When you have an application that you use regularly, if you’re Mac automator you can’t help not automating and hacking the heck out of that application. And that’s exactly what I’ve done after just a few days of using the task manager application, Todoist (affiliate link.)
If you follow this blog, you might remember that I switched to the task manager, Informant a few months ago, and I also automated features in that application. But last week, I came across Todoist again, and after checking a few reviews of it, I realized that Todoist included a perfect solution for reporting on what I’m getting done from day to day. More about this reporting feature later, but there are several other reasons I switched to Todoist.
Why I Switched
This article is not a formal review Todoist, because there are several good reviews and tutorials (for example, this one for beginners) already published about the program. But briefly, I switched to yet another task management system because I need get to shit down and stay focused.
Like other task managers, including Informant, Wunderlist, and OminiFocus, Todoist of course allows for inputting tasks, setting due dates and reminders, and filtering by labels (tags) and projects. But what I like about Todoist in this regard is its clean user interface, for the Mac and iOS versions. There’s simply no clutter with Todoist. Tasks are clearly available front and center.
I had read about Todoist months ago, but didn’t want to pay the annual $28.99 for the premium features. But what I didn’t know about at the time was its feature called Karma.
Karma provides a daily graph of my completed tasks, showing what which tasks I’m spending my time. Before I started using Todoist, I was keeping a daily log to keep track of what I was getting done. And though I automated the task of keeping my daily log, the log didn’t give me a statistical report of what I had accomplished.
I just started using Todoist last week, and in that time I’ve completed 70 tasks. The color codes tell me which areas of tasks I completed. Those areas include a variety of tasks, such as blogging work (red), freelance writing tasks (turquoise), shopping and troubleshooting (yellow),several personal tasks (brown), and tasks for setting up Todoist (green).
The color coding is essential, because I need to make sure that red and turquoise are showing up on most days. And I also need strive to get my list to zero uncompleted tasks.
You can set goals in Karma for how many daily and weekly tasks you want to get done. I have those tasks set at 8 and 40 respectively, but those numbers will increase over the next few weeks. You can set Karma to not record on certain days, like the weekend or holidays, or when you’re on vacation.
You see, my challenge is staying focused throughout the day. It’s often easy for me to get absorbed in a new piece of software, browse Twitter, or what typically happens, I try to multitask and end up not getting as much done as I should . I also tend to put off tasks that are the most challenging and time consuming. So a feature can sometimes be a motivator to complete tasks.
Karma is based on what is called a gamified system that rewards users for meeting their goals. In Todoist you start as a Beginner and quickly move to Novice after getting assigned 500 points. By the end of this week, I should be moving into the Intermediate level.
The system ratings are sort of arbitrary, and as Tony Marin, who has a series of useful YouTube videos about Todoist, says, there’s no point of users comparing their karma points with other users, because some users break down tasks into smaller steps than others. I’m not so much motivated by karma points as I am by completing the tasks I listed to get done. And I find it helpful to see the progress I’m making a daily basis. I even keep a project called Troubleshooting, because there have been many times that I simply can’t get stuff done because I’m troubleshooting problems with my computer, a client, or general life issues
Todoist is parked on my second monitor, where I can easily view and check off items as I complete them, and already it has made a difference in my productivity, alongside automating tasks.
Automating Mac Todoist
Todoist is a light weight application with very few menu items to click, and only a few toolbar items—including a quick search window, buttons for Todoist settings and for opening the Karma display.
However, you can activate features using single key shortcuts. And because I’m not a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, it took me only a few days to start hacking Todoist using Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool.
Now, the point of showing you how I automate Todoist is to show you what is possible, and how you can automate this and other applications you use on a regular basis. Some of the hacks I’ve created are specific to my workflow, but if you’re new or an intermediate user of Todoist, you might use my examples to see what is possible for hacking the program with automation tools.
The goal of my automations is to keep my hands on the keyboard as much as possible, and to quickly trigger actions when my hand is on the trackpad. Sometimes when my hand is on the trackpad, I want the ability to trigger the same actions as I can using keyboard shortcuts. So the following provides you a few highlights of what I use.
In Todoist for Mac, you can manually drag from the right side of the application window to the left to hide the list of projects. But there’s no shortcut for doing this. So with KM and BTT, I created a shortcut to quickly hide and show the side projects panel.
To create this automation, I first set up a KM macro to resize the window. To do this, create a new macro, and click on the Record button in the macro editor. When the recorder is ready, resize the Todoist window, and KM will record the pixels settings for the resized window.
See this brief video tutorial for the steps of using the KM Record feature.
Next, I gave the macro a title and hotkey. I then mapped that hotkey to a BetterTouchTool finger gesture. So now when my hand is on the trackpad, I don’t have to drag the cursor to the right side of Todoist to resize the window. I simply use a BTT Pinch With Thumb and 2 Fingers to trigger the KM macro that resizes and hides the projects panel.
I created and use a similar action to un-hide the panel, using a Spread With Thumb And 2 Fingers gesture.
And because I’m seriously lazy, I created another KM macro to quickly reposition the Todoist window back and forth to my main and secondary monitor so I don’t have to do any dragging.
Quick Add Task
Throughout the day I add new task to Todoist, including tasks that I didn’t plan to complete. .
To quickly add a task, I set up two methods. First, if I’m typing and I want to quickly add a task, I can simply type an assigned string trigger, “,qt” which will trigger the shortcut for Quick Add Task.
Similarly, when I want to quickly view Todoist while typing, I type a string trigger, “,do” that triggers the Todoist shortcut for showing the program.
When Todoist is parked on the side of my second monitor, I don’t need it to remain open all the time. So I use SuperTab to automatically hide the application after it’s been the background for five minutes.
Another reason I started using Todoist is because it’s a web-based application, which opens the door for several types of functionalities, including IFTTT (If Then, Then That) automations.
This Todoist blog highlights some of their IFTTT applets (formally called recipes), and there are dozens other applets on the Todoist IFTTT Channel. I added a few existing ones, but I actually created my own applet while writing this article.
Normally when I write an article for this blog or for a freelance client, I let the article sit for a day before I start proofreading it, so that I can read it with fresh eyes. In the past, I would type a reminder to come back and proofread a completed article. But now an IFTTT applet automatically creates the proofreading task for me.
That’s right, when I click a task labeled “Blog_draft” completed, the IFTTT applet will automatically create a new Todoist task for proofreading that task the next day. Totally, totally cool, and a nice time saver. My brain is still churning thinking of other automated tasks I can create it using this applet. It’s these type of automated task input that make using Todoist easier to use. So eventually I spend less time in Todoist and more time getting stuff done.
Speaking of inputting tasks into Todoist, I also over the weekend created a few Workflow app (affiliate link) actions for quickly adding task to the iOS version of the app.
Todoist has it own iOS widget for viewing and checking off uncompleted tasks, and opening the app. It also includes a force touch feature that provides a pop-up view of tasks.
But when I checked that there’s a Todoist action in Workflow, I started thinking about the possibilities. So far I’ve created two actions. The simplest one is for creating a Todoist task without opening the application.
This Workflow is similar to opening the Todoist app and inputting a task, but the workflow action can be triggered by force touching on the Workflow app and selecting the action from the app’s pop-up.
I also exported the Workflow action to the Launcher app (affiliate link) so that I can run it as a widget, just as I can run the action as an extension from within most iOS apps via the Share Sheet.
I find that typing the information using this Workflow action is quicker, and more straight forward than typing it in the Todoist app in which the task is smaller.
The Workflow action also allows for creating a task as a template. For example, the iOS DO Button app allows for running IFTTT actions using a single tap.
For this purpose, I created a task template for when I plan to get out and walk. It would be nice to make walking a daily recurring task, but in the Winter months it’s not possible to get out and walk everyday. So when I do go out and walk, I can simply tap my DO action, either on my iPhone or Apple Watch, and that template task will automatically get posted to my Todoist.
Note: the DO Button app may not be available in the U.S. iTunes Store. It’s now a part of the IFTTT mobile and online app.
I use several other Keyboard Maestro macros for triggering Todoist shortcuts that I will describe in a future article, if there’s interest from readers to know more.
For me, it seems the annual fee for Todoist may very well be worth it, because I have already seen a boost in my productivity in just a few days, and I don’t mean that has a sells pitch.
Because of the web-based infrastructure of Todoist, it opens the door for even more possibilities. When you start using Todoist, all your completed tasks get securely saved to your account instead of being deleted as with other task managers.
Not only can Todoist use your completed data to build your karma points, it now has a new Smart Schedule feature for suggesting or assigning new and overdue tasks. The more you use Todoist, the more it can learn about what tasks you complete and when you complete them.
I’m only a week into using Todoist, so there’s a lot more I need to discover for fitting it into my workflow. I know for sure I won’t be switching to another task manager, unless it is has all that Todoist is offering, and a virtual assistant.
If you use Todoist, please let me know what you think of the program, and how you’re using it.