I’ve used a number of task-based apps over the years– both free and paid– for my personal life and my early years as a freelance fitness professional. When my wife and I formed a company together – Muddy Plimsolls Ltd – we knew we needed a more powerful app to control and organize ourselves. My wife is an ex-PA from the City and she has very strong views on how things should be done and how to organize systems.
Each piece of software we invested in had it’s drawbacks. Some were slow to load. Some had an awful user interface. Some just lacked basic functions.
So when I came across Todoist for the first time, I was cautious. I tried out the free version to begin with. It took me just days to realise I really, really wanted to upgrade. Todoist is the most user-friendly, flexible and responsive of all of the productivity apps we’ve ever tried. I’ve been using Todoist for over a year now and still love its clean, clear interface and intuitive features. It’s just so nice to use. And my productivity has definitely increased by a great margin.
How I use Todoist to Manage and Organize My Business
Our company is basically a personal training agency, with myself as one of a team of freelance fitness professionals. We are all based in different parts of London and, now, in the surrounding counties, too. So I may not meet up with the team too regularly and need a way of organizing their needs as well as the needs of our client base.
On the first screenshot you will see that the left hand column of Projects represent five main ‘departments’ within my company. These departments are: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales, Marketing, Business Development and Admin. These departments are then sub-divided into two different type of sub-Project: smaller ‘departments’ and one-off sub-Projects. For example, the screenshot shows that Marketing is further divided into three: February Marketing Campaigns, Link Building and Product Development.
Using GTD with Todoist
Being able to quickly scan the left hand Projects screen allows me to have a ‘20,000 ft’ overview of the whole company. This is a concept I borrowed from David Allen’s Getting Thing’s Done system. Many years ago I had Allen’s CD series playing in my car over and over for weeks. I did not embrace the entire system but that has nothing to do with Allen’s excellent system and is mostly due to my own inconsistency in getting organized. However, I still use elements of the GTD approach within Todoist.
For example, each task will have a ‘Next Action’ written up in the Comments section. When I come to revisit this task, I have already decided on my next step to perform in order to move the task forward. It saves me having to rethink about the task days or weeks later and decide upon an action.
Another element of the GTD system is to group similar actions together. Allen’s examples are phone calls (which can only be done in the presence of a phone), home-related tasks which can only be done when you’re at home. To help me do this, I use Todoist’s labels system. I have labels for @phonecall and @errands. In this way it is easy to see what phone calls I have lined up to make across all of my Projects. It’s a great way of making the best use of my time.
My final GTD method is to use the Inbox as a dumping ground for everything that’s in my head. It is so easy to open up a new task on my Mac by using the keyboard shortcut (Apple – A). The note is automatically saved in Inbox. Periodically I’ll go through the Inbox and relocate each note or delete as necessary
Using Repeating Tasks
Here’s a favourite part of Todoist and an essential element of how we organize client billings at Muddy Plimsolls. We bill our clients every 28 days. As each client has their own billing date, you can imagine that the task of remembering who should be billed and how much could be bewildering. But with Todoist, all I have to do is set up a recurring alarm associated with a Task that is marked with the client’s name.
Using Todoist on a Daily Basis
At the start of each day I open up Todoist and immediately go to ‘Today’. This tells me what I need to get done that day. I tend to add to each of my tasks a future date in order to review progress. As I know that the task will reappear on my radar under ‘Today’ at some point, I can relax and stop thinking (or worrying) about outstanding tasks as I used to.
I do use Filters but only for urgent and important tasks. The one Filter I use is called ‘Priority 1′ and is coloured red. They of course show up easily in my Today list. I try not to mark too many tasks as Priority 1, otherwise I’m confronted with a long list of red flags and it all becomes too overwhelming. So I may mark up to 10 tasks as Priority 1, and only add to this list when I’ve ticked a previous Priority task as completed.
Finally, I then take a look at all the Projects list from top to bottom.
My system can get interrupted by emails and phone calls, of course. But I do eventually get through these three stages and feel that I’ve turned my attention to the whole of the company. There’s nothing worse than feeling that there is a dusty, unattended corner of your business that escapes your attention due to lack of a review system. I suppose that this is the most valuable strength of Todoist’s system. By being able to organize tasks by date and/or a Priority label, and to further organize them through the @ lists, means that tasks won’t get missed or forgotten about.
I have managed to clear all my days’ tasks once in a while and it is so rewarding to see the starry tick appear on the screen and a little message encouraging me to relax for the evening!
I travel back and forth across London daily, as well as have a work desk in the centre of town. My team of fitness professionals are spread across the whole of London and beyond, as now I’m taking on trainers in the Home Counties. When I am seeing my own outdoor personal training clients, my ‘office’ is the leafy green space of Regent’s Park or Primrose Hill park. When I’ve finished a client session, I reach for my iPhone and quickly type out some notes about the session as a new entry in Todoist’s Inbox.
I’m always impressed at how quickly and easily Todoist updates all my devices at the same time. I input data on my iPhone whilst sat on a park bench in the park. At the same time my wife (and business partner) can see the update happening on the company Mac at my desk, or on a mini-iPad we also use as an office away from the office.
When I’m back at my desk, I’ll go through my Inbox and drag and drop tasks into more appropriate files.
Using Todoist for Personal Interests
As a bit of fun, I’ll show you how I use Todoist to help me with one of my favourite pastimes which is cooking.
When I find a recipe that I’d like to try, I create a new task with the name of the dish and list the ingredients underneath. I don’t need to list basic items like lack pepper or garlic or rice because I would always have that in my kitchen. But if the recipe requires special, one-off items, those are the ones I list. Like red onion or feta cheese or cinnamon sticks. This ingredients list is then given the lable ‘@recipes’ so I can end it easily. But I also add further labels such as @chicken and @under30minutes. The task is filed under a ‘Recipes’ project. When I am in the supermarket and thinking about what to eat that evening, I can call up either all the @recipes or more specifically quick chicken recipes that I can make in under 30 minutes and there are all the ingredients I need!