Monday, January 07, 2013

Get Organized With Toodledo (Part 1)

At the heart of any good time management system is a "to-do" list. Having one central place which traps all of our commitments prevents missed deadlines, forgotten items, and the embarrassing moments which accompany them. It allows us to see our goals and the steps toward their accomplishment, make choices as what to do in what order, and even decide what commitments need to be postponed or eliminated so that good work can be replaced by better work.

What form should my list take? 
The debate over paper versus digital systems continues. I was a paper planner devotee for over a decade and then adopted a digital system over a decade ago, so I have lived in both worlds. In today's world, I could not handle the volume and complexity of my work without a digital system.

The advantages of a digital system
Much of the information which in turn triggers action on our part arrives digitally. It arrives in emails. It arrives in articles read on the Internet. It arrives in social media. With a digital system, what arrives in digital form stays in a digital form. I can copy and paste a URL into the note section of a task. When it's time to do the task, I am one click away from seeing the supporting information. I can take emails which embed something I need to do and quickly move them to my task list.

With a digital system, no task is ever re-written. My list is sorted by due date. As plans and priorities change, changing the due dates of tasks rearranges them so that what I need to be doing now is at the top of the list.

To-do lists which are complete also tend to be long. That's simply a function of lives which are rich with plans, and it's certainly not a bad thing. When you want to find a particular task, or check to be sure you added a particular task to your list, how can you find it amongst all of the other tasks? A digital system allows you to search both the task line and information in the note section so you can put your hands on any piece of information instantly.

The case for Toodledo
There are plenty of good digital to-dos lists. Outlook was my preference for over 10 years. I wanted to move to one which is cloud based, would sync easily with any smartphone, and would be as powerful as Outlook. Toodledo fills the bill, and does it on my computer for free. The tablet and phone apps with which it syncs are only a few bucks.

You can go to and set up an account in a few minutes. If you have your list in another digital list manager and want to move it to Toodledo, you will find helpful information in a post I wrote in August 2012. The software offers a number of features I do not use. The "priority" field, "hot list," and "starred items" are available, but I don't find I need them. If I look at my list daily and edit due dates to move items up or down the list, that's enough for me.

Click on "Settings" in the upper left corner of the Toodledo screen, and you can set the controls as desired. Here is how I have set mine:

The only other settings are located on the toolbar next to the "Quick Add Task" blank. You probably want to uncheck "Recently Completed Tasks" so that your view is not cluttered with tasks you completed days ago. Go ahead and check "Negative Priority Tasks." Even though I don't use priorities, checking this box might keep some tasks from being filtered out. Do you want your list to show items whose start dates have not yet arrived? If so, leave "Future Tasks" checked. If it is unchecked and you search for a task, the search will not find it if its start date is sometime in the future. As a general rule, I leave that box checked.

To the immediate right of the "Show" dropdown is the spot where you will tell Toodledo how to sort your tasks. As already discussed, you are going to want to sort by due date.

Syncing Toodledo with mobile devices
Once you have created a Toodledo account and established your settings, download to each of your mobile devices an app which will sync with Toodledo. On the Toodledo website, click the "Tools" tab. You will find apps for each platform which sync with Toodledo.

My choice for the Android is the Ultimate To-Do List, which I purchased from the Google Play Store. This app was $5, although you can try it free for 14 days before purchasing. It is highly customizable, and I have been happy with the choice. Since that time, Toodledo came out with its own app for Android. On my tablet, I have a Toodledo app at a cost of $5.

If you are going to use a digital to-do list, being able to sync it with at least one mobile device is essential. You do not want to be tied to your computer in order to see your list. You also do not want to be required to print or hand-copy items from your computer in order to have them when you are out and about.

The information in this post gets your account established and software available to you on your devices. In the next post, we will look at basic navigation in Toodledo.
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