Chances are, you lead a pretty busy life. Between balancing work commitments, family needs, and personal goals, most of us find it difficult to maintain a healthy work â€“ life balance.
There are lots of great systems out there to help us organize our lives and to keep our to do lists more manageable.
- Tony Robbins has his Rapid Planning Method (RPM) Life Planner,
- FranklinCovey has a variety of time management solutions and productivity suites, and
- David Allen has his Getting Things Done philosophy.
Great task management systems, but we had some technical difficultiesâ€¦ until now.
We wanted to keep our to do list on the computer. We wanted to be able to access our to do list from our laptop, our home computer, or our work machine. We wanted to be able to check things on our smart phone when we were on the go, and we wanted all of our information to sync effortlessly across our different devices.
We tried out a few different systems until finally figuring out an effective way to keep our to do list in the cloud.
- You could keep your to do list in word processing software (like Microsoft Word) and use syncing software like Dropbox to keep your file current and updated across your different machines. Unfortunately, we found it hard to keep our tasks organized in a document. Things got messy quickly once you started crossing things off your to do list, or trying to move things around. Although we could check our to do list on our iPhone, it wasn’t easy to check items off in the grocery store.
- Google Docs is a great way to keep information synced across different machines. It’s also easy to share your to do list with other people and to simultaneously edit and check things off that list. The problem with Google Docs is there is no off-line version which means you couldn’t access your to do list in the cloud from your laptop if you didn’t have Internet access.
- Notetaking software like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote are also a great way of keeping your to do list in the cloud. Evernote has an app which allows you to take notes off-line on your desktop or your iPhone. (The Microsoft OneNote app is currently in beta and only available in the US.) As much as we love evernote and OneNote, they’re just not task management software. It’s hard to move tasks around; you can’t add due dates or set up reminders or create hierarchical tasks.
- Some calendar applications like Microsoft Outlook have task management features included in the software, but we couldn’t find an easy way to sync the information across different machines. For a while, we were syncing information between different laptops using our PDA as a go between, but it’s a messy way to keep your tasks synced. (Also, you can’t do hierarchical tasks in Microsoft Outlook.)
- It’s a little bit easier to access your tasks from multiple machines if you use the to do list in Google Calendar. Unfortunately, the task list in Google calendar is pretty basic. (It essentially another calendar which you use only for tasks.) Google currently does not allow you to sync your to do list with other applications, which means that you can only access it online through Google Calendar.
- For a while, we were using the PlanPlus for Outlook add-on to add some more complex task management features to Outlook (like how hierarchical tasks.) We really want to like PlanPlus for Outlook, but after using several different versions of the PPO software on several different machines (with several different versions of Outlook and Windows,) we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not great software. We love the idea, we love the time management philosophy, but we don’t love the fact that PlanPlus for Outlook constantly crashes and slows down Outlook to a crawl. Plus, you’re still faced with the problem of trying to access your to do list from multiple computers and devices â€“ something that Outlook just doesn’t do very well.
The coolest piece of software that we did discover was the Pocket Informant app. We used it on our Windows Mobile PDA and it was great because we could sync our tasks with the PlanPlus for Outlook software that we were using.
Pocket Informant is great. It’s a much better calendar /contacts / task management system than what came in installed on our PDA. You can create subtasks, organize your tasks into folders or projects, and add categories to different tasks. When we upgraded our PDA for an iPhone, we were sad to leave this great software, but were thrilled to discover that there was also an iPhone app.
The problem was, at this point, we were still trying to keep all of our tasks organized by using Microsoft Outlook. That was our biggest mistake: there’s no easy way to share and sync information in Microsoft Outlook with your other personal computers.
That’s when we discovered Toodledo.
Toodledo is basically an online to do list. You can use folders, subtasks, due dates, priorities, takes, context, goals, notes, and time estimates to organize, search, and sort through your tasks.
Here are three reasons why we love it:
- All of your information lives in the cloud. You can access your to do list from any machine that can access the Toodledo website, including your smart phone.
- Most people will be perfectly happy with the basic features. (If you want to share your to do list with other people, encrypt your information using a secure SSL connection, create subtasks, or keep your completed tasks for longer than six months, then you might need to upgrade to a Pro membership which costs $14.95 / year.)
- The thing that we love the most about Toodledo is that Pocket Informant can sync directly with your Toodledo account. This means that we can quickly check (and check off) our to do list on the go, and the information gets updated in the cloud.
The Pocket Informant iPhone app costs $12.99. There is also a Toodledo iPhone app which costs $2.99. (The Toodledo iPhone app will show you subtasks, but as part of a separate list or flattened out with the rest of your tasks â€“ it doesn’t indent the subtasks like it does on the website or in Pocket Informant. The Toodledo iPhone app also doesn’t allow you to move subtasks â€“ you need to use Pocket Informant or the Toodledo website for that as well.)
We’ve only recently switched to using Toodledo, but so far we love it. They offer a one-time free seven day trial of their pro featuresâ€¦ We’ll probably upgrade to a Pro account after our trial is over.
This post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium Wireless.