Monday, June 27, 2011

A tale of three TODO products

I'm the kind of guy that hates the amount of time he spends considering, evaluating, and test driving new productivity software. Recently I had yet another surge of uncertainty over my use of Remember The Milk, and I tried a few other things. I gave a spin on Nozbe and Todo.txt, and I've come to a conclusion.

For now...

I have been a big fan of Remember The Milk, and I pay for a professional account. Even still, I'm not above admitting I might be wrong, so when a few things started to annoy me I sought out something new. I had heard Todo.txt talked up a lot on This Week in Google, given that the author is a host on the show. I had also tried Nozbe in the past, but new it had several large updates since then and wanted to give it another try.

Remember The Milk

I really was happy with RTM, so I want to make clear the things I do like about it! I really have been happy with the Android app, and with the use of smart lists to create filters that match different contexts I want to work in. Here is the corner stone of my smart lists, which I combine with several others:

(dueBefore:"tomorrow midnight" OR (due:never AND tag:next) ) OR (dueWithin:"1 month of today" AND tag:bill) OR (tag:writing AND dueWithin:"1 week of today") OR (tag:sticky)

This means "Everything with a due date that is today or already passed, or without a due date marked to be done next, or due within the next month and is a bill, or is something i need to write within the next week, or is tagged 'sticky'" and I can update this as need be, and other lists that use it adjust themselves. What this lets me do is set due dates in the future and hide the items until they become important, so it works great for setting my todo list for work and to see a condensed set of things I should focus on each day.

So, what was getting on my nerves? What I haven't gotten to feel right is a small and loose set of tasks that I want to do in order, and so only one is relevant at a time. Good example is a book series. I need to maintain next tags on items right now, and that isn't terrible, but automation is great. What I feel would be nice is a tool where lists were super light and throw-away and only the top item on the list was included in the main view, as a "Next Action". Yes, that is a GTD thing.


I can't say the idea of keeping everything in a file I own isn't appealing, it is. I was able to customize the sorting command and some filtering options so I could kind of do a thing like the next actions I talked about before, and I could see the first thing in each context I've defined when I list my tasks. But, that flexibility kind of vanishes when I use the android app, so while it is very cool that it just syncs my local file via Dropbox, it also means that I can only customize half my experience, which kind of just makes the android half feel worse. At least my smart lists work in RTM's android app.


The most appealing feature here is an actual support for next actions. With any list, anything marked as a next action is easily accessible and the main view will show me only one next action for each list and will show me the next one when I complete the current. That's great. However, lists are not cheap. As in, I need to pay to get more than 5, and it costs more than RTM. I did not feel that I can create them willy nilly, which meant I felt confined. Nice app, and an integration with evernote that I will never use, even though I am an evernote user. Better luck next time.


I've returned to Remember The Milk. I should focus on doing, more than what to be doing.

Freelance Freedom #213: Getting Things Done


Pekka Klärck said...

Did you try the following Android app as a front end for Todo.txt? Looks handy and isn't overly expensive.

Calvin Spealman said...


yes, that is the todo.txt android app i was referring to.

Dustin Lacewell said...

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I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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