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Manage To-Do-List

Here are some tools that may help. If you want a bare-bones, simple-to-use task manager, you’d probably do fine with Google Tasks or Yahoo’s task manager. Both are free. But a few of the more ambitious offerings seem especially useful. One is is Todoist, which offers the sort of power that really lets you go nuts being hyper-organized. As with most of these tools, you start off by establishing a project or category for a set of tasks, like “Stuff to do at the office,” or “Tasks related to the Acme Account.” Then you type in the task (“call Cindy Smith about the late payment”) at which point you can set a due date and one of four color-coded priorities. For any task, you can also create sub-tasks. You can also add notes, include links to Web pages or e-mail notes, attach files, schedule reminders, add searchable tags (“finance” or “travel”), and sync tasks to your online calendar. Tasks can also be set to automatically repeat at any time period you specify. (Some of the advanced features are only available with a $5-a-month or $29-a-year upgrade.)

Where Todoist and other powerful tools earn their keep is in their ability to draw your attention where it belongs, task-wise. So, for example, you can summon only those tasks that are two or more days overdue, highest priority, and related to a crucial customer. Or you can get an overview of everything that’s due today, sorted by priority. Some people find Todoist a little overwhelming, but I didn’t find it all that hard to get the hang of. A bigger weakness is an absence of syncable apps or good mobile access for smartphones other than iPhone and Android.

A wide variety of mobile apps, on the other hand, is a strong point of Remember the Milk, the other leading tool. R.T.M. does pretty much everything Todoist does, except that you can’t create sub-tasks. It also offers what I think is a slightly clearer, more controllable view of the tasks you want to focus on. (One complaint I have with both Todoist and R.T.M. is that backing your task data up to your PC is surprisingly inconvenient.) R.T.M. is free — unless you want one of those smartphone apps, in which case you pay $25 a year.

Boomerang is also e-mail-based, and free. You install it on Gmail, at which point every e-mail note you write or receive will have a new feature: a “boomerang” button that, when clicked, provides the option of making the note disappear and then turn up again in your inbox at whatever later time or date you specify. It’s a bit like Taskforce, except the note itself becomes the actual reminder, as with Mr. Goldstein’s system. Not only is this a great way to be nudged to take care of something at the right time, but it also keeps both your mailbox and to-do list less cluttered. Plus — and this is my favorite feature — you can opt to have any note you send out reappear in your inbox only if the note’s recipient doesn’t reply within a specified period of time. In other words, you get a timely reminder that someone hasn’t gotten back to you.

If you really want to go all out, and you share my penchant for geekily
powerful applications, consider Bileico. It’s really more of a project-management tool, and it requires not much of effort to master. It’s free, regardless of the numbers of users, projects and tasks. It’s also well-integrated with Google Docs for collaboration.

 
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