TaskPaper - Finally Getting Things Done

I've tried 'em all. Often multiple times. Quite often, I'd enter all my data into one, then find another that looked quite good, so I'd enter all my data again into the new one. Then I'd repeat the process. And so on. Meanwhile, I wasn't doing any of the things that all this data was supposed to be reminding me to do.

Yep, it's the dreaded To Do App Infinite Loop. In the hunt for the perfect To Do App, you never have any spare time To Do anything.

But, enough is enough. I've picked TaskPaper as my app of choice. And I'm sticking to it. Here's why.

The problem

Most of the many apps I've tried have one or more ”features” that just drive me nuts. Take Things, for example. The iOS and Mac apps are gorgeous to behold. Entering tasks is dead quick. But, want to postpone a task until the next day? Here goes (on the iPhone version, unless I'm missing something very obvious):

  1. Select the task
  2. Tap Edit
  3. Tap Due Date
  4. Select tomorrow's date
  5. Tap Save
  6. Tap Done
  7. Tap Don't Show in Today
  8. Tap to go back to whatever list you were on

WTF? Maybe the idea is to make it so convoluted, it's easier to just do the task. Even if it was something like ”Paint house”, it'd probably be quicker to do than postpone.

It's taken Cultured Code - the developers of Things - about 200 years to offer a public beta of cloud synching. However, it is fast, if a little weird (e.g. it'll only sync when it's lost and regained focus).

Another example. OmniFocus. Do I use Due Dates or Start Dates? If I use Due Dates, everything due within 24 hours as a minimum shows as due. I only want to see what's due today, so no good.

So, I should use Start Dates? Already, this is too much to have to think about. Now I need to decide what type of date I want for my task, as well as a context, project etc.

You've probably gathered by now I'm not a GTD guru. If I were, I'd probably be getting aroused at the enormous number of things I can do with Omnifocus. But I'm not, so I'm not. Having said that, the iPad version is a beautiful app indeed. Can't say the same about the Mac version, mind. And it ain't cheap. Especially if you get both iOS versions and the Mac version.

And the synch is waaaaaay too slow.

Remember The Milk is good. I like it. Nice iOS apps, a web app (although looking a little dated now), but useful. However, it is too expensive. $25 a year mounts up to a lot of cash over the years.

But I do love the RTM quick entry system. This is good enough to make it my second favourite, behind...


I'm keeping this one. At least until I change my mind again.

I must start off by saying I've actually moved all of my scheduled stuff to iCal. And why not? It works very well for that task.

So, TaskPaper is for my ongoing projects and stuff to do over the next week.

I have a folder for all my work stuff. Within that, I've got individual files for each project.

For my personal stuff, I've got two files: Daily and One Big Note.

Daily is structured as follows:

- repeating task 1
- repeating task 2
- etc
- thing to do today 1
- thing to do today 2
- etc
- Monday thing 1
- Monday thing 2
- etc
- Tuesday thing 1

And so on for the rest of the week.

At the start of each day, I'll either copy (if it's a weekly repeating task), or move (if it's a one-off for this week) the tasks for that day to Today. I'll also mark my daily repeating stuff as incomplete by a simple swipe over each task.

This system I now have also has the added benefit of making me actually look at what I need to do today and that's a good thing.

I've now got, at the top of the list, my daily repeating stuff (i.e. stuff to do every day) and my non-repeating stuff that needs to be done that day.

As the day goes on, I'll hopefully mark those repeats as done, and delete the Today stuff. At the end of the day, hopefully all the repeats are marked as complete and there's nothing left in Today. If there is something left, I'll move it to another day. This takes a max of 4 actions, or a simple hold and drag to the new day. This is how it should be.

Need to add a new task? Stick the cursor where you want it, tap +, start typing. Add tags if you want. That's pretty much it. I don't use tags a great deal, but they are very powerful, especially when searching comes into play (e.g. @tuesday not @reallybad), but, as powerful as they are, I try and keep things as simple as possible.

Now, assuming I already have one of my personal lists open, I can see every single thing I need to do with a maximum of 3 taps and some scrolling. This, I like. This is how it should be, at least for me. This makes me look at my list and actually think, ooh, I'll do that now. Every other system I've tried, stuff tends to get filed away and then promptly forgotten about, as I'd have to go searching to actually find it. This, I'm sure you will agree, somewhat defeats the point.


TaskPaper now uses the lovely DropBox for syncing. This makes it super useful. Change a task on my iPhone, ooh, there's the change on my Mac TaskPaper app. Pretty much instant sync. It's really fast, even over 3G. Contrast that with 3G synching on OmniFocus, which seems to take days (okay, I'm exaggerating, but it really does feel like a very long time).

And the created files are just plain text, so when i have to use a horrible Windows machine, I can just fire up Notepad ++ and carry on manipulating my lists. Admittedly, you lose the functionality of the actual TaskPaper apps, but it's surprising how useful it still is.

Occam's Razor strikes again. Not only was the simplest solution the best one for me, but it's also the cheapest, especially when you go the whole hog (excuse the pun) and buy both the iOS (Universal app) and the Mac versions. Shame I'd already purchased all that other expensive stuff.

Go buy it now. It's simply fantastic.