Task Management

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve used many task managers (OmniFocus, Things, Sorted, to name a few). I haven’t found any to be a good fit for all situations. What task manager do you use? What do you like best about it? What do you find are the major shortcomings?

Did you choose a task manager based on how closely it conforms with GTD?

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I’ve used OmniFocus, Nozbe, Toodledo, Things, Google Tasks, Microsoft Todo and Todoist. I like OmniFocus the best but the fact that it is Mac and iOS only is a serious limitation since I work cross platform. Perspectives and The built in review feature are what I like about OmniFocus and overall I like its look and feel better than the others. I was not impressed by their attempt at a web app and found it useless but in fairness it was still in development.

I’m currently using Todoist as it is pretty much cross platform and works consistently on all platforms. It is a decent task manager but lacks perspectives and the weekly review.

Nozbe was good but I found it to be way overpriced compared to its competitors. I like the company but not their price.

Toodledo was pretty good, reasonably priced until about a year ago when they started to actively develop it again and increased their prices. It reminded me of Tasks in Outlook but had some good features for goals and other tracking.

Things I used a long time ago and found it to basic compared to OmniFocus. Google Tasks and Microsoft Todo were also too limiting in comparison to OmniFocus and Todoist.

I have also used Outlook Tasks which works well if you are on a PC with MS Exchange access but it breaks down terribly when you go cross platform as the Mac version and Web version don’t have the complexity or features offered in the Windows version.

Overall, I like OmniFocus the best but since I work on Windows, Linux, Chrome OS and Android in addition to Mac and iOS I’ve settled on Todoist because it is feature rich and cross platform. If OmniGroup offered a Windows version as powerful as it’s Mac version I would be back using it in a hurry.

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Initially I did (OmniFocus), but over the years I’ve found myself relying on it less and less. The major problem I’ve encountered with every task management system is that it shows me a whole bunch of tasks but not the impact that they’ll have. David & I recorded Focused yesterday and talked about “moving the needle” and how to make sure the things you’re doing are making an impact - that’s something a task manager can’t really give you. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this problem yet though :slight_smile:

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Todo.txt CLI user here. I know. I know. But I’ve never run across an OS that can’t edit plain text files. And I spend a LOT of time on command line every day.

That said, I find myself slowly abandoning task management altogether and focusing more on project management. That may just be a factor of knowing the projects extremely well. But if I’m focused on projects, it’s way easier to pick and choose which projects I’m best suited for working on.

This is all great, but only if I use it. Which I don’t always. :man_facepalming:

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@bob I’ve also tried many of the task managers out there… OmniFocus was too much for me. I love Asana (web based) for group projects - my husband and I lead an outreach team at our church where we plan big quarterly outreaches in our community. We use Asana to manage the project, assign tasks and due dates, etc.

For everyday life reminders/to-do lists, etc. I simply use Reminders on my Mac and iPhone with several lists (i.e. Do, Groceries, Shopping, Work). I’ve been playing with Good Task on my Mac because it pulls in Reminders – there’s a lot more details and organizing of tasks that can be done in Good Task.

My daily productivity “task manager” is analog – the “Dominate Your Day” pdf from the Faith Based Productivity Course @faithbot - I have the sheet printed for each weekday so I can pick my MIT (most important tasks), write my current 3 goals and block my time for the day. I fill it out the night before or in the morning.

I did a “brain dump” this week as I was having trouble sleeping because of all the things running through my head lately… I haven’t even transferred the brain dump items into a task manager yet, but I’ve been sleeping great since I did that. On the paper - off the mind! @mikeschmitz introduced me to all of these task managers over the years, even the brain dump concept :slight_smile:

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I also tried so many task managers and always found that it was far to easy to have to prune so many things that sounded great in the moment, but I was never going to do. The problem with digital systems is that they are “yes” first. Everything continues to come with you unless you say no to it.

I went with a modified Bullet Journal system because by default it says no. If I don’t manually migrate something forward, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. This made it so much easier to say no to things and feel totally good about it. They didn’t have enough value to move forward, so I didn’t.

I wrote a post about it: https://curtismchale.ca/2018/05/21/how-i-modified-the-bullet-journal-system-to-run-my-online-business/

As Mike pointed out earlier, I also wrote a book that goes over what I do in a paper based system: https://curtismchale.ca/recommends/analogue-productivity

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Wow! I had no idea of how many task managers are out there. So many tasks (and task managers) and so little time :blush:.

Lately, I’ve been using Sorted3 on iOS. I end up having many tasks show up each day, and I start my day by moving most of them to tomorrow. Not a particularly good way to focus on what is important!

It’s quite a challenge to stick with working on important stuff when all of the day-to-day “urgent” stuff keeps getting in the way. Well, I guess that’s part of why we are all here.

Hi Curtis,

Thanks for sharing your insights. I agree that it is really important to weigh each potential task carefully before entering it in a computerized task manager where it takes on a life of its own.

I have an operational type job where a good portion of my time is spent dealing with administrivia. I have tasks I must do to do my job, and I need to assure that the job related tasks don’t eat up more than the 40 hours per week that I am committed to. I tend to give the job more of my time then I need to. Bad idea.

Going analog sure is the way to slow down and give careful thought to what you are committing to. I bought a nice journal with the intent of going analog, but I haven’t made the transition yet.

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@curtismchale - forgot to mention that I bought your book The Art of Focus yesterday and look forward to reading it.

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Thanks very much for purchasing the book. I’d love any feedback you have.

OMNI Focus was too much. Then I liked 2Do for awhile and have settled on Things3 as my go-to. It seems to be “just right” for me and I like the keyboard shortcuts on iOS.

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@KaizenRay what would you say is the thing that makes Things work while OmniFocus was too much? The interface, or was it a specific feature?

@KaizenRay @mikeschmitz and others…

First off, great thread. I have found that I love a good discussion about task managers almost as much and trying lots of different task managers instead of doing my actual work sometimes. Very meta.

In response to your question, Mike and post KaizenRay, I too have settled on Things 3, but this was after a long journey trying lots of them. Really though, it has been either Things or OmniFocus for me. I started off with Things 2, wished it could do more, switched to OmniFocus 1, then 2, then Things 3 came out and it was exactly what I wished it had all along, so I switched back.

What do I like? The simplicity. The quiet power and the Nuance. I love how minimal it feels, yet it is so expandable and adaptable. I love the organizational abilities it has. I LOVE the UI. It is like art. The way the dialogue boxes subtly animate, the color contrast, the flawless cloud sync and the typography. It is pretty and capable.

Do I miss OmniFocus? I miss perspectives and I really miss the Review perspective. But those are not enough to bring me back.

The last big change I made when moving back to Things was that I decided to heavily cull what goes in there. Instead of it being a GTD dumping ground, I only moved in a few action items for each area of my life. That way it never feels stale, has way fewer and more significant items in it, and therefore makes me want to actually do the small list that I see before me! Imagine that.

Regardless of the task manager, I have learned that the smaller the list, the more likely I will engage with it. That is why I have moved all larger projects and someday/maybe tasks to Trello. For some reason messiness, and clutter don’t bother me nearly as much in Trello as they do in a task manager.

Anyways, this always feels like a never-ending quest, but for the moment, Things 3 is singing my song.

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This is the most poignant statement I have read about task management in years. This is precisely the problem. Can you imagine if there was a task manager that actually measured the impact of a task as you wrote it! Oh man, that would change some stuff.

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That was a wonderful episode due to the great dialogue and discussion of ideas. Everyone should listen if they haven’t already ; )

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@Rachel you mentioned analog along with your digital. I think this hybrid system is working out for me much better than either alone has done in the past. I find that the analog makes me focus a bit longer on strategic items and while I actually like my weekly review in OmniFocus I find the review of my planner to be as informative but adds another dimension. Hard for me to explain but I hope it continues to build.

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@StanPHL a hybrid system is a good way to put it - in on the go a lot with my children and need access to my “to do’s”, calendar and absolutely must write things down right away (capture it on my phone) or it may not get done. I often set location and/or time reminders on specific tasks so it stays before me. This may seem like overkill for some, but for me it saves me from forgetting important things that need to be done.

The analog daily planning sheet has been a powerful tool for me as it filters out the clutter of the big list of tasks and focuses in on the 3-5 that take priority today, then blocking off the time to do it. I’ve found that most days I complete all of the important tasks for the day and minimize how distracted I am from what seems urgent or fires to put out that pop up. I’m able to adapt, adjust and repair as the day goes on with those 3-5 most important tasks in the forefront.

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