I spend an embarrassing amount of time researching how people get things done. It’s almost as if I expect their habits to wear off on me and of course, they don’t. Lately I’ve been using Wunderlist and while it’s close to what I need, it’s not quite perfect. Here’s what I’m looking for in a task management product:
This is super important. Anything that requires more than one step is a project and I have a lot of things that fit this description. If a task manager doesn’t allow you to define a project and set the tasks to complete the project, it’s pretty much useless.
Tasks can be standalone or part of a project but this is something no checklist app misses. Of all the apps I have installed on my phone and Macbook, none of them are missing the task element. The one area that is lacking in a lot of apps is reoccurring tasks. I use this function to remind me to change my oil, cut my hair, or replace my furnace filter. If an app is missing standalone tasks, sub-tasks (for projects), or reoccurring tasks, I have no use for it.
A project should have a start date. If I need to start a project on Jan 1st 2014, I don’t want to see it until then. I don’t own OmniFocus but from what I hear, this is pretty much the only app that handles start dates in this manner.
Anything worth doing needs a due date right? OK that’s a bit of a stretch but if this task manager is going to handle my personal and work life, it must have due dates.
The things I listed earlier as reoccurring tasks section are prime examples of items I want reminders for. What I really want in an app is the ability to set the reminder for any interval. The Reminders app allows for monthly or yearly reminders but nothing in between. This means my reminder to check the furnace filter needs to be ignored 2 months out of 3 because I can’t set it for a more useful interval.
If I can’t capture a task quickly, what’s the point? I don’t care if this involves using Drafts with an x-callback-url or if the app itself opens to the entry box, I need a way to get tasks into the system easily.
Syncing is key these days and I’d rather it be something I control. If I had my way, the perfect app would use Dropbox to sync but the few that use this method lack push notifications. I’ll settle on a syncing solution that is reliable which it seems Wunderlist hasn’t figured out yet.
I want to be able to filter my tasks in a few ways. Maybe I want to see today’s tasks, maybe I want to see this month. Either way, the filters need to be configurable and flexible.
Not everything ends up in my calendar but items that fall on a specific date and require a specific action should. Whether this means integration with the existing system calendar, or using a built-in calendar, it’s a must.
We all have tasks that won’t be starting any time soon and you need a place to file those. These could be standalone tasks, or full blown projects so this area needs to be flexible. These tasks and projects won’t have dates so they won’t show up in filters or views unless I specifically want them to.
I don’t practice Getting Things Done but this list has a pretty obviously slant in that direction. I’ve been slowly melding the ideas from GTD into a system that fits my life and this is the system I feel will help me actually accomplish my tasks.
I’m fairly certain OmniFocus meets almost every one of these needs but they seem to lack a trial version for OS X so I have no way of knowing before forking out a pretty substantial wad of cash. One of these days I’ll grow tired of waiting and drop the $$ on the OS X and iOS clients and maybe then I’ll be happy.