I have spoken many times about GTD and how productivity is a part of my life.  I’ve tried just a ton of the apps and ways to make sure that the tasks for work and home don’t get missed and fall through the cracks.  However I have had varying success with OmniFocus, Evernote, Gmail, and others.  When I saw Todoist I thought “what makes this one work better than any others?”

My ears still perk up anytime I hear about another To Do app mainly because I haven’t fully had one to do the job 100%.  What I look for in a To Do application is that it fits within my workflow and everyday use.  I’m a big fan of applications as tools, not as a way of life.  So I don’t want to have to work at making sure I’m using the application.  In fact, I’d much rather have the application insert itself right into my flow without even thinking about it.

What I look for in a To Do application

My "must haves" are

  1. The application to me has to not only work on my computer, but also on my phone, and preferably through the web browser.

  2. Being that I’m on the web all day long in various sites and services, I need the insertion of a task to be easy.

  3. I need filtering within the application such that as tasks get completed, other tasks filter up either by priority or by date or both.

  4. I need shortcut keys.  If I have to move my mouse to click a few buttons to start typing, then already too much time has been wasted and it breaks my workflow.

  5. Repeatable tasks.

Some of my “nice to have’s” are:

  1. Location aware reminders

  2. Native integrations with other tools I use

  3. Sharing/Assigning of tasks

Todoist meets my #1 requirement.  It is a standalone app, has a web based interface, and an Android app.  This is essential to me because I never know where I’ll be at any given point, so I like to know that I can get access to my tasks from anywhere.

It also meets my #5 requirement.  I hate repeating myself.  Which I suppose is natural being a developer.  If I find myself having to do the same thing twice, then I want to figure out a way to make it happen automatically.  Todoist handles repeating tasks perfectly and seamless.  When I need a task, let’s say my Weekly Review to happen every Sunday morning, I set the date reminder on it by simply typing “every Sun” and it’ll appear ever Sunday without fail.

Adding tasks into any To Do app should be pretty easy and seamless.  However Todoist has made this even more seamless with their extensions.  I use Chrome and Gmail and Todoist has built extensions for both.

Adding Todoist to Chrome


Once installed, there appears a button in the toolbar.  Now say I’m on a site for tickets to a show, but they don’t go on sale until some point in the future.  I simply click the button in the toolbar and then type in ‘q’.  It’ll pop open the Add Task screen and there’s a link at the bottom that says Add website as task.  It automatically pulls whatever site I’m looking at in as a task and then I can set the rest of details of the task.

Then once that task filters up in my list, the title of the task is clickable and goes right to the website.

Adding Todoist to Gmail


Like Chrome there’s a Gmail extension for Todoist.  When installed, you’ll see a small window that looks minimized inside Gmail.  When I’m on an email that I need to take action on but not right away, I open that window, hit ‘q’ and it’ll open the Add Task screen.  Similarly to Chrome, there’s an Add email as task link at the bottom and clicking that brings the subject of the email into the title of the task and create a link out of it.

So that when I get to that task, I click on the title and it opens that email right up, even if I’ve moved it out of my Inbox.

Keyboard Shortcuts could be better

“Didn’t he say that he didn’t want to use a mouse to click on something to start entering in a task?” - Yes I did, but by having Todoist be able to take the URLs and Emails and create a task with one click saves me the time of cut and pasting it myself.  So in this case the 2 clicks is much quicker than several cut and paste keystrokes that I would have otherwise had to do.

On to those shortcut keys.  Todoist has a number of shortcut keys that I use each and every day.  Two that I want to highlight here are CMD+SHIFT+A and /.

CMD+SHIFT+A is the shortcut key for the desktop app to enter in a new task.  I can hit this from within any application that I’m in and it’ll open up the Add Task screen from my menu bar.

/ is used to bring my cursor right up into the Filter tasks search at the top of the Todoist app.  This works both in the web and on the standalone application.

The other shortcuts help in setting up projects and organizing them.  However I feel that they are lacking a bit in the actual creating and reviewing of tasks. It would be nice to be able to hit a shortcut to file a task to a project or set priority or mark a task complete.

Filtering is the key

Filtering goes a long way in making sure that I get done what I need to get done any given day.

Todoist has great filtering, based around projects, time, priority, and even context.  It allows me to fit how my mind works for organizing my tasks and projects, and then allows me to setup saved filters so that my tasks appear how I would like them to.  What’s great is that these saved filters go across all platforms.  So I have a widget on my phone’s home screen that shows me what tasks are relevant to my phone, like phone calls I need to make for the day.

One thing that I find really useful that never seemed to be available or work properly is location based reminders.  Todoist has the conventional date reminders, so I won’t go into that.  However the location based reminders really impressed me.  The only drawback to them is that I can’t set them from the menu bar.  I can from every other platform, so unless I’m missing something here, seems like they just forgot.

The locations are powered by Google Maps, so you just start typing in an address or location name and it will appear.  Then these reminders will appear as notifications on my phone if I get close to that location.

Todoist took it a step further and they even let you choose from recent locations that you set a reminder for.  Great job on that as well!

I use this for when my wife needs me to pick something up at the store, for places like restaurant and bars that I want to check out, even gifts that I need to buy for someone.

It needs to just work

I didn’t touch upon the integration with other apps, but I will talk about it in another post, since I’m using services like Zapier to automate the creation of tasks and actions based around completing those tasks.

The design is simple and effective.  They even have a "game" called Karma and you get points for doing things within Todoist like creating tasks, completing tasks, organizing your projects, etc.  You even compete against yourself by setting Daily and Weekly goals.  Karma will track how many Days and Weeks in a row you meet those goals.  This really isn't something I was looking for, but when I find myself sluggish at the end of the day and I look at Karma and see my daily streak at 20 days and I haven't met the goal for today yet.  The competitive spirit in me drives me to complete that last task of the day.

When I started with Todoist I figured that I’ve give it a try for a month and see how it worked and flowed for me.  Here I am 10 months later and I really couldn’t picture my day without it.  In fact, I find that if I need to do something and it’s not in Todoist, then it won’t get done.

Even though the shortcut keys are lacking a bit and that’s a big requirement for me to be a time saver, Todoist makes up for it in other aspects to make up those lost few seconds.  So all in all, I almost feel that my search for a To Do app has run it’s course, at least for now.  Over the past 10 months my ears don’t perk up as much when I hear about a new To Do application simply because Todoist does the job I need it to do.

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