Tag Archives: tasks

Good Todo

Good Todo is an online to do list that I use. It is a vast improvement over my old paper-based system that involved me writing tasks on whatever slip of paper I could find (often post-it notes) and constantly having to consolidate and re-write the list. I’ve been using Good Todo since August 2007 and now I don’t see how I would get along without it.

About three years ago, my e-mail situation at work got so out of hand that I was reaching the storage limit daily. Just to send a simple e-mail or respond to one, I spent demoralizing amounts of time frantically searching for e-mails to delete while cursing more loudly than I should at work. Somewhere I heard about a book on increasing productivity by letting your “bits” go called “Bit Literacy.” I ordered the book for e-mail management help, but the key thing I gained from the book was learning about Good Todo.

Good Todo is a “bit-literate” online to do list created by the author of “Bit Literacy.” The key feature of Good Todo is its compatibility with e-mail, which is critical in helping with e-mail management. Emptying your inbox and keeping it empty is easier using Good Todo because you can forward e-mails that are tasks directly to your to do list. With your task safely on your to do list, you can delete the e-mail. Since each task is associated with a specific day, you no longer have to use an overflowing inbox as a to do list. You can also create your own tasks via e-mail or on the Good Todo website. Each task has a brief title and the program also allows you to add a longer description or instructions for the task (analogous to the subject and body of an e-mail).

I use Good Todo to store all my tasks: work and home, recurring, errands, and big projects and ideas. I look at Good Todo each day to remind me what tasks to do. I try to forward all tasks that enter my e-mail inbox to Good Todo right away if I’m not going to work on them immediately. You can also use Good Todo to make it appear that you never forget anything, which is fun. Just include Good Todo on any e-mails you send to assign a task to another person (for example 7 days from today). This adds a task to the future date you specify so you remember to follow up on that date.

It’s not free, but the cost is reasonable ($18/6 months) and the customer service is impressive. After I signed up, they asked for my feedback and they actually make changes based on user suggestions. Most of the things that concerned me about using Good Todo have been remedied. For example, I think categorizing is critical for keeping those “someday” tasks from taking over your to do list. Good Todo didn’t allow any categorization of tasks at the beginning but now does. Also, there used to be only one option for prioritizing tasks within a day–clicking on up and down arrows allowed you to move a task up or down one spot at a time or to the top or bottom of the list. The arrows were cumbersome and drove me crazy. Now you can drag and drop tasks to re-organize their order, which is much better. While you could always search for a specific task and click on any future date to see if there were any tasks planned, originally there was no week or month view, which is important for longer-range planning. They recently updated to allow viewing tasks for the next 7 or 30 days, or all tasks in a category.

Some nit picks remain. Creating recurring tasks is now possible, but the available frequencies are limited. Good Todo won’t create tasks that recur biweekly (time sheets at work, changing bed linens…what? you do that more often?) or yearly (sending birthday cards, etc…), which are two of my most used frequencies. Something else that I’d like to see is automatic tracking of the date a task was added. For logy procrastinators like me, I think the shame of seeing just how long some tasks have been on the list uncompleted might help light a fire under my ass.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a lot of tasks.  Each task assigned to a day that is not completed by midnight automatically moves to the next day. This means that on Fridays, I spend a good amount of time moving uncompleted work-related tasks to the next week so that I don’t have to look at them on the weekend. Weekend days often have so many tasks listed that I have to scroll to view them all, which is not conducive to prioritization. Creating a “someday” category to dump things that I want to do but aren’t going to happen anytime soon has helped.

Overall, Good Todo includes all of the features I think are most important in a to do list, the price is right, and the customer service is excellent.  I highly recommend Good Todo to anyone looking for an online to do list.

Welcome to Logy Express!

One of the main topics I will write about here is my attempt to be more productive.

Here is an earthy summary of my thoughts on productivity. I have a lot of shit to do and it’s taken about 15 adult years of not getting as much of the shit done as I would like to reach the following “you don’t say?” realization. There is no gadget (love you iPad, but sorry not even you) or tool (even the fabulous Good Todo online to do list that I use) that can substitute for good old-fashioned time management skills. My key issues seem to be getting my head out of my ass about estimating how long tasks will take to complete, and then actually scheduling my days with a reasonable number of tasks. Shall I even mention the difficulty of staying focused on tasks that aren’t very intellectually stimulating in the era of instant entertainment gratification?

I wish I could say that some gadget or tool has totally revolutionized my life and drastically increased my productivity, but I can’t. In my case, too many tasks clog up my to do list to the point of distraction. Here is a screenshot of my to do list for today (my review of Good Todo is forthcoming). You don’t have to be familiar with Good Todo or my specific tasks to know there’s no way I’m going to get all that stuff done today. This isn’t even today’s original list, which contained 41 tasks when I woke up. Since only about 30 tasks fit on the screen without having to scroll to view them all, I postponed some tasks before making the screenshot.

I’m having some difficulty deciding what the appropriate scope of individual tasks should be. Some tasks are pretty simple like making a grooming appointment for my dog, but others are multi-faceted tasks that are quite time-consuming to complete. The “clean house” task makes me laugh every time it pops up, which is every Saturday because I keep moving it from one weekend to the next. Tasks that involved usually aren’t going to get crossed off my list in one day, so they just keep moving forward again and again. Breaking up larger tasks into smaller pieces is somewhat helpful, but also adds to my list’s clutter.

My next step for increasing productivity is to be more critical in my assessment of how long tasks will take me to complete and then to limit each day’s tasks to a set I can reasonably complete that day. I also need to schedule my time more explicitly (assign tasks to specific days and times). A few years ago, I was surprised to receive a package from my mother-in-law. She had seen Julie Morgenstern on Oprah and was impressed enough to order her time management book for me. At the time I remember my thoughts included WTF?, but now my main thought is hopefully there are some words of wisdom in this book that will resonate with me. We’ll see…