GTD Journey: Moving back to Todoist (once again!)

I was excited about the Nirvana app as you can read here. I still think it’s the best out-of-the-box implementation of GTD on a multi-platform web-based app. A few things discouraged me to continue relying on the app. Nirvana’s development is slow and I got a little bit upset about an update released back in July with a few bugs. Those bugs were addressed in a later update, but that week dealing with the app’s hiccups got me thinking about other apps for my GTD tasks system.

So, as any good-old productivity nerd, I looked back at some apps.

My initial thoughts were:

After a week testing these apps I tried to understand why Nirvana was not cutting it for me anymore. It all has to do with friction. How easy it is to add something to my Inbox? Am I getting a trusted list of my next actions? Are there things falling through the cracks? How can I track them? Is it easy to coordinate my next actions and my calendar events? Do I like to see my lists? Am I avoiding my lists out of fear?

I identified that a critical Nirvana’s limitation to my system was: lack of calendar integration.

I will pause here to mention that the GTD framework does not require you to have your tasks scheduled in your Calendar. That’s something to avoid because it can create stress about “wishing” to get several things done in a given day and then getting frustrated because the plan didn’t work. I’ve been there before. The first time I used Todoist I went crazy with scheduling tasks. But they were not hard deadlines. They were only my wishes. There must be a clear separation between your Calendar and your next actions list. Strictly speaking, what goes into the Calendar are things that must be done that day. Side note over.

I realized that I live inside Google Calendar because of my work. All team meetings/discussions/reviews with co-workers/managers and all deadlines are scheduled on Google Calendar. I always keep it open so that I can be on top of everything.

I need to track multiple deadlines: review estimates, send requests, follow-up on trades. And these are part of various project’s next action lists. Deadlines change, things get moved around, and for me it’s easier to manage all these in one centralized place, with the option to group by Project. Having the ability to see crucial tasks on my Calendar saves me a lot of headaches and help me plan my week and my day.

Todoist came to the rescue!

So, because of my work rhythm and multiple deadlines, I realized that having my task manager linked to my Calendar was important to my workflow. But it must be done in a systematic manner, otherwise I loose control and it’s chaos and overwhelm again!

Apart from the Calendar Integration, I must highlight additional Todoist features that I enjoy:

Getting back to Todoist

Question I had to ask myself: How could I simplify my system and make it work on Todoist?

I once had my system on Todoist but I abandoned it because it was too complex. I got lost trying to make my filters work. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what was active or not. I suffered from “list overwhelm”. I went off the GTD wagon. But now, after spending some time with Nirvana, I got a few ideas on how to reconfigure my system on Todoist. These were my thoughts:

  1. I was inspired by the neatly organized categories in Nirvana and its “Focus” function. It works as a daily dashboard with those Most-Important-Tasks up front.

  2. Some crucial tasks will be scheduled. These will include any actions with a hard deadline. I must do it with careful precision so not to create an overwhelming and unattainable weekly plan.

  3. I will use Todoist for routines and deadlines because of the Google Calendar integration. I like to mark them as “completed” once I’m done.

  4. I discovered that the previous setup I had on Todoist was not so bad, I had to make some changes to have more streamlined lists and a clear distinction between what was active and what belonged to “Someday-Maybe”.

  5. I wanted a simpler way to deal with “next actions”. Previously I was using a “@next-action” label on Todoist to mark them. I decided to delete it and use the built-in priority flags to indicate action status.

My Todoist Setup

Basic setup:

My Buckets on Todoist

Action Status and Contexts

Labels (contexts)

Filters: this is how I organize my Lists

How do I use Todoist with the Calendar Integration

I set up Todoist to show me my Focus⭐” list when I first open it up.

This is my favorites section that is always open on my side bar: What I see everyday on my side bar

I keep the Projects, Labels and Filters Menu hidden.

On Google Calendar my actions that have a due date (always set as an “All Day” event) will show up on the top portion of the calendar. Once I complete the actions on Todoist, they disappear from the Calendar. In the past I’ve had “all day events” on Google for scheduled routines but then I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t mark it as complete. Things like “Pay the Rent”. I like to check if off as done, it gives my brain closure. I need (and love) the satisfaction of crossing things of my lists.

A sample of my Calendar: scheduled actions from Todoist appear on the top

And since there is 2-way sync between Google Calendar and Todoist it’s handy for me to move actions around in Google Calendar while I’m planning my week/day and the changes will be reflected on Todoist.

So, I moved all actionable recurring tasks from Google Calendar to Todoist. That way I can see a complete list of my routines in one place and make updates or adjustments as needed.

Personal Routines on Todoist

Final thoughts about the transition

I started transitioning to Todoist back in July. It was a busy month, I was overwhelmed with multiple projects and feeling anxious. I did not have everything under control. And while “Rome was burning” I needed a tool I was familiar with that offered nimble capturing and processing capabilities. I could quickly transition to Todoist and make it work to handle the fire.

It’s been going smooth so far. I’m satisfied. This setup is running on the background without getting in the way. I solved all the friction issues I was having with capturing, processing and organizing my actions. I don't avoid my task manager out of guilt and anxiety anymore.

This transition triggered changes in other aspects of my GTD system as well. After I got the ground floor (actions) and Horizon 1 (projects) under control, I had some headspace to think about the higher horizons , references and planning routines. I will talk more about those changes in future posts.

Take care!

#GTD #Todoist

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.