How to Use Todoist Tutorial (The Ultimate Review for 2018)
Feel overwhelmed by your daily tasks? Hate when you fail to make progress with your important projects? Want to manage your entire life with just one tool?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should consider incorporating the Todoist app into your life. This extensive Todoist review will teach you everything you need to learn how to use Todoist. Plus many advanced tips for power users to get the most from the Todoist app.
Todoist is a program that’s been around for over ten years. Millions of people use this app to:
create simple to-do lists and manage their tasks
build step-by-step project lists for their personal and professional lives
identify priority tasks that need to be completed immediately
create context-specific lists based on location, date, and energy levels
collaborate with team members on important projects
capture ideas and information that might be relevant in the future
In my opinion, Todoist is the perfect tool for managing all your day-to-day tasks. It has a simple design that allows you to start using it within the first five minutes of downloading it. But it’s flexible enough to manage sophisticated projects that involve numerous steps and multiple team members.
Level up from your pen-and-paper to-do list with Todoist.
At its core, Todoist is a task management application that helps to manage your personal and professional productivity. You can use it to manage your tasks from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. And it also has a premium version that enables collaboration with other members of your team.
Todoist was launched in January 2007 by Amir Salihefendic under the umbrella of the Doist company, which also offers a team communication tool called Twist.
The Todoist app is available in 17 languages:
1. Chinese (China)
2. Chinese (Taiwan)
And it’s available for these platforms and devices:
Just go to any of the above sites online for the platform that you prefer then click the download link to get started with the app.
Why I Recommend Todoist
The main reason you should consider this app is it’s the perfect place to practice the “mind like water" concept that David Allen discusses in his book, Getting Things Done.
To quote Allen:
In karate, there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.
The power in a karate punch comes from speed, not muscle; it comes from a focused “pop" at the end of the whip. It’s why petite people can learn to break boards and bricks with their hands: it doesn’t take calluses or brute strength, just the ability to generate a focused thrust with speed. But a tense muscle is a slow one. So the high levels of training in the martial arts teach and demand balance and relaxation as much as anything else. Clearing the mind and being flexible are key.
Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your email, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water."
Allen’s point is that your mind is the worst place to store your ideas, tasks, and appointments. Sure, you’ll probably remember most things, but if you develop the practice of capturing every open loop in your life and putting them in one place, then you can free up your brain to focus on only the task right in front of you. And in my humble opinion, the best tool for doing all this is the Todoist app.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are many apps to help you manage tasks. Some of them are great! For instance, I’ve used (or heard positive things about) all the following apps:
The reason I prefer Todoist to the competition is due to its simple functionality. It’s elegantly designed so that it’s easy to figure out. Like you, I hate using any app that requires hours of education to learn. With Todoist, you can download it right now and create your first task list within five minutes.
Writing down your tasks is useful, but if you want to build life-long habits, try using Todoist.
On the other hand, Todoist has many advanced features that allow you to manage hundreds of tasks and projects—without making you feel overwhelmed.
I’m not saying that Todoist is necessarily better than any of the other apps I mentioned, but I have found that it’s the most robust when it comes to managing all that you have to do every day. (We’ll talk more about the specific benefits of Todoist in the next section.)
About this Todoist Tutorial
At this point, you might be asking yourself: “If Todoist is so simple to use, then why do I need to read a tutorial about it?"
Well, the simplest answer is that, while Todoist isn’t hard to understand, there are many cool features and strategies that many people fail to use. Furthermore, if you use Todoist incorrectly, this app can actually hinder your productivity.
Let me explain: Most to-do lists are a mix of reminders, appointments, tasks, and random goals. These can often cause you to feel overwhelmed. Even if you work diligently and complete dozens of tasks, you might end the day feeling frustrated because you didn’t check off every item on your list.
The goal of this Todoist tutorial is to help you rethink your to-do lists. On the surface, you’ll find a walkthrough of all the app’s features, but you’ll also discover many strategies that can help you focus on the tasks that truly matter.
Specifically, you will learn how to:
identify the activities that are most important for your personal and professional life
remember every single date-specific appointment, meeting, and personal obligation
create projects with clearly identifiable next steps
use Todoist to remove the distractions and “noise" that prevent you from focusing on your big-picture activities
implement the advanced features to streamline the most precious asset that you possess—your time
The trick to eliminating that feeling of overwhelm is to redesign the way you manage tasks. Todoist can help you do this.
About the Screenshots and Links
Before we get started with the “meat" of this tutorial, there is one thing I’d like to mention. While I’ve included many images in this post, there won’t be a screenshot for every single feature that Todoist offers.
The reason is simple:
Todoist can be installed on 13 devices. This means it would be a very boring read (and a waste of your time) if I included screenshots and instructions for every single device. Instead, I recommend that you visit the Todoist page for your preferred platform and then spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with how it works. You can do this by clicking the links below or visiting the Todoist home page and clicking on the appropriate icon in the list just below the banner.
After installing Todoist, you’ll discover a clear set of instructions that can show you how to get started with Todoist. In fact, before moving on, I recommend installing the app on at least one of your devices.
Seriously—go do it right now!
Another thing about the images: You’ll probably notice that many of the screenshots will look different from what you see with your version of Todoist. Once again, that’s because each of the 13 platforms has a unique layout. And, furthermore, Todoist is constantly updating and tweaking the app, so as we move into 2018 and beyond, the layout of Todoist will definitely change!
I hope you’re ready to master the Todoist app. Next we’ll talk about the benefits of this app and why I think it’s the best task management tool in the market.
8 Benefits of Using the Todoist App
After being introduced to Todoist, I have found that I can achieve a level of potential that I was never able to achieve before. Even my largest projects are made up of much smaller tasks, and Todoist helps me keep all my important information in one place. This allows me to live my life in a more organized manner, which ultimately leads to achieving my goals faster with more productivity.
On the other hand, if you’re still on the fence about whether to try Todoist, then here are eight benefits that will hopefully convince you to make the switch.
#1. Todoist is available on ALL major platforms.
With Todoist’s apps and extensions for all major platforms, your tasks will always be available to you. Whether you’re on a desktop computer, on your laptop at the office, or on your phone or tablet, you will have constant access to the tasks that you need to complete.
What’s more, if you’re someone who likes wearable technology (like an Apple Watch), then you can review and add tasks directly through this device. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will always have access to your list of tasks and projects in Todoist.
Now, you may not think that you always need access to information for your work projects. But what if you are out and need to check your calendar or identify a quick task that you can work on if you’re waiting in line? Todoist allows you to have all of that at your fingertips, even if you are out running errands.
#2. Todoist uses push notifications that act as important reminders.
I usually turn off push notifications for any new app that I download. I find them to be intrusive and excessive, and they often pop up when I am trying to do something important.
However, the push notifications that are sent by Todoist are always relevant, and they can help you remember important tasks and appointments that you might otherwise forget. If you use reminders selectively (which I’ll discuss later), these notifications will help you make sure you never miss a critical meeting or deadline.
#3. Todoist uses cloud storage to protect your tasks.
While I have found some other apps useful in the past when I was trying to keep myself organized, I would find very little benefit from that app if my tablet was at home with the app on it and I was somewhere else. When information is only stored on one device, it forces me to take that device everywhere I go.
With cloud storage, all the information that you put in Todoist can be accessed from any device. Cloud storage refers to a model where data is stored on remote servers that can be accessed from any Internet connection. The data is maintained, synced, operated, and managed by a cloud storage service provider.
Todoist’s cloud storage will keep you from having to take your phone, laptop, and tablet with you everywhere you go. You can access this information even if you’re on a new device—like a public computer in a library.
Additionally, if your device breaks or if you lose it, you can simply download the app on any new device and sign in to see that all your data is still available.
#4. Todoist offers an inexpensive premium version.
I have often found after using an app for a while that the premium version is necessary. However, with every company wanting to charge me a monthly or yearly fee for their services, I have to pick and choose which ones are really worth it. Using all of them really starts to add up quickly.
Not only is Todoist affordable, it’s a steal for the benefits you receive. As of this writing, the app costs under $30 for the year, which is under $3 per month. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can be completely organized and walk around with all the information you’ll need at your fingertips.
We’ll talk more about this premium version in the next section.
#5. Todoist is constantly updated.
In the past, I’ve used other apps to manage my tasks. These have been great for remembering shopping lists or a short list of tasks for the day. But while these have also been helpful, they’ll often break when the developer stops working on the app or moves to another project. Once this happens, the app is essentially frozen in time and doesn’t update with our constantly changing tech world.
No need to worry about developers abandoning the app, Todoist is constantly updated.
With over 40 employees in 20 countries, Todoist is loyal to its 5 million users, which is also why many users choose to upgrade to the premium version. As users begin to see Todoist as a partner in their everyday lives, it becomes clear that this app is a long-term need for only a small investment.
With its growing membership, Todoist has the capital it needs to keep updating with new features, platforms, and languages. It won’t become obsolete, forcing you to switch to new technology. It will always be applicable to the most updated technology. As technology evolves, Todoist will be right there beside us taking those same steps forward.
#6. Todoist has a distraction-free design.
Sure, I can appreciate all of the work that app developers put into adding bells and whistles to their products. But when it comes to accomplishing on my goals, I need to be laser-focused, not distracted by unnecessary buttons or pictures. Between social media, text messages, email, and in-person meetings, I don’t need any more “noise" interrupting me when I am trying to accomplish my goals.
The distraction-free design of Todoist really shows me that the people behind the app want to put my project first, not theirs.
Unlike many other apps, it doesn’t load up the screen with an excessive number of buttons, options, and other unnecessary things. Instead, when you open the app, all it presents are the exact tasks that you need to complete for the day. You have already put in the information you need to see, and that information is simply being relayed back to you.
This helps to simplify your to-do list and removes annoying distractions. With their clean design, Todoist only tells you what you need to know, not what they want you to know.
On the other hand, if you want to review your projects or plan your week, Todoist also designs the app so that it’s easy to find this information with just a few taps or clicks. It’s very easy to navigate and very user-friendly, no matter how much or how little you have stored on there. No matter what your tech background is, Todoist is intuitive.
#7. Todoist provides one central location for all your information.
Before I used Todoist, my productivity system was composed of a mixed bag of tools. Using a combination of weekly task sheets, habit apps, and multiple productivity programs, I often found things got left behind. Additionally, my information was often kept in different locations. While this can be good to keep distractions away, in this fluid world, sometimes I need to access something right away without a lot of searching.
Now I have one central location where I can store all my personal and professional obligations together, including my goals and habits.
Plus, there are some great hacks and tricks (which I’ll discuss later) that you can use to sync up with other apps and software programs. For example, Todoist works well with programs such as Google Calendar, Slack, and Evernote. This allows me to schedule an activity with one of these other tools, and it will automatically show up on my list of tasks in Todoist.
It’s a huge time-saver, knowing that I can rely on just one app to manage all the open loops in my life.
#8. Todoist allows for easy collaboration.
Often, I need to share my work with my virtual assistant or even people outside of my company. In my personal life, I need to share my shopping list with my wife in case she is going to the store without me. Being able to collaborate with other people is a really important part of being productive.
Todoist lets you easily share information with other people so they can be up to date as well. This is much more convenient than attaching links to emails or having to stop what you’re doing to send a text message. You simply add and share on Todoist, and you can be confident that your recipient will have the information they need.
Todoist lets you easily share information with other people so they can be up to date as well.
It really is that simple. Todoist helps people achieve their potential because it recognizes that everything we accomplish, no matter how big or small, is all about the steps that it takes to get there.
Having somewhere to store the necessary steps you take in life to be your best self is one of the most helpful tools you can have. Todoist can provide this to you in a current and relevant format without adding distractions to your life.
Should You Get Todoist Premium?
We’ve talked briefly about the premium version and how, unlike other productivity apps, it’s surprisingly inexpensive. It’s currently less than $30 per year for individual users and under $30 per user per year for teams. For less than $3 per month, you can access all the bonus features of the app that will skyrocket your efficiency and productivity.
So the question is: Should you upgrade to the premium version?
The answer depends on your personal situation. If you suspect you’ll use the app daily, this expenditure is a no-brainer. On the other hand, if you don’t commit to using it daily, paying for the premium version might be a waste of money.
I think it’s a good investment because you’ll unlock the following features when you upgrade to the premium version (which I’ll explain throughout this post):
task labels & reminders
200 active projects (increased from 80)
25 people per project (increased from 5)
ability to add tasks via email
task comments & file uploads
productivity tracking and charts
In my opinion, these bonus features are critical to managing your tasks efficiently—and they’re offered at an extremely affordable price. That said, I do recommend trying the free version for a few days before subscribing to the premium features. If you find yourself using the app daily, then you should consider upgrading to the premium version because it will take your productivity to the next level.
Well, that about covers the preliminary information about Todoist. Now we’ll talk about how to get started with the app, and then we’ll dive into the core features that you’ll use daily.
Todoist Tutorial: Getting Started
Out of the box, Todoist doesn’t look very fancy. After installing it, you’ll see a screen that looks like this:
At the top, you’ll see your upcoming tasks and appointments. These are broken down into three options. All are self-explanatory:
Think of this like the inbox of your email account. The tasks here are all the incompletes and open loops that you haven’t processed. You’ll often use the Inbox when you want to add a task without having to add it to a specific project.
These are the tasks that you’ve scheduled to be completed today (obviously). Typically, you’ll spend the bulk of your time in this screen, working on the tasks that need to be processed immediately.
3. Next 7 days
This gives you a quick bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in the next week. You can use this to plan your week and pick the best days to work on specific tasks.
Below these three options are your project folders. The basic project list that Todoist offers is a mixed bag of personal and professional categories:
Movies to Watch
Immediately to the right of the projects are two tabs: Labels and Filters, which we’ll cover extensively later on.
Besides that, there aren’t too many buttons on the basic screen of Todoist. And that’s the beauty of this program. It’s elegantly designed so you can hyper-focus on just the tasks that you need to complete. All the other features are kept out of sight until you need to access them.
For instance, at the top of the screen, you’ll see a few buttons, like a plus sign, alarm bell, gear, and a circle.
If you click the gear symbol, you’ll find a list of account features, which we’ll cover next.
Account Features of Todoist
Todoist has many additional features that can help with your task management efforts. Some are interesting, but others (in my opinion) aren’t critical to your success at completing your most important tasks.
To access these extra features, simply tap or click the gear symbol that’s next to your account name to see the list of options. Here’s how this would typically look in Todoist:
From there, you will see a series of options on this screen:
This is used to edit or update your screen name and email address. It also gives you the address for your iCalendar Feed, which can be used to sync with other platforms. (We’ll talk more about calendars in the next section.)
Time & Language
This feature lets you pick what day you’d consider to be the “start" of your week and designate the next weekday. Both options directly impact when a task will be scheduled when using the Due Date feature, which we’ll cover in the next section.
The Time & Language feature can also be used to update your language preferences. But be very careful with this option because you don’t to waste 30 minutes trying to figure out how to switch back to English when all you see are Chinese characters. (Like I did last month.)
This is part of the Smart Schedule feature by which Todoist can predict the best day for rescheduling tasks. While it’s supposed to base these days on your previous activities, I have found that this feature doesn’t work that well. Play around with it, but you might not find it to be very useful.
Personalization (or Theme)
You can use this feature to customize your start page. Specifically, you can pick to display a project folder instead of today’s tasks. This feature can also be used to change the color of the app—instead of the default red setting.
Here you can select/deselect messages sent to your phone and/or email account for completing tasks, actions taken by collaborators, and comments mentioned to you. If you have team members who also use Todoist, then this feature provides a simple way to stay on top of what everyone else is doing.
This feature can be used to set automatic reminders that will pop up for every task that needs to be completed at a certain time. You can choose from a few options:
0 minutes before
10 minutes before
30 minutes before
1 hour before
2 hours before
no default reminder
Todoist's notifications and reminders helps you stay on top of everything.
If you’re someone who needs reminders for those critical, time-sensitive tasks, then you can customize this feature to notify you whenever an important deadline is looming.
This feature can help you save time when using Todoist. Instead of having to tap or click certain options, you can choose from a series of shortcuts to add and edit your tasks.
If you’re like me, then you’re someone who uses multiple devices for your work. So it’s important that when you update or add a task on one device that it automatically shows up on all the other devices that have a Todoist account.
Unfortunately, sometimes your Todoist account won’t automatically sync. So with this feature, you can tap or click this option to see when the app was last synced and to report any issues that you’re currently experiencing.
Todoist uses Karma to “gamify" your productivity. Like any game, you can earn points for adding/completing tasks, keeping daily streaks, and achieving Todoist Zero (more about this later).
Basically, the more you use the app, the more points you’ll earn. Furthermore, there are eight levels you can work up to as you gain points:
Beginner—0 to 499
Novice—500 to 2,499
Intermediate—2,500 to 4,999
Professional—5,000 to 7,499
Expert—7,500 to 9,999
Master—10,000 to 19,999
Grandmaster—20,000 to 49,999
There are a few additional features that you’ll find in the Karma screen:
Create daily and weekly goals for the number of tasks you’d like to complete.
Set the days of the week for when you’re actively using Todoist.
Toggle Karma to “On" or “Off".
Set a “Vacation Mode" if you’d like to pause your Todoist activities.
View tasks you’ve completed in total—over the last seven days, and over the last 4 weeks.
View your daily and weekly streaks of completing your goals.
If you’re someone who loves that sense of achievement when using an app, then Karma is a great tool for turning your to-do list into a fun experience.
That said, I believe it’s better to focus on what’s truly important than to obsess over checking dozens of tasks just to earn points. Feel free to use Karma, but also keep in mind that it’s better to focus on the quality rather than quantity of your tasks.
Finally, I want to emphasize once again that some buttons and features in this tutorial might not match up to what you’re seeing on your end. Just play around with the app and you’ll probably find the feature hidden somewhere in Todoist.
Even though Todoist limits the number of features on the home screen, you still might not know where to get started with the app. That’s why, starting in the next section, I will provide a feature-by-feature walkthrough of all that you can do with the app.
Before reading this section, I encourage you to fire up the Todoist app and follow along with the walkthrough that I’m about to provide. In my opinion, the best way to learn anything is to try things and play around with the different options.
Okay, now let’s dive into the features. First up is the core Task screen, which forms the backbone of the app.
TASKS: The Core Feature of Todoist
Understanding the Tasks Screen
The bulk of your time in Todoist will be spent in the core Task screen. Whether you’re adding items to projects like Inbox, Today, Next 7 days, or a specific project folder, your to-do lists are organized by the tasks that you decide to complete. So it’s important to understand the function of the task screen and how it can help you manage your to-do lists.
To get started, simply select the + button to add a task to your inbox or an existing project. Once this is selected, you’ll see a screen like this:
The options you see on this screen help you to add important context to each task that you create. In a way, they answer the who, what, where, why, and how questions that you need to check off this item from your to-do list.
Here is a breakdown of how to customize each task:
“What do you want to get done?" or “Add a Task"
Depending on what platform you’re using, you’ll see one of these questions, which acts as a prompt for adding a task.
This feature is self-explanatory—simply write down the specific task you’d like to complete.
Select an existing project where you’d like to categorize this task. My recommendation is to put all your activities in a category that represents an important area of your life. We’ll talk more about projects in the next section.
Labels are great for adding context to a task. They could describe the location where it can be completed, or the total time it takes to do it, or the person/people involved with completing it, or if you’re waiting for a specific item before you can take action on the task. Once again, this is a feature we’ll explore in further detail later on in the tutorial.
One great feature of Todoist is the ability to rank tasks in order of importance:
Priority 1 (red flag): Most important
Priority 2 (orange flag): Somewhat important
Priority 3 (yellow flag): Slightly important
Priority 4 (no flag): General tasks that need to get done, but aren’t as important
At first, you might be tempted to mark multiple tasks with a red or orange flag because they all feel important. This is a mistake that I made. But if your tasks list is full of numerous priority 1 entries, you’ll find it hard to identify the next action to work on.
It has been said that once upon a time, the word priority was used in the singular form, which meant you could only have one priority at a time. Unfortunately, in our modern frenetic world, everyone seems to have dozens of priorities.
In my opinion, if you’d like to truly master your time (and get the most from Todoist), you must be extremely selective about what you label as a priority. The only items that should get a priority 1 label are the tasks that absolutely, positively need to be completed by the end of the day.
To simplify things, whenever you’re creating a task, you can type in a keyboard shortcode (or abbreviations) when creating task that represent these priorities. Like:
P1 for priority 1 tasks
P2 for priority 2 tasks
P3 for priority 3 tasks
Sure, these shortcode will only save you a few seconds, but when you create enough tasks in Todoist, these seconds really start to add up!
Add a Comment
Comments are used to add relevant information to this task, including multimedia files (i.e., images, audio, computer files, and even emojis) from your device.
You can also add a date by which the task is completed. There are a number of options here.
First, you can pick a date on the calendar that pops up. Simply pick a day, and Todoist will assign it as a task for that day.
Next, you can use a number of shortcodes that let you add these one-time tasks. Here a few examples of words to type into Todoist that will automatically be recognized as a date-specific request.
Today (or tod)
Tomorrow (or tom)
Today at 10:00 or Tomorrow at 10:00
Next week (the default setting is Monday of next week)
Next month (the default setting is the first day of the month)
Jun 1 (You can add an abbreviation for each month by entering the first three letters plus a number, then Todoist will recognize it as a specific day. So: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, or Dec.)
06/01/2017 (You can write out a numeric date by month, day, and year.)
8 p.m. (You can type out a time and Todoist will schedule it for that day or for the next day if the time has already passed.)
7 hours (Add a number, plus the word “hours" and you can schedule the completion of that task at that point.)
5 days or 5 weeks (Same concept. Type out a number and the word “days," Todoist will recognize it as something that should be scheduled at a later date.)
I know some of this might be confusing—it took me a while to get comfortable with all the shortcodes and abbreviations that Todoist uses. That’s why I recommend getting started with the calendar feature to schedule tasks and then try the shortcodes when you’re more familiar with the app.
Sidenote: You might get frustrated by the predictive nature of the shortcodes. Similar to the auto-correct feature on your phone, Todoist occasionally gets things wrong about the information you’re trying to enter.
As an example, I have a weekly business meeting with my friend Tom. Unfortunately, whenever I type Meeting with Tom, Todoist thinks I mean, Meeting with (scheduled for tomorrow).
It’s frustrating, to say the least. So I’ve had to change the wording to Meeting with Thomas in order for Todoist to let me add the full task.
You’ll probably come across a few of these minor annoyances. But don’t stress out if that happens. Simply create an adjusted name for the activity and then move on.
The final way to enter a due date is to schedule it as a recurring action. This is perfect for those habits and routines that you’d like to incorporate into your day.
It’s easy to create a recurring task. Simply type the word every, followed by a number or day-specific description. Here are a few that you can include:
Every Monday (or any other day of the week)
Every weekday (Monday through Friday)
Every week (starts the day you add it)
Every month (starts the day you add it)
Every year (starts the day you add it)
Every morning (starts at 9 a.m.)
Every evening (starts at 7 p.m.)
Every 3 days (or any number of days you select)
Every 2nd Friday (or any combination of numbers or specific days)
Every 20th (or any day of the month)
You can get very creative with the one-time or recurring due dates that you create in Todoist. Using them wisely, you can create reminders and notifications for every aspect of your life to facilitate that mind like water concept that David Allen discusses.
No longer will you have to worry about all that you need to complete. Instead, Todoist will act like a personal assistant who reminds you of everything—freeing up your mind to focus on the important tasks in front of you.
The final feature of the task screen is you can make your text stand out by adding a few characters. Here are a few examples:
Emojis: Simply upload an emoji from your phone or tablet into the task.
Completing and Editing Tasks
It’s easy to mark a task as completed. Depending on your platform, you’ll either select the checkmark or the radio button then the task will be marked as completed in your task list and any project it’s associated with.
If you need to edit an existing task, that’s not hard to do either. Simply select the pencil image on the task, and you’ll see a few options to change the project, due date, level of priority, or even add a comment. You can see what this looks like in the image below:
Add (or delete) multimedia files to the task.
Update the task to change the description, project, label, or priority, or to add a reminder.
Change the due date of the task.
On most devices, this is represented by three dots (…). With this menu, you can add new tasks above or below the existing task, pin it to your start menu, archive it, or delete it.
You can create reminders to complete a specific task. These are similar to the “push notifications" you often see on cell phones—a message will pop up reminding you to complete a specific activity.
You can set up a reminder in one of two ways:
on a time and date when the reminder will pop up
on a location where you can use Todoist’s map tool to trigger the reminder
The location reminder is a premium feature that can help you create complex reminders. Specifically, it can act as a trigger to complete a positive habit in certain locations. For instance, you can use this feature to create a reminder to review your list of important tasks whenever you walk into your work location, or you can trigger a different reminder to drink water when you head into your local gym.
If you’re someone who frequently struggles with remembering all those habits you’d like to build, then Todoist can help you do it! And speaking of habits, let me go over a strategy you can use with tasks to build habits into your daily routine.
How to Use the Task Feature to Build Habits
I believe there is too much “digital noise" in our modern world. From social media to app push notifications, we have become a society that’s far too connected to our technology. As such, I think it’s important to limit the number of apps and software programs you use daily. This brings me to another reason I love Todoist—you can use this app to build and reinforce habits.
Why Todoist Is the Perfect Trigger
There are many excellent apps that can help you build habits—one of my favorites is Coach.me. That said, I no longer use it because of something called “app overwhelm."
When you need multiple apps to run your life, it’s easy to feel stressed because each piece of technology represents yet another “thing" you need to do daily. Not only does this cause a feeling of overwhelm, it also limits your ability to focus on what’s truly important in your life. So, while I love Coach.me, I feel that you can easily build habits by using the Todoist app.
The reason I recommend Todoist is because of its push notification feature, which acts as a “trigger" to complete a specific action. As I mentioned in my book, Habit Stacking, a trigger is a cue that uses one of your five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste) that acts as a reminder that you need to do something.
Triggers are important because most people can’t remember a large number of tasks without a reminder. So, a trigger can push you into taking action. For instance, many people use their alarm clocks or cell phones as a trigger to wake them up in the morning.
Use Todoist every day to build habits by constantly receiving reminders that reinforce positive behaviors.
Now, there are two basic types of triggers. The first is an external trigger (like a cell phone alarm, a push notification, or a Post-it note on your refrigerator). External triggers work because they create a Pavlovian response (e.g., when the alarm goes off, you complete a specific task).
The second type is an internal trigger, which is a feeling, thought, or emotions you associate with an established habit. These are like a scratch that you must itch. For instance, if you’ve ever compulsively felt the need to “check in" with social media, then this action was the direct result of an internal trigger.
You can use Todoist as your central hub for all your habit-building efforts because the notifications will act as triggers. Here are a few reasons this is important:
You can use the reminders feature to create an external trigger that goes off at a specific time or location.
You can create recurring tasks that pop up daily, weekly, monthly, or any variable time that you select.
You have a visual reminder of the tasks (i.e., habits) that pop up daily. If you’re someone who likes to complete all “open loops," then these constant visual reminders will help you check off all those important habits.
If you use Todoist every day, then you’ll discover that it’s not hard to build habits because you’ll constantly receive reminders that reinforce these positive behaviors.
How to Build Habits with Todoist
It’s not hard to set up a habit framework within Todoist. My suggestion is to create a “parent project" for all your habits and then create a separate project for three habit types: daily, weekly, and monthly. Here’s how this looks in my Todoist account:
From there, you can use the recurring due date feature so the habit is scheduled at a specific day, time, or combination of both. For instance, you could create habits that automatically pop up:
Every day at 7:00 a.m.
Every 1st of the month
Every 14 days
You get the picture. If you review the previous section on adding tasks, then you’ll see a variety of options for creating tasks that can be scheduled at a specific time or day.
Focus on Building Simple Habits
As someone who constantly thinks (and writes) about habit development, I’ve learned that one of the secrets to consistency is to set realistic daily goals. That’s why I recommend creating habits that are achievable—no matter how hectic your life might get. The simplest way to do this is to incorporate a mini habits concept.
Mini habits is a term coined by my friend Stephen Guise in the book of the same name. The purpose of mini habits is to remove the resistance that you feel when it comes to starting a difficult (or time-consuming) task. It’s easy to schedule an activity into your day (like running for an hour), but it’s hard to complete when you feel a lack of interest.
Mini habits work because they eliminate motivation from the equation. Instead of setting an extremely challenging goal, you set a lowball goal that makes it super simple to get started. This removes any excuse for skipping a day. Examples include: reading for one minute, exercising for five minutes, or eating one serving of vegetables.
That said, what’s considered a “stupidly simple" habit varies from person to person. If you’re someone who struggles with habit development, then I recommend creating habits that don’t require much willpower to complete daily.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who only needs Todoist to reinforce an existing habit, then it’s okay to create a challenging but doable goal. For instance, I focus on five core habits that I strive to do daily:
Write for at least 30 minutes.
Get 5,000 steps of movement.
Read nonfiction books for at least 20 minutes.
Complete a morning habit stacking routine.
Complete a post-workout habit stack.
For the first three habits, I aim to do much, much more than these lowball goals. But I have found that there are certain days when I don’t have a lot of time (like on vacation), so having these simple goals makes them easy to complete—even if my life is crazy busy.
When it comes to creating habits in Todoist, my advice is to pick a target metric that’s super easy for you to do every day. The target number doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you can do it unless there’s a major personal emergency.
Create habits in Todoist by picking a target metric that’s super easy for you to do every day.
How to Use Todoist to Build Habit Stacks
I’ve mentioned habit stacking a few times already, so let me briefly explain this concept.
A habit stacking routine can be broken down into five critical components:
Identify small important actions that you need to do daily.
Group these actions together into a routine.
Schedule a specific time each day to complete this routine.
Use a trigger as a reminder to complete this stack.
Make it super easy to get started.
Since you already know that you can use the Todoist reminders feature to create triggers, let me point out another feature that can build on your habit development efforts—Comments.
A habit stack isn’t made up on the spot. It should be a set of actions that you determine ahead of time that are personally important. This means putting each habit into a step-by-step checklist that you’ll refer to constantly. And the best place to put this checklist is in the Comments section of a task.
As an example, here’s the checklist I include in Todoist for my morning stack:
If you’d like to use Todoist to create a habit stack, then my suggestion is to put each action into one of the recurring tasks. That way, when the recurring habit is scheduled in Todoist, you can simply view the checklist of actions within the task—instead of keeping it in a separate location or on a piece of paper or in a separate app (like Evernote).
Well, that’s how to use Todoist to build habits. Now let’s talk about other types of tasks you can create in this app.
5 Types of Todoist Tasks
Okay, this where it might get a little confusing, so stick with me here.
At its core, Todoist is a task management app. It’s best used to write down every action that needs to be completed or any idea that pops into your head. The general term I’ve used so far for any item entered into the app is task. But from my experience, there are many different types of tasks that go into Todoist.
In this section, I’ll briefly cover five types of tasks:
And I will explain why it’s important to create a distinction between each one.
These are the quick tasks that don’t require a lot of advanced planning. They can be completed in a single block of time—anywhere from a minute to a few hours. Most of the time, actions are those random activities that pop up during the week that need to be scheduled into your calendar.
writing a quick report
getting a haircut
mowing the lawn
going to the post office to mail a package
handling an unexpected customer service issue
Actions can also include habits. As we’ve discussed, these are the recurring personal and professional activities you need to do daily.
One type of Todoist tasks is Actions. These are quick tasks that don’t require a lot of advanced planning.
checking and responding to email
writing for business or for fun
reading nonfiction books
exercising for at least 30 minutes
completing an evening “shutdown" routine
This one is pretty obvious—some tasks require you to be at a certain place at a certain time and meet with a specific person (or group of people). Generally speaking, there’s no wiggle room when it comes to completing an appointment-based task. It needs to be scheduled into your calendar, and then everything else in your life has to be worked around it.
doctor and dental appointments
conversations with your lawyer, accountant, agent, or other professionals
events for family members
You can use Todoist to schedule these appointments at a specific day and time, but unfortunately the app doesn’t have a calendar feature that lets you look at your schedule from a weekly or monthly perspective.
The good news is that Todoist does sync with tools like Google Calendar. This means that anything that goes on your Google Calendar will automatically show up as a Todoist task. I’ll show you how to set this up in a later section.
We all have great ideas. They often come out of nowhere—popping into your mind at the weirdest moments, like when you’re exercising, showering, doing chores, and talking to others. It doesn’t matter when or where you get an idea—what’s important is to capture it! And one place you can capture these ideas is in Todoist.
tasks you need to complete
future projects to pursue
strategies to add to your current projects
people you should network with or meet
resources to research
The possibilities are endless when you use Todoist as an idea capture device.
It doesn’t matter when or where you get an idea—what’s important is to capture it! And one place you can capture these ideas is in Todoist.
Now, let me be honest here—I typically use the Evernote app to store all my ideas. I find that Evernote is a better platform for capturing certain items (like receipts, website bookmarks, audio notes, and other types of research). But since my Todoist app is always open, I’ll often use it as temporary storage. When an idea pops into my head, I’ll immediately put it in Todoist. Then at the end of the day, I’ll either add it to an existing project or record it in Evernote as a potential project to pursue.
Whether you use Todoist, Evernote, a journal, or even a scrap of paper, it’s important that you develop the habit of recording every idea that you have. You never know when a random thought will turn into a million-dollar idea!
Many tasks will require multiple actions to complete. Sometimes these can be done in a single day, and other times you’ll need to spend weeks, even months, doing them. That’s why you should turn every multi-step activity into an action-oriented project list.
This project list can include items like:
a due date, if there’s a deadline involved—including milestones for phases of the project
simple tasks that can be completed in a single day,
clearly identifiable “next steps" that might prevent the project from moving forward
labels that add context about where the task needs to be completed, how long it will take, or who needs to be involved
links and resources that you want to research
daily habits critical to the success of the project
As you’ll see later, projects are a major feature of Todoist, so we’ll cover this topic in a lot more detail. But for now, here are a few examples of tasks that can be turned into a project:
buying a gift for a specific person
preparing for a speech
tackling a new work project
training for an athletic event (like your first 5K race or an obstacle course race)
planning a trip for your family
It’s important to create a distinction between projects and processes. With a project, you often don’t know what steps are needed to complete it. You start with a rough idea and keep adding tasks to the project as you think of them.
Did you know that you can create a process list one time and upload it to Todoist? This way, you’ll have a paint-by-numbers checklist that you’re familiar with.
On the other hand, with a process, you’ve previously completed these actions before, so all you’re doing is following a familiar blueprint. The goal of a process is to create a checklist so you don’t miss an important step along the way.
As an example, when I first started writing books, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Instead, I did a lot of research and made educated guesses about what needed to be done. As a result, my early project lists were a mix of random ideas, specific actions, and half-formed thoughts.
Now that I’ve published dozens of books, I’ve boiled everything down to a step-by-step process. All I have to do is load up my list to Todoist, complete each task, and once this checklist is complete … voila! I have a completed book.
So how can you make a distinction between projects and processes?
Well, once you’ve completed a similar project once or twice, then you won’t need to create a brand-new project list because all the actions will be familiar. Instead, all you’ll need is a checklist (i.e., a process) to remind you of all the steps to complete.
And the best part?
You can create a process list one time, upload it to Todoist, and then you’ll have a paint-by-numbers checklist that you’re familiar with. Once again, this is a topic we’ll cover extensively in a future section. Until then, here are a few examples of processes:
going grocery shopping
packing for a trip
preparing for your weekly meeting
writing a book
publishing a blog post
Well, there you have it: five types of tasks that can be included in Todoist. Now let’s move on and talk about why it’s crucial to identify your most important tasks and work on these actions before anything else.
Todoist 101: How to Focus on Your Most Important Tasks (MITs)
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if your day starts with dozens of tasks and appointments. You can simplify everything by identifying the tasks that have the biggest impact on your career or life, then do them first thing in the morning. These are often called the Most Important Tasks or MITs for short.
My suggestion is to pick one to three MITs that absolutely must be completed by the end of the day. Two should relate to an urgent project with an immediate deadline, and one should be part of a long-term goal.
For instance, many years ago, I determined that one of my core 80/20 activities is writing. So, even if I have a bunch of urgent tasks that are due at the end of the day, I always set aside at least 30 minutes for this task—usually right after my morning routine. From there, I spend the rest of my morning on the other two MITs.
By focusing on important activities right away, I create an energized state that allows me to work on any project in the afternoon.
Todoist makes it super simple to identify your MITs. Get started by reviewing your list of upcoming tasks in the morning. Then identify the three that will have the biggest impact on your life and rank them, using the Priority feature in Todoist:
MIT #1 (red flag priority)
MIT #2 (orange flag priority)
MIT #3 (yellow flag priority)
These MITs will be displayed at the top of your task list, (right below any time-specific appointments.) This provides a great visual reminder of the specific items that need to be completed for that day.
Simplify everything by identifying the tasks that have the biggest impact on your career or life, then do them first thing in the morning.
Warning: As a reminder, be careful with the priorities feature. A task should only be labeled as a priority if it’s time sensitive or is a task that is crucial to your long-term success. The danger is if you identify all your tasks as priorities, then you’ll be confused about what task needs to be worked on first.
Don’t underestimate the value of the simple concept of MITs. Whereas most people start their day engaged in trivial activities (i.e., checking email, browsing social media, or attending meetings), you can hit the ground running by knocking off the tasks that have the biggest impact on your career or personal life.
Trust me: There’s no greater feeling in the world then reaching the afternoon knowing that you’ve already checked off the biggest task from your to-do list.
Should You Focus on Todoist Zero?
Before we move on, let me talk briefly about a concept called “Todoist Zero" and how it can limit your productivity.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s fun to complete dozens of tasks in a single day. There’s something motivating about starting the day with a lengthy list of tasks and then systematically checking them off. You end the day feeling like you’ve really accomplished something.
Todoist encourages this behavior by notifying others that you’ve achieved Todoist Zero—completed all the items on your list—by sharing the #todoistzero on social media.
You see, the danger of focusing on Todoist Zero is you’re emphasizing quantity over quality. In the Todoist world, it’s better to complete 30 quick tasks than it is to complete three quality tasks. Todoist even rewards this behavior by awarding you with Karma points.
I call this “checklist porn" because it’s a low-value activity that emphasizes the trivial over what truly matters. In my humble opinion, a to-do list should help you focus on the big-picture items instead of checking off dozens of random tasks.
It’s not necessary to complete every task that you’ve scheduled for the day. Instead, if you’ve completed all your MITs and scheduled appointments, then it’s perfectly okay to not achieve Todoist Zero. Just reschedule any unfinished tasks for tomorrow and pick up where you left off.
Now that you know how to create tasks in Todoist, let’s move on and talk about how to sort tasks into projects. This is yet another way to make sure that your days are spent working on activities that truly add significance to your life.
PROJECTS: A Simple Feature for Organizing Your Tasks
A Brief Explanation of Projects
So far, we’ve only briefly discussed projects, but now let’s dive into the weeds and talk about this Todoist feature.
In my opinion, any task that requires multiple steps to complete should be put into its own project. That way, you can break everything down into actionable steps that can be completed daily.
At the very least, you should create a project for every major area of your life. One idea is to create a project for the seven primary areas of your life:
Goals that help you focus on improving your productivity, increasing your business revenue, or climbing up the proverbial corporate ladder. Whether you’re looking to improve a specific work-related skill or streamline your business, career goals are important because they have a direct impact on the other six areas of your life.
Goals that will increase in importance as you get older. These actions include saving for retirement, improving your credit score, eliminating your credit card debt, and investing to build long-term wealth.
Goals help you maintain a balance of physical fitness and eating the right foods. There are many subcategories that are included here, like losing weight, improving your diet, eating different types of foods, or becoming more physically active.
Use Todoist to help you maintain a balance of physical fitness and eating the right foods.
Goals that relate to personally significant activities. Often, we feel overwhelmed by everything else in life, so we procrastinate on those “bucket list" items that don’t seem immediately important. However, the best way to improve the quality of your life is to set goals that relate to the fun stuff. These activities can include planning vacations, spending time with your family, or focusing on a hobby like home brewing, hunting, cooking, or painting.
Goals that are about enhancing relationships with your significant other, family members, or friends. You could also set goals to improve your social skills, find a romantic partner, or simply become a better person to everyone you meet.
Goals that are about helping others through volunteering, supporting your favorite charity, or donating money to causes you believe in.
Goals in this category have a different meaning for each of us. They could include activities like meditation, prayer, yoga, or reciting affirmations. Basically, whatever helps you achieve a calm peace of mind can be categorized as a spiritual goal.
Really, how you structure your projects is up to you. What I like to do is focus on a few core projects at a time and schedule my tasks around these goals. To get an idea of how this looks, here is a snapshot of my Todoist account:
The way that I structure my Todoist account is by sorting my tasks in seven primary buckets. The first are the habits I’d like to build using Todoist as a reminder. This is represented in the parent project, Routine Habits & Tasks.
Next, there are four current projects I’m focusing on:
Develop Good Habits Blog
Home & Personal Projects
Finally, there is a parent project called “Backburner Projects," which are projects that I’m temporarily putting on hold.
The key to structuring is to organize these projects together in what are called “parent projects."
Parent Projects (and Why You Should Use Them)
A parent project is a top-level folder that contains individual projects within it. You would typically use a parent project for any area of your life where you have to juggle multiple projects at once.
For instance, let’s say you have a parent project of “Finances." Within this category, you could create individual projects like: Debt reduction, Investments, Future Home Purchase, and Taxes. Technically, all can be organized under the umbrella of finances, but putting them into a different project helps you laser-focus on the specific goal you’d like to achieve for each one.
To further illustrate this concept, refer to the previous image of my projects. I’ve broken down the career area of my life into two parent projects—Book Projects and Develop Good Habits Blog.
In the Book Projects parent project, I’ve created a separate project for each of my current books and another one for book marketing strategies I’d like to implement:
Upgrade Your Lifestyle (the book I’m writing next)
In the Develop Good Habits Blog folder, I’ve broken down this massive goal into three separate projects:
Growth Hacking Ideas
Content Creation & SEO (search engine optimization)
I won’t waste your time providing a detailed explanation of the tasks inside each of these projects. Suffice to say, the best way to organize your Todoist projects is to create a few parent projects for your life and then smaller projects for each major goal you’d like to accomplish.
How to Create New Projects
It’s super simple to add your own projects. Just scroll down to the bottom of the project list and look for the option that says: + Add Project. Tap or click this button to see this option:
New project name: Pick a name that’s related to a specific goal you’d like to accomplish (this will help you remember why this project is personally important to you).
Color: Choose from 28 different options for this project.
Shared: Add team members that will collaborate on this project.
Parent: Pick a parent project where this new project will go or pick “no parent" to make it a top-level project.
Like most features in Todoist, these menu options are self-explanatory, but the next set of instructions can be a little confusing, so pay close attention to the next section.
How to Edit Projects
If you tap or click on any project, you’ll have the option to edit it. Unfortunately, this feature can be confusing because each platform has different options (and terminology) for editing projects.
For instance, the two platforms that I use to access Todoist are the Windows 10 app and iPhone. When I edit projects in Windows 10, I see these options:
But when I fire up my iPhone, I see these options:
Don’t worry if what you see in this section is different than what’s displayed on your screen. As always, if you play around with the Todoist app for a few minutes, it’s not hard to figure out the buttons.
Regardless of what platform you use, you should see these options in the Edit Project screen.
Add Task: Create tasks that will be added automatically to the bottom of the project.
Project Comments: Create a description of the project and why it’s important, and upload multimedia files (i.e., images, audio, computer files, and even emojis) from your device.
Share: Give permission to a team member to access this project so he or she can be assigned tasks. You can do this by typing the name or email address of the recipient.
Sort: Organize the tasks in a project using three options: Sort by date, sort by priority, or sort by name.
Edit Project: Change the name of the project, the project color, and who it’s shared with.
Pin to Start: Add this project to the start menu of your computer, which helps you instantly access the project. (This is a limited option only available on a few platforms—like Windows 10.)
Delete: Remove the project and all the tasks included in it.
Archive Project: Remove the project from your list of current projects, but it’s still kept in Todoist—just in case you want to access the project at a later point.
Export to Template: Take your current lists of tasks and turn it into a CSV file that can be used as a project in the future. This is a killer premium feature that I’ll discuss in the next section.
Import to Template: Take an existing file on your computer and add it to an existing project. This is the perfect solution for anyone who likes to use processes throughout their personal and professional life. Again, we’ll cover this feature soon.
Completed Tasks: Look at the lists of all the actions you’ve “checked off" for that project and the date of when it was completed.
Search Tasks: Enter a keyword or phrase to find a specific task.
Activity Log: Look at the tasks you’ve completed and any new items that have recently been added to this list.
That’s a brief overview of how to add projects and edit them. Now let’s move on and talk about five advanced strategies you can use to maximize your productivity when it comes to managing projects.
5 Strategies for Creating Actionable Projects
As you can see, you can do many things with the projects feature. But to get the most from Todoist, you should create a framework where you focus on what’s important and ignore everything else. Here are five strategies that can help you do this.
Strategy #1: Focus on Five Projects
The common mistake that people make with their to-do lists is they create projects for every goal they’d like to achieve someday. This can cause a feeling of overwhelm because you’ll end up with dozens of projects without a clear action plan for what to work on first.
That’s why I recommend a simple strategy: instead of managing dozens of projects in Todoist, I suggest limiting your focus to just a few core areas of your life.
As an example, my current five focuses (in order of priority) are:
Being present with friends and family
Completing an IRONMAN race
Writing and marketing my books
Increasing web traffic to my blog, DevelopGoodHabits.com, and converting visitors into email subscribers
Fixing and updating sections of my home
It’s not written in stone that you concentrate only on five projects. You could have a few more or a few less. The important thing is to proactively think about your time, commitments and where you spend the most time. If every one of your actions is directly aligned with a goal, then you’ll feel excited to do it, which helps you create to-do lists that get results.
The benefit of switching to a “five core projects" focus is it’s easy to make decisions about the tasks you choose to complete. You start each day with a 5- to 10-minute review and pick the activities that will help you make progress on your important goals.
(Focusing on five projects is a concept that I talk about extensively in my book, The Anti-Procrastination Habit. So if you’d like to know how this strategy can help improve your productivity and overall happiness in life, then I encourage you to check out this book.)
Strategy #2: Create a “Backburner" Parent Project List
I know focusing on five projects might be a bit extreme. Like many people, you’re probably someone who has an extensive list of goals and aspirations that don’t fit neatly into a handful of goals. So if you feel there is a goal that you’d like to pursue soon, but not right now, then I recommend creating a project for it and then organizing it under a parent project list titled, “Backburner."
The logic behind this strategy is you’ll have a place to put any tasks/ideas related to this project, but you also won’t feel the impulse to work on them while you’re focusing on your current five projects.
Creating projects for every goal you'd like to achieve someday can cause a feeling of overwhelm.
Think back to the mind like water concept that I mentioned at the beginning of the tutorial. You want to get every idea out of your head, so you can focus on what’s in front of you. With the backburner strategy, you capture an idea, put it in a folder for that goal, and then be confident that this task will be there when you’re ready to work on that particular goal.
To illustrate this point, here are four projects that are in my backburner parent project list:
real estate investing
The first two (finances/investing and real estate investing) are projects that I’ve previously worked on. Right now, there’s nothing I can do to make progress on either goal. For example, for my real estate investing project, I haven’t found a new house that I’d like to purchase, so there’s no action that’s required to work on this project. But as soon as I find something worth buying, then I’ll make this project “active" and commit to working on it daily.
The last two projects (physical product and networking) are related to goals that I’d like to work on soon, but I don’t have the time to do so in the next few months. That said, I’ll occasionally have ideas that might be important, so they go into these projects and will be there when I have the time to follow up on them.
Managing your life through a backburner project list is a simple way to make sure that you don’t miss anything while preventing that feeling of overwhelm whenever you try to manage dozens of daily obligations.
Strategy #3: Create a “Someday/Maybe" Project
Another project list you can have in Todoist is a “Someday/Maybe" list. This is another Getting Things Done concept that helps you capture all the open loops in your life.
If you’re like many people, you frequently have great ideas but not the time to work on them. You know you’d like to do them someday—just not in the immediate future. With a Someday/Maybe list, you can capture these ideas without feeling pressured to work on them immediately.
The Someday/Maybe project is kind of like a bucket list—it’s a central place where you put all the actions you might be interested in doing down the road. These are things like:
the vacation you want to go on with your family
that book you’ve always wanted to write
the work project that you’d focus on
the part of your home that you’d like to remodel
the challenging race you’d like to train for
Unlike the other projects in Todoist, most entries in the Someday/Maybe list aren’t actionable. If you’re focusing on your five core projects, then you probably won’t have time to do anything with these ideas. But having them in one place can be great for those times when you complete one project and need something new to work on.
Be sure to continuously add to the Someday/Maybe list. This is a place where you think big about what you want from life. And whenever you complete one project, you can review this list and pick a new one.
With a Someday/Maybe list, you can capture these ideas without feeling pressured to work on them immediately.
Strategy #4: Turn Projects into Processes
As I’ve discussed, if you have a recurring project with a similar list of steps, then you should consider turning it into a process. You can do this by creating a template and uploading it to Todoist whenever you have to start a new project.
As an example, it takes over 80 individual actions (in addition to daily writing) to publish one of these books. It would take a long time to manually enter these tasks into Todoist. But since I keep all the steps in a single file, all I have to do is create a project for each book, upload the process file to the book-specific project, and then I automatically have a sequential list of the actions that need to be completed.
It’s not hard to turn a project into a process. In fact, you can do it in five steps that only take a few minutes to complete.
#1. Identify any project that has a repeatable list of actions.
You can do this for any area of your personal or professional life. The only requirement is it should be something that you’ll do at least once or twice a year. For instance, you could create a process to:
Plan an upcoming trip—including items like booking a flight/hotel, reserving a car, and researching the area you’re traveling to.
Pack for a trip where you create a checklist of all the items that you need to bring with you. Do this for both business trips and your vacations.
Prepare for a business meeting or conference.
Complete a work-related project that occurs every week or month.
Set up a checklist that you follow for any set of actions related to your job.
Create a grocery list of all the items you typically purchase. You can upload the same template, do a quick review of what you have on hand, and then purchase the remainder at the store.
Follow a recipe of your favorite meal.
The choices are infinite here. You can easily turn dozens of processes that you regularly complete into a project template. Just think of the different areas of your life and turn each recurring activity into a process.
Never underestimate the power of checklists. Not only do they help people stay organized, but they also save lives. For more on this, I highly recommend The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, which talks about how simple checklists have been proven to save lives in the airline and medical industries.
#2. Create the process in a simple file.
The simplest way to do this is to open a spreadsheet program (like Microsoft Excel), put each step in a separate row, and then save this list as a .CSV file.
The key here is to turn these tasks into a step-by-step sequence. This is important because Todoist will create tasks based on the order they show up in the file. So think of all the tasks that are required and make sure they follow a logical flow.
#3. Upload the project to Todoist.
This feature isn’t available on some devices (like the iPhone), so I recommend uploading this template from a Mac or Windows computer. Simply find the CSV file on your computer and upload it.
Here’s an example of how this would look:
#4. Review the list that you’ve just imported.
Make sure the items are in sequential order and that each task has an easy-to-identify next step. If a task is out of order, you can drag and drop it and put it in the correct sequence in this list.
#5. If you already have a project in Todoist that you want to turn into a process, you can export it into a template.
This is a useful technique if you feel that a current project might be important sometime in the future. You can simply take this project and turn into a downloadable file.
There are two ways to export a file:
Export to a file where you can download the steps in a .CSV file.
Export to a URL where you can share the project template with team members.
Using templates for any repeatable process removes a lot of the guesswork that happens with productivity. Instead of wondering about what actions you need to complete, you can open up your process list and follow it like a checklist.
Strategy #5: Ask Yourself: “What’s the Next Action?"
Another concept from Getting Things Done that works well with Todoist is to frequently ask yourself “What’s the next action?" whenever looking at a project. There are a few reasons why this is a valuable question to ask:
It forces you to take action on projects that often sit in Todoist without you doing anything about it. Asking this question forces you to think about the single task you can do right now to move a project forward.
It makes you clarify each step because you’ll often create steps that don’t have an actual clearly identifiable step. Most of the time people will have a vague description without any sort of action plan behind it.
For instance, you might have “plan vacation" as a step in your project. But when you force yourself to ask the “What’s my next action?" question, you can clarify this task and turn it into a starting task like, “Brainstorm 10 vacation destinations."
It forces you to actually take action. We’ve all had those projects that we dread because they seem challenging or insurmountable. The result is you keep putting them off. But when you identify a simple task that you can do to move a project forward, it forces you into action.
Even if you don’t have the entire project mapped out, you’ll at least know what you need to do to move it forward. All you need to do is ask yourself “What’s my next action?"
My recommendation is to review all your current projects at least once a week. Go through all the tasks you’ve created, asking yourself “What’s my next action?" Or more importantly, “What is the simplest thing I can do right now to create momentum?"
If you commit yourself to asking these probing questions, you’ll discover that even the most challenging project can be broken down into a series of doable steps.
Finally, after reviewing this list and identifying those next steps, you can use the Label feature of Todoist to mark them as @Next. This helps you create a simple index of all the tasks that are the bottlenecks preventing you from making forward progress on a project.
Up to this point, we haven’t talked much about the Labels feature (and another feature called Filters), so I’ll go over them in the next section and show you how these advanced features can help you focus on what’s important.
LABELS AND FILTERS: How to Create Dynamic Lists in Todoist
Why Labels Are Important
Earlier in the tutorial, I mentioned two other tabs that are displayed next to the Projects feature—Labels and Filters.
On the surface, both might seem unimportant for your task management efforts. But if you’re someone who frequently juggles numerous projects, then these two features can be a game changer when it comes to identifying the most important tasks that you need to complete right now.
So let’s talk about labels first, and then we’ll dive into filters.
Labels are best used to batch similar tasks together—regardless of what project they are in. You can use labels to identify tasks that require the same type of action to complete them.
As an example, let’s say you create a label like @phone. When you find yourself with an hour block of free time, you can pull up all the tasks related to this task and create an impromptu checklist of all the phone calls you need to make.
Labels are also great for adding context to your to-do lists. They could describe the location where you need to complete a task, or how much time is required, or