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Organize Your Digital Life 7 – Organize your tasks

This is the seventh in a series of posts in the Organize Your Digital Life series.

getting-things-doneWithout a doubt, task management is one area of my life that has improved the most in 2009.  I always thought I had a decent system, but then David Allen came and rocked my world.

Back in 2001, David wrote a book called “Getting Things Done“, which I finally read late last year.  The book offers a great system to build into your life to stay organized and be as efficient as possible.  If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly recommend it.

Whether or not you decide to use a system like that, there are some great tools available online to help you organize your task list.  As you’ve probably guessed by now, my priorities when choosing a system included having one that was web-based so that I could access it from anywhere and it would always be backed up.  There are some decent programs out there that you can install, but most of the options out there are completely web-based.

I also wanted one that tied somewhat into GTD methodology.  I’m not strict about implementing his system, but I like to stay with the general flow of it (“projects” for everything, “next actions” in each project so you know what the next step is, etc).

Here are a few of the better ones that I considered:

  • Remember the Milk — This is one of the more popular solutions out there.  They have an easy interface and a slick iPhone app.  However, it missed the “next actions” part of GTD entirely.  Some products let you “star” particular items, which does the same kind of thing.  RTM does neither.
  • Google Tasks — Amazingly, I’m not going to suggest the Google solution.  Google Tasks is relatively new, and very simple.  It integrates nicely with Gmail, Calendar, etc, but it’s simply too lightweight.  I anticipate it will develop more features over time, and may eventually be the right choice to use.  For now, it’s not even in the conversation.
  • ToodleDo — ToodleDo is a very powerful application, with a ton of features and a great iPhone app.
  • Nozbe — Nozbe is the first tool I looked at, with an ever-expanding toolset and a solid iPhone app.

There are more that might be worth considering, such as Action Method, Nirvana and many others.  When it came down to it, though, Nozbe was the best solution for me.  I came really close to choosing ToodleDo, but Nozbe just worked better for me.  I wrote up a comparison of the two earlier in the year.  While both products have matured a bit since then, the basic comparison of features still holds true.

So why do I stick with Nozbe?

Some reasons:

  • Sharing — Nozbe has a very easy, useful sharing feature.  You can simply share a project with someone else (or multiple people) and everyone has full access to it.  You can assign tasks to others, view notes that everyone has left in the project, etc.  It works very well, and few other task systems have it.  Others over-complicate it or simply leave it out entirely.
  • Notes — You can add notes to a project, or even add notes to a task.  The project notes are great.  If someone sends me their FTP info, or their Constant Contact login, I just create a note within that project and drop the info in there.  If I ever need to get to it again, from any computer, it’s right there for me.
  • iPhone — They have a nice (free) iPhone app, as well as a mobile version that works for most phones.
  • JOTT — They integrate with JOTT, the very cool voice transcription service.  If I think of something when driving down the road, I can call JOTT, tell it “Nozbe”, then tell it the task.  It’ll be sitting in my Nozbe for me the next time I check it.
  • Google Calendar — You can export your calendar (task due dates) into iCal format, which can plug into Google Calendar.  I don’t use this feature very often, but I know that other people do.

While Nozbe certainly works best for me, your best bet would be to try a few of them and see what works best for you.  We all have slightly different systems for getting things done, so the perfect tool for one person might not be the perfect tool for someone else.

Getting your tasks in order can be very freeing.  Having a proper task system in place can help you handle your email much more easily, allowing you to convert an email into a task and then remove the email from your inbox.

What task system do you like to use?

This is the seventh in a series of posts in the Organize Your Digital Life series.

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Mickey Mellen

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  1. Nozbe certainly has a lot to offer, but seems a little expensive to me. If you love integration with Google products, but are disappointed with Google Tasks, you might check out GQueues ( – its free. It integrates with Google Calendar, has sharing & collaboration, reminders, recurring tasks and an mobile version. You can sign in with your Gmail or Google Apps account.

    • Wow, GQueues is pretty slick! I hadn’t seen it before and I really like it. It’s missing a few vital features, but could become a contender very easily.

      ***** Bad, but not horrible *****
      — If I want to fully share a list, it should show up in “My Queues” for both participants. Maybe that’s another level of sharing. One way or other, that needs to happen.
      — In a shared list, who does what? It’d be nice to assign tasks to a specific person. I guess you could just rename them (“Fix header” –> “Mickey: Fix header”), but that’s an unnecessary workaround.
      — Notes per “Queue”. I use the project notes extensively on Nozbe. While I could move those to Google Docs or Evernote or Wave, I’d rather keep them in the same system. FTP info, passwords, amounts quoted, etc. Lots of notes.

      ***** Needs to be fixed before I’ll try it *****
      — Recurring items. What a mess. It needs true recurring items, where the item shows up ONE time in the list, then comes back again after the task is completed. The way it is now is a cute workaround, but would be chaos for some of my projects.
      — “Next Actions” or starred items or something. I have about 50 projects in Nozbe, with certain items pulled onto my Next Actions screen. I need a way to note certain tasks (sometimes none in a project, sometimes 1-4) and have all of those tasks show up on a single list. That list also needs to show items due today and overdue. EVERYTHING I need to be doing on one screen.

      That’s really about it. All in all, I’m VERY impressed and a bit surprised I hadn’t found this before. With a few fixes, it could become the one to use…

        • Google Tasks are awful, so comparing it to that is pointless. GQueues is certainly progressing, but it has a long way to go. It looks like the recurring items are fixed, that seems to be about it. It’s hard to tell, since their blog hasn’t been updated since October…

  2. You say Nozbe has a solid iPhone app. I do not agree, the iPhone app is very bad. See the very many comments on the Nozbe User Feedback.

  3. Hi there

    I’m not keen on Google Task or Nozbe. I would recommend trying out, if you haven’t already, Dooster to help organize your digital life. It doesn’t yet have a phone app but am told it’s on the way so check it out at

  4. Hi Mick

    Thanks for the comment.

    It would be great to get more specifics on what you don’t love about it.

    We were in contact before when you said you didn’t like it because of the lack of sharing (ie where you can see the same project in your account as a colleague, while they couldn’t see any of your other projects).

    Well we added that a few weeks back. Only problem is we’re trying to work out how to make it more obvious to people

    dooster is a work in progress and we very much respond to user wishes so do let us know

    Thanks for your attention


  5. We looked at Nozbe and Nirvana and RTM and most of what is on offer a few months ago and they were all attractive but the owners where I work settled on which has been very useful. The more I use it the more I like it.

  6. Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and fantastic style and design.

  7. I’ve been using Astrid Tasks for my ‘To Do’ list and it’s one of the few websites that I can access from my work PC. If you have very limited internet access then this is a good one. Very colourful and simple to use. You can separate tasks into Lists and colour them according to priority. You can then view your tasks by List, Priority or what you need to do today. I found this very helpful because my job is multi-tasking based and I have a lot of things on at the same time. If someone sends me a request and I can’t do it then, I pop it into Astrid Tasks and I’ll remember to do it later.


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