Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

TL;DR I'm looking for simple software where I can plan long-term projects visually, then load next steps into a daily ToDo list.

I'm a graduate student so I have an extreme mix of important tasks with no deadline (thesis, career, personal development, health) and immediate tasks with deadlines (teaching, assignments, errands, social obligations). My problem is that I neglect long term projects as I run through the short term items on my todo list.

Each day, I need to compose a daily ToDo list that includes immediate, pressing items AND small next-steps for long terms projects.

I've been trying different productivity software to support this for about a year now, they include: Todoist, evernote, workflowy, muraly, freemind, trello, and targetprocess. So far, they seem to either support long-term planning or ToDo lists, but not both.

Does anyone know software that will do both, or have you worked out a system that uses multiple pieces of software?

Extra info: My long-term projects are poorly defined (e.g. get a job) but they don't have very many moving parts, so I prefer visual software that lets me organize my thoughts (mind mapping) over visual software that lets me coordinate many small pieces (Kanban boards).

share|improve this question
Not answering your question, but since you seem to have difficulty distinguishing importancy and urgency, I suggest you put all your projects (and maybe even tasks) into a quadrant urgent/not urgent vs. important/not important – Jan Doggen May 2 '14 at 7:13
@JanDoggen I am not sure poster has a problem distinguishing between "urgent" and "important but not urgent" tasks. Instead I think she/he is looking for a system to avoid just doing what is urgent, and mostly ignoring what is important but not urgent. – avernet May 8 '14 at 23:33
Update, looking at a few pieces of GTD software, I've found Zendone, which lets you keep an "organizing list" where you list out multiple steps in each project, and a "Do" list (your daily todo list), which you can have display the next step from each project. It isn't very visual, but I think it will solve my problem. – user8373 May 10 '14 at 5:26

This is a little off-field, but in the GTD world we would say that this is not a problem, because it is OK to use two pieces of software for two different lists if that is what works for you.

In GTD we have next action lists (equivalent to your daily ToDo) but also keep a separate list of projects. The point of the project list is that you regularly review it to make sure you are keeping up.

So, in your example, your project list could be a folder full of mind maps, one per each project, that you edit in your favourite mind mapping tool.

Then, each day when you prepare your ToDo list, you quickly review the folder. For each mind map, see if there is something you need to put on your ToDo list.

share|improve this answer
I think this answer is basically saying that GTD will improve the aspect of the main problem of the question, but I don't see this answer as being broad enough to really be convincing. It may be more helpful to expand on the basics of how GTD works or provide examples/resources either in the answer or externally. – Raystafarian May 2 '14 at 15:22
I'm not suggesting GTD is the solution (although I am a GTD advocate) but questioning 8373's assumption that she needs to have one unified tool that is both her ToDo list and her visual planning application. Of course, perhaps she does, and my answer is useless to her. – Graham Hill May 7 '14 at 9:25
Put another way: you should use as few tools as possible, but no less. It may be better to have a great ToDo list and a great Visual planning tool rather than one tool that does both things less well. – Graham Hill May 7 '14 at 9:27

The real work is transforming stuff from abstract to concrete, from vision to reality, from dream to action.

You are headed down the right path when describe your goal. You want to plan long term projects visually and then load the next steps into a daily to do list. For the time being I believe that you are better off using multiple software packages.

I see that you describe everything as a task, important tasks and immediate tasks. In some sense you are correct in these are all work that needs to be completed.

However some of these items though are abstract (non-actionable) and some are concrete(actionable). Each requires different a different mode of thinking.

One of the benefits of GTD implementation is the ability to move ideas from the abstract level, i.e. your goals, ideals and vision. down to a more concrete physically doable level. These would be your daily to-dos.

In order to accomplish this your tool or set of tools needs to fulfill the following roles.

Collecting: You need an app that helps you collect whatever catches your attention. Maybe it's not even an app, it could be a pad of paper or a notepad. Its anything that lets you jot things down and review. Evernote is one that most people like.

Clarifying: This tool is used to transform the vague notion into a set of actionable items. It should help you brainstorm and generate ideas that sprout other ideas. A mind map is good, so is an outliner. Freemind or Workflowy would be good here.

Organizing and engaging: After collecting and clarifying you want somewhere to park those ideas so you can retrieve them where you need. I think one tool can fulfill both these roles. An app that lets you categorize things by context is ideal. Most "to-do" apps are well suited for this.

Another requisite tool is a calendar for those time specific items.

Reflecting: No external tool needed here. This is where you review the contents of the three tools described above. You want to evaluate if the items in each of those tools belongs there or not. Here is where you use the most important instrument of all. It is your mind. You need it to think all the things in your apps through and move them from the abstract to concrete. You are the bridge between the dream and the action. But you have to review. You have to show up to make it happen.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.