As the new year approaches fast, it’s time to start (if you haven’t already) considering those new year’s resolutions. One of mine, which has been a new year’s resolution in the past more than once, is to “get better organized.” I’m sure I’m not alone with this feeling: I am so deluged with information from multiple sources every day: email, phone messages, tweets, blog posts, social networking comments, etc, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I can’t get any more time in my day, so I need to use the time I have more efficiently. I need to process greater amounts of information, deal with them appropriately and quickly, and also keep track of all the different “to do’s” (tasks) which are on my plate for various projects.

I ALMOST finished David Allen’s excellent book on personal organization last year, “Getting Things Done,” and have tried a few different “GTD” applications to try and implement his system of processing and tracking all the project to do’s I have. I’ve written about this quest for better personal organization and personal organizers several times in the past:

The GTD application I’ve used most extensively (but eventually abandoned) was 43actions.com. The site is a web application for the iPhone, and does work OK, but I found it required too many connections and clicks to the web to function quickly and transparently. Unlike many other GTD solutions, the developers of 43actions have NOT created an actual iPhone application which syncs to the web. (A beta iPhone app is under development by a 3rd party, but so far nothing has been released.) The site remains a true “web app” as all iPhone applications were before the release of the iPhone SDK. A GTD tool cannot work unless it is used ALL the time to manage tasks. Once you start writing things down in other places or trying to keep them memorized but not recorded, you’re sunk. I’ve been down that road, unfortunately. So, one of my holiday goals was to find and begin utilizing a new GTD application which would integrate wonderfully onto my iPhone.

My old task manager webapp: 43actions

The website and application I’ve settled on after a bit of research is Toodledo, which was recommended to me a few months ago by James Deaton. The Toodledo webpage explaining how to use the website and iPhone app to implement David Allen’s GTD organization system is superb. It is one of the most concise summaries of the system I’ve read to date, contextually explained for Toodledo. This flowchart from the webpage visually explains the GTD process of dealing with input on a regular basis:

Flowchart for implementing GTD with Toodledo

The three different websites and applications which were “finalists” for my GTD application solution were:

  1. Remember the Milk
  2. EasyTask Manager
  3. ToodleDo

The Toodledo website has a nice comparative chart with features listed for other web-based GTD solutions. Note all of these do NOT, however, have an iPhone application, which was one of my important criteria in making this selection. In addition to “Remember the Milk,” the other applications with similar (but inferior) functionality to Toodledo compared in this chart include:

These were some of the primary differentiators I identified for my three “finalist” GTD applications.

Remember the Milk:
– is a web-based task manager
– Integrates with GMail as a gadget
– Has an iPhone client for Pro account users, which costs $25 per year
– does not have a software client for Mac or Windows

EasyTask Manager:
– costs $20 as one-time fee, no ongoing fees or subscriptions
– is NOT web-based
– has Windows and Macintosh software clients, as well as an iPhone client
– NOT designed for sharing or collaboration: “Mainly for the home/office user who doesn’t need to share or collaborate with a team.”

ToodleDo:
– is a web-based, explicitly GTD style task manager
– supports collaboration: share access rights to tasks, also accept tasks from others (others have read-only access unless they also have a pro account)
– has iPhone application ($2 for the holidays, normally $4)
feature comparison with other task managers including Remember the Milk. (Key item for me is “Full GTD Support”) A full page explanation is available about the GTD system and how ToodleDo integrates with it.
– Pro accounts are either $15 or $30 per year, depending on features
– Has a dashboard widget for Mac OS X
– Has FireFox Add-On

New task manager iPhone app for me: Toodledo!

The free version of ToodleDo (which is all I’ve used to date) is VERY robust in its feature set, and I’m quite pleased to have parted with $2 for the superb web application. Time will tell if I’m able to stick with a GTD solution, but with Toodledo in my browser, in my dashboard, and on my iPhone I think chances are good I may avoid “GTD app fader” status in 2009. :-)

If for some crazy reason I yearn to return to my web-app GTD days with 43actions, there’s always the web app/mobile version of Toodledo as well.

If you’re looking for even more task management / personal organizer web applications, check out Simple Spark’s Web App Catalog for Task Management solutions. Tony Vincent shared the website Simple Spark on his Learning in Hand page for Netbooks recently, and also has a great collection of recommended web apps (not just task manager solutions) on his social bookmarks.

Are you using task manager software on your iPhone or other smart phone/PDA? What have your experiences been (good or bad) and what advice do you have for others searching for a personal organizer software solution which can fit their own needs?

I think students should be introduced early to the concept of and available tools for task management, not only for homework but also for other projects. Since Toodledo is free in its robust, web-based version, it’s an ideal choice to demonstrate and share with students as well.

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  • James Deaton

    Hope it continues to work for you! I pulled the trigger at full price for the iPhone app and have no regrets. Before Jott changed their structure, I used it often to feed items into Toodledo. Now, you might give Dial2Do (www.dial2do.com) a shot. In my tests, it’s a great way to verbally add items as well as have the list read to you (although my lists are way too long to want to hear it). Beats typing when you’re driving down the road and an idea comes to you. Must follow GTD, get it out of your head.

    Oh, there is also a great Ruby command line app for Toodledo. http://rubyforge.org/projects/toodledo

    I’m often in a terminal window and it’s very nice to be able to add tasks without changing my context (of course you can set the GTD-esque “context” through the ruby client). You can also utilize the command within applescripts and Quicksilver to really facilitate task management. It’s too easy to get caught up in the process of managing the tasks and not the completion of tasks.

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    I use OmniFocus (http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnifocus/). I’ve had it on my laptop since it was in its alpha testing phase and it’s really the only task management system that works for the amount of tasks and projects I have to work with. I’m a college professor, and during the school year I will typically have 3-4 dozen projects and over 100 next actions at any given point in time. I tried out RTM, Things, Yojimbo, and other productivity apps, and they are all nice in their own way and would be good choices for people with a fairly limited amount of tasks and projects to manage. But none of them worked as intuitively as OmniFocus for the large amounts of stuff that I have on my plate.

    I use the OmniFocus app for the iPhone (actually iPod touch) as well and it’s nice — not as quick as the main app on my laptop but otherwise very workable, nice interface, and easy to use.

    The big knock on OmniFocus, it seems, is people find it somewhat restrictive, and you can’t apply tags to things as you can with Things and other task managers. It’s much more of an “orthodox” GTD system and you pretty much have to follow the pure doctrine of David Allen when using it. But I find this more of a plus than a minus; I have so much stuff to manage that tagging is just an unnecessary complication rather than a convenience.

    Both the main app and the iPhone app are a little pricey, but they are well worth the money, and the main app has some nice hidden discounts if you do a little searching around Omni Group’s website. (There’s an educational discount as well as a discount for OmniOutliner users.)

  • http://canyonr.com CanyonR

    I have been using Toodledo for several months and love it. I was mostly using it at a base level for a task list. I had fallen off the GTD wagon and was barely getting by. I have decided to “Reboot” my GTD process for the new year and have been investigating some of the advanced features of Toodledo, in addition to rereading the GTD book. I have been amazed at the level of thought they have put into these features, spending a lot of time around how someone might actually use them.

    For example, the iCal export for Google calendar lets the tasks with a “due date” show up integrated into the other calendar items instead of a dropdown menu. If you then start using the due date modifiers it changes how they show up on the calendar (ie = makes a “all day” item) http://www.toodledo.com/info/help.php?sel=42

    I use Mozilla prism Firefox extension (or fluid.app on the Mac) to make a Toodledo desktop application that works great. That way I can do my task management without opening a “browser” for those time when that would be a distraction. http://labs.mozilla.com/projects/prism/

    I’m sure you will enjoy using Toodledo and I hope to see you on the forums. http://www.toodledo.com/forums/index.php

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  • Charlene

    Hi Wes, I don’t have any recommendations, but I do have a question… how do you get your iPhone screen shots? I know you have Skitch for the annotating, but how are you emulating “your” iPhone? Thanks for sharing. Good luck in your quest for organizing in 2009.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Charlene: When you simultaneously press the iPhone’s home button at the bottom of the screen and the power button on the top, it takes a screenshot of whatever is on the screen at the time and saves that into your iPhone photo gallery. Then you can share that photo like any other from the iPhone. With these I downloaded them to iPhoto on my laptop and then uploaded them to Flickr. It’s a handy trick and works for anything you have showing on your iPhone.

    I am still looking for a good way to show my iPhone screen “live” during presentations and workshops, however. Haven’t found that solution yet.

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  • http://blog.soundprophets.com Derek

    Excellent post. Thank you so much for the detail. I’ve been trying to decide which app to pick up for organizing my life. Your insight gives me a little clarity.

    Kudos.

  • Alejandro

    Excellent post.

    I´m moving from iGTD (thats is a powerful and free desktop app) to toodledo because i work all day outside and need my tasks in the iphone. But toodledo is a web based apliccation and on the go is quite dificult find a internet connection for work with my laptop. ¿do you know is toodledo has a desktop application or if a third part soft can be sync with toodledo?

    Thanks in advance…
    Muchas gracias..

    Sorry about my english…

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Alejandro:

    I don’t think ToodleDo has an actual desktop app, but you can create a desktop webapp for it using Prism or Fluid. I posted on this Jan 1st in “Webapps as desktop apps with Prism and Fluid (site specific browsers – SSBs).”

  • http://www.backtype.com/citizento Citizento

    @Wesley Fryer
    With a SSB you don’t have your data stored locally, Toodledo is still missing a desktop app to keep in sync with..

  • http://canyonr.com CanyonR

    Toodledo says that they are working on support for Google Gears. That would allow offline access to your tasks.

    http://www.toodledo.com/forums/6/974/0/offline-access-via-google-gears-.html

  • http://www.backtype.com/citizento Citizento

    @CanyonR Thanks for the good news!

  • Alejandro

    Thanks Wesley

    I´ll wait until this happen… tooodledo app to work offline will be a great improvement… at least i´m not alone in this!!!!!

  • Sharon Richmond

    wondering if you stayed with this solution? :-)
    And are you still using ToodleDo?

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