Getting Life's To-dos Organized

EDIT: Contest closed. See winners here.

Trying to keep track of everything on my to-do list can be a challenge. Particularly when you consider all the things, from all the different parts of life times all the time into the future you're thinking about. The task is daunting enough that I've generally just given up trying to get it organized. However, recently a few ideas have come together, and I'm hoping to share a few little tidbits that will be helpful to you.

My first tip is to check out the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. I can only admit to skimming through this, and having Jordan explain various bits that he read. But the afternoon I used looking it over, was time well spent. The system he describes in the book required a decent amount of translation to be useful in my life. The book has not been updated for current available technologies, nor for people with paperless lifestyles, and the main problem I have is trying to organize thoughts and things that don't exist in a paper world. But the book was enough of a catalyst to get me on the right track for getting on top of my to-do lists.

What I gleaned from the book is that there are two important areas of stuff, one is actions that can be completed, and the other is resources that you need to accomplish these tasks. This was a helpful distinction for me, as I think a lot of my earlier problems came from trying to keep the two together. Once I separated these two areas, getting everything into its proper place was a lot easier.

One of the main ideas in Allen's book is getting EVERYTHING onto the actions list that needs to be done; one master list with everything you're trying to remember. If you get the system working, it's supposed to lead to peace of mind, since you don't have to keep your mind on the 10 things your juggling, just what you're working on at the moment.

The question then came to what programs to use to keep track of these ideas and lists. I've talked about Evernote before, and it became clear that it was a good program to keep track of my resources. For keeping track of actions, I settled on using Todoist. I'd used Todoist in the past, but due to my helter skelter habits it wasn't much use. But now, with an actual system in place, I'm finding it somewhat indispensable to my daily routine and productivity.

I love Todoist because I can use it as both a to-do list and a calender. Scheduling tasks is very intuitive (it often seems like it's reading your mind). You can schedule tasks for "every Mon, Wed, Fri" just by typing that into the date area. The task will then reappear every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I even have some tasks set to repeat every day. In fact, it's the only thing that's actually gotten me to take a daily vitamin, which I've been trying to get into my daily habit for six months now.

And never underestimate the satisfaction of ticking things off the to-do. Todoist even tracks what you've accomplished, so you can look back over your progress for the answer to that nagging question: "what did I actually get done today?"

overdue,_today_Todoist_2014-01-29_15-40-37

Todoist has just released a new feature which allows you to share projects with other people. Jordan and I have just started using this feature, and we're finding it very helpful. We no longer have to interrupt the other for some small task, just add it to the list and they'll see it when they have a moment. We're even considering putting the grocery list in Todoist.

My new organization system is still in the works, so I don't have too many other details for you. Perhaps once I get things a little more cemented I'll share some specifics. If you have particular questions, leave them below so I can consider them for a future post.

Also, when I started thinking about writing this post, I contacted Todoist to see if we could do a little giveaway (some of the features I mentioned above are only available with a premium account). So leave a comment below and I'll pick 3 random people to win a free year of Todoist Premium. In the meantime, check out the free version at todoist.com, then we can all be organized together! (Contest will close on Feb 6, 2014).

Recent Comments

Pichi Sockenbart
Pichi Sockenbart Mon, 07/06/2015 - 01:49

this looks interesting.
I'm more the analog type for to-do-lists.
if you are twoo, you should try the bullet journal. it's crazy awesome! :)

Ketta Peters
Ketta Peters Thu, 02/06/2014 - 13:15

Wow, getting organized is *just* what I need... thanks for such a helpful tool. :D

Tria Vasquez
Tria Vasquez Sun, 02/02/2014 - 11:20

Thanks!!! I am trying out the free version and I think this will help our family of 8 tremendously!!!

Kathie Stevens
Kathie Stevens Sat, 02/01/2014 - 13:52

Thanks so much for sharing this with us Marisa!

I've never heard of Todoist before, but it seems like it would be a great way
for me to keep track of all the darn doctor appointments I have and would remind
me to check on lab results, etc.

Since I've been disabled, there a many times that one day runs into the next for
me because I have so much trouble sleeping because of pain. During those times,
the only way I know for sure what day it is...is because there is a calender and
clock on both my phone and computer!

To make sure I don't miss doctor appointments, I have them all give me a
reminder call the day before. From your explanation...it seems like this would
give me those reminders. I'll have to go check out the free version.

Thanks again for letting us know about this. It seems to be a valuable tool to
have to keep track of everything. ((Hugs))

Patricia Hardin
Patricia Hardin Fri, 01/31/2014 - 07:25

I have this book and credit it with helping me to not go totally crazy at work. I still re-read it occasionally since I retired and pretty much keep to the principals he outlines. Would love to have the todoist. Even though I am now retired that doesn't mean I don't need to keep on top of everything hubby and I are involved in! I will certainly check out the free version right now!

Catherine Olson
Catherine Olson Thu, 01/30/2014 - 20:05

this sounds like something that might actually work for me!

Tammy Kent
Tammy Kent Thu, 01/30/2014 - 19:22

I want to second your recommendation of the Getting Things Done book. I have re-read this book every January for the last 10 years as a sort of re-focusing, cleansing exercise, and I cannot say enough good things about it. I actually gave a copy of it to every woman in my family a few years ago. As you mentioned above, I keep a Master To Do List, which I call my Brainflies list because it has everything that flutters through my mind trying to distract me from the task at hand. Another great thing that I learned from this book is that anything that takes more than one step is a project, not a to do item, and only the next step is allowed on my To Do list. I credit this book with giving me a strong organizational structure on which to build a hyper-productive, extremely fulfilling life. Thanks for sharing!

maia rey
maia rey Thu, 01/30/2014 - 18:19

wow. this might be something i need. I usually finish the day feeling useless, with no idea how i used my time. thanks for the chance!

Gillian Lane
Gillian Lane Thu, 01/30/2014 - 15:05

Just checked the site out - this looks perfect for me!

Robyn Denton
Robyn Denton Thu, 01/30/2014 - 13:48

This looks really interesting, Marisa. I'm a list-maker from way back, but often think "what have I achieved", so this just might be exactly what I need. Thanks for the tip about ToDoList - I'm going to check it out.

Kathy Tate Reynolds
Kathy Tate Reynolds Thu, 01/30/2014 - 10:14

Sounds like a system that would benefit my chaotic life!

Rae Stephens
Rae Stephens Thu, 01/30/2014 - 05:00

Yaay, thank you Marisa! I am always up for a new organizing tool. I, like you, am master of the unorganized mind. I have yet to find an electronic organizing system that works for me, but todoist looks pretty snazzy. Can't wait to try it out! & I love that you can share tasks. This could be huge for my husband & I with work in real estate & construction! :)

Vicki Iseminger
Vicki Iseminger Thu, 01/30/2014 - 04:38

I just checked out the book and took a peek at todoist.com. They both look like fantastic resources! I really like the productivity visual from todoist.com. I have so many things I'm working on but don't have a system in place to keep track of them and feel overwhelmed most of the time. I'm looking forward to checking these resources out to see if they will work for me too.

Ariana Lipman
Ariana Lipman Wed, 01/29/2014 - 20:26

Very cool. It addresses one of my big issues... Leaving my lists at home or on the wrong device... And the gmail integration is huge I use gmail all the time. I have to tell my best friend she's an ea at google and I bet this would be a huge help to her

Jennifer Tough
Jennifer Tough Wed, 01/29/2014 - 18:04

I'll have to check todoistout, and the book as well - I'm so insanely disorganized. sad. I've got evernote, but never actually used it ;-)

Lizanne Killian
Lizanne Killian Wed, 01/29/2014 - 17:40

That's very interesting, Marisa! Sounds like a good product.

Right now I use Microsoft Outlook 2010 for all my needs (calendar/scheduling/tasks/contacts/email). My company used that program at work, and I liked it enough that I bought a copy of "Office" for home. It's served me well over the years (I've been using Outlook, Word & Excel ever since its first release....ages ago).