Automating the To-Do List

Like many people, I use lists to try to keep myself oriented. I’ve been trying a host of list keeping and time tracking tools in the past couple of months, and I’ve landed on my current favorite: Visual Mind.

VM works like an outliner. I create top branches to include everything that I’m trying to keep on my radar on any given day. As I work on a particular project, I can expand the branches of a particular project. Since I use VM for project mangement, system analysis, and illustration anyway, I can integrate the latter functions into my todo list if I need to.

VM also allows you to post maps to the web. These run in a java runtime application, so anyone with a modern web browser can take a look at your masterpiece.

Alternatives

Web Based Tools

Todoist does a nice hierarchy, that allows you to snap open a single project while keeping the other projects visible but closed. Free.

Ta-da Lists, from the people who brought us Basecamp. Free

Nozbe is a “strict” implementation of the Getting Things Done methodology. It allows you to view your items by project, “next action”, and context. Free for 6 projects, $4.95/month for 30 projects.

Applications

TraxTime – still the best for time tracking. Allows you to track time by projects and it creates a nice set of reports at the end of the month or reporting period which I use as the basis for invoicing. I have this running on my laptop all the time. (In fact, I think this is the main reason for keeping the laptop running.) $39.95 for the single user version, a networkable multi-user version is also available, but it isn’t a web-based application, so, as far as I know it will only work when all the users are on the LAN.

My Timeboxing uses the Timebox model. More about this in last month’s archive.

So, what I think I really want, is the visual appeal of Visual Mind, the ability to track time as well as TraxTime, with a timeboxing option from My Timeboxing, with the simplicity and zero cost of Todoist, or Ta-da Lists. In the meantime, I’ll continue using VM with help from a couple Yahoo widgets, a countdown timer, and a counting ‘up’ timer, as well as the lovely station clock.

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