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A detailed look at my Toodledo / GTD setup


Posted: Mar 07, 2009
Score: 6

I've been flirting with Toodledo for about a year now, trying it out, testing it with a few personal tasks, etc. I had defaulted to Outlook because it's what we're given at work, and I had that set up pretty well based on the Outlook GTD paper from the David Allen website.

Letely I've been on a roll with Toodledo, and I'm completely retiring Outlook as my task organizer.

As I said, I've experimented with several setups throughout Toodledo, so I will get a little detailed here. If this kind of stuff bores you, then bail out now. I personally enjoy reading these types of tips from other users, so I thought some of you might get some use out of this too.

First off, here's my main problem with Toodledo - the folders and notebooks. ARGH! They don't work well with me.

During the week, I like to work through my tasks by Context. During my weekly review, I want to see them grouped by Project and reference them against the project plan. But I want that plan connected to the project, which in turn is connected to the tasks. Having it spread between three different areas -- I never cared for it.

Plus, I manage at least 50+ projects at any given time. That really clutters up your folder dropdown menu and tabs. AND creating each new project folder is a multi-step PITA (those of you who have complained about the folders know what I'm talking about). It got to the point where I quietly dreaded having to create a new project in this system.

So, I upgraded to Pro to get the subtasks. Now THAT's how folders should be - build them immediately in the same screen, and drag/drop your stuff. Plus, this is the best online taks app around - these developers deserve some payment IMO.

Here's how I've started setting up my projects and actions...

For each project, I build a task with:
The name of the project deliverable (keeps it from being too vague).
Context: Projects.
Status: Reference
The "natural project plan" in the notes

For the action items, I build tasks and drop them under the project name. All the action items are given the appropriate context with a status of "Hold." Except the next action, which has a status of "Next Action" (duh)

I use the stars to select which action items I am going to commit to finishing in the next 24 hours. I usually set these at the end of each workday so they will be waiting for me in the morning.

Most of the time I sort the tasks by Importance. This puts the Hold items on bottom, the Next Actions above that and the starred items above that.

I'm currently experimenting with putting multiple tasks under a project and sorting the next actions. But you could also assign a single next action under a project and use the stars the same way. It's a personal preference -- I just like checking off those boxes.

For a daily action list, I use the custom search tool. Right now I have tabs for @Home[next action], @Home-computer[next action], @Office[next action]. These are set up with the rules:
Context is: [name of context]
Status is: Next Action
Checked Off: No

This gives you a screen of nothing but next actions, with any starred items on top so you can see what you need to do TODAY.

I did a little modification on the '@Office[next action]' search. I set up multiple contexts (@Office OR @Agenda OR @Office-Phone OR @Office-Email). I softened the borders between the contexts there because I like get a sense of everything I need to get done at the office that day, plus I prefer to group phone calls and e-mail tasks together so I can blow through them when I feel up to it. Agenda tells me who I need to catch that day if something is pressing (but not enough to set a meeting).

When I do my weekly review, I go to the Projects context (sorted by Importance). When I click on the project's parent icon, I can see all the tasks assigned with the most important ones on top. I also have immediate access to the project notes if I need to review them. There's also a link that give me quick access to the archive of completed tasks under this project if I need to review that.

I also like the way the subtask icon gives you a little more info about your projects. If you see a hand icon instead of the subtask, then that project is empty. You need to fill it with some action!

On the Toodledo app, I set up the homepage to start with Contexts. From there I can drill down to the action items that match where I am at any given time. The tasks on each context list is again sorted by Importance, which brings today's items straight to the top.

I also like how the subtasks and parent tasks are linked together in this app. I use this app for staying focused on my next actions even when away from my desk, but I could use this for a weekly review away from the office if I had to.

There's my current setup. It's a work in progress, but I hope it helps somebody out there who is just starting to find their 'flow' on Toodledo.

Posted: Mar 07, 2009
Score: 0

Thanks for sharing. If you have a moment, would you mind sharing a screen shot or map of the architecture? I don't entirely follow the folder structure.

What does your top level look like? Is it standard GTD? So if I understand, you're using a single project folder for all projects, and identifying individual projects by beginning the task description with "Project A - ..."?

What do you mean by portable setup?

Posted: Mar 08, 2009
Score: 0

I will see if I can get a screen shot or two together and post the links here.

By top level, do you mean the project level view, or even higher than that? If you're talking about the project level, then it's standard GTD - at least the way I interpreted it from the book.

A little clarification on the folders... right now I am not using the folders at all. I have seen here that some people use them for the higher-level goals. That makes some sense to me. I may try that in the future. But my projects are identified by making them parent subtasks and giving them the status of 'Reference.'

By portable setup, I just mean a way to see and keep working my tasks when I am away from a computer. The Toodledo iPhone app has a lot of options, so I thought it would help to show what worked for me.

Posted: Apr 21, 2009
Score: 0

Posted by Jrod:

A little clarification on the folders... right now I am not using the folders at all.

Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge about your GTD implementation with Toodledo (rebranding this great web app name would be nice!!!)

Still regarding the usage of folders, I have a question for you:
According to GTD, Contexts should be used for actionable items. Projects are not actionable items ("you don't do a projects"). Same applies to Someday/Maybe, Read/Review, Waiting For and Agendas lists. Do you have any view why not to use folders instead of contexts for these categories? What would be the impact on your set-up, if any? Do you see any disadvantage on this alternative set-up or any conflict with the sub-tasks feature?

My understanding is that folders, contexts, tags and status are all "labels" that can be applied to tasks, just with different filtering, searching and viewing options. My point is that it should be enough to use two of them for a GTD implementation, i.e. lists of actionable items (called Contexts in GTD) and lists of not actionable items.

I'm starting now with Toodledo, and I had the same issue than you (and many other people):
1) Windows enviroment with Outlook at Office
2) Mac enviroment at home
3) Need for a cross platform task management application, accessible "everywhere" (no, I dont have an iPhone!).

I'm migrating my "non-work-related" projects/tasks from Outlook@Office to Toodledo (also configured according David Allen's proposed GTD configuration for Outlook). I'm keeping all my work related projects/tasks with Outlook (in spite not being possible to easily connect tasks with projects). I have tried briefly RTM (nice User Interface!), but it seems Toodledo can be more flexible (maybe too much flexibility... folders, tags, contexts, statuses can over-complicated any GTD implementation if we try to use all of them at the same time... It will become micro-managing GTD).

I'm still a "Free" user, but I start now to understand the advantages of having the Sub-tasks possibilities given by the "Pro" user (I will consider that upgrade alternative as an option to my implementation... is there a free trial?). I would risk to say, this sub-task alternative, makes Toodledo implementation very similar to Omnifocus (for Mac only), that is most probably the best desktop task management application out there (but limited to Apple enviroment)

Well, I guess I just transformed a simple question in a kind of brainstorming ;-)
Vin Thomas

Posted: Apr 22, 2009
Score: 0

Pro is the only way to go! I have a similar setup as Jrod, but I am using folders and contexts intermingled that way I can have different views depending on my current need. I use folders mainly as areas of focus (work, personal, school, etc). Then, as Jrod, I use parent tasks as projects, with subtasks as action steps.

What I gleaned from Jrod is the status idea. I have always struggled to order my subtasks. Although manual sorting would be ideal, the status field is second best.

Thanks for the tips!

Posted: Jun 08, 2009
Score: 0

Thanks for sharing Jrod. I will need to read this a couple more times to see if I can tweak anything on my end.
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