Todoist review after five months of use

I’ve been using Todoist for almost five months now.

First impressions were very good. Paying was easy and in a few minutes I was up and running in all operating systems plus Outlook, Gmail, browsers… I had my Todoist with me everywhere. A little tweaking of Outlook actions, IFTTT and Zapier helped with whatever little inter-app communication I needed that was not built-in. Todoist delivered on any front as expected.

Since then, the system has been reliable and that is a very good thing to say. But I miss a few things that didn’t seem that important before.

-Next Actions. Yes you can have the discipline to mark one task per project as priority 2 and filter. These would be your next actions per project. But any time you complete a task you have to manually change the priority of the next one that will become a ‘next one’. One more layer of maintenance for your system, one more chance to derail.
-Tags by category. If there are only tags, marking a task as exceptionally long or related with Mr. Smith falls in the same list of tags. The list is soon bigger than what is comfortable to keep controlled and tidy. Nirvana gives you that by the way: contacts are one kind of data associated with tasks, energy is another, etc. So you can review you contacts-related tasks more easily.
-Better management of non-English characters. A very probable problem with encodings makes import feature useless if you didn’t write your tasks in English. Any special character such as “á” will be ignored and, worse, switched for a line break, which means each task affected will be imported as several tasks, each with incomplete text.
-Some kind of note associated with the project itself. To link to general reference or to describe the final deliverable of the project in more detail than just a project name.

Oddly enough, Nirvana provides all of what I lack now. Sure Todoist is prettier and has more native integrations, but like a said a little use of IFTTT or Zapier can solve most of that. Sure Nirvana is priced at around twice as much but still within reason at 39 USD per year.

And there are bells and whistles I don

So I’m not exactly unhappy or disappointed with Todoist but I may be close to switching again and claim Nirvanahq is after all the best GTD app for 2015, or at least the most balanced for my personal workflow (i.e. not seeking  collaboration feature, etc).

I will miss color-coding my projects and having sub-projects though, two things I expect from Nirvanahq roadmap as no-brainers. But ultimately I can live without it.

I have to say there is one feature that was indeed promising but I won’t need: Outlook integration. It seemed like a big deal for me… before trying it. First, any third-party add-in makes your Outlook slower, specially on startup, so it has to add value. Well, Todoist didn’t really converted emails into tasks in a way that made it easier than copy-pasting the subject to my Todoist window and adding desired tags. For instance, attachments were not respected. Compare that with the excellent Evernote add-in and you know its the only Outlook integration you’ll need. I switched off Todoist add-in and instead saved critical emails to Evernote and linked to that note from my related Todoist task. I can even use an Evernote public link to share that email – with its original attachments. Easiest and fastest way to collect/share that I’ve found when forwarding the email is not an optimal solution.

In both cases Evernote is and will remain my app of choice for taking notes and archiving anything from Outlook emails to screenshots. But as task/project management goes, I needed something else and Nirvanahq may well be the perfect match.

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Todoist review after five months of use

Facile Things vs Todoist vs Nirvanahq: Comparing Three Great GTD apps

After extensive research and testing, I was stuck between the three best GTD apps I found out there: Facile Things, Todoist and Nirvanahq. They all have pros and cons but are very solid products. They all include my ‘must haves’ and nice features like being able to create tasks by e-mail. I needed to look feature by feature to choose one. So this is how I did it.

Questions for Tiebreak Facile Things Todoist Nirvana hq
Is data export allowed? Yes – xml No (shortcut via templates to export project by project – in plain text) Yes – xml, json, csv
How easily can you filter by contexts AND projects? Tagging (tags and number of items in each tag is sorted by view, you can see only the count for Next Actions lists) Pretty Good – Filters and labels combined should do (premium feature, not able to test it at this stage) Easiest of all three
How easy is it to create new projects? Mouse required, 3 clicks mininum Mouse required, 2 clicks minimum One click
Sub-projects allowed? No Yes No
Beauty of design? Fine Highest Good
‘Joy factor’ of marking tasks as completed? Medium High High
Is it easy to check some tasks i.e. as the three most important for the day? Yes – starred tasks Yes – priority 1, 2, etc. would allow that Yes – starred tasks
How easy is it to re-order tasks inside a project, i.e. by drag-and-drop? Medium Easy, drag-and-drop Easiest and most flexible of all three
Can you show only next steps, i.e. next actions for all of your projects? Yes No Yes
Integration with other apps and services? Evernote, Google Calendar, Twitter, and email. Outlook, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Dropbox, IFTTT, Zapier No
Automatic Backups (personal)? No – Manual export No – Manual, but automatic backups available online and downloadable No – Manual
Good keyboard shortcuts? 50% 50% (quick add, not fully controlable with keyboard) 50% (Quick add, some navigation, not full control with keyboard)

 

Interface beauty and simplicity of use are what make me drop FacileThings despite its many strengths. You need to feel comfortable as this GTD app is going to be the screen you’ll look at most of your day.

Non-export feature in Todoist should be a deal-breaker. But, like I said, beauty is a must. Nirvana wins the race if you think about it rationally, but Todoist at this price deserves a longer try. Ultimately it will be Todoist or Nirvana. But I decided to try Todoist premium for some months.

So here you have it. Todoist is my choice for 2015. I paid for the yearly suscription last January. I’ll soon be ready for a verdict on how it actually works and if it’s worth the time and money. But I hope this little list can help you make your own decision. I really think you can’t go wrong with any of these three.

Facile Things vs Todoist vs Nirvanahq: Comparing Three Great GTD apps

The best GTD apps for 2015

So I’ll write this one in English for two reasons: First, I know for a fact many people look for good GTD apps – not just Spaniards. And second, I benefited myself from the generosity of other bloggers reviews of GTD apps – mostly in English, even if not all authors were from an English-speaking background. So if they made the effort to share their findings in English to reach the widest possible audience, I’ll do the same.

First things first. I had been a user of Nirvanahq in the past. I was pretty happy in their free beta, but opted out after paying the first year. The fact is, I felt I was left with not enough time to react between the warning (pay or lose your projects) and the deadline. I was getting married shortly after so maybe I was on a worse schedule than usual and I’m being unfair, but this is just how I felt and why I almost stopped using Nirvana, which is otherwise awesome and has been getting better. For a time I used Evernote with extensive tagging, even digging into The Secret Weapon approach. But Evernote does not allow for the simple joy of just crossing out completed tasks. And tagging for GTD becomes just too much pain (for every note you need context, time, energy and project, at the very least). Evernote is great but not a GTD app, lets face it.

Other good contenders tested in the past included Doit.im (but wasn’t reliable enough as far as syncing goes, specially for data entered while offline), Remember The Milk (a fine product, just not my preferred look&feel and UX).

So I decided to scan the market again and test something new, even if it was a paid option. My requirements for a GTD system may not be the same as yours, so for me priorities included:

  • Good UX and performance (easy to use, fast response). My goal is not to learn how to use a new toy, but to have actual job done, quickly. Performance speed is measured with my usual devices, of course. I don’t care if it’s very fast on someone else’s laptop…
  • Beautiful design. I’m going to live in this damn app all day. Don’t make it depressing to look at.
  • Cross-platform. Sorry for Things and other platform-specific solutions. I can work from a Windows laptop (most of the times) but I also own a MacBook Pro. I have a personal iPhone as well as an Android phone for work. And there is an Android tablet too at home. I’m cross-platform and I’m not going to buy any solution that ties me only to one device or operating system.
  • I need as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. I suffer from repetitive stress injury in both wrists and love to save keystrokes when possible.
  • Some help with reporting is greatly appreciated. I need to report on my weekly or monthly work so I was used to use Nirvana logbook to remind me of tasks completed on a particular date. Authomated reporting would be even better.
  • As a user that would migrate from another system, batch import or at least adding tasks by e-mail is a plus. Being able to export easily (not feeling ‘trapped’) is important, too.
  • Call me silly, but I want to re-organize my tasks to have them sorted out by priority for any project. Nirvana lets me just drag and drop. Make it that easy, please.
  • Of course, if I’m looking for a GTD ‘trusted system’, it has to be… well, trustworthy. That means reliable, with a good backup policy, and able to work offline when needed.

With this in mind, I read (a lot) and tested myself some of the best apps found through some research and also the most-recommended in post like The Best GTD Apps and others.This are my results:

Tested And Rejected (Honorable Mention For The First Two)

Workflowy – Not that bad. Allows for heavy keyboard use, and it’s a very flexible tool. But not really GTD-oriented. I mean, no report or date-based logbook of completed items, lots of tagging required to include contexts, energy, etc., which is some of the cons of Evernote anyway.

Organize Pro (from taskfabric.com). 50$ license – Web version not-so-fast and lacks a few features such as tagging and filter by tag (energy, time required to complete the taxt, drag-and-drop tasks to reorder). iPhone app pretty good and good-looking, a serious contender. Tested downloadable version (trial): not so fast.

Omnifocus – Not being cross-platform is a deal-breaker for me. I can’t solely rely on my iPhone and have no desktop version of my system during office hours.

Producteev – Not recommended after its redesign. It would be free for the features I would use and interface is not that bad but contexts, etc., are added as tags. No task drag-and-drop to organize priorities. Good reporting due to activiy log. Can be used as a collaboration tool. Exports CSV.

2doapp – Windows browser only through Toodledo, not-so-good interface

iQTell –  A promising product, integration with Evernote and email, too expensive for me.

Conqu – Not bad, but I wasn’t impressed by interface.

Droptask – Good but too visual, slow response. Also no keyboard shortcuts.

Eisenhower – Too simple, not flexible enough, not really GTD-oriented.

SmartTM – Web on beta version, logging in wasn’t simple so… nope.

ZenDone – Interface wasn’t good enough for my taste.

GQueues – Not a bad pricing but too linked to Google, Gmail-like interface, file uploading through Drive…

Smartytask – Too expensive for my personal use. (99$ per year).

Top Of The Crop

GTD con letras de madera de juguete.
GTD with wooden letters.

I ended up with a shortlist of three good alternatives to practice GTD: Facile Things, Todoist, and again good old Nirvanahq. So I had to look for a tie-break by closely comparing key features.

Let’s first take a closer look to all three.

Facile Things, at about 64€ per year, is a bit pricy for my taste but still between sight of what could be reasonable if it’s the right tool to keep my life under control. While a little slow to respond to inputs (specially on a mobile device), it’s absolutely GTD-oriented, in fact it covers all possible aspects of the method. Its Done list can act as a solid start for any reporting or self-control.

Todoist proved to have the wider use of keyboard shortcuts. I couldn’t test iOS app but its webapp was not bad, just not ultra-fast. A good daily summary by e-mail and a small price (23€/year) are also good points.

I ended up re-testing Nirvanahq. Like I said, its logbook (that shows the date when something was completed) is helpful for reporting. It’s also one of the cheapest paid solutions that I found at 39$ per year (32€ aprox.). You can easily export data if you switch providers.

Any of these three deserve an extended testing if you are serious about GTD. If you care at all, I’ll soon tell you how and why I chose one of them.

The best GTD apps for 2015

Así pasé yo de caótico a practicante de GTD

Tengo que admitir que no soy organizado ‘per se’. Más bien lo contrario. Durante un tiempo, no pasó nada. Un día, hace ya unos años, me di cuenta de que la cabeza ya no me bastaba para gestionar bien todo lo que tenía que hacer. Se quedaban proyectos personales sin rematar o sin empezar, y mi mesa parecía un rascacielos de papeles supuestamente importante. Más aún, sentía que no tenía mi trabajo tan controlado como debía y que me limitaba a reaccionar ante lo más urgente, con esa molesta impresión de estar continuamente ‘apagando fuegos’. Necesitaba una forma de trabajar que aceptara que ese ritmo era la norma, sobre todo porque estaba acercándome a un momento crucial en el que deseaba empezar a crecer decisivamente en responsabilidades y, obviamente, tenía que ser capaz de manejar cómodamente mi flujo de trabajo de entonces… y mucho más.

Fue entonces cuando empecé a interesarme por sistemas de gestión de tiempo y leí por primera vez sobre el método Getting Things Done (GTD). Como muchos, he terminado leyendo el libro de David Allen que dio nacimiento a la metodología. Pero empecé por un texto digerible y que me parece aún más valioso como referencia pasados los años: el GTD para dummies de Jerónimo Sánchez. Me parece un texto no sólo ameno sino muy didáctico, con el mérito de recoger lo mejor de varios métodos (no sólo GTD, realmente) y aterrizarlos en consejos muy concretos, basados en la experiencia propia del autor.

Sinceramente, GTD no sólo me permitió por fin quedarme casi sin papeles en la mesa de trabajo sino que me hizo exponencialmente más productivo y sobre todo más feliz. La sensación de desorganización es muchas veces peor que el desorden en sí y genera un estrés innecesario. Un método (cualquier método) de organización te ayuda al menos a saber hasta dónde no llegarás, para que tomes medidas al respecto y no te frustres intentando un ‘llegar a todo’ imposible.

Rats build neater nests
CC Carbon Arc https://www.flickr.com/photos/41002268@N03/

Algunos dicen que GTD es una especie de secta. No. Es 90% lo que ya hacías por puro sentido común, con un 10% añadido que te ayuda a ordenarlo y a hacerlo de modo más consistente. Y, como bien señala Jerónimo Sánchez en su guía, se trata de que cada uno adapte un poco el asunto a su propia personalidad y objetivos. Una vez adaptadas las reglas, eso sí, hay que intentar cumplirlas. De nada sirve dar con la dieta perfecta, colgarla en la puerta de la nevera, y seguir comiendo como siempre.

Con el tiempo, he leído sobre otras técnicas rivales de GTD o variaciones, que me han reafirmado en la impresión de que GTD es lo bastante generalista como para servir a casi todos (de ahí su éxito, supongo). Entre lo que he leído os recomiendo esta recopilación de artículos sobre inbox zero y que echéis un vistazo a blogs como Think Wasabi, cuyo autor acierta especialmente -en mi opinión- en dos temas que trata regularmente: la importancia de los descansos y de afrontar el trabajo teniendo en cuenta los momentos del día en que cada persona es más productiva.

Durante un tiempo en que mi labor diaria estuvo más enfocada en unos pocos proyectos, apliqué sin saberlo algo muy parecido al personal kanban. Pero cuanto más compleja y rápida se vuelve tu vida, mejor te puede venir el GTD. De hecho, en mi nuevo y más interesante reto he vuelto a luchar por organizarme con este método, pasito a pasito. Mis aprendizajes hasta ahora con los años:

  • Es mejor tener un método malo, o no tenerlo implantado al 100%, que no tener nada
  • No te dejes impresionar por la jerga: GTD es el ‘hacer listas para que no se te olvide’ de toda la vida… mejorado.
  • Como todo método nuevo, hay una curva de aprendizaje. Irás más lento antes de ir más rápido. Cuando aprendiste a conducir tampoco parecía que fuera a llevarte mejor y más rápido que el bus a ningún sitio. Si vas a probar, ten paciencia y un poco de fe en el sistema antes de juzgarlo.
  • Tampoco te dejes el sentido común en la puerta. Si hay cosas que tienes que ‘tunear’ en el método o si puedes añadirle lo mejor de hábitos positivos que ya tenías… hazlo.

Valga este post como testimonio al texto GTD para dummies y como inicio de una pequeña serie. Porque, si ya habéis leído algo de GTD y estáis empezando a intentar aplicarlo, os toparéis con la misma pregunta que todos: ¿cuál es el mejor software para aplicar todo esto? ¿No hay algo -gratuito o de pago- que me ayude a organizar todas esas notas y listas?

Hay muchas opciones, claro. Y a finales de año, hace nada, me vi buscando la mejor. En el próximo post os explico cuáles revisé y con cuál me quedé y porqué.

Así pasé yo de caótico a practicante de GTD