Taking Time With Todoist

I’ve been using Todoist for almost two years now. I started integrating it into my system for work-only purposes, and it has served me very well. I have to use a PC for work, so the cross-platform support was essential in this process; with the Outlook add-on, it has really elevated my work flow of task management.

But it never really clicked for me on iOS. I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps it was the un-iOS-like interactions or the swipe to complete. I knew that there were some nice automation possibilities through various apps like Drafts, Workflow, Slack, and others, but it again, it didn’t really grab my attention.

That was until the Drafts 5.3 update added Todoist support. In typical Drafts fashion, there is an action step and a script object, along with a handy integration guide for those that want to get a bit more familiar.

I’m not going to get too technical here, but it uses a particular portion of the API called “Quick Add”: the best thing about this portion of the API is that you can type just as you would in the quick add window of Todoist. But the best part of this is that I don’t have to leave Drafts to enter the tasks, there’s no back-and-forth dance via a URL scheme. Just sending the tasks on their way.

Say I’m in a meeting: I can not only take notes and send the tasks to Todoist, but if I have another random thought I can add via a prompt-only information. And all of this gets added via the Quick Add, so I can type in all the information that I need right away. For example, I can simply type “Call Barney Stinson Tuesday at 7pm #Personal @evening” and it will all get added, with the date being parsed and the proper #project and @label being assigned. I can also create single drafts that contain a task with some notes in the body of the draft, and send it to Todoist with options, which imports the project and labels automatically for selection via a tumbler.

Utilizing Workflow Shortcuts, I’ve even been able to take some repetitive tasks and automate them with Todoist. Every week, I run a meeting that can be attended by between 1 and 150 people (don’t ask). But I have to take meeting minutes for distribution. For a while, I tried just using pen and paper. Then I tried using digital paper on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. When that didn’t work out the way I wanted, I decided that I would just start typing them out. So when I run the meeting, I present everything from my laptop and take notes on my iPad. At the end of the meeting, I can tap a single action that sends the [[title]] line along with the HTML-formatted text to create a PDF and save that PDF as an attachment to a task in Todoist with today’s date and the project assigned. This small but effective automation has saved me tens of minutes per week. And that adds up to a lot over time.

This whole idea of quickly entering tasks is really important. I’ve talked a lot about capture before. And now I have an even better capture ‣‣ action (in this case send) workflow with Todoist. I can also see a balance of work and home, which would have required two apps before. I still think having that split can be beneficial, but for what is going on in my life – both at work and at home – this singular solution is working out really well for me.

There are some things that still bother me: you can drag and move things around, but it’s not drag/drop like I would prefer. I’d like to drag tasks from the inbox onto a project. There isn’t a dark mode (yet) for when I’m tasking at night, nor are there alternative icons for the app; both of these are nice touches to have, and is something I hope they consider bringing quickly to the app. And the app itself doesn’t feel as whimsical as something like Things. But when it comes down to it, maybe I don’t need to have whimsy in a task manager, and that’s been holding me back in my tool-of-choice. I need something dependable, accessible, and manageable on a day-to-day basis.

Once I got past my own preconceived notions about using the app, it has been a phenomenal tool for me. I’ve even started sharing some projects with others via the built-in sharing options,1 and it’s helpful when setting up something new in collaboration with others. Even though it is a small change in what I’ve been doing in the past and I’ve replicated a lot of my actions from other task managers, having everything in front of me is working at this five minutes for me. This is, of course, all subject to change. But I don’t see it happening any time soon.

  1. This requires that both people have Todoist Premium. 

Short Hiatus

Why hello there. It’s been a while. The summer time is normally hard for most people, with big events, family vacations, and the extra daylight to spend all your time outside.

Except this summer hasn’t been that for me. It’s probably the busiest, craziest summer I’ve ever had (at least that I can recall). It’s been full of ups and downs, and non-stop action every day. I can’t remember the last time I had some true down time.

So what’s been going on? Well, there’s been a lot of personal stuff – too personal to get into on a public site. I’ve extensively journaled about it, which has been great. Personal life has influenced the vacations I took this summer – a grand total of zero. Kids have been active this summer, there’s a ton to do around the house, and things slip through the cracks. It happens. I’m originally from east of Cleveland, so I know what it means to have it not be your year.

Work has been hellacious, but in a multitude of great ways. It’s been busy with so much going on, but I’m managing more than ever. There’s a shift in the perception of who I am and what I can bring, which has been fantastic. I’ve even switch to a single task manager rather than having two. Even though I enjoyed the bifurcation, this has been better for me this summer with everything going on. For now – and you know it is always subject to change – I’ve settled on Todoist. A huge reason why is the addition of the Todoist script objects in Drafts and the speed at which I can enter everything in. But more on that at a different time.

I have spent the summer doing a few things to take care of me. For too many years, I let certain things go. But in the spring, I came to the realization that I put off me too much, and I needed to reclaim some of it. So I’ve been working out regularly – three to five times a week. I’m making sure to complete those goals not for the gamification, but because I know the end result will be a healthier me. I’m going to bed at a reasonable time, and waking up at 5am every morning to get this done, but it’s been better.

All this to say: all of this has made it so that I haven’t been writing as much. I had planned on writing more on some aspects of Drafts after I wrote the review. I still have those plans. And I will do them. Life often just finds a way to get the way of some personal life stuff. But I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in reclaiming some “me” time. I’m working on a better balance, and a better me. A short hiatus every once in a while is a wonderful thing.

First Time Tooter, Long Time Tweeter

Joe Steel, Writing on his self-titled blog:

In conversations I’ve had over the past week, it’s become clear that there’s nothing very self-explanatory about Mastodon as a social network, and that in many ways Twitter users are both prepared and unprepared for the experience.

With the state of things at Twitter the company and with Twitter the service, I’d be remiss if I didn’t think about moving to a new social network. The idea of going completely dark doesn’t seem like the right choice for me, but I’m not enjoying Twitter as much as I used to anymore. This was true before they #BrokeMyTwitter, but it’s even more so now that some of the features I enjoyed – like activity and certain notifications – are no longer part of the apps that I use. I loathe the Twitter app, so it’s just a horrible experience for me now.

Even though I have no idea what the hell Mastadon is all about, I did end up signing up for an account. I was able to get one on mastadon.social, under the same handle as my Twitter. I haven’t “tooted” a single thing yet,1 and I’m not sure when I’ll start. But I’m glad that Joe has taken the time to write an explainer. I have a much better understanding of what is going on with all of it than I did before, all parsed down to a single post.

The idea of leaving Twitter – one of the largest social networks on the planet – isn’t really the answer I’m looking for with all of this. I’m looking for Twitter to take a stand against wrong-doing. I’m looking for them to curtail abuse and the spread of misinformation. I’m looking for them to improve their app experience, while simultaneously not being a dick to the developer community that made them who they are today. They need to be better, and everyone who uses (not abuses) the service deserves that too. But unless there are some major changes ahead, it doesn’t hurt to have one foot in another door.

  1. I find this whole “toot” thing hilarious. There’s a lot of fart jokes to be made here. Yes, I’m a child.