A couple of years ago, we published a blog post that offered a 10-point framework for using Todoist to get things done. In a way, that post was life-changer for me. It provided the framework I needed to hit the ground running when I started using Todoist.

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Since reading that blog post, I’ve integrated Todoist into my work and personal life, using the tool religiously every single day. And now that Todoist has become so important in my life, I often find myself telling friends and colleagues about all of its advantages.

I have some recommendations and advice for getting the most out of the productivity tool. Here are my top 10 tips for improving productivity using Todoist.

1. Start with the Dialexa framework, but above all, find the workflow that works for you

In my early Todoist days, I followed the original Dialexa framework strictly. The labeling and filtering features became critical aspects of how I enter tasks. At the time, using the labels to group tasks and being able to view my to-do list based on how much time I had to complete a task was helpful.

After a while, I noticed that I’m not using labels and decided to drop them from my workflow since they did require time to enter. Even if they took a second, that accumulates after a while. Remember, we’re after improving productivity so every minute counts. Now, I’ve adjusted my workflow to focus less on labels and filters. To replace the labeling/filtering workflow, I started prioritizing/color-coding my tasks.

2. Keep your tasks short and to the point

To optimize the time entering a task, I focus on four things:

  1. Context: What is the task?
  2. Date: When is it due?
  3. Priority: Where does it fit in 1-4 scale?
  4. Project: Which project does it belong to?

3. Add tasks on the fly

Todoist for desktop has a customizable global shortcut feature for Quick Add Task. The default desktop shortcut is CMD + SHIFT + T, but if you’re a developer like me that’s probably already reserved. Come up with a simple shortcut that will stick in your head and start building the habit of putting tasks directly into Todoist—organization can be taken care of later. Mine is `Command + Control + Shift + N`. Create your own and make sure it’s unique, it definitely helps to make the process as frictionless as possible.

The idea here is that you never need to rely on your brain to remember what to do next. Make it a habit that every single time a task comes your way you either do it now or log it in Todoist so you don’t forget about it later. This process gave me peace of mind at the end of every day, I don’t have the anxiety of `I feel like I forgot something but I can’t remember what it was` hitting me in the middle of the night anymore. If it’s not on my Todoist, it’s not something I need to worry about. If it’s on my Todoist, it’s going get completed.

4. Keep using shortcuts until they become reflexes

Everything has a shortcut. When you’re quickly adding a task, consider the following shortcuts:

  1. Date: `today`, `tom`, `every sat`, `ev day at 9pm` Natural Language works here.
  2. Priority: !!1 or P1 will assign highest priority to the task you’re entering
  3. Project: #project
  4. Assignee: +me or +assignee_name to assign a task in a shared project

5. There is 24 hours in a day, be realistic

At first, I found that I would end up with too many tasks on my plate each day. My list would have 30 tasks and I didn’t have the luxury of delegating or delaying them—everything had to get done (whether it was personal or for work). The list started to feel more painful than helpful. And I started hating Todoist because it brought me guilt no matter how hard I try to go through my neverending list of tasks.

I soon realized it’s not Todoist, it’s purely my unrealistic expectations. The solution was simple. If I had 30 tasks on my list for the day, I’d choose the top 15 prioritized tasks for the day and move the remaining 15 to the next day. That way, I can work my way through that list for the day, get everything done and end the day feeling accomplished. And if I have extra time, I will work ahead on the next day’s tasks. Besides the positive mental state that this approach helped me accomplish, I actually ended up finishing more tasks per day.

The point is that you don’t want to constantly go home with a long list of lingering tasks. It will feel overwhelming and make you hate the tool—even if you actually got a lot done throughout the day.

Todoist design team is one that I admire. At a quick glance I can get a high-level view of my daily and weekly progress directly in the tool. On top of that I receive a beautiful yearly dashboard that shows me stats from the entire year. Here’s my 2017 Todoist Year Review.

6. Convenient Integrations

For many people, Todoist might feel like just another tool in an already-cluttered toolbox. If Todoist were confined to a desktop application, it might be difficult to make it such an integrated part of your daily life. However, these four key Todoist integrations make the tool a more seamless part of my day:

  • Google Calendar: Each new task is immediately added to my calendar. The beauty of this integration is that you can see how your tasks are balanced throughout the week. And you can move tasks on the calendar to update Todoist.
  • Alexa, Siri, and other smart integrations: I use Alexa a lot (for work and for my personal life). For example, I organize shopping lists with Alexa. When I tell Alexa to add something to my shopping list, it’s immediately added to my Todoist.
  • Gmail, Newton, and other email apps integrations: The email service integrations work much like the calendar integration. Emails can be tied directly to Todoist tasks and open the email and/or adds it as a comment to the task.
  • Slack: Easily add Todoist tasks with simple slash commands.

With so many available integrations, you can log tasks through whichever app or service most convenient to you.

7. Team Inbox

I’ve become a Todoist evangelist, but I’m not the only Dialexan who uses the tool. We actually use Todoist in some of our engineering and design projects– it is part of our software engineering toolbox.

Especially in software development, there’s a separation between higher-level project tasks and the individual tasks for team members. It is a perfect tool for delegating 1-1 tasks. For example, if there’s a task that is related to the project but its progress is not relevant to the whole team, I use Todoist task and assign it to the appropriate team member. I’ll be notified of its progress without cluttering the Project Management tool we’re using to manage our agile software development.

8. Another way to “Templates”

Templates are the checklists that you find yourself redoing over and over again. Whether it’s driven by time as a recurring activity (e.g. filing your taxes), or by an event (e.g. setting up a new client meeting—schedule the call, create an agenda, prepare notes, etc).

Todoist offers a way to create and share templates using CSVs. That approach doesn’t always resonate with me or our team’s leadership. We found ourselves having to manage another set of files instead of having it all contained in the tool itself. I take a different approach for templates, call it a workaround if you’d like, but it works beautifully.

  • Create a project and call it Templates
  • Create your recurring task, let’s assume it’s New Client Meeting
  • Under that task, you can create sub tasks, such as:
    • Attendees
    • Agenda
    • Room
    • Lunch?
    • Calendar invite sent
    • Etc.
  • Now, when you get a new potential client that's visiting the office, you can duplicate the root task "New Client Meeting" and it’ll duplicate all its subtasks.
  • Rename the new duplicated task, change its project and date, and voilà!


Example 1: How to create a template


Example 2: How to use a template

9. Leverage projects

Create a project for every big aspect of your life that you’re tracking. Share projects with the right members. I have, for example, a project called "Client X" that is shared with that team. I also have a Shopping List project that is shared with my wife. Make sure you give each project a unique color so you can see at a glance where you spent most of your time during the week/month using Todoist’s graphs.




10. review, update, repeat!

During the day, I focus on the “Today” view. At night, I review the “Next 7 days” view and adjust my tasks by distributing the workload as needed. I repeat this workflow every single day.

I thrive to accomplish #InboxZero and #TodoistZero by 8PM every single day. That means I have no emails left for me to respond to, nor tasks left for me to accomplish that day. I have nothing left on my mind that’s going to wake me up in the middle of the night feeling like I missed something important. I feel accomplished.

Todoist Is What You Make of It

Todoist is so important to me personally, it helps me balance work and life. It’s flexibility allows us to easily track tasks without altering the workflows that support our client work.

That flexibility may seem overwhelming to new Todoist users, though. That’s why I wanted to write this new post about the app. The key to finding value in Todoist (like we have at Dialexa) is using the features that work for you. There’s no right or wrong way to use Todoist—the value is yours to create.

If you want to learn more about Todoist and how we use the tool to improve your software development processes, contact the Dialexa team today.

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