OK, first, let’s start with a disclaimer. I am using Todoist since a long time. I have tried numerous task planners. In early 2000, I owned a Palm Pilot with a stylus, and I synced more or less successfully my Outlook tasks with this device. Then I moved to Remember the Milk, next Toodledo. At some point, I started managing my daily tasks with Wunderlist, and Things.
After countless attempts and tests, I finally ended up in a relationship with Todoist. And since then, I have my life under control. I remember it was 2010 – thirteen years ago. Today, I probably know every feature of this app and I completed more than 66’300 tasks in Todoist.
Yes, Todoist got my daily, reliable and favourite companion. But back to the disclaimer: This blog post is not paid. I wrote it because I often get asked about my workflows and why I never forget tasks I delegated – yes, some maybe might wish I would sometimes forget them. With this post, I try to answer some of these questions.
Today I will share with you how I use Todoist and how my daily workflow looks like. However, I think it is also important to mention: It doesn’t matter which app you use. Neither does it really matter which productivity system you use. There are probably hundreds out there. But you must improve yourself a little every day and once you have found a system, you have to trust and follow it.
Ideas on how you can use Todoist
Now, let’s talk about what you can fill in a task manager. I use Todoist all day long, from Monday to Sunday. No matter what I have to think about, I create a task. Let’s start with some examples.
- As a reminder for an activity: e.g., if I have to pick something up on the way back home or if I have to do something on a specific day.
- For travel planning: I travel regularly. I have a template, which I simply import for every new trip. For me, that’s one of the significant advantages of Todoist. The template contains reminders for hotel bookings, visa applications, the current packing list and other annoying things that I may simply forget.
- As shopping list: I use the shopping list together with other family members – everyone can add entries, comments and, once we bought the groceries, also complete the tasks.
- As an overview of my contracts and invoices: Annual notice periods disappear in my task list, and I will get a reminder when I need to act – for example, when I have to cancel the insurance contract.
- As an archive for my ideas: I have a list with ideas for blog posts. And my favourite destinations for future trips are in another list. As well as some ideas for new YouTube videos.
- Todoist reminds me of important anniversaries and birthdays.
- If I have to call my boss about a specific topic in five weeks, I note this down as well in the app.
There is a simple rule: Everything I want to remember finds its way into Todoist. I will not make any exceptions. Otherwise, my routine will not work any more.
Reasons for using a task manager
Have you ever experienced this? It is very late in the evening. While you are lying in bed, you suddenly remember that you have to do something important tomorrow. Now you are nervous and awake again. “I have to remember that!” you might tell yourself.
David Allen mentioned one of the biggest struggles most people have in today’s world: Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them. That’s definitely true. You can’t remember everything; it’s simply not possible. Accept that!
David Allen, born in December 1945, is an American productivity consultant best known for the creation of a time management method called “Getting Things Done”.Wikipedia
Our brain is flooded with so much information every day. I just looked up the stats of my mobile phone minutes ago: Last week, I received 557 SMS & iMessages for business and private purposes, 893 WhatsApp messages – and 592 emails. We can hardly process so much information. That’s why we must concentrate on the important things in life. In the evening, I want to avoid thinking about what I have to do in the office tomorrow. That’s why I aim to ban it from my brain.
Even if we manage to disconnect from work physically, unfinished tasks will follow us back home. In this case, we talk about the so-called Zeigarnik effect.
In the 1920s, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik observed an odd thing. While dining out, she was impressed by the complex orders the wait staff was able to remember at one time. Yet, as soon as the bill was paid, the wait staff forgot completely what the orders were. This observation gave rise to the study of what would become known as the Zeigarnik Effect.Doist Blog – Source
There will always be work left to do. That’s why we need to find an excellent way to disconnect. Writing down my task works perfectly fine for me. Whenever I have something important to do, I record it. Every time. Without any exception. Because of this rule, I can rely on my task manager.
Let’s face it: our brains are a terrible filing system. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something. I have to look in the task manager – and I know what I should do within the next days.
The simplicity and flexibility of Todoist
As mentioned at the beginning, there are thousands of task managers. I won’t tell you that Todoist is the right choice for everyone. Some people might even achieve more with a blank page of paper. The goal stays the same. We must help our brains to disconnect. I use an app because of its flexibility and simplicity.
The Todoist app offers you many features to create your task lists easily. But a great benefit of the task planner is that you will not get forced to use all functions. You don’t need to tag every task. Neither every entry requires a reminder or subtasks. Just use what you need! And here is where Todoist shines.
This flexibility of the app is one of the most important reasons I love to use Todoist. Likewise, Todoist is well-designed, tidy, and available for almost all platforms: I use the app on my MacBook, iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad. You can also use the Todoist web app on nearly every browser available or install their app on Android or Windows.
But my favourite feature is Quick Add in all apps. I simply type “Buy Bananas #Shoppinglist tomorrow 6 pm”. And Todoist automatically creates a task in my Shoppinglist. And I will also get a reminder tomorrow at 6 pm. It’s unbelievably fast, and it just works.
Teamwork with Todoist
Todoist is perfect for easy collaboration without installing a lot on your computer. Individual lists can be shared with friends or work colleagues. Tasks in a shared list are then visible to all list participants. This makes it quick and easy to assign a task to someone or to pass a meaningful comment. Since 2023, Todoist also offers Workspaces. In another blog post, I will show you later on how I am using this feature.
Here are a few examples of shared projects I used in the past (or now):
- Shopping list: A shopping list with everyone in the same household.
- Family list: During the first COVID-19 school lockdown, my 7-year-old son had daily school lessons online. He needed structure. So, we created a shared list. Once his homework was done, he was allowed to play games.
- Shared projects: During our move from Switzerland to Hong Kong, we had a so-called “relocation” list. In the end, there were about 200 tasks on it. Cancelling the insurance, flat cleaning offers, sending the visa application, waiting for feedback from the local Hong Kong insurance company, or purchasing the new furniture. Hardly anything was forgotten. Without the list, I would have easily lost track of everything in the stress of the relocations.
I need access to my task list from everywhere – quickly
What could be worse than not being able to access the task list when you need it? For me, technology should not control my life. It should help me when I need it, but stay out of my life, when I want to disconnect. Todoist is a perfect tool for doing this.
Todoist is always available – when I’m travelling, working in my office or at home. And this is important to get that one task out of your head. You need to be able to write your idea or reminder down. Fast, without distractions. Currently, Todoist is almost available on most platforms. Most platforms also work online and offline.
My daily steps with Todoist
I collect tasks throughout the day. Whenever something comes up, I record it as quickly as possible. It only takes a few seconds to save a new idea or a reminder: You could use Siri on your iPhone or one of Todoist’s widgets.
Usually, I collect everything throughout the day in my Inbox. Once a day, I go through the folder, schedule tasks and assign them to a project. I like projects as I often work on different topics during the day. Mainly in the evening, I plan the next day. I prioritise the tasks, and if necessary, I set myself a reminder using the reminder function.
It still sounds easy. But what happens when you suddenly have 40 tasks on your daily list? How to proceed with all these tasks? Let’s talk about Eisenhower!
In a 1954 speech, former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower quoted an unnamed university president who said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Believe me, it’s true. All of your day-to-day tasks and bigger projects will fall into one of these four categories:
- Urgent & Important tasks/projects – to be completed immediately
- Not Urgent & Important tasks/projects – to be scheduled
- Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects – to be delegated
- Not Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects – to be deleted
Well, it’s a good idea. But what if you can’t delegate, nor can you delete not urgent & unimportant tasks? Set priorities! Let me show you how you could do that.
In my Todoist, I created a couple of filters. Using them can be very powerful.
- Focus – must do, urgent & important
- Daytime – should do it, not too urgent
- Evening – it’s OK to postpone, not urgent
- If I have time – not urgent, not important
These filters have the following settings:
- Focus – All tasks overdue or due today, Priority 1
- Daytime – All tasks overdue or due today, Priority 2
- Evening – All tasks overdue or due today, Priority 3
- If I have time – All tasks overdue or due today, Priority 4
Every evening I do have one important routine. I will check on all tasks scheduled for tomorrow. And I choose max 2-3 Focus tasks. For the rest of the tasks, I will set priorities 2-4. If I have something to do in the evening, I set Priority 3. So, it’s out of my mind for the whole morning and afternoon of the day.
The following day, I will start on top of my Todoist homepage. I only focus on my “Focus” list and then move to my ”Daytime” list. Once all is done, I start with my “Evening” list, and if I have time… you got it!
Build a routine
All this might not sound effortless. Yes, it took me almost 10 years to optimise this workflow. Most important: I found a routine; I found my workflow! And this might be one of the essential productivity recommendations I can pass on to you. Find your own routine. Learn from others, and adopt some ideas if you like them. But work on YOUR routine.
A folder structure is essential to keep the projects in order
To keep order, I have structured the projects according to my life. I keep business separate from personal stuff. There is also a section for all travel preparations and a folder with all long-term goals. In addition, I have created a folder with my upcoming travel destinations.
Using the filter function, I then work with three main views.
- All business tasks due today
- All private tasks due today
- All tasks due today, which are related to a trip.
I can focus exclusively on business at the office and on personal stuff at home. With a relatively new feature, Todoist, can now store these filters in the main view as favourites.
I also propose that you assign colours to individual projects: For example, all private lists are green, all shopping lists, contracts or, for example, all open invoices are marked red. All lists with business-related tasks are highlighted in blue.
With notes, I always keep myself informed about the current status. This way I ab able to see when I talked with someone about an specific topic or when I received an information by email.
Regular reviews to maintain the overview are important
Reviews of the task lists are necessary. A review only takes a few minutes, depending on the number of tasks. However, these minutes are worth it; you should never skip your review.
In the evening: I open the upcoming view and check what’s scheduled for tomorrow. I prioritise all tasks, pick out the three most critical tasks that must be done (and set them to the highest priority). Just a few minutes later, I will know what needs to be done, and I’m ready for the next day.
Weekly review: I review all the individual projects once a week. I check what needs to be done within the next seven days, prioritise the most important ones and delete everything that might be unnecessary or redundant.
Inbox Review: If you use the inbox, you should regularly review the new tasks. Everything that can be done in less than 3 minutes should be completed immediately. Everything that takes longer will be scheduled and assigned to a project.
Use reminders – but please, not always!
If a task is critical (but only then), I let Todoist send a push message to my phone. These notifications can be set individually and also depending on location. It helps me to focus on the most important things in life. I often use the reminder function, but only for critical or time-relevant things.
Since I started using Todoist, I’ve become much more relaxed. It’s fair to say that I do rely on a tool like Todoist. But it keeps my mind free for the essential things in life.
And that’s precisely why it’s worth keeping to find your routine and work structured with a Todo App.