. But, I'll keep an eye on it and may go back if it develops further.
My current winner: iGTD. It's a flexible program, and the developer seems to be adding new features all the time to keep it working well for different user preferences. I'm still learning its many useful features and keyboard shortcuts. It handles recurring tasks well, and you can assign priorities, anticipated effort, start dates and due dates to each task--or not, as you like. You can even "flag" tasks, a feature I'm using for things that I want to complete each day. iGTD lets you hide tasks that aren't due yet (which unclutters my head and reduces my stress level). I appreciated being able to create projects and sub-projects to organize my tasks, plus you can create notes for your tasks AND projects/subprojects. So far, iGTD seems to be working well for me, and I'm starting to trust it to handle everything. There are a few little quirks to get used to, but nothing annoying, and I love its speedy interaction. It doesn't have as many import/export options as ToodleDo, but enough to satisfy me, and it can quickly create backups of its data. It's already a very handy app, and with the ongoing development, it should only get better.
I have my fingers crossed that my newly computerized to-do list will keep me both productive and relaxed. Happy GTD, everyone!