ForumsQuestionsToodledo and ADHD

Toodledo and ADHD
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Posted: May 13, 2014
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Dear folks –

I posted a couple of years ago about my efforts to create a task list/priority planning/reminder system I could count on to manage both the ordinary chaos of a busy life with a lot of projects and the special additional burden of severe ADHD, inattentive type. I have never found anything else to match Toodledo when it comes to organizing a long and complicated priority list. But over time I dropped out of using Toodledo because I never found a way to make it truly reliable in providing the kind of alarm/reminders I feel I need. I have ended up using an alarm clock program for the most important reminders and sticky notes for the rest.

But my lack of overall task coordination has had some bad effects on my life, so I am returning today with a renewed resolve to give some Toodledo-centered system a try, if I can solve the alarm problem. My need for a truly reliable planning-and-reminder system is greater than ever, as over the last two years my memory has gotten worse and my reminders include reminders to take meds that have scary effects if I forget (which I absolutely will without an external reminder).

I see that there has been a lot of change since two years ago, with new alarm and reminder systems. I have been doing a lot of research on mixing and matching Toodledo with different third party apps, but I am still having trouble finding the exact combination of features that I believe I need, and am appealing to this list for help and advice. I am hoping to make Toodledo the center of the system, with whatever other apps I need syncing to it, but I am not yet convinced that I can make it do what I need.

Basically, I want a system with the usual task list/priority/date stuff that Toodledo does well, but it must also have three special features that I feel I need to manage my distractibility. These are:

1. It should nag me, so that the people in my life do not have to. Specifically, it should have audible and visual popup nag reminders at both my windows desktop, on my phone, and on my tablet (I just switched from an Android tablet to a Windows 8 tablet -- my phone remains an Android), at intervals I can set, that repeat until I tell it to stop. Sometimes this is called a “snooze” feature, but not everything called a snooze can actually do this job. It would be nice if, in addition to being able to set the nag or snooze intervals, I could also customize the alarms to make them more mnemonic and calibrated to urgency, but I would accept a system that did not allow this, if it did the rest of what I need

2. Delivery of reminders must be highly reliable, so that I count on them. In particular:
a. The software must provide the reminders (audible and popup) whether or not the application is open or active. This means some part of it must run in background on both computer and phone, or that the reminders must be driven externally, like push email or SMS messages.
b. The desktop must work when there is no internet connectivity (which is often, since I work on a laptop) and the phone app must work when there is no wireless signal. I believe this means that each must maintain a local copy of my tasks and calendar.

Long and painful experience has taught me that some part of the system will always be broken. I big part of the reason for all the sync- and stand-alone requirements is to make sure that when I have a really crucial alarm it gets through to me somehow or other. I usually work at my desktop, I usually carry my phone, I usually have my tablet near by (and the tablet it is my preferred route to deliver my daily tasks/priorities). And my desktop usually has an internet connection, my phone usually has a signal (and a charge), and my tablet usually has Wifi (and a charge). And all three usually has the volume set to audible. But _every one of those things_ fails a lot more often than one might hope or than I can afford.

I got pushed toward the alarm clock method because it only needs a charge, not a signal or an internet connection, because it hardly ever seemed to just break at random, because I could select psychologically appropriate alarms sounds for each task, because I could individually choose the snooze/nag duration for each alarm or reminder. But it is a very blunt instrument and it has no tools to help me choose or remember which tasks need doing enough to get an alarm today.

3. I need one system, not two. I know myself well enough to realize that I would get hopelessly tangled If I tried to maintain two separate systems with different procedures or different databases. When I started putting my most critical alarms in to alarm clock apps, and had to sync them across platforms by hand, that was the beginning of the end of my GTD system. Whatever I enter into the desktop has to synch reasonably frequently and automatically with the phone and tablet, and visa versa. In addition, it would be a benefit, though I do not say it is absolutely essential, if the interfaces to the desktop and phone version of the system were reasonably similar in logic, capabilities, and visual icons and metaphors.

Do people agree that this is a sensible set of special feature demands for a task/GTD system for someone with ADD? Does anyone know of an application that will do these things, or a set of applications that will do them jointly?

Last time around I was using Ultimate Todo and DGT GTD for my alarm/reminders, but at that time they just seemed to fail for mysterious reasons more often than I could, or can, afford. And last time around my tablet and phone were both Android. This time my phone remains Android and my desktop and tablet are Windows 7 & 8, respectively. I am still hoping for some app-like interface on the Tablet, but this may be expecting too much.

I would be very grateful for any advice or pointers anyone has to offer. I will post whatever I settle on here, and then offer an account of my experience after I have worked with it for a while.

Sign me RedRacer
"A slow sort of country that is. Why here, it takes all the running you can do just to stay in the same place."
--the Red Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass

Posted: May 16, 2014
Score: 0 Reference
Hmmm. Interesting post. I myself may be heading into what you are experiencing as I was diagnosed with MS and my short term memory is becoming problematic. I, too, have been looking at Toodledo as my memory device.

First, I think that, if you can teach yourself to closely follow the GTD review process at regular intervals, then the tool that you use to manage your to-dos is not so important and even paper and pencil will work. However, rigorously following the GTD process is not easy and any tool that would help can be a plus.

Second, Toodledo has a lot of integrations that might help you. For instance, you might find a recipe (or two) of interest on

Toodledo, though, has the following problems that I would like to see fixed:

1. Better handling of events vs. tasks in Toodledo.

1a. For instance, if you put an event in Toodledo and set the due date to when the event happens and length to how long the event will be (which seems natural), Toodledo will not show this right on a calendar. It will show the event as starting at DUE-LENGTH. If you set START, then ALARM is not right as it is based on DUE.

1b. Some things you want to show on a calendar (ie. events) and some things you don't (ie. long tasks). This is why there should be a marker in Toodledo to explicitly say that the item is an event (and, therefore, should go on the calendar).

2. Toodledo only has (I think) two levels of tasks in its parent-child relationships and does not handle task dependencies. Without task dependencies, you cannot easily say "do taskD only when taskA, taskB, and taskC are done". You might put the tasks into a parent-child relationhip and, thus, do the parent when the children are done. However, that can be an unnatural setup for the tasks and the generally accepted view of parent-child is that when the children are done, then the parent is done (not started). Plus, pushing tasks into this kind of unnatural setup will quickly use up your task levels.

3. Toodledo needs a printout capability that works. There has been problems with font size in the printouts which makes it difficult to give Toodledo to my (computer challenged) wife. However, this might be working now -- I'm still experimenting.

I'm still trying to find the best tools for this. One new tool that I found was OrgMode in Emacs. If you can get past the learning curve, it has the features I mentioned above *and* it has a Toodledo integration, but it's still a work in progress.

Don't give up...
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