Research hacks #21: One to-do list to rule them all

In a previous post I commended the virtues of planning your research, but one problem with such a laudable aim is that it only holds sway over one part of your life. Bluntly, you can plan all the work you like, but the rest of life has a habit of turning up unannounced and shredding your carefully devised schemes. Academics and research students are more than research-producing machines, and if we only plan our work then we run the danger of making a reality of the subtle but insidious idea that only our work is important and the rest of our lives don’t matter that much. In a future post I want to explore more thoroughly how to be and remain a rounded human being in academia, but today I just want to widen the question of planning to embrace the whole of life.

Have you read David Allen’s Getting Things Done? I did, and I found his system of capturing all your impending tasks too complicated for my needs. One principle I did take away from Allen, however, is that all my tasks need to be listed in one single place. I can’t have to-do lists here and reminders there; I can’t have some notes on the computer and others stuck on the fridge. I need one place where I note everything I have to do, from buying nappies to writing articles.

To read all the research hacks posted to date, please click here.

About a year ago I started using Todoist. It’s a free web- and app-based to-do list manager that I’ve found immensely helpful for gathering all my tasks in one place. Let me tell you why I like it, and then invite you to watch the intro video below:

    • It syncs across my phone and laptop. If I add a task on one device it appears on all my devices. I use the Android app, but it is also available for iOS.
    • Because Todoist is on my phone I can update my to-do list on the go and don’t need to remember to add tasks later. As soon as I think of something to add, I can do so there and then.
    • I can create colour-coded categories and sub-categories for my tasks. I have categories including Family, Shopping, Research, Grant Applications, and Physical Health.
    • It’s easy to set a deadline for a task and assign it to a project.
    • It’s easy to see an overview of all my tasks and upcoming deadlines.
    • It integrates with Gmail: I can turn individual emails into tasks with deadlines, and then access the emails with a single click from within Todoist (what a great feature!)
    • It integrates with Outlook.