It seems that I am forever looking for a great To-Do List tool. For years I was a dedicated Day-Timer user. Unfortunately their transition from being a paper product to a digital one wasn’t very successful. Enter Franklin Planners. They were good, but still too cumbersome to be fully useful. Digital planning was in its infancy and none of the available products seemed to help. So eventually I gave up on digital organizers and for about the past ten years, I’ve simply used Excel spreadsheets to manage my tasks. Over the past year that’s been overwhelming – not working effectively and taking too much time. Not to mention that no one else could understand my spreadsheets so task delegation wasn’t efficient. This year I set about looking for a new system. I was looking for something that is less than a full-blown project management system (because they tend to be too complicated) but much more than a simple to-do list.
After creating and recreating my to-do lists in several different programs and living with each for about a week, I’ve found one that I’m nearly completely satisfied with. (Are we ever fully satisfied with anything? There’s always tweeks we’d like to make, enhancements we’d like to add…but that’s the tradeoff between simple and complicated or off-the-shelf and custom-built.)
Let me introduce you to my friend Toodledo. Yes, it’s a cutesy little name, but it’s a powerful organizational tool. Toodledo is a web-based solution that you can get on your mobile phone, in your email, on your calendar, integrated directly into your web browser, and more. I’ve found some of the integration a little clunky, but as a desktop/laptop/mobile app it’s doing a great job helping me organize and manage my life.
Entering tasks is simple – click on “Add Task” and type a short title or description. You can then provide as much (or as little) additional information about it as you’d like. The more info you identify, the more capability you have for sorting and viewing. You can provide only a due date or identify a start and end date. You can set priorities and identify a task as being a repeating task. Tasks can be set to repeat at just about any interval (using preset criteria or identifying your own in plain English) and to repeat from the scheduled due date or from the completion date. I love the latter option. There are things I want to do weekly but they’re not so critical that they must be done on a certain day. So perhaps I have a task that I schedule for Tuesday, but Tuesday gets overcrowded, and then Wednesday falls apart, and it doesn’t get completed until Thursday. Toodledo reschedules it for the following Thursday.
You can assign tasks to folders, contexts, locations and tags. Each of these terms can mean whatever you want it to. We use folders to identify customers and tags to identify the person responsible for the task. If you assign locations, a mapping feature in Toodledo allows you to sort by distance from a specific location, making it easier to be efficient with sales calls or errands. Assigning contexts allows you to identify tasks based on similarity of effort. You can sort and filter by contexts so you can focus on similar efforts and efficiently complete them. Here are just a few of my contexts:
- Writing – I write for four different blogs, as well as books and training material. When I’m in a writing mode, I want to easily see all the things on my writing to-do list without being distracted by everything else that screams for my attention.
- Web Effort – It’s not something I do regularly, so it always requires taking my brain to a “website management” place. Once my brain is there, I want to do all the website management tasks at once.
- Client Support – I want these tasks to stand out prominently and I want to be able to filter out all other tasks when I’m focusing on client effort.
- Accounting – Like web effort, once I start on accounting, I want to get in the groove and do all of it at once.
You can also identify length of time it takes to complete a task. Have twenty minutes before your next meeting and wondering how to be effective during that time? Sort your tasks by length and you will easily be able to identify what can be accomplished in those twenty minutes. I love this feature.
Additional features include an ability to define and track goals, identify tasks to goals, collaborate with other Toodledo users, import and export tasks, and customize what task information appears on your screen as well as how it displays.
Toodledo has created a helpful and well-done set of videos training users in the basics of the system. They’re available on Toodledo’s YouTube channel. Each video is less than five minutes, so they can be watched and implemented quickly and easily.
Toodledo is available at four different subscription levels: free, Silver ($14.99/year), Gold ($29.99/year) and Platinum ($9.99/year). I tried the free version for a couple of weeks before upgrading to the Silver version. The silver version allows you add the collaboration feature and allows you to create subtasks. It also allows for customizable alarms and longer retention of history. The Gold and Platinum versions include features I don’t need but are worth the cost if you need them – cloud storage and file attachments are the most significant. We have all the cloud storage we need from other sources and we maintain our files in a very specific manner – adding them as attachments to our to-do list isn’t it.
The power in Toodledo is its ability to view, sort and filter based on any of the fields or task characteristics that you’ve assigned. Toodledo’s flexibility allows you to mold it into whatever type of to-do list or time management app you need it to be. You can re-sort tasks with one click, or use the top menu to sort by multiple criteria. When you add in the filtering and viewing capabilities you can create custom lists that drill down to the level of task management you need at any given time of the day. Be careful, though — it’s easy to get lost in the number of levels of filtering and lose tasks. It takes a bit of practice to learn these features, making them work for you.