Organize your life with a personal assistant: Todoist

A typical day for all of us involves lot of things we should complete. Buying groceries, working, calling family, and more. Organizing all of this and keeping track of everything is not that easy, especially if you work remotely and your home is also your office! At least, that was the case before discovering Todoist. Before talking about it, I want to tell you how I spent the last 3 years trying to find the perfect system to organize what I should do in a given day.

My story started with post-its. But I quickly found they are tied to where you leave them. For example, when I’m outside, I can’t check what I have the next day easily unless I’m taking my post-its with me wherever I go. Which sounds weird. So it was apparent that I needed something I can take always with me. Something on my phone for example.

I then tried Google Keep, Calendar, and a bunch of todo apps. And what they all have in common is they were too demanding. Whenever I need to add something, I need to open the app, write it down, add a timing, etc. It was too much for me. And actually, I failed to keep using them for more than a week.

Even with this, I kept trying more solutions. But this time, my problem was more defined than before. Failing to find a solution to something only means you got more data to find a better solution. For me, I wanted something to help me manage my tasks without spending too much time adding the said tasks, or tweaking things. I needed someone or something I can just forward emails to, add things with a click, that automatically reminds me of important meetings, etc. I needed a personal assistant.


Todoist was an app I tried at least a year ago, and it didn’t work out as expected. I was thinking of it as a todo list. And actually, even Todoist is selling itself as a todo list (screenshot from their homepage):

Todoist home page screenshot

But for me, once I started learning more about it 3 to 4 months ago, I found it was more than a todo list. I literally forward emails to Todoist. Add my tasks with a click. My calendar is automatically synced. Reminders are included. And much more. It’s my external brain. My personal assistant.


In this post, I’ll present you how I leverage Todoist and use it as my personal assistant. I’ll also give you my daily workflow that keeps me focused and productive. But before starting, I want to share a few points with you:

  1. The method I’m presenting here, is my method. And it’s for inspiration. Take what’s here, study it, and iterate on it to find your own version. It’s always better to create a workflow that works for you instead of adapting yourself to someone’s workflow.
  2. Some features described here are only available for Todoist Premium members. But no worries, you can get 2 months Premium fo free if you register using the link below:

Get all your work into Todoist

Emails

Either work or personal emails, they both land into Todoist. And to add them, you have two solutions depending if you’re on a laptop or on a mobile device:

Desktop

If you’re using Gmail or Outlook as your mail client, there is a Todoist integration to add your emails as tasks. You can find them here.

But before adding an email, I want to know if it’s worth adding it as a task. To decide, I use a simple process: if I can do this in a short period of time, usually < 10min, I do it right away. If not, I add it to Todoist and archive the email.

The last step, archiving emails, is optional. I like to keep my inbox empty. Having emails in my inbox makes me think I have work to do. So I prefer to remove everything I finished with.

Mobile

While on mobile, it’s impossible to use the mail integrations discussed above. For this reason, I forward emails to Todoist. Just like a personal assistant.

How? Each project in your account have a unique email address. Once you forward an email to it, a task will be created in the project. As simple as that.

All the steps to forward emails to Todoist can be found here.

Please note this is a premium feature. But you can get 2 months premium for free using the invitation link:

Calendar

Work happens on calendars too. I wanted a way to automatically sync meetings to Todoist.

With Todoist Premium, it’s easy to link your calendar. You also get a two way syncing. This means, a task added to Todoist will be added to your calendar and vice-versa. One advice I would give here is to not sync tasks without a due date. If you sync those, they will show as a whole day events on your Calendar. I find that not optimal.

To fix this, you need to go to the Integrations settings, click Edit on the Calendar integration, then: Tasks without a due time should not be synced.

Google Calendar settings in Todoist

Tasks

Different teams use different tools to track their work. I usually use the web version of these apps alongside Todoist browser extensions. With one click I can add these links as tasks. There is an extension for Chrome, Safari and Firefox and you can find them here.


With this, I have all my emails, calendar invites, and tasks in one place. This means all my work. For personal tasks, I just add them either directly.

Having all of this in one place helps me have a wide view of how my work and personal day looks like and better schedule time for each task.

If you’re curious how I do it, I’ll present you my workflow next.

My personal Todoist workflow

Work and Personal projects

I have two projects: Personal for my personal tasks. And Work, for work-related tasks.

I got the unique emails for both these projects and added them to my contacts list. I called them Todoist Personal and Todoist Work so I can forward emails to the appropriate project. i.e. when it’s a personal email, I just forward it to Todoist Personal. When it’s a work email, I forward it to Todoist Work. And these emails are automagically added as tasks to the appropriate project.

These are the two projects I started with and use daily, but I add more from time to time.

Your projects can live forever or for a short period of time. For example, I have a project called Groceries. I just add what I want there and check things off when I buy them. But once it’s empty, I don’t delete it, because I know I’ll use it later to add new items. On the opposite side, I have a project called “Learn drawing from Gal’s videos”. This project is for learning a new skill and I will eventually archive it once all tasks inside it are done.

Using filters

Filters is a premium feature you can use to record your searches and display the results in seconds. You can learn more about filters here.

My most used filter, and the first thing I check in the morning is: (overdue | today) & #Work. This displays all task overdue or scheduled today and are part of the Work project. I’m calling this filter Today’s work.

In the morning, I check this filter to know what my work day looks like, if I have a call, or if I need a chunk of time to think deeply about something.

Once I have these information, I can better schedule my day and see how my personal tasks fits, or vice-versa.

Preparing daily work

To prepare my daily work, i.e. the Today’s work filter I presented above. I usually take 10-20 minutes at the end of the day to prepare for the next one.

Sometimes I can’t do it for different reasons. If that’s the case, I do it in the morning instead. The general rule is: I like to start the day with an already defined list of what I should do or work on that day.

More features in Todoist

This is basically what I use in Todoist. But there are other features you can use like labels, priorities and more. You can discover them and see if they fit with your workflow. But for me, I just keep it minimal as long as it’s working.


Hope this post was helpful for you and gave you an inspiration to have your own personal assistant like Todoist.

If you have a personal Todoist workflow you want to share with me or the readers of this blog, please let us know in the comments.

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