Toodledo, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Organization

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Earlier today I was in a FaceBook discussion about project management tools, particularly personal ones that work well with Getting Things Done or GTD. In the last fifteen years I have experimented with a number of pm tools and today I use Toodledo. I can access it from desktop, iPad, iPhone and when I had one, my android phone.

The fields I use are these: folder, context, goal, due date, repeat, tag.

Folders are my projects. For this example I’m going to use a project called “Going to Gulf Wars” as I realized about a week ago that I had task reminders on the bathroom mirror, both of my desks and my journal but I’d never added the project to Toodledo. (Gulf Wars is a yearly event I go to in Mississippi as part of a historical recreationist group. It’s in March which is a really good time to get out of Minnesota.)

So I gathered up all these pieces of paper and sat down at a computer. In Toodledo, I started a new folder for “Gulf Wars,” and I also added a short term goal “Go to Gulf Wars.”  I create a task titled “drive to Gulf Wars” that uses this folder and goal AND has a due date. This gives the project an end date that is on the calendar and it mentally puts a stake in the ground.

Then I use Toodledo’s multiple task tool to rapidly add all the other tasks; I am going to suggest using both the folder and the goal fields in this example and I will explain why a bit later. No due dates and no tags. Just get those tasks off paper as quickly as possible. The multiple task tool auto-fills most of the common fields for you and saves time.

Any papers that have notes are set aside. Throw away any that you can.

After saving the new tasks, I then go in and add those notes to the appropriate tasks. If there is a due date, fill that in.  I add context if I feel I need to do so. If there is a person involved, add the name as a tag – most of the people I commonly do things with are already tags in my Toodledo. I know! Weird!

Then throw the rest of the pieces of paper away! Yeah!

Anyway, once all the identified tasks are in place and after the screen is refreshed, I look at that list and I select my Next Task for this project.

I can only do one thing at a time, right? So for this project, I select the Next Task. It may be my clothing packing list, or it may be to figure out how a woman that needs a GF, high veggie-eating plan is going to manage. That task gets the tag “2-Next’.

Then it really comes down to doing the Daily Review and noting what has that ‘2-next’ tag in all my various projects. It’s up to me to decide what gets done today – and if I’m going to bother changing the tag to ‘1-now’ or if I am just writing it down on the paper list I carry with me.

Because my day is run on paper.

Toodledo is where I park a LOT of data, including notes about what foods I am going to pack and how I plan to keep them edible in the March weather in Mississippi, but my daily stuff goes on paper and follows me around like a puppy.

And I’m not rigid about sticking to only the next task I have identified; if I’m stuck in a movie theatre with nothing on the screen, I’ll go into a list task, like a packing list, and work on it. Finishing a dress might be the next task according to Toodledo but that’s an at-home project. At the theatre I’m working on what I can because I have it there available to work on.

Can’t work on a list that is taped to a mirror in this situation, now, can I?

Toodledo offers amazing sorting power to help me. I can filter by up to two of my field-types, and I can set the list-order as well. For example, my folders do not display alphabetically but by what I want to see first. That’s not ‘Gulf Wars,’ either, but a project called ‘Bunnies go AMOK’ because my life is interesting.

It took a long time before I stopped playing with the filters and decided to filter on one thing only – by my folder list.

So this is my basic setup for getting to the “Mind Like Water” objective of GTD. And it may change tomorrow again; I constantly want to find the easy button that makes my life flow like a magical rainbow over the valley of easy-peasy. It does not exist. Only determination and time has given me consistent results with Toodledo, or with any project management tool for that matter.

***

Notes about some of the fields:

The only contexts I have are @Home, @Computer, @Store, and the one I use the most is @Store. @Computer is useful for downtimes where I have wifi; now that I have an iPhone, I may be doing more at a theatre while waiting, or things like that, but so far I’ve not activated my use of contexts very often. Mostly it is for remembering things to buy at the store.

I love using goals in Toodledo. There are three levels of goals: Lifelong, Long-Term and Short-Term. And a short-term goal can contribute to either a long-term or a lifelong goal, and you can have as many as you want. Only one per task, sure, but that’s not been a problem for me. The other thing that is cool is that when I complete a task, it adds a chain link to the goal, and when I look at my goals I see immediately how well I’m doing.

So earlier when I suggested using both your folder field (project name) and goal field (yep, that’s a goal!) when creating a task is that some times your goals stretch between projects. My goal in this example is also used in some of the clothing projects I have. Before I reach that dated task of ‘go to Gulf Wars’ in the Gulf Wars folder, I have to finish multiple projects. My goal showing up all over the place helps me keep track of things that are up and down my task list, helping me assure that things get done and some of the people I have tagged aren’t disappointed.

Tags can be a powerhouse for some people! They certainly are in a tool like EverNote. However you cannot search by a tag field in Toodledo – you can filter by it, which is why I use it at all. Some of my friends show up in multiple tasks as tags, lol. I have seen where some people use tagging to indicate priority – that is an existing possible field already, but if you want you can use tagging and keep your list a bit tidier-looking. Up to you!

***

This is how I am using Toodledo right now. Six months from now, I may have read something or thought of something and changed my processes. Have fun exploring its potential. You have to make this your own – you are the one with the guilt for missed deadlines, after all, not me.

Please tell me how you use Toodledo! I’m also interested in hearing your stories about your use of other project management tools – it’s kinda a guilty pleasure of mine, talking about how people keep track of their world.

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