I have been using Todoist as my GTD tool for three years. I’m still waiting for the day when Todoist will start
The story behind this blog post
I have been practicing Getting Things Done (GTD) since 2013. One of the things I really struggled with in the beginning was finding a good tool to support my workflow. Being on Android and PC, there was really no good cross-platform tools at that time.
God only knows how many tools I tested before I found IQTell in 2014. Prior to this, I had tested Todoist, but at that time, the functionality did not meet my requirements. However, as IQTell ceased to exist, I became an avid Todoist user by the summer of 2016. By that time, the functionality in Todoist had improved.
If you want, you can read the sad story of what happened to IQTell below.
Why I went from IQTell to Todoist
Let me make it clear that I think Todoist is a really good tool. What the people at Doist, the company behind Todoist, has done is really amazing. Todoist is flexible with a lot of great features and integrations. As I’m working in the software business myself, I know a lot about both the limitations and the possibilities for developing and running software like Todoist.
I love to figure out better and smarter ways of working. Below are two examples of how I have utelized the functinality in Todoist to be able to use it for a lot more than as a task manager.
How to make the ultimate packing list in Todoist
How to organize a home renovation project in Todoist
My struggle with using Todoist as a GTD tool
Immediately after the loss of IQTell, I started to invest a lot of time learning everything I could about Todoist. There was a lot to figure out, but after a while, I had managed to figure out a pretty good setup for
My Todoist GTD setup – Part 1: Projects, contexts, and actions
From there on, it started to get more difficult. Sure – after a while, I figured out the best way to use Todoist for the GTD Weekly Review, as well as for my GTD Focus Horizons. It was not perfect, but I felt that all the other good things about Todoist made up for the struggle
After making sure that my system worked, I shared it in the below blog post. Since then, Todoist GTD Weekly Review project has had thousands of downloads. This is telling me that there is a lot of GTD’ers out there, struggling to work with Todoist.
My Todoist GTD setup – Part 2: Weekly Review and Focus Horizons
Getting Things Done is huge
The GTD methodology is based on David Allens book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The first edition was written in 2001. An updated version was written in 2015.
- The book is an international bestseller, translated to 47 languages.
- GTD training is delivered in 76 countries worldwide.
- More than 3.000 people are attending whole-day GTD courses every month
What Todoist is missing
There is not a lot of changes that have to be done in order to make Todist support GTD. Sure, you can add a lot of bells and whistles, but that’s not what I’m asking for. Let’s take a look at what is really needed.
1. Support for GTD Weekly Review
This is the biggest issue: The lack of support for knowing when you did go through a project or a set of tasks. In GTD, this is called the Weekly Review. The Weekly Review is a process where you take a look at all your outstanding tasks and projects, to check if you have forgotten something and evaluate if the things on your lists is still worth doing.
When I put it like this, it sounds like something that could be useful also for people not practicing the Getting Things Done methodology.
It could be so simple as having a review date on a task, and a field telling you when this item was last reviewed. Then the weekly review itself vould be a separate project full of tasks with reccuring dates. These two dates should also be added to projecs, so that you could do a project review.
2. Support for GTD Horizons of Focus
What is GTD Horizons of focus? Simply put it’s a framework for how to align your daily actions with your visions, goals, and life-purpose.
I like to compare it with flying an airplane:
Level zero is the runway. As the pilot, you have to tackle all obsticles in order to be able to take off. This is the level for all your to-do items (tasks).
Level 1, 10.000 feet. Projects and Outcomes: This is where your projects live. This is where you take the Goals and Objectives from level 3, and your areas of focus and responsibility and do what you have to do to make it real.
Level 2, 20.000 feet. Areas of focus and responsibility: This is your job description, your role as a parent and spouse.
Level 3, 30.000 feet. Goals and Objectives (Next 1-2 years): This is where you
Level 4, 40.000 feet. Vision (Next 3-5 years, and longer): This is where decide where you want to be 3 to 5 years from now.
Level 5, 50.000 feet. Purpose, principles, and values: This is the big one. What’s your purpose, principles, and values.
For more details, read the below post.
GTD Horizons of Focus – A framework for success
This is how I (try to) manage my Horizons of Focus in Todoist today:
GTD Horizons of Focus Part 3: How I manage my Horizons of Focus in Todoist
What is needed in Todoist to set up GTD Horizons of focus
This is where the people ad Doist need to write the most new code.
What can be managed in Todoist today:
- 3 Goal
- 2 Focus
- 1 Project
- 1 Project
- 2 Focus
What is needed
- 5 Purpose
- 4 Vision
- 3 Goal
- 2 Focus
- 1 Project
- 1 Project
- 2 Focus
- 3 Goal
- 4 Vision
We need two more levels, atleast.
But, there is more: A project (Level 1) can be tied directly to a responsibility (Level 2) or a goal (Level 3) It can be tied to both directly or even just to a goal, thereby skipping level 2. The same goes for the other levels, meaning that
In short, what is needed I a many-to-many relationship between projects.
The gold standard for GTD tools is OmniFocus. Since they operate in the Apple universe only, they are out of the picture.
The competition for really good GTD tools on the Android and PC platform is rather thin. Facilethings is the closest. They have a really good grasp om the two things Todoist is missing, but lack of integrations and functionality in the Andriod app is keeping me from switching.
Thats it! There are a lot of tools out there, but none of the others are even worth mentioning.
Dear people working with Todoist. Are you willing to take the challenge?
Are you willing to make the changes necessary so that Todoist can support GTD?
If you are, I’m willing to work with you for free.
Waiting to hear from you!
I started to use Trello as my main support for GTD practice, because I think it is more complete and visually more atractive and easier to work than TodoIst.
My two cents: I don’t want/need my Purpose and Vision in Todoist as hierarchical items with all of my goals/projects nested below them. I’m not going to “complete” my Purpose or Vision. I only need to refer to them periodically to re-ground myself. Forcing me to nest each and every project or goal under a specific Vision/Purpose item feels like it would add a lot of friction to the system. It’s hard enough keeping my Goals/Projects/NAs in sync.
Thank you for your blog, by the way. It has really helped me learn the ins and outs of using Todoist for GTD (amongst other things). I really enjoy reading your posts!
Thank for your feedback. It’s totally up to you if you want to use my proposed functionality for GTD Horizons of Focus. The way I have outlined it, you will just have the option to have more levels. If you have a project that is supporting more than one goal, the many-to-many relationship may be helpful.
I do like the idea of some sort of many-to-many relationships between tasks and their “projects”. That would be very handy!
Great suggestions as an avid Todoist user I totally concur.
Why not use Labels combined with pinned filters? This gives the flexibility to have multiple levels with many to many relationships and yet accessible with a single click? Or have you tried this and found it does not work?
GTD is tool agnostic, which makes it quite flexible, but that also leads to the frustrations you describe here!
Regarding support for the Weekly Review, I actually do have “a separate project full of tasks with recurring dates.” I’ve had that since I was using Wunderlist. (I’ve been with Todoist since Microsoft introduced MS To Do). Having a review date on the task would require each task to have up to 2 due dates. That might require some additional database fields, and that might not be so simple. Have you come across any of the resources that apply the OmniFocus concept of “start dates” to Todoist? Those might help you.
I’m an ex Omnifocus user that switched to Todoist because I needed something cross platform. I am missing their review functionality badly. The good news is they launched Omnifocus Web now! It’s still a bit basic (no API, missing review, still needs DB setup on OSX or iOS) but I’m hoping that it will gradually have these things added/fixed, and eventually be released on to other operating systems/devices.
A while ago I hear Amir Salihefendic speak on a podcast and he was pretty clear that he was not a big fan of GTD. So when will Todoist support GTD? Likely never. I use Facile Things. What integrations are you looking for? Its calendar has a two-way sync with Google Calendar and also with Outlook (hardly anyone does that), There also integration with Google Drive, One Drive, a fantastic integration with Evernote, with Box …