How I Manage My Life

Task based workflow analysis using ToDoist

The app I use to manage my life is called ToDoist

Don't worry, and I'm not going to offer you a referral code at the end so I can get a free subscription lol - I'm not affiliated with the software in any way.

The great thing about ToDoist is that it's fairly lightweight and focuses on just doing one specific thing REALLY well - and that's managing tasks.

The Inbox

Every task begins its life in the Inbox. ToDoist uses natural language, so if I created a new task as follows:

"Email Bob tom at 0900 @WIP #Work"

ToDoist will create the task for tomorrow at 0900 (and sync with calendar), and it will be tagged as Project "Work" and Label "WIP"

The mobile app is great too - so if I'm away from my desktop PC, I can open it and add a new task super quickly, which will sit in the Inbox and can be labelled & tagged later.

Projects

A "project" is really just a folder for storing tasks. I have them arranged as follows:

#Work - Anything work-related

#Personal - Anything not work-related

#Meetings - Anything that involves another person

#Recurring - Daily, weekly, monthly recurring tasks

#Ideas #Big Goals - reminders

#Shopping List - things to buy

Labels

A label is how I manage my workflow and know what stage tasks are at.

@WIP - Work In Progress. Anything I'm currently working on

@WIP_HOLD - Task is blocked

@Next - Next tasks after WIP

@Later - Future or low priority tasks

@Long_Hold - 3+ months due or long term blocked

Managing Tasks

My workspace looks like this:

If I click the WIP label, I'll see all my WIP split across the different projects (Work, Personal, Meetings etc.)

Vice-versa, if I click the Work project, I'll see all my work-related tasks arranged by the labels (WIP, WIP_Hold etc.) so I can track progress.

Most of the time, I'm generally shifting between 3 labels and completing, adding and recategorising. I have these 3 as favourites in ToDoist so I can access them quickly:

  • WIP - any task I can currently make progress on

  • WIP_Hold - any task I'm working on but is blocked (waiting on an e-mail response to a query, for example)

  • Next - next immediate tasks after WIP

Working With Recurrence

My day is generally built around filling the time blocks that recurring tasks don't take up.

So, for example, in Recurring tasks, I've got things like:

  • Morning protein shake & start work every weekday 0645

  • Walk every weekday 1045-1115

  • Workout every Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 1445-1615

  • Cooking & cleaning every day at 1715-1830

This gives me the following free time blocks:

  • 0645-1045 - I try to allocate "deep work" or accounting/finance technical tasks in this block as I prefer to get them out of the way first.

  • 1115-1445 - Free block to clear WIP. I'll work on anything that's required here

  • 1615-1715 - Admin block. Dealing with any admin or replying to e-mails

  • 1830+ - I'll spend around 45mins in the evening updating ToDoist and Roam Research (blog to follow on this) and plan the next day out hour-by-hour

Time Tracking & Calendar Sync

ToDoist has great integration with an app called Toggl, (integrates with plenty of other time tracking software also), which allows me to track time against each task from directly within ToDoist.

I can then view the report on Toggl at the end of the day/week and analyse how much time I'm spending on different tasks, and increase/decrease the amount of time I'm allocating to tasks to give more reliable estimates to improve planning.

ToDoist has a 2-way sync with my calendar. If something is added to my calendar, it will automatically be added in ToDoist (and vice-versa).

I don't really use a calendar that much, but it's handy when you get a calendar invite, or you simply prefer using your calendar to manage your day.

Personal Task Management

I use ToDoist to manage my own workflow and not my company's workflow.

I'm an accountant, and my clients have lots of recurring tasks (payroll, VAT, tax returns etc.), which are much better managed through a specific accounting CRM.

I'll have a look at my accounting CRM on a Sunday and update ToDoist for the week ahead for work-related tasks and assign them to relevant labels and folders so I can plan ahead.

Stick To The List

If someone asks me if I'm free for a "30min Zoom catch up later today", I'll decline and schedule for the next day or a future date.

Unless it's an emergency, I'll only work on the tasks I've got scheduled in ToDoist. I find this helps me to be much more focused as I have a crystal clear idea of what I'm doing for the day without any ambiguity.

Conclusion

After 10+ years of experimentation with different task/project management software, I feel that I'm finally at home with ToDoist.

It doesn't try to be an "all-singing, all-dancing" piece of software - it's REALLY damn good at managing tasks, and it sticks to what it knows best.

Oh, it's super cheap too, They have a free pricing tier, and if you want to upgrade to the Pro version (which has everything you need), then the fee is the princely sum of $3 per month.

Feel free to use my referral code..... lol only joking ;)