Two Resources (One Paid, One Free) for Getting On Top of Stuff

It’s Friday, so hopefully you’re winding down a bit and thinking about how to relax rather than how to be more productive–so file this away for Monday (or read it now if you work weekends).

Here are two resources–one paid and one free–to help stay on top of email and tasks.

 

1. Dispatch App

 

 

I’ve never understood the logic of apps that allow you to “snooze” email. Handle it once and move on, I think. Emails are often calendar appointments or tasks in disguise, and our Inboxes are no place to be keeping tasks. Inbox Zero is elusive (though see here), so an app that helps you get your Inbox messages into tasks quickly is appreciated. This is the goal of Dispatch app, newly available on iPad. Check it out here.

 

2. Free Podcasts from GTD

 

You might also check out free podcasts from David Allen‘s Getting Things Done:

Our GTD podcasts are here to support you at every stage of your GTD practice. You will hear interviews with people from all walks of life about their journey with GTD, from beginners to those who have been at it for years. The podcasts include personal and professional stories, as well as practical tips about GTD systems for desktop and mobile, using apps and paper. Start listening now and you’ll be well on your way to stress-free productivity.

Find the podcast page here.

Cultured Code’s Things Cloud Gets Even Cloud-er

Things Cloud 2

First things first–who is even doing design for Cultured Code’s app Things? Because that design team is the best in the biz. The two images in this post show as much.

Yesterday Cultured Code announced a significant improvement to how Things syncs data across devices. Once again, they’re ahead of the pack in this regard. From their blog announcement:

Shortly after Things Cloud launched, we released a feature called Local Push. It makes sync instantaneous as long as Things is open on your devices (and they’re on the same local network). But of course the app is often closed on your mobile device—so it won’t receive the push, and won’t be in sync until you manually launch the app later.

Today’s new version of Things Cloud solves this problem by sending your devices a push from the cloud (regardless of what network they’re connected to). This means that most of the time you’re in sync even before you launch the app.

And then they give you this sweet visual representation:

 

Things Push Sync

 

… which is quite nicely explained in full at their blog. Read the whole thing here.

And be on the lookout for Things 3. I’ll do my best to cover it here once it releases.

Todoist (Premium): Reviewed and Considered

I’m pretty tied to the Apple ecosphere of apps when it comes to productivity: OmniFocus, Drafts, MindNode, Ulysses, etc. Three major exceptions are Scrivener, Evernote, and Accordance. But otherwise–whether this has happened consciously or not–most of the apps I use regularly are Mac-only.

Todoist is the rare task management app that is available on every platform. And I mean every platform. It even has a Web-based interface, if you don’t want to have to fire up the app on your computer:

 

Universal Todoist

 

Not only that, it integrates with just about everything. This itself is reason to consider Todoist as a primary task management app.

In this post, I review Todoist Premium, considering at the end whether it could, for me, replace OmniFocus.

Here’s a short video from the makers of Todoist, which offers a quick overview:

 

 

What’s Awesome about Todoist

 

First, what’s awesome about Todoist.

 
1. It looks good. Really good.
 

Here it is in landscape mode on an iPad mini:

 

iPad Layout

 

At first I thought it was overly simple, sort of blasé. But the more I’ve used Todoist, the more I appreciate the layout. No clutter, easy to read, pleasing to the eyes. (And you can tweak the color scheme, too.)

 
2. The sync: It Just Works.
 

Todoist’s sync across devices is natural and fast. It’s much more like Things than (previous versions of) OmniFocus. I don’t even really think about it, which is what you hope would be true. No manual anything required.

 
3. Todoist is everywhere (almost).
 

It’s the most ubiquitous and app-integrated task management app on the market. Look, it’s even in my Firefox browser!

 

Firefox Plugin
Click to enlarge image

 

There’s a Gmail plug-in, too. This, unfortunately, is only available with Chrome–which is too much of a CPU hog for me. But it looks good.

Todoist doesn’t offer a Mac Mail plug-in, but as you’ll see below, you can email a task right into a Todoist project, so that’s not a big deal.

 
4. Labels and Filters
 

I don’t know Todoist like I know OmniFocus, but Labels and Filters would appear to be the app’s heart and soul. Sure, there’s an Inbox you can use for GTD-style capture (from anywhere). Yeah, you can set up different Projects for organizing your tasks. But Labels allow you to assign contexts and anything else you like to your tasks (expected task duration?). Then you can filter your tasks by Labels or priority or any other saved search:

 

Priority 3

 

Annoying is the fact that when you create a new Label, if there are two words or more, Todoist automatically inserts an underscore. So one label of mine is now “Waiting_For.” I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it feels a little AOL-ish.

I’m sure there are Label and Filter ninja reading this post, and there’s much more to say about them–Todoist can do quite a bit here. So check out this page and this page for more.

 
5. Easy task input
 

Todoist understands natural language, so entering tasks intuitively is no problem. It’s easy to enter tasks in rapid-fire fashion, too, so you can do a brain dump well with Todoist.

 
6. Email reminders
 

Todoist assigns an email address to a Project of your choice, so I can email tasks (or forward actionable emails) directly to my Inbox. This is a must-have for me in a task management app. You can include attachments, too.

Speaking of email… you can also have Todoist email you reminders of your tasks. At first I thought this was redundant (well… it is). But even though I’m seeing the same task twice (maybe a GTD no-no?), I have found the added reminder helpful.

 

What I Don’t Particularly Like about Todoist

 

 
1. The Premium, subscription-based model
 

Of course. It would be ridiculous to expect a sophisticated app with task notes, attachments, email reminders, fast sync, etc. to be free. There is a free Todoist, but it’s limited. Here’s some of what is in Premium, which is about $29/year:

 

Premium

 

But I’ve never liked subscription-based models. Sure, if you work for a big company that’s paying for it, I can see it working. But what users otherwise want to pay $150 to use the app for the next five years? Other apps with one-time purchases end up being cheaper. If you don’t have Premium, or let it expire, you can no longer add notes or attachments to your tasks–serious GTDers (and other task management obsessives) will need Premium.

 
2. The interface is not so customizable.
 

You can change your start screen, but not on iOS, that I could find. You’re pretty tied in to the layout Todoist gives you.

 
3. For GTDers: No weekly review option
 

My weekly review–a built-in feature of OmniFocus–is what allows me to set due dates sparingly, a key practice for effective project and task management. Todoist’s Karma is fun, but feels gimmicky. And their GTD page has suggestions for something like a weekly review (it would be easy enough to set up a recurring task for it, employing Filters and Labels as needed), but I have gotten so used to OmniFocus’s Review function that not having one already in the app is tough. But it won’t be a deal breaker for a lot of folks.

 

Concluding Evaluation

 
If I were to stop using Apple products tomorrow, I’d get Todoist up and running right away.

How does Todoist Premium rate with apps like OmniFocus and 2Do and Things? It’s right up there, and maybe—given its cross-functionality and fast sync—the best of the batch. But the subscription model is just something I can’t latch on to. Some will have no problem with this.

When I set out to write this review, I was planning to conclude it with, “Yet another app falls short of OmniFocus….” But Todoist really doesn’t. Sure, OF beats it in some regards, but Todoist outperforms OmniFocus in other key areas.

So if you’re one of those handful of disaffected OF users, or if, heaven forbid, you’re not keeping track of your commitments in writing at all–and if you have $30/year to spend–Todoist Premium might just be your new, sole task management app.

 


 

Thanks to the fine folks at Doist, the makers of Todoist, for giving me 6 months of Todoist Premium so I could write this review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews here.

iOS’s Best App, Now at 30% Off

drafts4-banner-880x220

 

Drafts is the only app that lives in my dock on both iPad and iPhone. I was skeptical before I reviewed it. Now I use it more the Phone “app” on my phone.

Best of all is the customizable keyboard, from which you can trigger a bunch of actions to perform on the text in your draft: send as Message, Email, make into OmniFocus list, send to Evernote journal, make into a mind map, etc., etc., amen.

Here’s how part of mine looks:

 

 

If you use your iOS device (iPhone or iPad) to boost your organization and productivity, this is an essential app. You can, for example, do this amazing thing and this even more amazing thing.

Best of all, it’s now 30% off for a Back to School sale. I’ve never seen it cheaper.

Check out Drafts here.

Two Soul-Piercing Gems from David Allen (Getting Things Done 2.0)

GTD 2The wedding of productivity literature and thoughtful anthropology (let alone spirituality) seems to be woefully uncommon, but David Allen strikes me as a spiritually attuned writer. That’s why I think it’s no stretch to call some of his insights into personal productivity “soul-piercing.” Or, at least, one can better provide oneself good soul care when implementing Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) principles.

Readers of this blog know of my new-found use of OmniFocus, which is really just one possible tool (out of several) that helps one practice Getting Things Done.

Here are two total gems from Allen’s new, re-tooled GTD 2.0:

What you do with your time, what you do with information, and what you do with your body and your focus relative to your priorities–those are the real options to which you must allocate your limited resources. The substantive issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do at any point in time. The real work is to manage our actions.

He says this as a reaction to talk of “managing time” or even “managing priorities.” Allen says you can’t manage time (“you don’t manage five minutes and wind up with six”) and don’t manage priorities (rather, “you have them”). That seems at first like semantics, but his point is:

Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because what “doing” would look like, and where it happens, hasn’t been decided.

So the focus becomes managing our actions. And this is still relative to our priorities.

Phew. Love it. (Also, guilty as charged.)

Here’s the second gem:

Getting things done requires two basic components: defining (1) what “done” means (outcome) and (2) what “doing” looks like (action). And these are far from self-evident for most people about most things that have their attention.

I’m (actually, finally) reading Getting Things Done cover to cover. It’s already a breath of fresh air. Find it here.

I Love to Run vs. I Love to NOT Run

I Hate Running

 

I have fallen off the wagon a bit these last 10 days or so with regard to running. Nothing to be proud of, I know. Today I realized something frustrating (but true):

I love not going for a run.

It feels good to not have to wake up super-early to exercise, or figure out how I’m going to schedule a jog in a day with multiple other demands.

But then I went for a run today, and remembered:

I love going for a run.

Ah, these blasted competing values. I get caught in the crossfire every time!

 

I Love Running

 

But I do love running, even though I also love not running, and that feeling–as long as I can keep remembering it–will get me out there again in the next day or two.