Tag Archives: Todoist

The One Tool That Makes GTD Work for Me: My Done Journal

Today is my fourth GTD anniversary! I started using GTD (by taking baby steps) all those years ago. It changed my life. I mean that sincerely.

In celebration of that anniversary, I’d like to share the one tool that has made my use of GTD (Getting Things Done) about more than just following the rules. I have one tool that makes the system come together for me in a way that the official parts of the methodology just don’t.

It’s my Done Journal.

What is a Done Journal?

I got the idea from Josh Medeski. The concept is buried in a post that is otherwise about why he gave up bullet journaling:

I created a Done Journal, writing down the day’s accomplishments and meaningful events. It was fun being able to flip though pages and remember the past, but I stopped the done journal after a couple months because it sucked up time and energy I thought could be better spent on my digital journal.

I’ve been blogging for over 15 years, so suffice it to say that I love having memories of the past. Josh didn’t give any details of the format for his Done Journal, but it sounded like a fantastic concept and name. I adopted it and made it my own.

Why I Keep My Done Journal

In Step 4 of the GTD process (Review), creator David Allen recommends looking back at your calendar from the previous week and looking forward a week or two. The goal is to identify any incomplete actions from the previous week and to spot any new Next Actions associated with upcoming events. When I was using Wunderlist to do my Weekly Review, I used that principle to delete the completed tasks from my account.

The part with all the deleting was initially just about Wunderlist‘s features and flaws. By default, the search feature includes completed tasks. That drove me crazy! The only solution was to delete all of my completed tasks. Can’t search them if they’re not there. And that is what I did for the three years I used Wunderlist. (I switched to Todoist last year, which searches completed tasks only when you specifically ask it to.)

So I deleted my completed tasks every week, but that made me sad. I worked hard to complete those tasks! I wanted some credit!

Enter the Done Journal. I keep it as a simple Google Doc, so it’s accessible in all the same places as my task manager (Todoist). It has been an amazing tool for reflection, review, and simply inspiring a sense of progress.

Computer keyboard, hand on mouse, and a coffee mug.

How I Use My Done Journal

I write an entry in my Done Journal each week, after I clear out my inboxes (digital and physical). The process goes like this:

  1. I open my Completed Tasks spreadsheet. Todoist compiles completed tasks automatically, but I find the interface too cluttered. I don’t need to see that many pictures of my own face! Instead, I use an IFTTT applet to create a Google Sheets file of each completed task with its date and project.
  2. I open my Done Journal, add today’s date, and start my two weekly lists. The first list is my top 3 completed tasks for the week. The second list is the top 3 things I’m thankful for from the past week.
  3. I review the past week on my calendar. This usually gives me at least one “thankful” item.
  4. I scroll through the Completed Tasks sheet, reviewing each row, remembering what I did and identifying items for my lists. I type them right in as they qualify.

That’s it! When I finish my lists of three items each, I close my Done Journal and add a “Weekly Review” line to my Completed Tasks spreadsheet so that I know where to start reviewing the next time.

My Monthly Review

At the end of each month, I do a Monthly Review. That’s not part of GTD either, but it’s critical for me. I review the past month’s worth of weekly entries in my Done Journal and write a paragraph-style summary of where I am in my life right now and what I anticipate for the next month.

Then I keep going. I started my Done Journal on March 10, 2015, and I have made an entry for every Weekly Review and Monthly Review since then. I’ve missed a few weeks, so I give myself more than three items per list when that happens, but I always use it to review what I’ve done. Sometimes I feel accomplished. Sometimes I struggle to pick out tasks that don’t seem tiny or “thankful” things that feel significant. But I always do it.


Do you use GTD? Have you found a tool that makes GTD “click” for you that isn’t officially part of the methodology? One blog post helped me so much—your comment could do the same for someone else!

Wunderlist to Todoist: Handling URLs and Links

I have been using Todoist for one month now. I miss Wunderlist (especially the blue gradient background), but I’ve found a workflow that suits my productivity preferences.

One thing that stood out when I first switched and didn’t yet have Premium features was the way I used URLs in Wunderlist. I hadn’t realized it was such a big deal until I made the switch.

For the record, I thought about including this in my initial switching post, but it’s such a niche usage that I thought I’d isolate it for people who are looking for this specific problem and not really anything else. Maybe the search engine algorithms will do us a favor.

How I Used Bare URLs in Wunderlist

One of my favorite Wunderlist features was that I could paste a URL into any item’s title and have it stay a URL but also become instantly clickable. I got used to seeing the bare URLs. Sometimes I want to see the bare URL. I even found a Firefox extension that gives me bare URLs from Google search results so I could paste them right in without having to click, wait for Google to process, and finally copy the real URL. It was a solid workflow, especially with well-formed URLs (the kind that use words instead of numbers, so you have some idea where the link is taking you).

Todoist has one feature I found supremely annoying. My imported URLs were still there, but they didn’t display as bare URLs anymore. Todoist automatically changes any URL to a hyperlink.

What I saw in Wunderlist: wunderlisturls

What I see automatically in Todoist: todoistwheresthelinkannotated

What I see pre-trick (described below) in task edit mode in Todoist: todoisthalfurlannotated

So for the first time in recent memory, a “feature” was a nuisance for me.

My Solution for Bare URLs in Todoist

I tried deleting Todoist’s automatic link titles (the words you click on). It just converted them again. I tried adding the URL as a comment. That’s a Premium feature. I tried using parentheses or brackets around the bare URL. The URL was no longer clickable.

My solution was to change my typing flow a little bit. The main problem is a visual thing: the links don’t look any different from plain text until I mouse over them. I want to see some visual indicator that, at a glance, tells me “this part is a link.” So I added a caret symbol before the URL:

todoistcareturltrick

You can’t use carets in URLs, so there’s no chance it will get mixed in with the link. I don’t even generally see carets in page titles, and I don’t use them myself, so they don’t look like part of any normal text. Todoist still converts the URL, but it leaves the caret alone.

I ran a search for “http” and found all my imported tasks with URLs. (There were many.) The simpler-format URLs (without the “http://” part) won’t convert, but they also won’t be clickable. I had to update all my URLs by hand, but it worked. Hooray!

Todoist Just Isn’t Good Enough Without Premium

Now that I have Todoist Premium, I just paste my URLs into comments. The automatically-converted URLs actually look quite nice there.

This was a specific example of the reason I didn’t stick with Todoist when I was first looking for a task manager: I had to pay to get what I considered basic features. Sadly, nothing has changed. I became a power user with Wunderlist, and there’s no going back now. Check out my previous post for a little help with the problem of paying for Premium—and if that doesn’t work anymore, please let me know!

Wunderlist to Todoist: First Thoughts and Free “Labels”

I did it. After many happy years using Wunderlist as my task management tool with the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, I have switched from Wunderlist to Todoist.

todoistwelcome

I blame Microsoft. As I’ve already lamented here, Microsoft keeps snapping up the independent apps I love, taking their features, and shutting them down. I moved on from Sunrise because I didn’t want to use Outlook, so I’ve moved on from Wunderlist because I don’t want to use Microsoft To-Do. (Yes, that’s its real name.)

This is the first time I’ve ever switched task managers. In some of my GTD reading and podcast listening, I’ve discovered that switching GTD apps is not uncommon. It just sounds so messy. I spend enough time refining my system already; I really just need to get to the “doing” part!

Todoist made importing my tasks very easy. Everything came through the way it was in Wunderlist folders and lists, ready to reorganize Todoist-style. My due dates were there, although I had to reset everything that was recurring. The main import problem was that I needed to fix all my tags. The main usage problem was not having the features available to a Todoist Premium account. (But keep reading; there’s a surprise!)

How I Used Tags in Wunderlist

I started out not using tags at all. I have never been into contexts (a statement which is GTD blasphemy). I use way more due dates than by-the-book GTD allows. However, when I started applying GTD’s concepts of Projects and Next Actions in more detail, I found a use for tags in Wunderlist.

I kept a Wunderlist list for each Project, with a minimum of two items per list: the Next Action and the desired outcome. The name of the list was an abbreviated version of the desired outcome, since the sidebar is only so wide. I marked each Project’s Next Action with “#NA” at the end of the task title, and I marked each outcome with “#outcomes”. The tags were clickable, giving me a very easy workflow for my weekly review. No matter where that item appeared (in my Completed list, in a search, etc.), I could tell it was a Next Action (or outcome) and for which Project.

I wish Wunderlist had offered an automatic list of all the tags you’d created. It was awesome that tags would auto-complete as soon as you typed the hashtag symbol! That showed the data was stored somewhere specific in the program. However, there was literally nowhere else you could view all your tags except in that drop-down. I solved my wish for a task index by creating a list called “Tags.” I used the auto-complete drop-down to create one item for each tag. It took less than a minute.

wunderlisttags

Blurred for privacy, but otherwise my real tag index.

I had to fix things when I switched to Todoist, but my homegrown tag index came in handy for remembering what tags I’d used.

My Solution for Free Labels in Todoist

Todoist uses labels to provide the functionality that Wunderlist called “tags.” I think “tags” is the more universal term for that function, largely thanks to Twitter and Evernote, but Gmail calls the same function “labels,” so maybe that battle over nomenclature will never end.

However, in Todoist, labels are a Premium feature. Bummer. New users and those willing to hack the system a bit can do without, but I had a different vision in mind for a tool that could handle sub-projects. I wanted my own solution, and I didn’t want to pay for it. (Again, keep reading.)

My most-used tags in Wunderlist were:

  1. #NA for GTD Next Actions
  2. #outcomes for GTD Project outcomes
  3. #MrManAgenda (with my boyfriend’s actual name) for agenda items
  4. #waitingfor for Project items that I’m waiting for (non-Project waiting-fors went on a dedicated Waiting list)

My free solutions are, respectively:

  1. Apply the Priority 1″ flag
  2. Apply the Priority 2 flag
  3. Make this a sub-project
  4. Begin each task with the text “waitingfor” (all one word)

Converting my old tags to for-free labels seemed like a huge undertaking—until I realized that Todoist allowed me to view all of the items from all my Project plans lists in one long screen, because I kept them in a single folder in Wunderlist. I simply scrolled down the screen, looking for NA’s and outcomes in each project, deleted the plain-text-starting-with-a-hashtag-symbol, and used the inline language parsing feature to specify “p1” or “p2.” Once I’d finished, I appreciated the way Todoist changes each task’s checkbox (which is actually a circle, not a box) to the color of its priority. The red and orange really stand out!

todoistpriorities

Image from the [Todoist Support page on priorities](https://support.todoist.com/hc/en-us/articles/205873321-Priorities).

The only missing part of my solution is how to handle a Project that has worked its way down to one task: something you’re waiting for that is the last remaining action (and therefore also the Next Action and the desired outcome). I’d suggest using just the Priority 1 flag since the fact that you’re waiting for it is the main reason it’s not done yet.

For a Next Action that is also the desired outcome but for which you are not waiting for something, I would still use just the Priority 1 flag. If you’re looking at your system for Next Actions, you don’t want to miss one that’s doable just because it looks like an outcome.

Finally, for other tags, I would recommend using a unique text string (something that’s not already a word) so that you can add it to the name of the task and search for it when you need it. The hashtag symbols from imported items will still be there in plain text, but you won’t be able to add any text starting with a hashtag in Todoist because it will try to assign your task to a project. (I guess if you used Wunderlist tags for projects, you’re still in business!)

So, since my Wunderlist tag for items to do or discuss with Mr. Man was “#MrManAgenda,” I would write “MrManAgenda” in any new agenda items, and I would remove the plain-text hashtag from imported agenda items. Then, when I sat down with Mr. Man, I would search Todoist for “MrManAgenda” and be all set.

A Big Surprise

Converting to Todoist made me realize that Wunderlist’s free tier was probably too feature-rich for zero dollars. I got used to having power-user features for free. Todoist doesn’t give you those for free. I started missing Wunderlist very quickly. As I described above, though, I was well on my way to making Todoist free work for me.

Just like when I started using GTD, I did some Googling for how to best use Todoist… and if there was any way to get free Premium time beyond the 30-day trial.

Astute readers might have already figured out what happened: I got four free months! I had spotted a few posts with promo codes for free Premium, but they were old enough that I thought the promotions had surely expired. Nope!

To get free Todoist Premium, go to todoist.com/redeem and enter the codes 1MillionTasks (for 1 month) and skillshare (for 3 months). They are stackable, adding up to four months total, and they worked for me as of April 30, 2017.

I was very surprised, but also very happy!

Initial Thoughts on Importing from Wunderlist to Todoist

In the import, subtasks came over seamlessly. I don’t generally use subtasks, but the few I had were just fine. My Wunderlist notes became Todoist comments. (Different term; same functionality. See the “tags vs. labels” discussion above.) I couldn’t add comments without Premium, but I could edit any comment that already existed. (Presumably, I could delete the random empty comments that were imported with some tasks that hadn’t had any notes in Wunderlist, but I wasn’t about to try it and lose a free comment!)

Todoist’s smart due dates are very useful. It is so nice to type “every month on the second Wednesday” and have all my computer cleaning tasks schedule themselves just right!

My checklists (for computer cleaning, house cleaning, blog posts, etc.) had all been preceded with numbers to allow easy sorting in Wunderlist. Those came over to Todoist, but not quite seamlessly.

As a completed task, the items still show numbers on mobile, but not the right numbers:
todoistnumbersannotated

But for some reason, the numbers don’t show up in the not-yet-completed task:
todoistnonumbersannotated

This is a known bug. I just took the numbers out, so they don’t show up anywhere now. The recurring tasks seem to stay in the correct order when I complete them out of order, though, so that’s okay so far.

Completed tasks can’t really be deleted from Todoist, which would have been terrible for my personalized Weekly Review if I hadn’t found another solution almost instantly. I use an IFTTT (pronounced like “gift”) recipe that adds a line to a Google Sheet every time I complete a task. I review that sheet each week, add a line so I know where to start reviewing next time, and skip the step from my old procedure where I deleted everything. It’s working well.

Finally, in the aforementioned Googling, I found and marathoned Carl Pullein’s excellent step-by-step, bite-size tutorials about using Todoist. The best episodes are:

I miss Wunderlist, but I’m excited about the possibilities that Todoist is offering me. It took several hours to get up and running, and of course I’m still tinkering with my system, but I am still getting things done.

© 2002–2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.