There are a lot of ways to keep track of your tasks or to-do lists. Google has Google Tasks, email clients such as Evolution or KMail or Entourage or Outlook all have some kind of either task management or to-do list creators. You can also find dedicated applications or websites for just this purpose, such as Remember The Milk. Recently, I found a Google Chrome extension called Todoist that claims to be the best to-do list and task manager available for Google Chrome. I can’t honestly say I’ve tried them all (I haven’t!), but it is really good, and is easy to start using and understand exactly how it works and how it can be useful.
First, it’s a little weird how you go about installing the Todoist extension. You don’t just go to the Google Chrome extensions page for Todoist and click the Install button. I mean, sure, you can… but if you watch the about video on that same page, that’s not what’s recommended. And that’s because Todoist is also a web service, and you need an account in order to use the Google Chrome extension, and you can’t sign up for an account with the extension. Hopefully this will be changed at some point – especially because creating an account is as simple as entering your name, email address, password and time zone. There’s no email to respond to in order to activate your account, however, so once you’ve done this, log into your account (if you aren’t already), then install the extension.
Once installed, you can do a lot with Todoist. You first need to create a project. This is a good way to start breaking down your tasks. I currently have two projects in my Todoist list. The first is a generic “Stuff To Do” which is for items that don’t have a lot of steps, or aren’t a part of a larger project. The second is for writing Associated Content articles, actually. I break the articles down into steps, such as trying out a new piece of software, writing the article, taking screenshots and finally posting it. If I were writing a novel, a much larger goal than writing a simple 400-600 word article, Todoist would also work. I would have steps for reading research material, plotting out the novel, developing different characters, writing an outline, a rough draft, and editing.
Each task in Todoist can have a few different characteristics. It will have a “complete by” date, which you can enter by clicking a date on the calendar. You can also enter the “completely by” date by typing in “November 12 at 3:00 PM” or another date – in plain English – and Todoist will figure it out for you. Tasks can be nested, which is a great way to break down a large goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Tasks can also have tags added to them. This is great when juggling quite a few projects. Since some of the smaller tasks might be related (for instance, if you’re trying to sell your old car and are in the process of getting renter’s insurance, both have a photography element), you can “tag” them with the same tag (in my example: photography), so that even though they aren’t in the same Project, you could see them grouped together and maybe take care of both of them at the same time. Tasks can also be assigned different levels of importance, from priority 1 through priority 4.
Once a task has been entered into your Todoist list, you can group which ones appear in the extension window. You can view only tasks due today, or everything for the next week (or all of them). Any tasks due “today” will be further visible by a number badge on top of the Todoist toolbar icon. If you have three tasks due today, you’ll see a black square with a white “3” in it. If a task is overdue, the square will turn red to alert you to its overdue status.
Todoist is also integrated with both your web browser in general and Gmail in particular. If you find yourself on a web page that you want to read, but won’t have time to get to for a couple days, just go to the Todoist icon, click on the appropriate project, then click the Add link option. Choose a time you want to get back to the article and you’ll now see the title of the web page as a task. Click the link and you’re taken back to the website itself. No need to bookmark the page or write it down; Todoist remembers it for you. You can also use Gmail integration to remember to respond to an email. On Gmail, when reading a message, go through the same steps, this time choosing the Add Email link, which has replaced the Add link option.
Finally, Todoist can do more than just what I’ve outlined. You can use it to set up recurring tasks, as well as tasks that happen every few days. Doing this takes a bit of memory (the list of different options and the correct syntax to use is lengthy, but can be easily accessed from the website), but the final result is a very powerful task manager. There are other options as well, such as Reminders and a better tagging system, available for paying subscribers. I didn’t purchase a subscription for $3.00 per month – the for-free tools seemed powerful enough – but if you need more than what the free account provides, know that it’s available.