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How I Use Todoist, 2021 Edition: Organizing My Day with Labels

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Like most people, I’m kicking off 2021 with a pretty clear idea of the goals I want to achieve.

I don’t really like calling them “resolutions” because the word has such a frustrating connotation – everyone knows that resolutions are busted by, like, Week 3 of the year.

However, the end of the year is a natural spot to review what worked and what didn’t in the past 12 months, and it’s also a great time to evaluate where you want to be in the next 12 months.

Because we have a newborn baby, we spent New Year’s Eve at home. We put the boys to bed, and my wife fell asleep on the couch with our daughter. I turned on White Christmas and sat in my recliner with my Chromebook and a glass of eggnog mixed with bourbon. It was goal-setting time.

But rather than just jot down what I wanted to accomplish, I spent that time formulating a full game plan. Lots of people pick words to focus on for the coming year, and I guess mine is consistency.

I based my entire game plan for 2021 around consistency: what actions can I take, every day, that would not only be sustainable, but also would lead to the results that I am looking for?

Once I determined that, I was able to compile these actions into a repeatable plan.

One thing I learned, especially in recent months, is that the best tool for me to track these actions is Todoist.

I’ve talked about Todoist before

I love Todoist. The mobility, the ease of use, the simplicity, the organization… the app just works for me and the way my brain processes information.

I spent most of 2020 using Todoist, and I intended to write more about the ways in which I use the app. But that process evolved over time as I learned what worked for me and what didn’t. Add to that some new features that completely changed the way I use it, and it has taken some time for me to sort it out.

Today, I think I’m ready to open up my Todoist again and show you exactly how I’m using it in my everyday life.

And I mean “everyday”. I literally use Todoist to manage every single day. I am in the habit of always looking at this app to see what I have to do, whether that’s on the weekend or during the week.

As we kick off the tour of a setup that has ensured that almost nothing slips through the cracks and I am on-track every day, let’s take a 30,000-foot view of my to-do list every day using Labels.

I use labels for the time of day

I’ve tried to use a calendar. Maybe dozens of times in the last few years, I’ve scheduled every waking moment of my life.

The problem is, hiccups happen. And the second they do, my entire day goes to crap.

Rather than thinking about “hours”, I have taken to thinking of my day in chunks: morning, afternoon, evening, and breaks.

When I sit down to organize my day, this is exactly how I like to plot it out.

An overview of my day.

Whenever I create a task, I put an “@” in it and choose a label that coincides with the time of day I would like to accomplish this task.

  • Mornings are for creative work, mainly. I want to work on my books, my blog posts, and maybe some copywriting work that requires my top creative juices. Mornings are also for my “settling in” tasks to kick off the day – more on that in a future post.
  • Afternoons generally are reserved for lighter copy work, time in my wood shop, and other administrative tasks. My brain is more tired and distracted in the afternoon.
  • Breaks are for little activities that have nothing to do with work, but need to get done anyway. For example, today, I had to message a group of friends who help us take down Christmas decorations at church, and I had to find where Joe Rogan is publishing clips of his podcast on YouTube since he’s moved to Spotify. Those two things were done on 5-minute breaks.
  • Evenings are for longer-form activities that I want to do that won’t fit into my during-the-day breaks. Cooking and baking are generally in here. If I have some media management on my home media server, I like to do that in the evening, also.
  • I didn’t mention one other label that I use: Health. The reason I use Health as a different label than the others is because most of my health-related tasks are slotted in at different times of the day. For example, some days I take my Vitamin D supplement at breakfast. Some days, I take it at lunch. Some days I will do my home sauna treatment on my lunch break. Some days I do it after work. It all depends. It’s far easier for me to just keep these things in a separate label.

When do I take breaks?

I am a huge fan of the Pomodoro Method, and with this setup, I can organize my day around the Pomodoro approach to work with ease.

For those unfamiliar, this method simply means setting a timer for 25 minutes, working for that time period, and then taking a 5-minute break. Every 4th cycle you complete, you get a 15-minute break.

It’s these break periods that I take advantage of for those short tasks that aren’t necessarily as important as work.

And with Todoist’s “quick capture” capabilities, I can easily add tasks to my breaks as they come to mind. If I am working on a project and decide I want to look up that one quote from The Bourne Identity that I love so much, I can switch to Todoist, hit “q”, and type out the following:

Look up Bourne quote today #Personal @Breaks

That will pop a task called “Look up Bourne quote” into today’s tasks, in my “Personal” project, and label it “Breaks”. It’ll be exactly where I want to find it later.

What about prioritizing tasks?

I used to use Todoist’s prioritization feature to do a lot of my organizing of tasks, but these days, I only use it when I really want to be specific about what order I knock things out every day.

Today, I have a call at 10am, so that gets a “Priority 1” designation. I want that at the top of my list so that I know it’s in the front of my mind. Then I’ll slot in some other things under “Priority 2” and “Priority 3”.

With the custom view capabilities (which is a brand new Todoist feature), I can sort my day by priority and label. All my tasks are organized by the time of day that I want to do them, and then by priority within those sections.

It’s exactly how my brain works.

Coming up this week…

I’ll talk about my different projects, how I use Todoist to track all my health goals, and how I use repeating tasks to keep me on track every single day.

Stay tuned!