Getting Things Done — Finding the right to-do app

GTD is a methodology and workflow designed to handle all incoming things just once and put them into a trusted system. When all types of information have their defined place, and all open loops are captured, your mind can relax and you can selectively focus to work on your projects.

Having a good system for capturing and do your next actions is essential. Paper-based list are still commonly used, more tech savvy folks are using a to-do application on their smartphone. This article is about them.

Defining your productivity requirements

My cold start into GTD involved trying out several to-do apps. A good list is available at https://zapier.com/blog/best-todo-list-apps/. I settled down with Swipes because of its ease of use, its simple UI, its powerful ways of structuring and accessing your next action. Did I mention the UI — its superb :)

Over the time I gradually refused to use the app and eventually looked for a replacement. I had no specific reason, but after writing this article, I think it were concrete lists that I was missing (in Swipes, you structure everything with tags).

This time, I made a list of requirements the app should support. Here are my ideas about the core requirements for a GTD to-do list.

Apply the requirements to find your app

The requirements list is a template that helps you to differentiate between several to-do apps. First of all, refine this list to your liking: Delete features that you do not need, and add new features that you need. Then, download the apps that appear interesting to you and fill out the requirements list. Give each app some “try-out” time. Use it for some days or even a complete week to learn about it and to experience how it helps you in structuring your work. In my experience, it is also not painful at all to move to a new app. Inserting my 15+ projects and 150+ next actions into a new system took less then 1 hour. As a bonus, you will stumble upon projects and actions that you were never going to do anyway, so delete them.

The one essential feature is fun: You should feel productive from using the app, you should like how easy it is to capture items, process them, select what you want to work on, and just get the things done. In my experience, it is also important to like how projects and next actions are presented — the information must be visually appealing to you.

I eventually settled with Wunderlist. It’s conveniently available on all platforms with reliable sync. During the day, I capture all items on the mobile phone or with my laptop. At the evening, the inbox is quickly processed, next actions structured and put into the right context. Nice additional features are file attachments, notes and discussions, and sharing your list (aka projects) with others, so you can collaborate and delegate on projects staying within the same app.

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