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I currently am maintaining my tasks in a google excel sheet. I add tasks to it once I start working on my laptop. But there are other house hold tasks, or the ones which my wife tells me, those I sometimes forget and so they slip through my schedule. What are the various methods being used to gather tasks and then probably schedule or enter them into a single db. I am thinking that the mobile would be the most used / carried gadget so probably that can be my data gatherer? How are you people gathering all the tasks? How do you sync them from multiple sources?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I personally use taskwarrior for organizing my tasks. This means that when I'm not using my laptop I cannot enter new tasks (a list of all pending tasks goes into my dropbox via a report and a cronjob, it is obviously read-only). This means that I face a similar problem like you. My personal solution for adding tasks is to note them down into a small paper notebook and enter them whenever I can use my laptop again.

This works for me, because I carry my laptop almost all the time. You might consider using an app like remember the milk or wunderlist. I do not like to use evernote for task management, because I does not manage metadata like due date and priority (maybe not important for you).

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I think the notebook is something my wife and me can share at home. Am also setting up an app on my device to note things on the move. – eminemence Apr 30 '12 at 9:39
A cool thing you can do with taskwarrior is save your task data directly in your Dropbox folder (or other cross-computer sync tool), which will at least give you identical access from any device that has taskwarrior installed. – asfallows May 25 '12 at 21:07

I gather my tasks like so:

  1. Regular tasks come in via cronjobs on a server I have (I used to use Google Calendar reoccurring events for this) These are things like weekly 'Update Projects' to the four monthly 'book dentist appointment'. This is entirely automatic - periodically I adjust the timings.
  2. Tasks also come in from meetings and emails - emails are converted into tasks in exactly the way you'd expect: emails don't leave the inbox unless all the tasks have been extracted from it. After a meeting I transfer all open tasks from my notes to the next actions (or projects, or calendar) list. Once a week I get an email (via 1) to remind me to check though my paperwork to see if I've missed anything and if not I shred it.
  3. A major source of tasks is reviewing projects for next actions (See 1, although these a have a script that promotes earlier reviews under certain circumstances).
  4. Regularly (See 1) I work though a trigger list (Here's one, although it's not the version I use) to see if anything else drops out of my head...

  5. Lastly, sometimes I have ideas... if I do I send myself an email with my smartphone - before I had a smartphone I would leave myself a voicemail on my mobile phone... No idea what I did before phones.

  6. Lastly, once every n days I wander around my house with a notebook - looking for anything that has been hanging around for a while and needs doing - this ends up being things like "new shower curtain", or "mend shoes", but can occasionally be "Throw a party".

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+1 for being so organised and for sharing it with us. – eminemence Apr 30 '12 at 9:37

I have an android phone. I added the 'tasks' app from 'apps' and put its icon on the home screen (hold and move it to change its place).

For syncing I increasing rely on google apps to sync documents and files, though I don't know of a specific google app for tasks. Of course you could just do a google spreadsheet (it's like excel) and then share it with your wife and then just use this google doc to stay 'in sync' as it gets saved every few seconds. The is the 'internet' equivalent of your current process, if say, you used a a network drive for an excel file.

For 'bigger;' stuff and trips, events, etc, my wife and I use google calendar and we use a shared calendar on it.

I also try and eliminate some of the 'forgettable' tasks in the first place by having a (shared) budget list to remind me of the monthly cash stuff and so that my wife and I can put in equally without frequent questions about it or needing to remind one another. Electronic bill payment so I never forget bills.

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The best ubiquitous capture tool I've worked with so far is paper and pen. And not just a single supply of it!

In addition to spending my workday wearing a Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook (basically a 5.5"x8.5" three-ring binder on a shoulder strap), I keep stacks of scrap paper on both work and home desks, index cards in my briefcase, and small notepads on my nightstand and in a bathroom drawer, with a pen for every paper source.

Paper collects in my desktop inboxes and gets processed into my computer inbox (a top-level page in a Zim notebook) a couple of times a day, along with email.

Now, of course, if I think of or come across something inbox-y while working on the computer (and especially when I'm already working in Zim), I'll put it straight into the computer inbox. But I haven't found any portable devices yet that can take notes as quickly and with as little fuss as paper and pen. No turning it on, waiting for it to boot, dealing with crashes, fighting with syncs, looking for a hotspot or wall outlet, or arguing with the autocorrect.

In social interactions, it also creates less uncertainty in the other party. If someone is giving me information and I pull out a pad and take notes, they're probably thinking "she takes this serious enough to take notes, awesome!", but if I pull out a smartphone and start thumbing away, they might be thinking "is she listening to me or texting someone?".

One last note from a fellow cohabitating productivity person: even for our home stuff, and despite our desks being right next to each other, my partner and I use a lot of email to communicate this sort of thing to each other. It's proven much more efficient than trying to get the other's attention out or whatever project we're working on at the time, communicating verbally, and then hoping the other person wrote it down in sufficient detail. (Okay, that last one is mostly me, but still.) If she doesn't like the idea of email, see if she'd be okay with handwritten notes left in a desktop inbox. (We do some of that, too.)

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+1 For suggesting Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook. It's a beauty. – eminemence Apr 30 '12 at 10:45

I use evernote for task capture.

I have the widget on my phone (android), the chrome extension so I can clip emails/websites that have some action associated with it and the desktop app for just quickly adding tasks or ideas for tasks. You can also access it online.

When I sit down and process them I usually end up formatting them into nicer language to make them doable (in line with GTD) and add them to projects or next actions, also on evernote.

And the best thing about it, it's free.

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If you're looking for something simple you might like, it's web app for creating online lists. Pretty easy to use, doesn't require registration and works on all devices that have browser, so iphones/androids as well.

It also supports sharing, you can share the list with your wife, so she can add new household tasks by herself ;)

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I use Priority Matrix to capture and organize everything. If I only have time to jot down something and move on, I put it in the 4th quadrant (uncategorized / not important and not urgent), and later I might revise and move it to another quadrant, set a due date, perhaps some tags/icon to easily find it later, etc.

The beauty of capturing everything and then revisiting it is that you can live in the present, being sure that nothing is lost in the ether because you wrote it down.

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In the vernacular of Getting Things Done (GTD), Collecting, Organizing, and Processing are three separate steps in handling tasks. (Followed by Do and Review, out of scope for answering this question.)

Collecting is accomplished through "ubiquitous capture", some means of getting any idea you have or task assignment or honey-do into a place where you can later Organize and Process those ideas into your task lists. There are lots of different ways to do that Collecting, the goal is to use as many different ways as you need, but no more, feeding into as many different in boxes as you need, but no more.

What's an in box? In my world, email has an in box, Evernote has a default notebook named InBox, my voicemail has an inbox. And I also have a physical inbox that pieces of paper, magazines, postal mail, sticky notes, and the like can be dropped in.

There are lots of different gadget ways to collect things. Other responders have mentioned quite a few that may be worth looking into. One of my favorites is the astonishing low-tech pocket memo pad. With a pad like this and a small pen like this in my pocket, I'm prepared to take notes anywhere and any time. rip off the page and drop it in the in box, and next time I sit down to Organize and Process, everything in the in box gets into my lists.

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I would use a mobile time tracking app that allows you to clock in and out of tasks from your phone and has automatic reminders set to notify you of certain tasks. This will not only help remind you what you need to do but allow you to evaluate where you are spending your time and possibly how to become more efficient or better at projecting what you can realistically commit to or expect to accomplish on any given day or week.

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If you have a webserver then MyTinyTodo is a solid piece of open source software that allows you to set up a website to collect to do items, prioritize them, and/or organize by due date. It is pretty simple to set up -- unzip in a web server directory and run the setup script. SQLite is an option so there is no need for a separate database. Works great, costs nothing. There is also a flag to get it formatted for mobile (add "/?pda" to the end of the URL).

I started using MyTinyTodo for my company, a services business with three people (we share one to see who is working on what, and when things are due); then I set up another one for myself personally; then one up for my wife, one for my mom . . . and then I decided to set up a site so people without a webserver can get an instance without asking me.

So if you don't have your own webserver or just want to check it out before installing, you can get an instance at Disclaimer: I set up and run

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