Dark Side of the Sun

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am a todoist

Sometimes, regarding my CG/VFX work, I get asked how I do the things I do. But just as often, someone asks me how I am able to make so many projects, and keep up in learning new softwares and techniques. That is why in today's post I won't talk about CG or Effects related stuff, but more about productivity in general.

There is a very important tool in my arsenal that helps me fight two mighty ennemies: procrastination and stress. It is the "to do" list. I am always wanting to do many things and projects, in different areas, and while I work on 3 or 4, I get ideas for a dozen more. The todo list allows me to:

  • Remember all the things I ever had to, wanted to, needed to, dreamed to or wished to do, without losing my sanity (or what's left of it, anyway).
  • Have all the projects in mind when managing priorities, and be able to get back to one of them sooner, later (even months or years after) or never... when I have cleared higher-priority stuff, or when I simply feel more inclined to it.
  • Define the steps involved in tackling a task. The smaller the steps the better. This is a guaranteed procrastination killer. Climbing that mountain doesn't seem so hard, if you stop looking at the whole ascent, and realize that all you have to do right now is make a single step forward... easy, right? since we are here, let's make another, or a couple more, and get ahead of schedule (it can become addictive even - check next entry in this list-)
  • Feel that warm and fuzzy feeling when you check an item in the list. Even finishing the smallest, stupidest and most unpleasant task becomes relevant by this simple action.

Needless to say, I write down many todo checklists on paper, but for my main life-planning/world-domination check-list I like to keep it centralized in my computer. It allows more freedom and speed to update it, move items, sort them, delete, filter or check them. For a long time, I went with Rainlendar, an excelent free calendar/todo list software. But I realized that it was not serving all its purposes too well, because the todo list was always visible on my computer desktop, and gave no easy options for filtering (to only display photography-related tasks, for example). Seeing it all there, in front of me, all the time and whatever I was doing at the time, was not helping much on the stress side. Todo lists are there to free your mind from thinking about other stuff while you focus on DOING one thing.

So, I recently started using an online todo list website, Todoist.com, and I'm really happy with it (and I get no money or any gits for saying this, I just want to give a good tip to my readers). Its expandable tree view makes for an easy filtering (you only see those tasks, or sub-tasks you want to at a specific time). The sub-projects system allows the very important process of chopping-up those monster-projects into small, manageable and fast-bustable tasks. And since it's online, I can access it from anywhere, and I also don't have to see it accidentally while doing something else.

If we want to judge it by the results, since I use Todoist.com, I have cleared, one by one, a lot of stuff from my list which had started to pile up and annoy me in Rainlendar (I still use it for calendar, or for urgent keep-under-your-nose reminders, by the way). Now my list looks smaller, cleaner and more manageable. I am not saying Todoist is better than Rainlendar, just that it better suited my needs for a todo list. I am also aware of other similar online todo lists, a well-known one being Remember the Milk, but Todoist's simplicity and streamlined design are more appealing to me. If your knife can cut your tomatoes, why buy a lightsaber? But that's what works *for me*. Although I haven't used it yet, I will also mention Checkvist. It's simplicity and elegant design have nothing to envy to Todoist, and it adds some very useful functionality like import/export and sharing of lists (thanks to Kir Maximov for the tip). It would be great to hear your own experiences and preferences with those, or other, todo-list software/websites.

In any case, my advice is: If you haven't yet, try and use todo lists more. It might work for you like it did for me, and you may end up finishing more of your projects, with less stress. By the way, right after I push the "publish post" button, I'll have the pleasure to check off "write about todo lists in blog" from my Todoist.


Unknown said...

If you like the simplicity of todoist, you should also try checkvist.com . But only if you prefer working with keyboard than mouse.

Mayec said...

Thanks Kir. Indeed, checkvist looks amazing, and adds very useful functionality (like import/export, sharing,...). I might make the move to it some day.

Congratulations for a great tool. I will add a mention of it on the post.

Anonymous said...

Me mola el tema todero, y creo que tomármelo un poco en serio me vendría bien a mi también.

Hacía mucho que no me pasaba por aquí, me acabo de enterar de que estás en Londres, y de tu nuevo trabajo...

muchas felicidades tío!

un abrazo desde Bruselas,


Anonymous said...

(Enrique Cork M.)