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:
- Understanding stress (July 2007)
- Thoughts on bit literacy and information overload coping strategies (July 2007)
- Seeking the elusive “inbox zero” (Sept 2007)
- Digitizing my life (March 2008)
- A group TO DO list webapp? (May 2008)
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.
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:
The three different websites and applications which were “finalists” for my GTD application solution were:
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
– 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.”
– 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
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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