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Transcript: How to Find and Choose the Perfect Todo List App For You (TPS 135)

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Listen to the audio for TPS135 here.

Finding the right todo list app can be extremely difficult. We want to help you shortcut the process by helping you match the correct task manager or todo list app with your specific needs. In this episode, Thanh and Brooks weigh the pros and cons of popular apps like OmniFocus, Trello, Asana, Todoist, and 2Do to help you pick the one that fits your specific situation so you don’t need to personally try each one. By the end of this episode, you’ll have a much better idea about what type of app you’re going to need to manage your tasks. You’ll also know the pros and cons of the most popular apps so that you can make sure that you don’t just use the latest shiny new object but the one that will actually work for YOU.

Episode originally published 20 Mar 2017.


Thanh: [00:00:06] Welcome to The Productivity Show, the Asian Efficiency podcast dedicated to helping you make the most of your time, attention, energy and focus. Today we will be talking about how you can find the perfect to do list app that suits you. Now traditionally this has been a very time consuming process for most people. You might have tried an app for months only to learn it wasn’t right for you. Then you jump to another one and another one until you found the one that works for you. Or maybe you still haven’t found the perfect Task Manager. We want to help you shortcut this process. Now we’ll cover different to do list apps today and what the pros and cons are of each of them. By the end of this episode you will have a better idea which to do list app is best for you. Don’t forget you can find all the links to all the apps that we mentioned here in this episode today by going to the productivity show dot com slash 135. And now on with the show.

Thanh: [00:01:10] As you might have recognize I am not Mike. Mike is off today but today I have Brooks with me. How’s it going Brooks?

Brooks: [00:01:17] It’s going really well. Having an effective to do list app has made a really big difference for me so I’m super excited to go through this stuff.

Thanh: [00:01:25] Yeah. Today we’re going to be talking about all the different todo list apps that are out there. And as you guys all know this is a episode helping you shortcut this process. And we want to make sure that by the end of this episode you’ll have a better idea of what the perfect to do list app is for you because there are thousands of apps out there are always new ones coming in. There’s always new ones popping up in the App Store or on the Internet and you might be wondering Oh man where do I start. Or I’m using one right now. Not really happy with it. And we talk about todo list apps all the time on the blog but we realize it’s not really a topic we’ve discussed a lot on the podcast. So today I thought you know let’s let’s do an episode today with Brooks here since we are both very tech savvy We love our to do list apps and we’ve tried a ton of them and we thought OK let’s just talk about them and see what the most popular ones are out there and kind of give you a list of OK. Here are some things you want to look for here. Here are some of the downsides of each of the apps and the apps we are going to be talking about today are OmniFocus we’re going to be talking about Todoist. We’re going to talk about Asana, we are gonna talk about 2Do, Reminders and I’m sure other apps will be coming up as well. So if you’re considering any of them, definitely stick around. Or if you’re using something else and you’re thinking about switching. You definitely want to listen as well. So Brooks are you ready to dive in?

Brooks: [00:02:50] I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Thanh: [00:02:52] Cool. So I’m really interested to hear your story of figuring out which to do list app you ended up using because like I mentioned earlier I think everybody goes through this process we’re when they want to be more productive they know that they have to use some sort of to do list app. You know some people have started with pen and paper but then quickly realized OK this is not really scalable especially if you’re tech savvy you probably want to use something on your phone or your iPad on your computer. So they wanted then look into a to do list app that they can use. But as you know and I know this process this whole journey of finding the perfect app can take months if not years because you want to keep trying out stuff experiments and experimenting your workflow might change over time. So I’m really curious to hear what your sort of journey has been.

Brooks: [00:03:40] Right well I started. Like many people and this was this was in my corporate career, I started doing my todos basically jotted down on whatever piece of paper was in front of me or post-it notes on my monitor or working out of my inbox as kind of how I started. And then I went through this process of getting into GTD. So I started looking for GTD apps and there weren’t many back at the time. And in fact I even this sounds ridiculous now but I even had some Ruby app running on a computer that was off to the side and I used that as my GTD app. And then I. But then I wasn’t too happy with that and I couldn’t get access to my to my todos when I wasn’t at my computer. So I used Remember the Milk for a long time. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one.

Thanh: [00:04:29] Yeah that was a really long time ago.

Brooks: [00:04:32] Yeah yeah. And then so you know I used that but then I kept hearing about OmniFocus and a lot of smart people I respect were really into OmniFocus. And I was kind of finding that I was doing a lot of hacks to do what I wanted to do and in RTM. So then I started looking to Omnifocus. So I’ve used the OmniFocus ever since. But you know when these different ones come about they all of a sudden a lot of people start talking about it. Then I’ll check them out for a little bit. But that was kind of my journey. I kept changing around for a while and kind of settled on one.

Thanh: [00:05:11] Yeah I’m very similar in that since I started off with the whole Post-it notes putting it on my screen kind of thing. And I quickly realized that this is not really the way to go. And then I actually started off with Things because at that time that was the most popular to do list out there on the Mac and the design was great. I really like the design. It was very intuitive but it had a lot of limitations. And then I kept hearing OmniFocus over and over and over again. And you know it’s one of those things where if you keep something you hear about something all the time it’s probably worthwhile checking out. So I started using OmniFocus and I fell in love with it and I thought oh man this is awesome. This is great. And I’ve you know I’ve dabbled with other apps as well like RTM like you mentioned Remember The Milk. There were a bunch of other ones out there as well that I don’t think even exist anymore. When I settled on OmniFocus I also quickly realized that whoa this is a very difficult to use and even if you know GTD really well it’s still very difficult to use the app. So it has a really steep learning curve. And when we release our OmniFocus course it was a huge hit because we realized all a lot of other people have the same problem of using OmniFocus. Now I’m not saying that OmniFocus is the best app because there are a lot of good ups out there. We’re going to talk about later but that is the one I settled on just like you. So if you’re listening right now and you’re you might be running. OK. What is the benefit of using OmniFocus like something else or a task manager and in general. Well the most important thing you want to realize the reason we all use a task manager or to do list app is is that we can focus on what is actually important and that is doing the work that needs to be done. So by the fact that you have a to do list app, you can not worry about like oh did I forget something or you take a mental space just thinking about stuff when you have a todo list app you can just write it down put it in there have a trusted system in place so that you can focus on what’s actually important and when. When you first are using a task manager it sounds kind of like oh logically that kind of makes sense but you actually don’t see the benefit of it until you actually do it.

Brooks: [00:07:30] Absolutely. And that’s the thing. A lot of us get into down this rabbit hole of looking at these different apps but we don’t actually spend time doing the things we need to be doing. So yeah 100 percent.

Thanh: [00:07:44] Now when you want to try different apps you’re going to come across a lot of different types of to do list apps. Some are super simple and some are really complex. So you want to make sure that the app that you pick fits your lifestyle. So the simplest version is pen and paper right. Everybody uses pen and paper. Anybody who has access to that and it’s really easy to use. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that as a starting point because it’s not very scalable. And what I mean with that is as you get busier and you have more stuff coming on your plate it doesn’t really help you grow into your role and your responsibilities. So I tend to I tend to avoid that recommendation for that reason. Now that you have other to do list apps that are really simple and that are usually kind of like the default apps that are on your phone or in your computer like Reminders on iOS and then you have stuff that you can use on your computer even like the digital version of pen and paper, you can use like notes and stuff or even like Evernote if you really wanted to. Even though I would not recommend that either. And then you have like really complex ones. So something like a project manager which is really encompassing like teamwork stuff that you can do. Something like Asana, or Todoist can do that, or you have really like nerdy comprehensive task managers like OmniFocus and 2Do. Brooks what has your experience been with all these different levels of task managers and what do you see people struggling with the most or have like most difficulty with.

Brooks: [00:09:18] Yeah a lot of people do use paper and pen and that is that is not a bad system. Of course the problem is that you don’t you don’t have access to your todos if you don’t have whatever you wrote it down on which for some people that’s not a problem. But I’ve been in situations where I’ve jotted something down and then later haven’t had access to it. So that’s been a problem for me although it’s kind of interesting. Some people actually create pretty complex to do list systems using paper and pen. I know Patrick Rowan has one. I think he called that dash Plus where they have all these symbols that mean certain things so it’s almost trying to turn paper into a to do list. Other than that I see a lot of people using for example the simple tools like Reminders and I’m I’m sure we’ll get into it but I’m actually a big user of Reminders despite how I use OmniFocus, I use Reminders for quite a few things. And I think those are OK for simple things. But if you’re looking to work on projects or if you find you have a situation where you have a bunch of spinning plates and dependencies and stuff like that those become really really limiting and I run into that myself. So you’ve got to ideally start looking at one of these more tailor-made task management systems.

Thanh: [00:10:40] Yeah it’s interesting you brought up Reminders in that sense because I actually use it a lot as well even to use something like OmniFocus for personal use. And we use Jira at Asian Efficiency and the way I use Reminders is for really one-off stuff. So for example I have a literally a reminder so that I use it all the time through Siri. That’s the only time I use it. I never really punch anything in. So I’ll say stuff like Hey Siri remind me to pick up dry cleaning at 5 o’clock or something and it will like pop up right away or after this episode I need to start the dryer to make sure my clothes are ready for my trip. So these are like the little things I use it for and it’s only for like really like tiny stuff that I need to do. And that is usually like time sensitive, so like picking up the dry cleaning like I mentioned starting the machine just reminding me to clean clean my desk or something and at a certain time or whatever. So that’s how I use it but it’s it’s doesn’t interfere with how I use OmniFocus because it’s just a complementary tool that you use for just very tiny things, like OmniFocus still houses everything that I need to do like places I want to visit things I need to do for my finances things I need to do for all this other stuff going on in my life. So I think it complements it really well.

Brooks: [00:11:57] Yes same. I tend to use it for things like lists. So for example I have a grocery list so whatever I need to buy I will put it on that grocery list. I know Thanh you’re so Asian Efficiency that you have all your food magically appears at your house. But for me I you know if I need to go to this store I have a list for that and list for for example books I want to read. I just find it really fast to to when I come across a book that I want to read, I add it to my list in Reminders and you know movies or TV shows I want to watch stuff like that I find Reminders really handy for that because like you said using Siri is really fast and easy to get this stuff into your list. And then also it’s great for location based things like if I’m out somewhere driving home or whatever I’ll say hey Dingus, Remind me when I get home to, like you say take the clothes out of the dryer or something like that. And because it has that location built in it makes it quick to capture. And then when I get home it’ll pop up on my phone saying take the clothes out of the dryer. So that sort of quick things is great for Reminders I could use OmniFocus for all of those things. And I’ve actually heard people using a tool like OmniFocus for grocery list but to me that’s overkill. Something simple is better in that case.

Thanh: [00:13:22] Yeah especially if you have quick access to it as well. I’m all for it just keeping it simple and quick. So I didn’t know people still went to the grocery store. That’s interesting. We need to have a private chat, at some point to talk about this stuff. But actually I think we’re going to do a separate episode at some point about how you can save a lot of time with stuff like this.

Brooks: [00:13:43] That sounds good.

Thanh: [00:13:45] Yeah. To move on. One of the things you want to think about when you pick a task manager. Is it cross-platform, because when you pick a task manager there’s all these different factors you want to consider. And I think being cross-platform is the most important one. Some of the things I’ve seen over the last couple of years at Asian Efficiency is that ok. Originally we focused on Mac users and people who were drawn to Asian Efficiency were all Mac users. And over the years we’ve attracted a lot of people who use Androids who use something like Windows at work and over time what people have come into situations is that they have to use different platforms in different situations so people might use Windows at work. Mac at home. A Samsung tablet. And when you have all these different platforms you want to make sure that whatever task manager you pick is supported on most of these platforms. So something like OmniFocus is Mac only and it doesn’t work really on Windows there’s no Windows version of it. And so if you have Windows at work but use Mac at home you have this dilemma of OK what do I do now. And then the option is one you’re going to stick with the current system and you just make it work somehow. So maybe use a different system at work and OmniFocus at home or you pick a different task manager and you then make sure that they both work on Mac, Windows and whatever other device you use. So being cross-platform is super super important. And I’ve seen this evolution happening through coming across all of our support tickets because I support tickets every now and then too. I’ve seen this question come up over and over and over again where I’m pretty sure like OmniFocus has lost a lot of customers because a lot of people want to be cross-platform and you know to give a lot of credit to Windows and the Microsoft team like they’ve done a really good job revamping the company and making it great again. And a lot of people you know have to use that or they want to use it or use their laptops or tablets. And if you’re not cross-platform it’s just you’re really making it difficult for yourself to be productive that way. So being cross-platform huge huge factor. And the second thing and I know Brooks can relate to this is just being able to know that the company that supports the app is financially healthy because I think everybody has been through this and has been burned at least once where they used an app, whether it was a To Do list app or not. Could be something else. And the company went bankrupt and then they had to switch over. Brooks do you know of any scenarios where this happened to you?

Brooks: [00:16:27] It hasn’t happened to me where a company has gone bankrupt but what happens a lot of times and you see this in the to do list space as well is a company will be going and then they’ll get bought out by a larger company and then that functionality will get sometimes shut down. And so that’s almost as bad as the company going out of business. That’s in fact just yesterday someone was asking me my opinion about an app and not a to do list but a totally different app and I told them that the product is fine but it’s essentially made by one dude. And I’ve heard that you know when that person gets busy then he isn’t very responsive. So you definitely want to look especially something as important as a to do list app. You want to look at how they can support it. And in fact not to keep coming back to OmniFocus but it just happens to be the one we use. That was one reason that made me go in that direction is it just so happened when I was kind of thinking of making this which I was at the Macworld Conference which used to be a big thing and I walked into Omni’s booth and I just couldn’t believe how big it was. I didn’t realize it was such a such a large company and that made me feel good about making that shift.

Thanh: [00:17:47] Yeah OmniGroup the company behind OmniFocus, they’ve been around for like 25 plus years. So they have their stuff together. It’s like a company that just started like six months ago or even less than two years. So any company that has been around over five years you can pretty confidently say to yourself OK that is a company that knows its stuff, has been through the ups and downs, has kind of figured out the marketplace and has their stuff together. So if you can figure that out I think that’s really worthwhile to look into. Another sort of litmus test that you can do is test how good their support is because I think that is a really good way to determine not only how good the company is behind it but also are they actually dedicated to their app. Because from my own personal experience any company that has really good tech support is really dedicated to improving their platform their software and helping their customers. And if you have that company behind that you can be pretty confident knowing that OK they’re going to be around for a while even if they get bought out. Hopefully they’ll be you know sustainable enough to say OK let’s let’s make sure we maintain our customers and provide service to them. So that’s something you always want to look for. So again being cross-platform having a healthy financial company and with great support and then a third one and this is something that is a little bit maybe difficult to assess initially depending where you are in your life but do you want to use this app for just personal use or do you want to use this with other people as well. So maybe something like your spouse your significant other, maybe like an assistant or maybe even team members like one or two team members, if you’re a small business owner. Because it makes a big difference in terms of what the app can do for you. So for example something like OmniFocus is really good for solo use but if you want to share something with your wife your husband it’s probably not that great because it doesn’t really have the features built in and something like Asana is more focused on teamwork but it’s not that great for personal use in my opinion. So you want to make sure you think through OK is this for personal use. Is this for something that when used with one more person. Brooks I’m really curious to hear how do you do that stuff with your wife and other people that you work with.

Brooks: [00:20:12] Yeah. So for OmniFocus you’re right as soon as you start collaborating it falls apart. And so if you are going to use something with other people, trying to hack together a system using a tool that doesn’t support it is not a very good scalable long term. So when I have been working with others you know with administrative assistants or whatever I still use OmniFocus for my personal stuff but then I started using Asana to work with others. And that’s what’s worked well for me because trying to trying to shoehorn something that doesn’t exist is not a good way to go. For a family, well I finally got my wife to use Google Calendar which is awesome. But as far as projects and tasks basically the extent that we’ve gone is on Reminders that grocery list I was talking about because with Reminders you can share it via iCloud. I have a shared grocery list with her. And so if she thinks something that we need she just pops it in on her phone and that will appear on mine that that’s about the extent of the collaboration. Obviously since I joined Asian Efficiency it’s a whole different story. But traditionally that’s how it’s worked.

Thanh: [00:21:31] Yeah I think we can do a whole episode on just like family productivity. Like the shared calendars, to do list apps and stuff like that because we get this question all the time in the dojo and in the Slack channel so I know that it’s a hot topic so make sure we’re going to do a separate episode on this but I want to get into some of the task managers that we’ve promised to talk about. So we want to make sure that we cover a couple of ones that are really popular and that I think you should consider. So the first one is Reminders. We kind of talked about this a little bit earlier but I also want to discuss Asana with you, Todoist, and OmniFocus and then 2Do. And I know Brooks you have experience with all of them so I’m really curious to hear what your pros and cons are of each and what you’ve liked of each of them and hopefully by the end of this discussion you’ll have a better idea of which app suits you. And that’s really what the purpose of this episode is. So let’s start with the first one, we’ve talked about Reminders a little bit earlier and how it’s really great. It’s a compliment to whatever you might be using already because it’s very simple, easy to use a comes with Mac and iOS. So it’s already built in, syncs through iCloud which makes sure that everything is synced up and you can use Siri to add stuff which is actually my favorite feature. And even though it’s really simple it’s it’s really powerful if you just keep it to very basic stuff. And I think if you just understand that there is a great complementary tool to another task manager you might be using on top of that because I think if you just use it for day to day stuff I don’t think it’s that great but if you use that as a complementary tool I think it’s great. But for something like you know big projects and stuff like that where you have like multiple people working or maybe just you trying to write a book and stuff man. I would not recommend this. So you know the benefit of it is is that it is free and it comes pre-installed on a lot of devices so that’s a benefit. But other than that I wouldn’t really use that as like a big tool.

Brooks: [00:23:37] Yep agreed. And the only thing I would add to all that is the location based functionality which can be really really powerful and handy when you’re using reminders in that kind of simple way being able to have things fire off when you’re arriving at or leaving a location can be really really handy.

Thanh: [00:23:55] Oh interesting. I have not used that feature that much can you maybe share how you use it or what are some common scenarios that you think the listener would benefit from.

Brooks: [00:24:05] Yeah. For me it’s a lot. I don’t tend to use leaving a lot. I can’t think of a situation where I’ve set a reminder for leaving a location but reminding I– or arriving I do all the time. So the example I gave earlier is when I’m out somewhere and I want to remember to do something when I arrive home. It knows what my home is all this say do X when I get home and or. And it will pop up when I get there. Also if I’m visiting family if I want to remember to talk about something with my parents or if I want to do something at their house or set a reminder saying when I arrive at my dad’s place you know it’ll fire off and then I’ll remember. So that’s the sort of thing that it just gets that stuff out of your brain. But it also gives you an extra reminder as well. Very handy.

Thanh: [00:24:59] Ah interesting because I used to use OmniFocus for that sort of stuff. So I used it for like cities and even grocery stores even though that was like a couple of years ago the last time I went. But I did find it handy, especially if you went to something like Target or Home Depot if you needed stuff, and it would just automatically pop up and say hey there’s some stuff in your neighborhood or in your ‘hood that you need to check out. Here’s the list. And I always found it really useful and I didn’t know Reminders could do that so I might have to start using that again.

Brooks: [00:25:32] Yeah. Another Another example is those things that for example with my kids soccer let’s say I need to pay the coach you know give them some money for a tournament or something that. I would always have this situation where I’d have the money in my pocket get to that practice or the game and totally get home and realize I totally forgot to give it to him so now I’ll set up a location based reminder for the field saying don’t forget to give him the envelope and then that means I remember. So it’s just stuff like that.

Thanh: [00:26:03] This guy doesn’t use Venmo yet?

Brooks: [00:26:05] Nope nope nope. It’s all cash based.

Thanh: [00:26:07] We need to have a private conversation with him as well. OK. So the next one is Asana. So Asana is a really popular web based– I wouldn’t to call it a to do list app. It’s more like a collaboration platform because if you use it as a solo artist or you solo person I don’t think it’s that great because it’s kind of cumbersome and it’s not really meant to be used for personal but if you want to use it with other people maybe one or two people in your life then I think it’s a great tool and a great platform. So there’s lots of things you can do or you can e-mail stuff in there. You can create subtask for stuff you’re going to have attachments and doodads and all that jazz. So it comes with all the traditional stuff that you expect in a to do list app but it’s really meant for collaboration with other people. So think of it as like a simple project management tool and it’s usually the tool and platform we recommend for people who want to collaborate online. So even though we use Jira I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Jira to most people because it’s very complex and I’m sure Brooks since you just joined Asian Efficiency can testify how complex it is.

Brooks: [00:27:19] Yeah. When I was going through and learning it all I kept thinking is I’m so glad I wasn’t here for having to set this thing up.

Thanh: [00:27:28] I think it was a lot to set it up and now it’s set up it’s like this is really smooth.

Brooks: [00:27:32] Yeah it’s great now.

Thanh: [00:27:33] It’s kind of like OmniFocus initially you might hate it because it’s so complex but once you get over that hump then you go oh this is great. I’m like I’m not going to go anywhere. So that’s how Jira is, so I wouldn’t recommend it but if you do want to use it and you’re committed to scrum and agile principles. I think it’s the best thing out there and even better than Trello, which is kind of like the simple version. And for those who are in the know they all know that Trello recently got acquired by Atlassian. Which is the company behind Jira. So they are going to make this whole thing integrated and pretty and stuff like that so Trella is a really good one which we don’t really cover today because again it’s really more focused for collaboration. In my opinion although I do think Trello is great for personal use. If you just want to use it for yourself because it’s very simple to use it’s very visual as well. And if you like to have like a visual overview of what’s going on in your life I think Trello is a really good alternative to this as well because it has the skill ability of allowing other people to join in and do stuff but it’s good enough to be able to shield other people if you don’t want to and just use it for your personal use as well. And because it’s visual I think it helps a lot of people in a different way. So definitely Trello something you want to consider. The only downsides of Trello is until recently it was mostly offline but now you can have like offline stuff as well. I’m sorry. I mean it was usually just only available online. But now you have offline capability as well which is still kind of like experimental. But if they can really get this nailed down I think it could be really really powerful. But I also find the native app on mobile devices is not that great yet.

Brooks: [00:29:20] Yeah. The other thing I’ll say about Trello that I find interesting is a lot of people just the way their brains are wired just reject this concept of to do apps, like they just find it – They just find it limiting or stressful or whatever. But a lot of times those type of people like Trello, they like the visual aspect of it so it tends to work for people who may not work with other todo apps.

Thanh: [00:29:47] You know what my suspicion is is that people who like Trello are low fact finders. That is my suspicion. For those who don’t know what I’m referring is that there’s this personality test called Kolbe. So if you Google Kolbe tests you can basically figure out what your tendencies are and preferences are. And we have everybody at Asian Efficiency take this test so everybody knows what everybody’s preferences are how they like to be communicated to and communicated with and how they like to work and stuff like that. And fact finding is basically one of those things, and everybody in the team is pretty much a high factfinder which I think is why everybody likes OmniFocus and stuff like that but I’m pretty sure we have had people on the team before who are low fact finders. And this is not scientific by any means but they all loved Trello. So that is just my suspicion of you’re a low factfinder you’re probably really like something like Trello because it’s very simple it’s not very intricate. There’s not a lot of details and stuff you need to do because you just put stuff in there or dump it in there move from left to right. It’s really that simple.

Thanh: [00:30:54] So other things you want to consider with Asana, going back to Asana for a little bit is that you can have multiple workspaces which is really useful. You can have a workspace for yourself and you can have a workspace for your company or for your side hustle. So that’s really great. Which, what I referred to earlier is that it allows you to scale. So if you wanted to use something that you use for yourself and then down the line hire people and bring people on and help you out. I think Aana is like a good way to go. But again if you just one use of personal use you know there’s better alternatives out there. So there’s a free version of it and then there’s also a premium plan for a couple dollars a month. So again I think the weaknesses of Asana is that it’s all online based. So you really have to be online for most this stuff and it’s really not meant for personal use. So strengths on the others– On the other hand is if you want something that’s a little bit more scalable Aana I think is a really good platform.

Brooks: [00:31:53] I also will say that usually I’m somebody who definitely believes in paying for software and that would be the case with Asana as well though I personally use the free one but Asana has an almost overly generous free plan for me it’s pretty rare that someone would be in a situation where they would need to pay for Asana unless they just want to support the company.

Thanh: [00:32:16] That actually reminds me of something else when you want to consider a to do list app or a platform. I talked a little bit about the financials of the company and the support, but from a business point of view if you can understand their business model that helps a lot too in terms of determining is this worthwhile using because if an app is free my alarm goes off like this is not sustainable. Yeah. If a to do list app is free you just know at some point the servers are going to go down, the person or the company behind it probably can’t provide for it because if they don’t know how to make money from it it’s a recipe to eventually get shut down.

Brooks: [00:32:57] Yeah for sure. So hopefully hopefully Asana is making enough from these premium plans with larger businesses that it’s subsidizing the rest of us because otherwise I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

Thanh: [00:33:10] So the next step we want to talk about is Todoist. Now this is a really interesting app because it became really popular over the last two years. I want to say. And I’ve seen a lot of people move away from OmniFocus to Todoist because it is cross-platform and that is usually the app we recommend. If you stop using OmniFocus to something else that’s a little bit more cross-platform because that’s what Todoist is. And it’s mostly web based. There are some native apps as well but it’s really powerful. And I think it it’s– because I’m such a diehard OmniFocus user I can’t really say OK this is much better than OmniFocus because I think OmniFocus has certain features that Todoist doesn’t have. But I know you used it a lot Brooks as well. What do you think is the main difference– if you’re if you’re if you have this person in front of you who is considering using OmniFocus or moving away from OmniFocus and considering Todoist, what would you say to this person?

Brooks: [00:34:13] Well I think I think you hit the nail on the head that the big thing about Todoist is it’s cross-platform nature. So a lot of times people want a system that works in different environments and you know OmniFocus which we both use just isn’t going to cut it. And I’m the same way. If somebody asked me Well why should I use instead. I usually push them towards Todoist. I think really the big things about about Todoist – for me the powerful thing is the cross-platform nature. A lot of the other things about it you know with the karma and the tags or labels they call it. I think those are good features but but they’re not something I would switch to it for. I’m not sure I’m not sure if you feel that way.

Thanh: [00:35:07] One of the things I always tell people when you consider switching platforms whether it’s you know a serious platform or just a very simple or serious system that you’re using like a To Do list app you always want to consider the switching costs of that. And what I mean with this is the time it takes to export stuff that you currently have in your system to importing into your new system. Learning the new system so switching from one to do list app to another is very time sensitive– Not time sensitive– time intensive thing to consider and that’s why even though I’ve used OmniFocus for so many years I’ve seen other things coming up like 2Do which we’ll talk about a little bit later but in order for me to switch the main thing for me is that it has to be 10x better. If it’s not 10x better, I’m happy with a system that I’m already using that can do 80 percent 90 if not 95 percent of what I need to do. And so when you’re listening to this you’re already using something you’re kind of satisfied with it. I would say stick to it don’t don’t switch over unless something has like 10X potential of being so much better. And for most people when they just are in this little like scenario of OK I’m not sure which one I want to use yet I kind of like this app or I don’t know what to do next or if I should switch. I would say stick to your current system because you know it works. You know what it can do. And if you see something that is like 10x better or it has a major killer feature that will make your life easier for your specific situation then. OK then it might be worthwhile moving over but if you’re just pedaling around and just trying stuff I don’t think it’s really worthwhile to move over. So if you look at something like Todoist, I think it has a lot of great features but it does move you to say oh this is like the 10x feature that I want or this is this is the thing that’s going to change my life. Then I’d say just stick to what works for you right now. And that’s why I mentioned earlier a lot of people who kind of like get stuck with OmniFocus. I usually say hey if you’re happy with it just stick to it right now. But if it’s really killing you then move over to Todoist, because it can do most of the stuff that OmniFocus can do plus it’s cross-platform which most people want. So I think like you said Brooks that is the main power of Todoist.

Brooks: [00:37:33] Yeah, and one thing about Todoist and a lot of these other apps and I guess this is more of a personal limitation or not limitation but a personal thing then maybe what works best for everyone is I’m a big believer in start dates or as OmniFocus calls it defer dates versus due dates. Like for me if I’m going to set a due date for something it’s going to be– that means it’s actually the day that that thing is due. So a lot of the- I’m not sure about you but for me personally a lot of my workflow is around this concept of using start dates and defer dates. So a lot of these apps, Todoist for example as far as I know doesn’t have the start dates or defer dates so that’s why for me it’s not that I couldn’t use Todoist, of course I could I could manage if I needed to but it would be a big change to how I do things that’s for sure.

Thanh: [00:38:26] That’s an interesting point because I do use a lot of defer dates or start dates. I guess if you’re old-school you call them start dates if you’re new you call them defer dates. But the only reason I use them is just to filter out stuff. And if you are somebody who needs to filter out stuff a lot then there’s other work arounds around that. And in OmniFocus I think the best way to do it is to use defer dates and especially if you have repeating stuff like having defer dates is critical otherwise you’re going to be overpopulating stuff in your OmniFocus.

Thanh: [00:39:03] Which brings me to the app that we are both most familiar with is OmniFocus. And like you said it has defer dates which I think is a killer feature but also something that you don’t see in other apps that often and I don’t know why. I guess maybe it’s like something that people just don’t know how powerful this unless you actually use it and build on top of that. Another thing that OmniFocus has going for it is context. So a context is basically a tool or a place or a location that kind of describes how you want to get your task done. So traditionally if you read the GTD book it will say something like you know your office which could be location could be even email. A tool that you use or you could even be a mindset like a CEO or a programmer. If you if you really want to get into it and we have a separate episode on contexts which we’ll link to in the show notes if you want to dive deeper into that. But that’s I think another really great feature if you use it if you don’t use contexts whatsoever you can still use OmniFocus OK, just fine, but you’re missing out on a lot of stuff. And another benefit of OmniFocus is that it’s native to the Mac and iOS because it’s like the company behind it is really focused on just building Mac only apps. They don’t want to move to online or even Windows. They’re really focused on just creating a killer experience on the Mac. So you know that if you are completely bought into the Mac ecosystem I think this is the app to get.

Brooks: [00:40:37] Yeah. I’m curious about that though because I’ve noticed a trend lately of historically Mac-only companies like the TextExpander folks, Smile, and like the One Password folks. And they’ve started releasing Windows versions so I’m wondering if someday Omni is going to go that way but at least right now. Yeah it’s it’s a best of breed Mac and iOS application. Contexts too. Another interesting one that I’ve heard people use for some reason I feel like I might have even heard this from you at a Macworld Talk, is using contexts around energy, using low energy and high energy contexts in OmniFocus and that’s an interesting way to do things too.

Thanh: [00:41:20] Yeah I did mention that at the talk, this is like many many years ago. And I remember not seeing any sort of literature on this and I was one of the first to bring that up. OK. There’s there’s different ways to use contexts then what is mentioned in GTD books. So something like energy or mindsets or places and tools like we’ve mentioned before but energy was like the thing that everybody wanted to experiment with and I over time sort of realize it’s a great tool or context to use if you have very simple stuff going on. As soon as things get a little bit more complex something is it high energy or low energy is a little bit difficult to differentiate. And and especially when we switched over to Jira, pretty much every single thing that was high energy was in Jira, because it’s like business related. Anything in my personal life is relatively simple. So like I kind of get rid of that at that point as well. But yeah like I think OmniFocus is is the tool, like that’s the one I use personally for my personal life. You can integrate it with Siri as well. The only downside of OmniFocus is that it’s really expensive really really expensive. And you have to use different prices at different platforms as well. So the Mac version has a different price than the iOS version so you’re going to be spending a lot of money there. And I think that’s the one thing that deters most people. And even on the Mac you have like the standard version and the pro version. So you have the standard version of $40 bucks and then if you want to upgrade to the Pro version, that’s another $40. Which brings up to $80 total. And so that’s a very steep price. And not everybody is necessarily willing to invest that, especially when you browse around the app store and you see 99 cent apps and $1.99 or maybe $9.99 at most. You can think of the marketplace at like as a you know $10 and below kind of like marketplace. It’s really hard to justify and say OK. Am I really going to spend $40 or $80 on this? That’s the thing I see most people being deterred from. But I can say if you’re willing to invest in it, the time and effort and also in our course, our OmniFocus premium posts, then I think you’re going to have a killer system set up.

Brooks: [00:43:39] Yeah. And I will say that that is one of the things that that delayed me from buying it for a long time going back to what I was saying about standing in the booth at Macworld. You know I kept hearing OmniFocus, OmniFocus, OmniFocus, and I’d stand there in the booth and I’d you know check Twitter and I’d ask the employees like do you guys have some sort of show special and it wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it. I just it just seemed like a lot of money especially with OmniFocus. I feel like if you’re going, this is a personal opinion but if you’re going to be spending the money for OmniFocus versus one of these other tools it makes sense to get the higher version as well to unlock all the features. So it’s not only a lot of money but you know really a lot of money. So it took me a while to drop the cash but I’ve never looked back since I did it. That’s for sure.

Thanh: [00:44:26] Yeah I agree if you’re going to get OmniFocus get the pro version which is $80 in total because then you’re going to use all the killer features like the perspectives because man I honestly wouldn’t know how to use OmniFocus without perspective like I know how you would get stuff done honestly, because that is the killer feature that you want. And this is something we talk a lot about in our OmniFocus course.

Brooks: [00:44:48] Yeah. And in fact I was an early customer of your OmniFocus course and the systems I set up in OmniFocus were kind of based on that and I use it every single day. You know different perspectives to see OK what are the just the work tasks that I need to do today and that sort of thing. And it’s just a keyboard shortcut. So I use custom perspectives a lot.

Thanh: [00:45:10] So if you want to check out the OmniFocus course that we have. Then then you can go to the productivity’s show dot com slash OmniFocus. So again the URL is http://theproductivityshow.com/omnifocus. We’ll show you the OmniFocus that we have that I think you’re really going to like if you’re going to be committed to OmniFocus.

Thanh: [00:45:29] Now the last app that I want to talk about is 2Do. So you spell it as the number two and then D O, 2Do. And this is a really popular app in the dojo apparently because there’s a huge discussion thread there where one person from Germany, whose name is Matt. Matt Ryan and a really great guy I met him in Germany as well when we did a meet up there. Really smart guy and he used to be a hardcore OmniFocus user and then he switched over to 2Do. And he was actually the one who almost made me switch to 2Do because I can see how powerful this app is and it’s also cross-platform. I’m almost to the point where not only do I want to switch myself but also almost want to change the recommendation for people that if you don’t like OmniFocus and you need something cross-platform, 2Do might be the app to go to. I’m not quite there yet because I haven’t really played with it myself and I hate to make recommendations with something that I’ve not personally use and tried. So I’m not there quite yet but from what I’ve seen it’s extremely powerful. And the thing to use if you don’t like using OmniFocus. What has your experience been Brooks with this app? I know you hang out in the dojo a lot too and I’m sure you’ve seen that thread as well but I’m curious your thoughts on this.

Brooks: [00:46:52] Yeah actually I’m in the exact same boat as you. I’ve seen a lot of talk, you know people in the dojo like it, I’ve seen a lot of Mac blogs talking about it and a lot of people have switched from OmniFocus to it. So it’s kind of like, I’m interested but I haven’t had the time to really dig into it. It would be interesting to hear more from somebody who lives and breathes it to to see what they’re getting out of it because it looks like an interesting program that’s for sure.

Thanh: [00:47:26] Yeah we’re actually going to have Matt on the show pretty soon so we’re going to have a dedicated episode to just 2Do, from somebody who uses it every single day and was a hardcore OmniFocus user so if you’re in that scenario and you’re considering moving over to something like 2Do then check out that episode that we have coming out in the future, but like you Brooks I think what’s making me stick with OmniFocus is that I haven’t seen that killer feature or that like 10x of to do that really makes me want to switch because I’ve been using OmniFocus for so long now I know I know it inside out. I know what it can do and it’s kind of like okay I can stick to what I know or I can try to complete- something completely new move stuff over try learn a new app and go from there. And the benefit or the payoff from that might not be as significant because I already get stuff done anyway in OmniFocus so why would I switch. So it’s kind of the scenario I’m in. And if you’re in a similar situation I would say you know stick to OmniFocus because if you know it really well and you know what it can do for you and it’s all integrated then great. But if you’re in a boat where you know you want to leave OmniFocus, I think 2Do would be a really good alternative to check out at least.

Thanh: [00:48:45] All right. We talked a lot today about task managers. Brooks I want to give you some final thoughts as well and some time for you to talk to the listener and say what your overall impression was of the show and what you think the next step should be for them. But you know my main takeaway from this episode is that if you really want to switch over to something else really considered the time that it takes to do that and also the switching costs related to this because switching stuff all the time is really time consuming and also costs you a lot of money and like lost productivity and your own time and mental focus and just frustrations learning new features and stuff. So I really want to make sure you consider that before you move over. So we talked a lot about the different apps that are out there but if you do switch make sure it’s something you’re really excited about and that has like a killer feature that you really want to use because then I think it’s going to make it worthwhile for you to switch. Brooks, anything you want to add to today’s show?

Brooks: [00:49:43] The only thing I would say is if you’re if you’re not in a situation where you’re looking to switch and you are somebody who is shopping for a new task manager, or like maybe you’re just wanting to upgrade, try to keep some of the factors to consider we talked about in mind when you’re evaluating these things so you don’t end up in a situation where you’ve spent a lot of time setting up and then find it’s not what you needed after all, so look for something that’s cross-platform if that’s important to you. Check out their support ask a few questions see how they respond and then put some thought into: Is this just for me solo? Or is this something that you want to use with others later? And then that way you can use that as a basis to choose without wasting a lot of time.

Thanh: [00:50:26] I like that. Now if you want to dive deeper on this topic and see how other people use task managers then I want to invite you to check out the dojo. It’s our private training library where we have pro-activity courses on task management, stuff like OmniFocus, productive parenting, and a lot of other topics. Think of it as like Lynda.com but solely focused on productivity. Where you get access to some of the best training materials that we have here at Asian Efficiency that is not available anywhere else. And when you join the dojo you also get access to your private forum where other podcast listeners are hanging out and Asian Efficiency readers are sharing how they use their task managers, specific workflows that they have for Asana, OmniFocus, Todoist, and all the other task managers that we talked about. And they’re all there to share and share the wealth and share what they know and what they’ve have found really to be helpful for them and to give you advice and tips if you need it. So if you’re stuck using a task manager or you’re wondering how other people use it that Dojo and this private forum is a really great place to go and check out. So since you love the podcast I’m pretty sure you’re going to love the dojo. However the dojo is currently closed to the public but we have a special offer just for podcast listeners. So if you go to the productivity show dot com slash dojo, you can get access to the private training library that we have there, and to the forum, for just one dollar. So on top of the training materials and direct access to the whole Asian Efficiency team, you will also get exclusive software discounts on some of our favorite productivity apps like BusyCal and Hazel and others. So all you have to do is just join the dojo today by going to the productivity show dot com slash dojo and you can try it out for just a dollar. Again the link is the productivity show dot com slash dojo. Try it out for a dollar today, and you get access to the forums, all the training materials that we have, and see how other people use task managers. You can also find links to everything we discussed today in the show notes by going to the productivity show dot com slash 135. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next productive Monday.

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