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I've used every single todo and time/task management application out there. The choice has been difficult to make but I've concluded in asana, wunderlist and things. I 've jumped from one to another over the years to be motivated and follow them up as they deploy more features.

The problem is that I can't keep up with ONE application and use it in my life. I've read several stories of people that use wunderlist for task management in work and personal life, everyday. I just want to wake up, tidy up my list, prioritise my tasks and get to do things. Mostly, after some time I lose interest and forget my lists.

It's sad that I have SO many tasks to accomplish in work, home and personal work. I easily lose track, the urgent become important and I have to make a list in 5 minutes for the tasks that I must complete this day. Usually it ends in having a piece of paper with 10 tasks and draw a line over every one that is done. Unfortunately, I have 10 projects with 50 tasks from work, 100s of tasks from home and 100s of tasks from my personal projects. This is a lot of things to do.

I need to be organised with tasks and follow up with their completion. How do you people follow your procedures through time ?

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I had a similar problem years ago. I couldn't find one application that will suit my needs cross years. My solution was to develop my own work management software. – Mohamad Fakih Apr 5 '14 at 13:55
Could you make the question clearer? Are you looking for a TODO list that fits all your requirements? Or are you being overwhelmed by so many tasks that it doesn't fit on your list? – Muz Apr 6 '14 at 9:17
I believe I was clear - I have tried everything but usually I get bored or there are too many things to do that I lose track and the TODO app I am using gets forgotten. – Radolino Apr 10 '14 at 6:43
Hi Rob, did you get any further with your quest(ion)? This is a really interesting point and I'd like to know if you finally found your perfect organisation/system and how it looks. – MostlyHarmless Mar 19 '15 at 8:28

I use a constellation of apps as my system, email, calendar and to do apps. There are a couple of practices that keep these systems from going stale.

Set up some back burner categories

These usually go by the name of @somedayMaybe, @waitingFor, @moviesToSee, @thingsToDoWhenInTheCity, etc. You will only review these lists when you are in the mindset of looking down the road to decide what you want to bring to the front burner. Most apps have some method of tagging that will let you do this.

Separate your actionable items from non-actionable

Some of your items might be vague notions you wanted to capture. They may be project steps that are themselves sub-projects of a larger effort for which you have not yet clarified what the next steps are. Or the items might be reference material. Create separate categories for each type of these items. Again the tagging methods let you separate things into categories. You may consider different apps for different functions. Evernote is a great reference repository but not so great as an on-the-go to-do reminder.

The Delete key is your friend

A fast "No" to items that are no longer relevant is just as productive as moving forward on any given effort. Deleting what no longer matters frees up your mind to concentrate on things that still matter.

Schedule it for later or delegate

Time is the only resource we cant make more of. When you are faced with more to do than you have time to do, and it is all relevant work you can either reschedule what needs to get done or you can delegate. It doesn't hurt to get a little help from your friends. Whether it is personal work or professional work you will need to rely on your skills of persuasion to get things done. People appreciate a common cause and leadership. If this is in a professional workplace get buy in from your management. If you are management you will need to expand. This is how big things get done in the world. In addition to persuasion you will need to rely on your organizational skills to keep track of whats been delegated and make sure what you have delegated gets done. Rely on your calendar and your contact management tools for this.

Review often!

Just like cleaning out the refrigerator on a regular basis keeps your foodstuffs in good condition, reviewing your productivity system keeps you in a constant state of balance. Can't emphasize this enough.

But if you fall off the wagon, don't be afraid climb back on

If your system goes stale it's not too tough to keep the faith and get back on. There's a couple of things that will get you caught up.

  1. Do a quick mind sweep / brain storm / brain dump. If its been a while there's most likely a few things that have been bouncing around your mind for a while. Write them down on paper and pen. Capture as much as you can. Set the list down.
  2. Purge your digital systems of stale items. See above "The Delete key is your friend"
  3. Repopulate your digital systems with what you've collected during your brain sweep. Separate out your categories between what actionable, project thinking, future consideration and reference material.
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My question has to do mostly with falling off the wagon when it's hard to keep up with all this stuff to be done. Actually I am following all that you say as I am doing years and years research in task and time management. As far as I get on track, everything runs flawlessly but being loaded with big amounts of work usually overwhelms me. I fight but I am defeated. And don't tell me to get rid of projects and tasks because everything I do is highly prioritised things. – Radolino Mar 29 '14 at 19:12
I added to my answer in response to your feedback. Thanks! – Manuel Hernandez Mar 29 '14 at 20:21
I agree that these ideas are obvious to the initiated. People have been implementing these practices for centuries. David Allen describes GTD as radical common sense. My hope is to inform those at the start of the quest. Those who chose to seek answers here. I have the problems staying current too. I believe a big part of the problem is that the current generation of productivity apps are not inherently designed to habitualize practices necessary to stay current. Until one comes along, I cope. Earnest implementation of the obvious is often more effective than the discovery of a clever idea. – Manuel Hernandez Apr 1 '14 at 18:46
Yes this is obvious but it needs to be said, so it's helpful. I share @RobDel 's situation: I got the idea, but can't keep up. I got a lot of projects, but feel that I can't drop any of them. I'm so busy sawing that I don't take time to sharpen the saw. In the end, I'm only human and I only have 24 hours each day (and everbody's gotta sleep!) so I am working on accepting that the projects at the bottom of my list, though relevant, are going to have to suffer. C'est la vie. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 3 '14 at 15:48
@RobDel I am curious about what the gap is between the obvious practices and your quest for a more useful answer. If you are following the obvious practices on a regular basis where are the pain points? – Manuel Hernandez Apr 4 '14 at 6:36

IMDO it's not the toolset but the mental approach that works. The GTD Book and Audio Tapes really help with this; there's not real substitute for reviewing them every year or so. Concepts such as the weekly review, and breaking tasks down to 'pushing widgets' are the only things that really work.

I've been through every type of todo management app out there - from Remember the Milk (which I'm back to after 2 years), ZIM desktop wiki, paper notebook, Google Keep - etc. and come to the conclusion that no toolset can help you more than the right mental attitude.

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I agree with you but I cannot see what does it have to do with my question. – Radolino Apr 10 '14 at 6:44

I keep encountering this question on different forums, and to me it's often the wrong question. I have the tendency to think this way as well: "What tools should I be using so I can be super super organised?" But in reality, it's often the discipline, not the tools, that needs to be addressed.

The most genuinely organised person I've ever known was a manager I worked for a few years ago. She stayed on top of a HUGE amount of work, and all she ever used was a paper day-per-page diary and some post-it notes. This is not to say that diary+post-its is the dream todo management approach, but to say that if you'd taken her diary and post-it notes away from her, and said, "Now use index cards", she would have made that work.

A relatively simple todo app is probably equal to the needs of most people, but some of us get bored with the discipline of reviewing and keeping up to date and translating the potential work on the list into actual actions that clear work off the list. So, we tinker and we experiment and we like that feature from that app and this feature from this app and we post on forums about why isn't there an app that has those two exact features (I do all of this myself) and we do this instead of reviewing our todo lists and actioning items.

For practical advice, manuelhe's answer is great. But also, ultimately, it's not the tool or tools, it's what you do with them. All of the contexts and reminders and horizon perspectives and colours and icons and subtasking and hashtagging (why can't they put hashtagging in Trello, damnit?! ;) ) won't compensate in the long-term for a lack of discipline (or intent?) in the activity of doing things.

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I think that you got what I am asking. This is the situation, discipline is missing. Or overwhelming of much stuff to administer. I've literally tried dozens of apps, notebooks, cards, papers, strategies and some are way better than the others but even the best fail for me because I lose track very easily. I haven't kept an app for task and time management more than 3 or 6 months. The only thing I am sure is that GTD is the most interesting and working implementation of life management for me. So, you describe the problem very well but what's the solution ? – Radolino Apr 10 '14 at 6:49
I can only really give you broad suggestions, it will be up to you to figure out if they are worth pursuing and then how to implement them. You need to understand that todo methods are a means to an end. The whole point of life is doing, not in measuring doing. If I were in your shoes, I would start from scratch. A basic todo app, or just a paper system. I would gamify -- tell a friend or family member you will give them $5 for every (work?) day in your first month that you did not review and do things. See if this helps. Add in rewards in the 2nd month. (edit: hit enter too early) – MidnightThoughtful Apr 11 '14 at 0:59
Always tell yourself that the system is less important than the outcome. When you feel you have the discipline of the basic activities from a simple system (always review, always action), start thinking again about what other systems have features that are useful. But only after you have spent a few months learning that discipline is the 'feature' you bring to whatever system you use. Without it, the rest is just pretending. – MidnightThoughtful Apr 11 '14 at 1:06
your suggestion should work with people that have 20 things to do in their lives and can handle them in a paper. When you deal with big projects which have subprojects and dozens of tasks, personal life tasks and trying to run some personal business in parallel with a 9-5 job, then you'll realise it's just theory. What counts is being super organised - missing a task will fall on others like a domino effect. So If you have a little time and much things to do, you don't have the choice to make a mistake. Prioritisation and organisation keep me running and doing. – Radolino Apr 11 '14 at 5:16

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