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ToDoIst with Wade Wingler
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WADE WINGLER: I’m Wade Wingler, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Welcome to episode number 316 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on June 16, 2017.
Today we’re going to do something special. I’m going to spend time with you talking about a program I use all day, a day in and day out, to make myself better organized. It’s called Todoist.
We hope you’ll check us out on the web at www.eastersealstech.com, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line. We love to have your feedback and questions. The number is 317-721-7124.
Before we get started car during today’s show, I’m going to mention a couple of different resources. One is Getting Things Done by David Allen. You can find information about that at GettingThingsDone.com. I’m also going to talk most of this time about Todoist which is todoist.com.
Today we are going to do something different and interesting. I spent a lot of my time in my job here at Easter Seals crossroads managing lots of things to do, lots of projects, tasks. I have responsibilities beyond assistive technology. I take care of several of our disability service programs here as well as our IT program. I’m a busy guy and have a lot of things going on. I also have a lot of family responsibilities and am a part-time college professor for a couple of colleges.
Today I was looking at a couple of things. I was looking at my to do list and my production schedule for this week’s podcast. A couple of things converged at the same time. The first one is I realized I did not have an interview recorded already as I typically do with a thought leader in the field of assistive technology, and I also realized I have a whole lot of things to do on my to do list but still needed to get a show out this week. It occurred to me that even though my to do list is pretty full right now – it is a busy season in my life – I’m not overwhelmed with it. One of the reasons is I have a pretty good system for managing my tasks and my to do items and my projects and those things. It occurred to me that a lot of people in my audience might have a similar situation. You might be in a situation where you have a lot to do, sometimes it becomes a bit overwhelming, sometimes you don’t know what priority things should be and what to do first. You may have Post-it notes or emails in your inbox that have thousands of messages that are either read or unread. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea for me to spend time sharing what I do in terms of keeping track of my tasks and specifically talking about a tool I’ve been using for a while now called Todoist.
Before I jump in to talking about Todoist, I have to do a disclaimer. I’ll tell you, this tears me up to have to do this. At Easter Seals crossroads and the INDATA Project, we work with folks who have all kinds of disabilities whether sensory or mobility or cognitive. I’m torn because the tool I’m going to talk about is not good for people who rely on screen readers. I’m hearing the stop buttons or the next button click all over and I’m okay with that, but I think it’s important to let you know I’m going to talk about a tool that is accessible in a lot of ways too many people with disabilities and a fabulous tool, but I’ve tried it with voiceover on my Mac and on my iPhone, and if you are an expert voice over user you will be able to navigate the system, but the accessibility isn’t something I can recommend for people who were screen reader users.
I’m going to go ahead with the talk today about Todoist because I think it’s so valuable for folks who don’t rely on screen readers. I want my friends who are blind or visually impaired or rely on screen readers for another reason to know that this one isn’t, at least at this point, accessible. Yes, I will make a contact to the manufacturer is about accessibility and maybe even invite them on the show at some point in the future once they’ve cleaned up their accessibility.
Disclaimer out of the way. What is Todoist? It’s a task management and project management tool. I guess it’s important for me to talk about the fact that I am a follower and fan of David Allen and the getting things done methodology. I’ve been a GTDer, or Getting Things Done-er, for a number of years now. It was when I was in grad school that I got way overwhelmed with my to do list and couldn’t figure out how I was going to manage everything. I started with the GTD principles at that time. I’m not going to get into GTD they deeply because that could be a whole podcast on its own. In fact there are podcasts covering GTD. If you Google or search for GTD podcasts, you can find a lot of people talking about the principles and how they work. You can also read the book by David Allen. It’s a fabulous book. I recommend it to everybody.
The general principles are this: in GTD, you have to capture tasks. That basically means writing down the things you need to get done so you can stop worrying about them and thinking about them. Get them out of your head and into your system. The next thing you have to do is process those. Yet organized by project and priority and even group by context. Things I will do at my desk or while I am out and about on town, or things I can only do on my iPhone. I also use context related to people: things I need to talk to my boss about, things I need to talk to Brian Norton whom you guys know from ATFAQ. The other thing you do with the system is you complete tasks, you check things off a task list which is a very gratifying thing to do. GTD also talks about the importance of keeping an eye on the big picture, your weekly review where you are reviewing your project and task and making sure you don’t have things slipping through the cracks.
That is the quickest version of GTD I can talk about, but those basic principles apply when we are talking about Todoist which is the app we will cover.
I’m going to get into the features and what it does and how it works and give you some examples of how I use it, but I think it’s important, especially the nature of the talk today, to let you know right up front what platforms it works on and what the cost is. I realize people are going to be listening to this and think they might want to try that tool, and I want you to know right up front, much like the voiceover compatibility issue, whether it’s a deal breaker for you.
If you things to understand about Todoist. It works on lots of platforms. Android, the phone, tablet, and watch; it works across Apple, iOS, phone and tablet and watch. It works on the web, Windows, the Mac. It works on chrome and Safari and Firefox. And within Gmail and Outlook and Thunderbird there are some plug-ins for compatibility as well. We are missing some Linux stuff, but in terms of mainstream operating systems and platforms, a really is one of the most cross-platform tools that I use. By the way, their website is Todoist.com so you can get lots of details there.
Even though we are an English-language show, I think it’s remarkable that Todoist works in 17 different languages including English, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Here’s another thing to know. The cost. There is a free version and a premium and a is this version. I’m going to say many people are going to get by just fine with the free version and it’s a great way to try and figure out if it’s going to be helpful for you. When you go to their website, there is a pricing tab and you can see a grid of what you get for the free version, the paid version. Some of the highlights go like this. The free version gives you up to 80 active projects and five people per project. Those are the most important functions. It allows you to add tasks and check them off and organize them by projects and some of those other things. If you go to the premium model which is what I do, it $29 per year. At the moment we are recording this on June 12 of 2017, it is $28.99 a year. That gets you all those features +200 projects, 25 people per project, and some other important things I use like location-based reminders, adding tasks via email, automatic backup, the ability to add comments and file uploads to tasks and other things out talk about as we get into functionality. There is also a business package which is the same as the premium package, also $29 per year per user, and gets those same features but also add some people management things where you can add or remove people and some things relating to tracking billing. You are looking at free or about $30 per year. I find I get great value out of that and it’s definitely worth it for me.
Let’s go back to what it is. Todoist is a task and project management tool and is pretty similar to other tools I’ve used in a lot of ways. Some examples of tools I’ve used for personal task management include Omnifocus, which is what I used before this; Evernote, set up specifically in task management with a task management configuration; in Outlook I’ve used tasks; in iOS I’ve used reminders; I’ve used apps like Remember the Milk, Trillo, Basecame, Things, and Wunderlist. All those programs or products really do the same thing: they allow you to make a to do list and organize it and categorize it and check things off so you can see what you’ve done. It’s going to have a lot of commonalities. I will tell you I moved away from Omnifocus reluctantly after having used it for many years to Todoist because I found Omnifocus to be a a little too fancy for my needs. I’m usually the kind of person who likes lots of bells and whistles and can avoid the ones I don’t want to use, but I switched based on a recommendation from a friend and found that it does enough and is less cluttered and less overhead. I spend more time doing things and less time babysitting my task management system.
I suppose it’s worth a mention that I’m not a person who has a disability that impacts my ability to do executive functioning or have trouble with my vision or those kinds of things. I’m somebody who is a pretty typical executive leadership IT person. But for people who have problems with executive functioning or challenges with cognition, or who are busy people in general, the tools here aren’t specifically assistive technology tools but are definitely something that could be very helpful.
Let’s talk about Todoist specifically. I have it open on my Mac right now. For my particular set up, I tend to use my Mac primarily as my Todoist interface, but then I also have it on my iPhone and also have it on my Apple Watch. I use all those things to varying degrees throughout the day but use my Mac the most. I have mine set up so it is a red highlights across the top, a white background with black text, and on the left-hand side of my screen I have a few different things. I have an inbox which is where all my tasks landed, my today view which shows me all the things that are due today, and then I have a next seven days view which shows me today and the stuff due tomorrow and on and on for the next seven days. I tend to be in my next seven day view a lot throughout the day. I’m either in my inbox processing things I’ve told myself I need to get done or those obligations I’ve made for things to get done, or I find myself looking at the next seven days working down through my day, checking things off as a goal.
Also on the left there are three main tabs: a projects tab, a labels tab, and a filters tab. Under my projects tab I have about 10 projects or so and some subprojects related to that. I have mine color-coded and some things that are nested. So to tell you about what’s in my Todoist, the top one colored green is called correspondence and scheduling. I’m at a place in my career where I spent a lot of my time responding to people, responding to people, or putting things on my schedule that need to be done, things like scheduling interview for the show and meetings and all those things.
The next one under that is personal, color-coded with a red dot. As I hit the drop-down menu next to personal, I have family, family maintenance, new house, health, and reading list. Family are things I want to do with my family like go on a hiking trip or plan a vacation. Family maintenance is stuff around the house like taking out the trash and putting salt in the water softener. The new house one is getting ready to go away. My family just moved a few months ago, and there are lots of things as you can imagine about repairs and changes and the moving process. I had a project that’s sort of temporary and will go away very soon. I have another project under personal called health. I’m somebody who has insulin-dependent diabetes. I go to the doctor and the dentist and get my eyes checked and those kinds of things. Anything related to health and fitness and wellness goes under there. Reading list are books that I want to read and I’m constantly reminding myself that there is more to be read.
I have a tab for work. Under that I have the different areas of responsibility’s I have here at Easter Seals crossroads, the different programs I lead. I also have a tab for hobby jobs. That’s what I call my part-time teaching jobs. I mostly teach courses on assistive technology, and there are obviously to do list to go along with that, creating syllabi and grading papers and those kinds of things.
I have another tab called church. It comes after work. I’m very involved locally with our church so there are a lot of projects and tasks related to that.
I’ve got one called reminders/system. Those are the things that are reminders that are associated with of the project. It might be remember to backup one of my systems or remember once a month I need to do an expense report or things like that. Some of those things are just reminders that I need to remember to do.
I’ve got another one called someday/maybe. These are ideas I have or things I want to do. In the moment they seem like the most brilliant thing in the world. Sometimes I look at them a few days later and I’m like, what was I thinking? I don’t know if I’m ever going to get around to that. Maybe it’s a good idea but I know I have time or resources. I don’t want to lose those things so I throw them into the someday/maybe category and that allows me to look at those occasionally and sometimes I’ll find that things creep up multiple times and I feel like I probably need to give those things some attention. Those are the things under my projects.
The next tab I have our labels. These are the contexts, if you do GTD, that I use to organize my day. The very top one is called WF, which stands for waiting for. I don’t know about you, but in my life there are a lot of times where someone will ask me something via email or phone call and I respond to them or leave them a message, the ball is in their court on that particular task. It’s not mine to do now. It is my responsibility but I’m waiting for someone to tell me something that they have to do so I can do my part. I have tasks that I’m not ready to check off because the project or task isn’t particularly done, but I can’t move ahead with it because I’m waiting for somebody else. I put those things in my waiting for list and every day I try to go back in there and there are things on my list that I’m no longer waiting on. I’ve heard back on this particular thing. Then I put it back in the project where it goes and schedule it to move ahead.
The other things I have under there are people. I have a boss and I have people who report to me and I have tabs for each one of those. I have a label for my wife because there are things I need to remember to communicate to her or she has asked me to do. I make labels with people’s names on them because I’m assuming there are times I haven’t seen one of these folks in a day or so, and I’m like, oh, there’s Brian. I’m going to punch my Brian label on my app and see if there are any things that I have on my to-do list that are related to Brian, either things I need to ask or tell him or things that involve him in some way. I got those for the key people in my life so whenever I see that person – like my boss walked into my office, I can very quickly reach down, hit my Patrick button, and say Patrick, by the way, here are some things I’ve been meaning to ask you about. Those are context – or in Todoist they are called labels – and those are ways I can organize my tasks that way.
A lot of people who do GTD also organize those based on context. Maybe it’s stuff you do in your office when you are at your big computer. Maybe there are things you can do on your phone so when you have a few minutes between appointments, you can hit that context. Some people have a context called errands, so when they are out and about they go to their label for errands and can bring those things up.
I’m talking a lot about ways to manage tasks. What I haven’t talked about yet is how to put a task in the system. A task is very simply a few words – I always prefer they start with a verb because it reminds you what to do. David Allen is famous for saying, if you have a to do item just called mom, that could be a lot of stuff. Is it plan her birthday party? Is it call her? I recommend a start with verbs like “follow up with” or “do” or “process” or “complete” or “fill out” and whatever the thing is you want to get done.
In Todoist, to create a task, you can either click the plus button on your app and all the various versions of the app have a plus button. I’m a Mac user so I hit Command-Shift-A which is the shortcut key for at a task. I can type in what I want to do. I’m doing this on my Mac while we are sitting here. I’m going to type “Edit, colon, ATU316”. Then I’m going to type “tomorrow”. Then I’m going to type “P1”, priority one. In this field that popped up after typing Command-Shift-A, I’ve written Edit ATU316 tomorrow P1. What that will do is organize that into my system with a to do date of tomorrow, a priority one, and I’m going to put that on my project assistive technology. For me I have it set up where a #brings up projects and I do Project AT and hit enter. What it does is put that task in my project for a due date of tomorrow with the priority of one.
I have to say that’s the most common way I put tasks into the system. Another way I can do it and often will is I use theory on my Apple Watch or Siri on my phone. What I do is hit the button and say, “Remind me to upload assistive technology update episode 316.” When I do that, it says “creating a reminder”, “okay, I’ll remind you.” I have to tell you I did a little bit of a hack to make this happen. To get reminders on my iOS system to talk to Todoist, I ended up using an IF recipe. If you are familiar with the program IF, If This Then That is what it’s always been called. It’s a web-based service that I have connected my iOS account and my Todoist account and set up so when I use Siri to give myself a reminder, it ends up as a task in my inbox in Todoist. That way I can capture those things and have them.
As I have tasks come into my inbox a few times a day, I categorize them. Sometimes I’m able to categorize and prioritize them when I’m putting them in it like I did about edit the episode. Sometimes I’m out and about and using Siri or whatever tool to enter it. I just throw the task in there and a few times a day I go in my inbox and process those things and put them in order. For doing tasks, it’s actually pretty simple at that point. I either click on my today view or my next seven days view and start looking at stuff to do. I check them off. I like the fact that on all the apps, there is a circle in front of each task that is color-coded, dark red for high priority, lighter red for next highest priority, and they keep getting lighter as they go. Also if you put a reminder on those tasks like “At 8:15 I need to prepare for an 8:30 meeting”, it will put those in order. As I’m looking at my today view or my next seven days view, it is automatically prioritized in terms of things that have a specific time associated with them and after that by priority. It’s very simple to see this is the most important thing I need to do right now because I set it up with a high priority and a due date. Then when I get through those things, I can look at the stuff that may not have a priority at all or may not have a due date on them at all but I still know what I need to do next.
A couple of other ways to add tasks to Todoist which is great is email. This is a premium future. When you do labels and color coding, filters like the Brian button and Patrick button, or reminders, those all require the premium version of the program. You are looking at a $30 per year expect at that point. You can add tasks via email. Each project in Todoist gets its own separate email address. It’s a long email address that sends whatever you put in the subject line of an email right into that particular project. I add those to my contacts so I don’t have to remember the big long email address but have one for correspondence. I you mow that to the correspondence entry into my address book. That goes to the Todoist address associated with that and it shows up in my list. You can add them via email which is great.
You can also connect them to Amazon echo. I’m not going to say the A-L-E-X-A word because I know when people listen to podcasts it tends to set those devices off. I could also have it figured up so I can have that show up on my task list or my Todoist system. I don’t have mine configured that way because I don’t use Alexa – oh, I just did it – for my task management. I just use my phone or watch when I need to use a voice command.
A couple of other things I think are worth mentioning, there is real-time synchronization between all of your versions of Todoist. If you’re using it on your computer or the web interface or on your tablet or phone, it’s only a second or two between the time you check something off or add something to the system when it shows up across all your platforms.
Another thing that is silly but fun is they recently added some gamification. They call it “karma points”. At the top of your Todoist interface, it scores you based on how productive you’ve been and help you set goals for getting things completed and checked off. It calls you different things like a karma master or novice or whatever to reward you for getting things done.
We are running out of time, but I wanted to mention just a couple more think about Todoist that I find interesting. You can schedule repeating tasks and also subtasks. If you know that every third weekend you go out of town for something, you can create a task that pops up at that time and has several tasks under it. You can pack all the things you need to pack, and when you clear the whole project or complete the project it will show up again in three weekends or whatever your regular appointments are for those kinds of things.
The other thing I will talk about is, one of the pros and cons of this system is the interface is very clean and very easy to understand but not terribly customizable. I wished it allowed me to do more with fonts. I wish it allowed me to do more with organizing the different components of the program like projects and labels and views that are available. It’s sort of a trade-off. It’s a very clean and easy to understand interface, but that’s for me and for probably a lot of folks. But with folks with certain kinds of disabilities, it might be better if you could hide things or make things stand out or be more pronounced. One of the pros and cons about the interface is it’s very clean, intuitive, but not very customizable.
It sounds to me like I need to spend time with the folks at Todoist explaining about accessibility and some things they could do to make their web based HTML 5 interface or their platform specific interface work better and talk with them about accessibility and hopefully get them on the show to talk about some of the changes they might have made in the future.
This has been a different approach to the show but I thought it was interesting. I hope it was practical. I would love to hear your feedback, whether or not this was useful, you would like to hear more of this kind of stuff, or whether we missed and need to move back to interviews all the time. I always appreciate your feedback. It’s easy for you to give that to us. You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. You can send an email at tech@EasterSealscrossroads.org. Or hit us up at Twitter at INDATA Project.
If you want to try out Todoist, you can get a free version that does a lot of these features at Todoist.com.
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
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