Over on the Puttytribe, I saw a recommendation to try out two productivity apps – Todoist and WeekPlan.
Since today is a holiday, and I’ve just finished setting up my new desktop and am now trying to get re-organized, I decided to give them, both a try. Also, @LalikPatnaik on twitter recommended I try some Mind Mapping software, so I did that too.
First, the planner apps.
In recent past, I’ve tried several of these – HabitRPG, WorkFlowy, Trello, and Rescue Time (which I have yet to do a post about).
HabitRPG I think is most useful for people who struggle with procrastination (as opposed to just too many goals as I feel is my issue), and who are gamers or like that approach to things.
WorkFlowy I liked but the trial version is very limited in functionality so hard to get a good read on ultimate usefulness.
Trello is good for a free service, but also seems kind of limited.
The services I have just tried are both clearly focused on task organization/prioritization and on helping you stay on point and get more done.
Here are my thoughts after setting up both (WeekPlan first, because their introductory email was very well done and instead of just saying welcome, included illustrations and tips). I spent probably a combined 45 minutes between them.
-The interface is cleaner and more refined (closer to WorkFlowy/Asana both in appearance and functionality). It also kind of stacks up a bit like Outlook reminders, which to me, is not really a positive.
-It seems to track your progress/productivity much more clearly than WeekPlan (gives you a rating and a graph), so that’s a bit more like Rescue Time. I like this, and would like to see it over a period of time (which means I’ll have to stick with it for a bit).
-I find setting the priority and due date of tasks to be cumbersome (you have to mouse over a small spot on the screen and make 3 to 4 clicks to set both, more clicks = less efficient! This is precisely what I dread when trying these systems out, when the set up is even a little bit tedious I’m far less likely to keep using it unless other features totally blow me away.
-Seems a little more power-user focused, but again the fact that it reminds me of Outlook, just with a nicer interface is ultimately a strike. But that’s just because I don’t consider Outlook to be a great organization tool. Email organization yes, task organization, no.
-One positive, despite the tedium of setting up all the tasks, setting priority and due date, I *did* like that when I went to the “overdue + 7 days” view that it automatically allocated and ordered everything, so it was very clear what I had to do and when (but that didn’t make up for the time it took to SET the priority and due dates for every task).
-One notable downside here – the priority is shown by way of a light blue (low), dark blue (med), or red square (high priority), which visually just isn’t really that distinctive. I’d have gone with orange or yellow instead of dark blue, because low and med priority being different shades of the same colour is not a good design choice in my opinion. So even though it auto-orders everything by priority, *visually* the tasks aren’t well distinguished. The category colour marker is on the other side, but the visual separation, at least for me, is not great. I would suggest maybe a light background fill colour around the task name instead of the coloured dot on the right, maybe even make the fill colour darker, or striped to indicate priority.
-seems good for power users
-auto organizes tasks for the week by priority (if you set the priority)
-priority visualization falls short (in my opinion)
-relatively easy to add things, but customization tedious
-refined interface, but things are smaller and can be harder to click/access
-looks/acts a bit like Outlook (if that’s your thing)
-I actually started with this one because they sent a lovely intro email with illustrations of how it works and how they recommend using it. That was a great start and inspired me to get tinkering.
-Adding categories and tasks is SUPER EASY. It was very fast to set up and allocate things.
-Week view is displayed like a calendar, not a list. Personally, I like this a lot better than the list view of Todoist. I don’t know if Todoist can be changed to that style of view, but I would like it much better.
-Colour coding is more apparent this way which makes it a lot easier to quickly scan my tasks and decide what order to tackle them, though priority doesn’t really show up as obviously (unless I missed the option to make it more visible)
-Progress tracking is supposedly a bar that depletes each day and refills as you check things off, I haven’t seen this in action yet, but I kind of like that idea, since I’m pursuing goals/tasks in several areas and I like being able to see progress by category vs total overall progress.
-The “future” preview shows up as an 8th calendar day, which I like and should help me with my personally preferred style of future visibility.
-The interface is definitely more “fast and loose” but as I said, for me that was great for getting set up quickly, not having to futz around too much
-Setting “due dates” is as easy as drag and drop (and you can easily move things to another day, any time) which is fast and easy. It didn’t seem like I could drag/drop anything in Todoist which was a disappointment.
-It doesn’t look very “pretty” but going from this system to a pretty but slower to set up system, only made me like this one more.
-The overall functionality/interface *does* seem a bit limited, but for quick task tracking/organizing, I really like this system.
-Fast to set up/allocate (better for average user)
-Really visually distinct/easy to read interface. Someone glancing at it over your shoulder would know exactly what they’re looking at. Todoist almost requires a bit of visual parsing/decoding (in my opinion)
-Basically a colour-coded calendar with drag and drop functionality.
-Future preview looks good (for my preferences)
-Only strike really is in setting priority, it does have the settings they just aren’t as immediately obvious (maybe I need to explore the settings a bit more).
Supposedly both offer email reminders for daily and upcoming tasks.
Verdict: I personally prefer WeekPlan based on a initial dry run. I would need to compare the premium services of both, but for my purposes, and for my preferences, WeekPlan is the better fit and easier to use.
To the makers of Todoist – I’d recommend trying to make it just a tad bit more average user friendly (you can do this without penalizing the power users). Even just the simple act of not having to mouse over to set priority and due date would save time and clicks and wouldn’t significantly clutter the interface. Also, the priority colours and calendar view. If you made all these changes, I think your service would be the best one that I’ve tried.
Mind Mapping (Mind 42):
I tried Mind42, which I’d seen screenshots of before, and it seemed like it would take a lot of time/effort to set up and organize, but actually that was not the case at all. Within minutes I had created several branches and nodes. Unfortunately there is no android app for this (as with all other services mentioned in this post), but that’s OK.
As I am trying to organize several different goals, plans, initiatives, plan topics to post or write about, organize podcast scheduling, and more – This service will definitely help me maintain visibility on all my ideas and projects. Once I get into the flow of task tracking and get comfortably established there, I’m very optimistic about my productivity going forward.
Also, while I’m talking about Productivity, Tim Ferriss had a recent Podcast episode about this. He’s done a couple of short (<20min) episodes about productivity tricks, hacks, and no-nos.