Monday, February 2, 2015

Streamline Your To-Do List with Wunderlist

While writing a post about notetaking apps, I came across Wunderlist. I created an account and messed around for a few minutes, and just when I was about to sign out and dump it in the recycling bin of my brain, I Googled to see how others were using it.

I found this post on the Just a Girl blog. She (or actually her husband, since he was guest posting) showed me a workflow that struck a chord with me!

The aha moment for me was the way you create tasks. You simply throw things into the "inbox" and organize them later. In my previous system, I would have to give a task some thought, then choose a day on my calendar, create a todo event, and add it there. Or, more often, I would be in a hurry and just add the task to the next day. I would invariably end up with 25 unorganized tasks on the next day. That was overwhelming.

My Old Process
Let me back up and explain the process I used before. I would create an all-day event for
my To-do list. Anytime I needed to add something, I would first have to think about the what day to add it on and some items really didn't have a due-date day, so I would just throw them in there somewhere. So in the morning, I would go in and organize that giant list and move items to different days as needed.

Whatever I didn't finish that day, I would push to the next day. Multiple days would pile up, so then I would need to go in a re-organize. I would also have certain all-day events titled with a project name and I would move those along since they were ongoing projects. One aspect I liked about having all these items on my calendar was that everything is in one place. But the negative is that looking at a calendar and seeing appointments and to-do lists together can become overwhelming and messy. Also, items would get lost when I forgot to move old To-dos to a new day.

Furthermore, in reality, it wasn't all in one place as I fooled myself into believing. Because, in addition to the calendar lists, I used the Google Tasks (built into the calendar), which I liked somewhat. You can add a due date to one and it will show on the calendar. But there is no mobile solution for Tasks unless you use a third party app, and I never found one I liked. I was also using the stock Mac/iOS Reminders and Notes app, since you can access those everywhere, which I like. (Windows too through iCloud.)

Anyway, my point is that even thought I felt terribly organized, I was using too many apps and it was confusing. I would forget to look in those other places, so some longer term projects would get forgotten.  After reading about the workflow in the post above, the light bulb went on. I could get rid of all my other extraneous lists, along with the To-Do events in my calendar and have one place for it all.

Enter Wunderlist
Now back to the new workflow with Wunderlist. First of all, it is available everywhere, which is a huge thing for me. I have to be able to access it online and on all my devices. Next, I really like that I can just add things in there at the drop of a hat, so I don't forget them, easing the "brain clutter." Then first thing in the morning, I open the inbox and assign all of my bits of clutter to a category by dragging and dropping them. I can choose a due date if needed or I can leave it open ended. With the inbox mentality, I know I'm addressing everything. This is my favorite part of Wunderlist.

Here are some of other the reasons I love it:

1.Today list:  Once you've added due dates to items, they will show up on the day automatically through the "Today" smart list. After moving everything from my inbox to their appropriate categories and dates, I can keep my Today list open all day in a pinned tab in Chrome. It will show them in their appropriate categories, so you can scan quickly and see which area will be busy that day.

2. Week view: Need a broader overview? Check out the "Week" smart list:

3. Reminders: In addition to giving your task a due date, you can set a reminder. Your notification options include push (for phones), desktop pop-ups, and emails. I love this for certain tasks that I simply don't want to forget. 

4. Recurring Events: This feature allows me to remove all the random little tasks that I have on my calendar that recur. This really cleans up my calendar.

5. Chrome Extension: You can add items to your list or your inbox while using Chrome. (There are also Safari and Firefox extensions. Sorry IE users - didn't see it listed.)

Final Thoughts:

  • I was able to remove a lot of clutter from my calendar, which eases my Type A mind when I look at it in the morning. 
  • Adding tasks are much easier from the web or my phone or tablet. 
  • I don't miss tasks, because now they're all here in one place, because I can keep short term (due date items) and long term items all together. Previously, I would keep long term or ongoing items in Google Keep or iOS Notes - like a grocery list, book list, or brainstorm list. 
  • It's gorgeous! You can change the background, but they all look nice. The app and web interface are a joy to use. 
  • You really have to use a To-Do app for it to work. I was already in the habit of organizing my list every morning, so this is great. But for Wunderlist to work for you, you'll want to have a routine of going through the items to make sure items pop up when you need to do them. Again, I refer you to the Just a Girl post, it has some great ideas!
Here are a few other articles about Wunderlist that I found helpful:

Enjoy redesigning your To-Do list!