For years I have been using Toodledo, a freemium task list application. It has a website and also an Android app. The main idea is that it is a table of tasks with lots of attributes that can be set.
One can then filter this list by Folder, Status, Context and Priority. And one can sort it by three of these keys. The first sorting key will yield those intermediate headers in the table. This way one can gather all the tasks corresponding to specific questions:
- What can I do while I am waiting somewhere and just have my phone? Give me everything with Context »Phone«.
- What has to be finished today? Sort by Due Date and take the top elements.
- What have I already started and need to finish? Give me all tasks where the Status is »Next Action«.
In principle this is really nice, but I found that it does not suit me so well. I usually look at the full list of tasks and try to pick out the things that I could do next. But I come across the same things over and over again. And some depend on others, are not really actionable tasks yet, or can only be done next weekend. I tried to use the Status field to set tasks to either “Active” or “Planning” depending on whether I want to do them next or some time in the future.
Years ago, when I was researching task lists, I came across Todoist. I have initially discounted it as a flat list that did not have all the sorting capabilities that I wanted to have. It did not give me this tabular layout that I seeked out. Over time I have realized that Toodledo might not be the tool that I want, so I tried out Todoist again.
There one rather has a hierarchy of tasks, structured into project, section, task and arbitrary many levels of sub-tasks. This means that I can nicely express the hierarchies that I have in my mind. Also there is a special project called Inbox, where stuff without a project can go.
The most important feature is the planning of tasks. They don't get a due-date or start-date, but rather one plans a particular task for a specific date. This way I can think of cleaning out the basement, but plan it for Saturday. The task is present, and on Saturday it will be on my Today slate. But until then, I can ignore it as I have allocated time for it. If I don't manage to finish a task on some day, it will just be listed as overdue on the next days.
The different projects are really nice, as I can have different mental rules for them. My Personal project is full of stuff that I want to get done. There the goal is to have it as empty as possible. My Idea Pool project is full of things that I would like to do in my free time, but aren't really tasks but rather TV shows to watch, or computer games to try out. I use the sectioning feature to group these into different kinds of activities.
One can see the different colors, these are priorities. In the pool I use them to indicate whether I need to buy it (or wait until it comes out), have already started playing it or are actively playing it.
In other areas I make use of the nested tasks feature. I for instance plan to write a blog post about how annoying the USB 3 standard is when it comes to buying hardware. I have a few ideas that I want to put into the post, so I list them as sub-tasks. This way I can even tick them off as I write the post.
Overall I am much happier with that new system as it is not just a flat list of tasks but rather has some structure in it. I can have different mental rules for different projects and represent different types of “tasks”. To be fair, the sub-tasks are available on Toodledo Premium, but I am not so happy with it in general, that subscribing would not really help either.