Organize Your To-Do List with ToDoist

This probably doesn’t qualify as a genealogy article although I certainly do use ToDoist to organize my future genealogy research tasks. Of course, I also use it to organize many other things in my life as well. New Years Day is the perfect time to make resolutions. One resolution I suggest for many people is to organize your life with ToDoist starting today.

I realized years ago that I often forget things. I may think, “I really need to (insert task here) soon. It would be convenient to do that next Saturday.” By the time Saturday rolls around, I have forgotten the task I had thought of doing.

I started by keeping a to-do list: a list of tasks that need to be completed, typically organized in order of priority or in chronological order. In fact, the to-do list soon became my lifesaver. With a few exceptions, it reminded me of household tasks to be accomplished, bills to be paid, and even genealogy research tasks to be performed online or on my next visit to a library or archive. Life got better when I had a constant reminder available.

Paper-based to-do lists are cheap and easy to create. I soon found out they were also easy to lose and yet difficult to organize effectively. Keeping the list updated on paper was also less than satisfactory as I kept adding new tasks and crossing out completed tasks. I soon created multiple to-do lists: one for household repairs, one for bills to be paid, one for visits to libraries and archives, one for work, and so on. When home computers became popular, I switched to computerized to-do lists because they were easy to update. Back in the “stone age” of home computers, I would update my to-do lists and then print them out as needed and carry them in my pocket or briefcase. I now shudder to think of all the paper I wasted and occasionally lost.

Time marches on, and computer technology has improved greatly. Now there are dozens of applications that will create to-do lists for you. Many of them will also copy lists to and from your home computer, laptop computer, tablet, or cell phone. Some of them will optionally sound alarms at the date and time you specified earlier. A few even allow you to share tasks with others, such as a group at the office where everyone works together to meet a deadline.

A very few of them, including ToDoist, will even sound an alarm and show you a task to be accomplished based upon your location. For instance, if you enter a task to “look up W. H. Eastman’s deeds on the next visit to the Penobscot County Courthouse” and you also enter the address of that courthouse, the next time you are within a few hundred feet of the courthouse the alarm will sound on your cell phone and the task will be displayed on the cell phone’s screen.

I have experimented with a number of to-do list applications over the years. I haven’t tried all of them as there are too many! However, I recently found one that perfectly fits my lifestyle as an individual who needs to keep track of future tasks. I do need to keep my multiple to-do lists handy at all times. The fact that I carry a cell phone on my belt during all waking hours simplifies the task. When sleeping, the cell phone is on my nightstand beside the bed, plugged into the charger but still running and operational. I obviously need the to-do lists on my cell phone, but I also need to keep up-to-date copies on other computers—both for convenience and for backup purposes.

I have settled on ToDoist as my favorite to-do application. I now have ToDoist installed on all my computers although most of the time I use it on the cell phone that is on my belt. It is a very powerful application, offering many options. I don’t use all the options as many are for things I don’t need. Despite all the power, ToDoist remains easy to use. Best of all, ToDoist is available free of charge. A Premium version is also available although I haven’t found any need to pay for the Premium version just yet. I am quite happy with the free version.

ToDoist is available for Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Chrome web browser, Firefox web browser, Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird, Postbox, and Gmail. If you use any of these, ToDoist will smoothly fit into the tools you are already using. Assuming the computing device is connected to the Internet (either constantly or occasionally), ToDoist also copies all tasks to all of your other devices. You can access your assigned tasks from anywhere. On shared to-do lists, you can collaborate with others by updating your assigned tasks. You can watch a video that explains shared tasks on ToDoist at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOYQ72N6EaM.

ToDoist has a long list of options, including the following:

  • Sub tasks – Achieve more by breaking big tasks into smaller sub-tasks (multi-level).
  • Sub projects – Manage complexity by breaking big projects into smaller sub-projects (multi-level). I admit I have never used this. I guess my life is too simple to require sub-projects.
  • Notifications – Get notified when important changes happen via emails or push notifications.
  • Real-time data synchronization – Never think about syncing, ToDoist does it for you in real time across any device and platform.
  • Human due dates – Quickly write due dates using normal language, such as “monday at 2pm”.
  • Powerful recurring dates – Quickly write due dates using normal language, such as “every day at 2pm”.
  • Multiple priorities – Focus on the important stuff using ToDoist’s colored priorities.
  • Share and collaborate – Share projects, delegate tasks and discuss details – on any device and platform.

The premium version also adds the following:

  • Reminders – Get reminded via email, push notification or SMS. Also receive location-based alerts when on‑the‑go.
  • Notes – Add as many details as you want using task notes. Or attach PDFs, spreadsheets or photos.
  • Labels and filters – Put tasks into contexts via labels, a great way to become even more organized. Create custom filters that fit your workflow.

Again, the standard version, which I use, is available free of charge. The Premium version costs $29 a year (roughly $2.50 a month), but I haven’t yet seen any need to upgrade.

Is ToDoist the perfect tool for everyone? Probably not. In fact, if you presently have a method of managing your to-do list(s) and are happy with that method, I would suggest you not change. However, if you are looking for a simpler, more streamlined, and more reliable method of managing your life, ToDoist might be a part of the answer.

You can learn more about ToDoist at http://todoist.com. You can also watch a video describing ToDoist at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDwmp3oP8Uc.

4 Comments

This looks good and I will definately give this a try. Somewhat related, I have been using NotePad.cc (I thought I saw it in your blog but could not find it again). It is great for making notes, copy & paste, etc. when you need to do something quickly and are not worried about security. It can be used on all devices and on my phone and ipad I have made shortcuts for easy access. You just go to Notepad.cc and add a / with any password. I put my shopping lists and BOLO (be on the look out for) lists at the top. Mostly I use it in my research at the FHC and Archives. I used to go through all kinds of machinations to move information. Many organisations will let you access the internet, but not to access email or use a USB stick. Now, I just copy the information to NotePad.cc and deal with it when I get home.

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Hi Dick,

My comment is about your mentioning that you charge your cell phone on your bedside table. I’d thought that was considered unsafe as the phone was so close to your head for so many hours. Any thoughts? It certainly is more convenient.
Now must check out ToDoist. Sounds great!
Thanks!

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That claim has been proven wrong by many studies over the years. However, “urban legends” seem to echo around for years, despite publicity of the truth.

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I don’t have a smart phone, but I have to do lists. I keep genealogy to do lists on Evernote and everyday to dos on Reminder which came with my Mac. Both will sync with my laptop and iPad. I do print out an update copy once a week.

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