I have a confession to make. I’m a sucker for trying out To Do apps, task managers and productivity whatchamacallits. I subscribed for several years to Toodledo. I’ve tried Wunderlist, Trello, Basecamp, Remember the Milk, Any.do, and Todoist. I’ve even been desperate enough to use the task manager in Outlook (blerk).

As I moved between apps, searching for the perfect one (and spending money for the privilege), I kept running into little niggles and issues. For a start, I needed a way to track personal tasks and work related tasks, in the one app. Some events (such as work related tasks) needed to have a due date and time, and several notifications associated with them. Some items are more suited to a Kanban approach (To Do, Doing, Done). I also loved ticking off lists, and because I’m visual, I liked to include drawings or pictures.

(BTW, apparently I’m not the only one who gets frustrated with all of these To Do apps. Wire magazine’s article It’s 2016. Why Can’t Anyone Make a Freaking Decent To Do App? sums it up nicely.)

In 2015, I gave up on apps, and used a paper based system instead. Although I loved it, my quality leather covered folder/journal with room for many inserts quickly wound up looking like a bloated carcass. I stuffed it with a planner, a to do list, a birthday list, index cards, post-it notes, those zip-lock plastic envelopes, an address list, a small sketch book, amusing postcards, inspiring quotes, and scribbled pages ripped from other notebooks. It was held together with elastic bands. It developed a sort of stained charmed as I dropped Coke Zero and chocolate on the pages, and smeared the handwriting because I’m left handed and few pens have ink that dries fast enough (the Paper Mate Inkjoy pens seem to work). As much as I loved using paper it turned into a liability when it came to lugging it around in my backpack/handbag and I lived in fear of it either a) exploding or b) notes dropping out and getting lost. Or worse–a note dropping out and being found by someone I knew and becoming a laughing stock because my grocery list said: try and find a giant Toberlone and eat it.

In 2016, I’ve circled back towards using apps and found myself using Outlook for work meetings, Trello for team related tasks at work, and ToDoist for personal tasks. Ick. In 2017 I decided that I wanted to find something that didn’t require me to subscribe to use all the features, and would satisfy most of my needs to record appointments, capture items visually, and use a check list.

A couple of days ago, I posted that I wasn’t sure about Google Keep. Turns out I hadn’t figured out some of the tricks with Calendar and Keep. Now I’m more familiar with the features, I’ve changed my mind. Google has done a great job of integrating everything together, and producing something that ticks off most of my wants for an app.

My boo-boos when I did the initial setup were…

  1. Not realizing that Google Calendar in the browser lets you switch between a reminder and a task view. I had it set to task view. After switching, all of my Google Keep reminders popped up in the browser view for Calendar. You can also enter separate reminders into Calendar which don’t pop up in Keep.
  2. Reminders don’t disappear in the phone app. I got that wrong. They stick around. If you mark them as ‘done’ they’ll display with a strikeout through the text. They can be also be rescheduled.
  3. Keep is kind of like a cut down version of Evernote. Consequently I employed one of my Evernote tricks to the labels. The labels default to sorting alphabetically, but if you number your labels you can force them to sort in any order. Keep is great for jotting down tasks that need to either be scheduled at a later date, or you just need a general reminder. The checklist feature works. I have a housework checklist set up with a reminder for Saturday morning. The reminder displays in Calendar, but then I can go over to Keep and check the items off.

In conclusion, Calendar and Keep are a nice balance of events, reminders, tasks and visual notes.

Oh, and I’m sticking with Habitica because it’s definitely helping with developing habits.

So, at this point in time, my quest for a To Do system seems to have come to an end. For 2017 anyway. I won’t mark this task as ‘done’ just yet because I know I won’t be able to stop myself from testing out whatever shiny new To Do app comes out next. That is, if I don’t go back to paper by convincing myself that if I find the perfect paper system that will solve all of my issues.  If I start writing about FranklinCovey planners, someone stop me…

Categories: Apps

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