Noisy Deadlines

todoist

This week I decided I had some time and headspace available to experiment with Todoist for my GTD (Getting Things Done) system. Why??

Back in 2019-2020, I had used Todoist and enjoyed it. But then there was a big update that altered some features and screwed up my existing setup. As a result, I explored other tools, eventually discovering NirvanaHQ (which is my current tool of choice).

I’ve tried Todoist before throughout the years, and I could never get it quite right. I know Todoist development is continually active, and I thought I could give it a go again because… well, maybe this time they’ve changed things that could work for me now? 🤷‍♀️ Also because I felt I could spend some time tinkering with the tool, which I usually enjoy.

So, I tried setting it up again. I took a look at the GTD Official Guide, sat down with my pen and paper and started to think:

  • Do I want to link projects to next actions? => Yes!
  • Ok, so I will use projects as projects and labels as contexts.
  • I want to have projects separated between Work and Personal. Ok.
  • I will have Someday-Maybe folders separate for Work and Personal. Ok.
  • I will use labels as contexts to organize my next actions. Ok.
  • I want to make sure that I don’t see actions that are in Someday-Maybe showing up in my next action lists. Ok, so I will use filters to be able to exclude items that are inactive in Someday-Maybe.
  • This is something crucial to me, because sometimes I have a project started, with labeled next actions, which then is postponed or put on hold. I want to be able to move the project to Someday-Maybe so that all of it is removed from next actions. I know I could un-label the actions, but I don’t like doing that (then when it’s active again I would have to re-label everything... not my jam).
  • I will have a “Routines” project for all recurring actions (daily. monthly checklists and reviews). Ok.

So, I set up the basic folders. I added initial labels (the typical @computer, @home, @errands, @agendas, @calls). Now it was time to set up the filters. That's when I got frustrated. I know I could set it up the way I wanted it, but the process was not as fun as I've initially imagined 😐.

I had to tweak the filters to exclude incompletable tasks and exclude subtasks from showing by themselves without their parent task (because subtasks can have their own labels in Todoist), to separate work and personal, and on and on.

I had initially thought I would incorporate the priority flags with the context’s filters (something like, P1 is priority, P2 is next, P3 is later, etc...) but THAT was me overcomplicating things! I scratched that idea.

And then I thought about a moment in the future when I wanted to add a new context, and create a filter for it, and all the hassle to have it done. Too complicated! I imagined future me wondering why the hell did I complicate things this much?

Long story short…

…the energy and disposition I thought I had to set up Todoist wasn't there anymore. I'd rather spend that time reading a book.

And when I went back to my normal day, using Nirvana as usual, I just felt this peace and calm, seeing everything organized in its place. I recognized I already have a system that JUST WORKS as it is. Is it perfect? Hell, no! But it works for me! 😊

I was also altering a previous Todoist setup I had in my account, so maybe that was the wrong approach. I should have deleted everything and started 100% from scratch. But now I don’t really want to try Todoist anymore. I am happy with what I currently have.

So that's the story of my failed experiment. I could have pushed through and had all the context filter issues sorted out? Yes, I'm sure I could have. It's not Todoist's fault. It's a great app. But just not for me at this moment in my life.

Post 07/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge (Round 2)!

#100DaysToOffload #100Days #Productivity #apps #GTD #Todoist

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

So, when I started Rethinking My To Do list this week, I was feeling disconnected. I was craving for something different. I’m not sure why, but I was bored. And I didn’t want to look at my to-do list. So, avoiding it only intensified my disconnection. I thought I needed a new to-do list.

I wanted to get a better app and test other things. And I did test a few! Only to realize that the tool itself wasn’t the problem. I was just feeding the distraction dragon, searching for novelty.

But I wanted to see it for myself, stubborn that I am.

So, I looked at TickTick. It is an amazing to-do list! It has lots of features, calendar, pomodoro timer, timeline views, routine tracker, cross-platform, etc. It’s highly customizable: I saw I could set it up however I wanted to fit my needs. And then came the realization that I would have to spend several hours tweaking it. Creating lists, and folders and custom filters. And moving everything I have in Nirvana to TickTick. Moreover, I was not able to install the desktop app on my work computer, so that was a clear hint that my employer doesn’t approve of this software. Another detail I didn’t like: I couldn’t find a way to set up a shortcut key to add tasks to the Inbox. The “add task” shortcut will add the task to whatever folder/list is open in the app.

Then I looked back at Todoist. I’ve used it for a couple of years. Very flexible, cross-platform, super easy and fast at collecting and organizing things. But the new interface now has “hashtags” symbols to represent folders/projects instead of the old circles, which I think makes it more visually polluted. And then I remembered the entire process of creating the folder’s structure and the custom filters to use it with GTD the way I like it. I didn’t want to go into that rabbit hole again.

Lastly, I revisited Microsoft To Do. It’s a cute app, fast and simple and integrates well with my work system. But… there is something that always gets me out of it: projects management. I like linking projects to next actions, and things get very messy in MS To Do if I want to do that with hashtags, while using lists as my GTD contexts. I told myself I would use it for 90 days to see how it goes. But I changed my mind. Last time I used it for 60 days and abandoned it to get back to Nirvana. I remembered things that I don’t like about it: the Inbox situation (which is a list called “Tasks”), there is no direct “email to inbox” feature (I must send an email to Outlook, and then flag it: too many steps for capturing), I prefer Nirvana’s way of dealing with recurring tasks and organizing projects.

So basically, everything I wrote in January when I was Testing Microsoft To Do and saying goodbye still holds true. I will let it go this time. For real, let it go!

In the end the effectiveness of my GTD system depends on my commitment to maintaining and working my lists in an app that I’m familiar with. I still can use Nirvana at work (I can even install the desktop app on my work laptop) It synchronises on all my devices, it’s fast and reliable.

The issue wasn’t the tool itself but rather my quest for novelty. I can see clearly now.

I’ve decided to stick with Nirvana, which strikes the right balance between meeting my needs and minimizing frustrations.

Post 98/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

#100DaysToOffload #100Days #GTD #productivity #Nirvana #Todoist #MSTodo #journal #apps

Thoughts? Discuss... if you have a Write.as account or Reply by email


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

💾For a complete summary list of my blog posts grouped by year, click here.

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Sections:

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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:

  • Facile Things: it’s strictly GTD-based, but for me it has a clunky interface and too little flexibility.
  • Nozbe: it’s good, but expensive. I like the way it organizes and filters by context, but the interface was not my favorite.
  • Todoist: I’m already used to it. One of my all-time favourites for task management. Latest updates changed the project's behavior, but Calendar integration and total flexibility is its highlight.

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?

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I've been following the GTD (Getting Things Done) method to organize my life since 2013. GTD is a method of organization and personal productivity created by David Allen (this is the book). The main objective is to “empty our minds” and have a trusted system to store and manage our actions, projects, events, goals, objectives and even life purpose.

I've just spent about a year in the following cycle: trying Nirvana, loving it, using it for a while, then looking at other productivity apps, switching to Trello then Todoist, moving back and forth, then deciding I would stick with Nirvana.

Nirvana is a cloud-based task manager that can be accessed online on any platform and has Windows, iOS and Android apps as well. There is a basic version with some limitations (like the number of projects), a complete Pro version or a Lifetime subscription (you can check their pricing here). Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the company in any way. It's just an app that I love!

Nirvana is made by a small independent team in Canada. So don't expect constant updates. The team is very deliberate on improvements and that makes the app extremely reliable. It brings together GTD concepts beautifully. The developers attended the GTD Summit in 2019.

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My GTD organization has been a moving target for years. GTD – Getting Things Done is a productivity method created by David Allen and I've been more or less applying its principles to my life for almost 6 years now.

7 months ago I wrote about sticking with one productivity system. At that point I had just started using Trello as my main app, applying Kanban principles and leaving Todoist behind.

But why?

Well, about a year ago my lists were overwhelming, I was trying to create filters in Todoist and apply the Eisenhower Matrix and it was a complete mess!

I started reading about Kanban and thought that that would be a good change for my organization system. Kanban is all about process and visualizing the work. It was created by Toyota as a scheduling system for cars lean manufacturing. Over the years it became a project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency. Trello is a popular app that applies the Kanban board principles and it's extremely user friendly.

I started using Trello and I liked it for a while. But I felt it lacked agility. See, I use GTD as a productivity method (which is list based) and Kanban is based on boards with focus of process flow. Using Kanban made me understand my process but adding next actions and processing them in Trello was too cumbersome. I spent more time organizing and making the system look beautiful than actually doing stuff. Trello is an amazing visual tool!

But after a few months with Trello I decided to go minimal. I understood the Kanban's basic concepts of “backlog”, “doing” and “done” and I wanted a simple straightforward system but that still had some GTD structure.

I remembered testing an app called Nirvana HQ that was strictly based on GTD. So I started using Nirvana HQ again, which is a lovely app! It's perfect for GTD and it's the best digital implementation of GTD I've ever seen. Elegant, simple, to the point. But there is not much customization you can make on the app and it's lots of whites and light greys. Not too exciting. And there is almost none integration to other apps. It's extremely bare bones.

Nirvana H

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