My never-ending search for the perfect to-do app is somewhat of a running joke at our house. I’m currently using an app called Todoist, which is the closest I’ve come to perfect in a very long time, so I thought I’d share it here.
I’ve always been a calendar nerd and was a faithful Day-Timer user in its heyday. I took my Day-Timer with me everywhere, which was a little unwieldy as I used a desk-size binder. Last year I ordered a very nice paper organizer, which became a waste of too much money. The product itself more than met my expectations, but paper just isn’t the right fit for me. I had to force myself to use it, and it was too bulky to carry around, so I often found myself without a calendar or a way to add a reminder.
Enter Todoist. My requirements are pretty standard and Todoist fits all of these, some better than others.
- I need to be able to email to it. When an email becomes a task, I like to forward it to my to-do app and track it there rather than my inbox.
- It must be available as a mobile app and must sync well. If I can’t add and manage tasks and information on my phone, we’re done. This is critical and the Todoist mobile app is superb.
- File storage. I use my app for client work as well, so I need to be able to keep the files with the tasks. For example, if one of my tasks is to add a graphic to a website, I need the graphic to be easily findable from the task.
- Ability to separate tasks I’m waiting for input on. It’s annoying to keep going through tasks and finding things that can’t be acted on until someone else takes action. Todoist does this OK, but it could be better.
- It must have subtasks. Often a task needs to be broken down into subtasks, or there are steps.
How Todoist Works
You could use the web interface, but I like the app and it’s free, so I downloaded it for Mac and iOS. It’s also available for Android. You can customize the colors, so I’ve chosen the blue I use for my brand.
The first thing you’ll notice in the Todoist app is the left column. At the top is the Inbox, then links for Today, Upcoming, and any projects or tasks I’ve added to my favorites. My Inbox is where tasks land when I email them to the app.
More Small Business Tools and Productivity
At the top of the Todoist system are Projects. Projects can contain tasks and sections. Todoist offers project templates, which I’ve used to keep my editorial calendar and content pipeline for future posts. For this template, the months are sections, and I’ve broken down my content plan by the week. Because I scheduled this post for today, it shows up in my left column under Today.
I created a Todoist project for each area of my life; for my own business, client work, personal tasks, and my content calendars. Each project has its own email address, which you can add to your email client contacts if you want to be able to email tasks directly to a project and bypass the Inbox. Projects can also integrate with Apple iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook if you want to add tasks dates to your calendar.
In the Premium version, you can add collaborators to a project and assign them tasks and discuss project details. Users who have been invited to the project can comment or add files to the project.
Templates can also be exported. Each week when I write a blog post, I create custom images for the post and for social networks. Instead of recreating this template each week, Todoist allows you to export it as a .csv file, then re-import it. This saves time and keeps my list consistent, and if I want to modify the template I can do so, then re-import it.
To export a project template, click the three dots in the upper right corner of the project, then select Export as a template. You can either export the template as a file (.csv) or as a shareable URL. I keep the template file in my Dropbox, then import it each week as needed.
To apply your new template to a project, create the project if you haven’t already, then click the three dots at top right. In the dialog box that pops up, select Import from template.
To add a task in Todoist, type q or click the plus icon at the top right. From this screen, you can schedule the task, add a comment, flag its priority, label it, and add it to a project. You don’t have to set a date, which I use for tasks I know I want to do when I have time, but don’t have a set deadline. You can set recurring tasks, which I’ve done with my invoices, as you can see by the two arrows next to the date. I’ve also set this task to a high priority, which is why it appears in red.
One feature I recently discovered is the ability to copy a link to a task. This is helpful if I’ve got information stored in another app that I need to quickly access as part of the task. To copy the task link, click the three dots in the upper right corner of the task.
Todoist allows you to add labels to tasks for another sorting option. This how I separate waiting tasks, although it’s not the perfect solution. I briefly created a separate project for pending tasks, but it didn’t work out as I liked, because it made it necessary to label each tasks with the original project name. I settled on labels for waiting tasks as an imperfect solution, as I’d rather they be out of the project and out of sight until I can take action.
Labels aren’t something I use a lot in Todoist, but you might. You can add and color code your own labels.
Todoist provides analytics that help you track productivity. You can set goals and chart your progress. Karma points are awarded for tasks created and completed, and lost for things that don’t get done. As a motivator, you can progress through levels of Karma depending on how many points you have earned. You can turn off Karma if you don’t find it motivating.
Todoist Mobile App
The mobile app mirrors the desktop app for the most part. You can add and edit projects and tasks just like on the desktop and view your productivity stats. The app syncs seamlessly with the Mac app, so I’ve always got what I need handy. Here are a few mobile screenshots.
Todoist offers browser extensions for major web browsers that let you add a task from any web page. When you click the icon in your shortcuts bar, a box will pop up with your existing tasks. At the bottom is a link to create a task from the page. You can also manage other tasks right from the browser if you like.
You can use Todoist free, but most of the features, such as comments, file uploads, labels, and filters that make it worthwhile for me are in the Premium tier, which is $3/month per user billed annually at $36/year. The Business plan offers more collaborative tools and is $5/month per user billed annually.
Todoist integrates with numerous apps and services, such as Airmail, Gmail, Slack, Zapier, Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Alexa, and too many others to mention.