Can you suggest a tool better than both MLO and GTDNext, that meets my requirements?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss Tools & Software for GTD' started by Ship69, Apr 4, 2016.

  1. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    Hello

    About 18 months ago, after trialing - albeit briefly - at least 12 task management systems, I finally settled on MLO.

    At that time, MLO (My Life Organised) was said to be the "tool of choice" that people tended to end up using after getting frustrated with everything else. It was felt that even though the Windows version of MLO is ugly, cluttered, has a steep learning curve and is poorly marketed... that in the end MLO was the best tool.

    However I am now getting itchy feet again, because although yes, MLO is breath-takingly configurable, and although there are many, MANY wondeful things about it (including that it has extremely powerful hotkeys and although it now has some increasingly impressive mobile phone apps), it just isn't as good as it should be.

    I want to be able to do a lot with very few clicks. But it turns out that no matter how you set it up MLO has some deep structural problem that are never going to go away because the data is at core incorrectly structured.

    Here are MY REQUIREMENTS of a task management tool:

    1. Needs a dedicated "GTD List" field (e.g. Inbox, Active, Scheduled, Waiting, Someday-Maybe) in order to permit easy moving tasks between lists. (see discussion below)

    2. Needs to have a dedicated field for "Area of Life" (e.g. Work, Personal, Recreation...)

    3. Absolutely must have as many levels of project hierachy as you like

    4. Absolutely must have excellent keyboad entry for everything (mouse is too slow)

    5. Absolutely must have a trivial means of converting individual tasks into projects and back into individual tasks.

    6. Absolutely must have Context - where you are physically / energy level tags /type of activity (e.g. Errand, Reflective_Mood, Phone_call, Fun, [person_name] )

    7. Absolutely must have ability put something into the future trivially (e.g. by using a StartDate in the future makes it disappear) or some other easy way to create a GTD "Tickler" list.

    8. Absolutely must have the ability to show just the one Next Action for each project on a special view.

    9. Absolutely must have ability to (make exeptions to "8." and "Force" certain additional tasks through)

    10. Absolutely must have ability to visually highlight certain tasks (e.g. using some form of priority)

    11. Absolutely must have ability to flag up and focus on a small number of tasks to do "today" and have a dedicated view of just those tasks.

    12. Absolutely must have ability to change sort order of "11."
    This should be possible by keyboard not just by mouse, becuase keyboard is both faster and more precise.

    13. Needs ability to select multiple lines at once and do whatever you do next to them all. [Yes, MLO does let you do this and it's rather amazing!]

    14. Needs ability to work offline (critical when I am travelling).

    15. Needs mobile phone app.

    MLO (my life organised) has all of the above except 1. and 2. (see above)
    GTDNext.com has all the above except 13. 14. and 15.

    DISCUSSION of MLO
    One of my main gripes with MLO is just how hard it is to move Tasks & Projects between GTD Lists. In the end MLO needs a database field for "GTD list" and any workaround with Flag or physically moving tasks from folder to folder don't work as intended and never will.

    Likewise, life would be much easier to organise if there was a dedicated Area of Life field so that one can change what you are looking at with a single click, irrespective of other filters.

    GTDNext
    One tool that does have an excellent database structure is GTDNext.com. I have been watching GTDNext for the last few months. Moving tasks between list and even between Areas of Life, is trivially easy. You can a LOT with very few clicks because it's use of screenspace is way, way, WAY tighter than MLO. It now has a reasonable collection of hotkeys (which is critical because using a mouse is too slow).

    However unlike MLO, GTDNext a web app. This means that you need to be online in order to use it. Worse, it doesn't have a mobile phone app. And viewed through a mobile phone, it's inteface isnt brilliant.

    Can anyone recommend anything better than GTDNext or MLO, which meets all my criteria?

    J

    EDIT: Operating systems: Windows 8.1 (planning to move to v10 soon) and Android (v5)
     
  2. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    You omitted some key data: what platforms you use and if/how you want to sync up. However, you are probably never going to be happy unless you let go of most of these requirements. I think you could do a fair job with Wunderlist, Toodledo or perhaps Remember the Milk. Maybe you should try paper first, though.
     
  3. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    Omnifocus does all of that except number 2. But you can implement that in folders if you choose to do so. Apple Mac only and sync to iPhone/iPad only since, as mcogilvie says, you didn't say what platforms you need.
     
  4. paper-edv

    paper-edv Registered

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  5. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    I'm short of time but had a quick look at Nozbe. If I am correct, it seems to be failing my requirement "2."

    I want to have multiple levels of project and sub-project, so that each sub-project can have it's own Next Action being automatically shown to screen.
    And I want to be able to convert between tasks and projects trivially see requirement 5.
     
  6. Folke

    Folke Registered

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    I believe probably all apps fall short of something in your list, and even if they "have" a certain feature it may not be designed in a way you find practical to use. I believe with any app you will need to find ways to work around some of its features and limitations (and bloat).

    For example, I use Doit, which is the app I "hate least" overall, but I use only half of all its features and those that I do use I use in a way they probably were not quite meant for. (Another versatile and manageable app is Toodledo. And then MLO and IQTell are versatile but "unmanageable" IMO, YMMV.)
     
  7. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    If you are short of time and need to move fast, nothing beats flat lists. It's true that they make review a little harder, but everything else is much easier and faster.
     
  8. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    Folke yes, when I trialled a large number 18 months ago (including all the names mentioned so far), and to be frank I simply could not believe just how irritating every single one of them were! MLO seemed to tick most of my boxes, but I am now finally losing patience with it's core structure - particularly its lack of Area of Life and GTD List fields.

    GTDNext has/had a really excellent database structure, but was still very new, clunky & lacked hotkeys at the time.

    Right now, I re-trialling GTDNext (albeit I am still living mainly in MLO). GTDNext is pretty simple, with a small learning curve and I love the functionality (although not the aesthetics!) of their interface, but they clearly aren't as well resourced as some of their major competitors. I have just signed up for a year with them to encourage them...

    Have any of you tried GTDNext - if so how does it compare?
     
  9. Folke

    Folke Registered

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    I have played with GTDNext - but not actually used it for real tasks. Just like you, I like their fundamental approach, but am not so fond of their aesthetics (including their terminology and structure of options etc). Although I have some objections here and there, I figure it will be an OK app one day when it is more ready and polished. I am longing for the day I can leave Doit for something better ;-)
     
  10. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    You can attach labels to Nozbe Projects and Next Actions to assign them to "Areas of Life" (requirement 2).

    GTD inspired applications rarely offer multilevel project structures. GTD world is flat.

    You can convert task to a Project: https://nozbe.com/help/#tasktoproject .
     
  11. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but surely a key component of GTD theory is that
    A) Each Project should have a Next Action and that
    B) Although we skip between multiple projects (processing them all "in parallel"), that we execute the Actions within each Project one at a time "in series".
    i.e We complete each project Next Action by Next Action, completing one action before starting the next action, "in series".

    But what happens when a project grows and you have a large Project with multiple aspects to it? Larger projects are likely to contain aspects which can and indeed MUST be executed in parallel.

    At this point if one is sticking to Next Actions, one clearly needs to see more than one task withing the project and the whole system breaks down if you don't break the larger project down into smaller Projects each with it's own Next Action.

    But is it not useful to be able to keep all these smaller projects tied together? And Is it not useful as a project change in size and complexity over time to gradually to be able to very quickly create a quick sub-project or two - each of which will automatically deliver it's own Next Action on the Next Actions list?

    Conclusion
    I can see no merit in having only a single layer of project. In fact to do so either makes the Next Actions view hopeless (in the case of a single large "Project") or you wind up having to break projects down into with lots of smaller Projects which in the real world are tied together but which your system has no way of tying them all together and seeing the big picture. And failure to see the big picture is a very dangerous thing.

    What am I missing?

    [Aside: Btw, I do particularly like a feature that GTDNext has which enables you to "Force" additional tasks onto the Next Actions list if it is clear that they can/should in fact be done in parallel to each other. This is great not least because the real world is dynamic & messy and sometimes your structures of what is/is not "a Project" get messed up... and also sometimes you do simply do not have the luxury of completing one task before starting another even though they are both part of the same desired outcome or "Project".]
     
  12. Folke

    Folke Registered

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    If I may venture to respond to the question you asked tesTeq, I'd say that each one of you has a valid point. You Ship are right in the sense that real-world projects are often complex and often best described as a hierarchy and/or with dependency links between the various parts of the project.

    But TesTeq is also right, because David Allen does not actually describe real projects (i.e. what other people would normally call projects). What David calls a "project" is usually what I might have called a "task with subtasks". Of Course, David also mentions real projects (large, professional projects etc), but then refers to other methods for dealing with all those intricacies and leaves all of that out, as this is not his main focus.

    TesTeq is perfectly correct in saying that the GTD world is flat (and GTD does not even have linkages between projects and the tasks within them). GTD is intended to be possible to use with just plain paper. You take one sheet of paper that lists your AoRs, one sheet that lists your project names, one sheet for your next errands and another one for your next office actions (etc - one per context), then one sheet that lists your waiting for actions, one list (or folder structure) for your ticklers (deferred actions), one calendar etc, and then outside of all that you also have what David calls "project support material" and other reference material which can contain detailed project plans for real-world projects, budgets and whatever you think you need. David emphasizes that only a small number of our "projects" (in his generalized sense of the word, i.e. tasks with subtasks) require a real "project plan"; instead it is often enough to just identify one or more next actions and start with those, and then come up with more actions when you run out or in a subsequent review.

    Personally, I have the same preference that you have - to have all actions in the same app, and still be able to let the future, subsequent project actions stay well out of the main lists until they become relevant. But it would be wrong to say that this is what GTD prescribes. GTD simply does not have an opinion of where the subsequent project actions are located physically or how they are organized; they are simply referred to as "project support material", and it is entirely up to you if you want to have such actions and where you keep them and what degree of sophistication you want (manual/automatic, graphical etc).
     
  13. Oogiem

    Oogiem Registered

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    I agree with your point A but point B isn't exactly correct. The GTD books all say at least 1 next action but you can and should put multiple actions on your lists if they can be done in parallel.

    In my case when a project grows to become a group of related projects I just split them all out into separate small projects. If I have stopping points, I can't do X in project A until Y on project B is done, I'll add an action of Waiting for Y to be done in my list of actions for project A. When I get to that point I am automatically waiting until the other actions or project complete before continuing, Simple and easy.

    I do not find it useful to keep the smaller projects together. When I do my weekly review they are obvious, there is no need to group them more closely. In fact I just removed all groupings in my system because they were hindering more than helping me.

    Here is a current example in my system. We are redoing our sheep handing facility and moving it to the tractor shed extension of our hay barn. There are many pieces to this overall goal. One piece is to redesign the sheep handling set-up so sheep flow more smoothly through it. That means that the exit pens must be nearly level not significantly up or downhill. To move the location of the pens we have to build a rock retaining wall to hold fill dirt. We have lots of rocks but very little dirt. We also have an old dirt covered cellar that is falling in. So now I have several projects related to this one original project. Remove old cellar, putting wood into a dumpster and salvaging dirt, building a rock retaining wall, designing the handling flow and preparing the new location. Many of the individual actions can take place in parallel but right now we've done all that we can until we get the fill dirt so I have a waiting for cellar to be removed action in that project while the cellar removal actions are proceeding.

    Just because there are lots of smaller projects I have no problems seeing the big picture and in fact the smaller projects allowed me to stack some other things in that might not have been thought of if I hadn't had the built in stop points.

    The thing I think you are missing is the importance of the weekly review. If you really do review all the current active, waiting for and possible future projects on a weekly or nearly weekly basis you will not have any problems correlating the small projects together. That sort of sorting is what the human brain is really god at, give yourself more credit that you can do it and don't depend on a crutch of some app to do your thinking for you.

    By way of reference right now I have 208 active projects with 264 available actions and I have completed 40 projects since my last weekly review which was on Friday 1 April.
     
  14. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    Using old-fashioned Usenet quoting, sorry.

    > i.e We complete each project Next Action by Next Action, completing
    > one action before starting the next action, "in series".

    Actually, I don't think that's necessarily a requirement of GTD. I feel that the book is a bit inconsistent--I've seen parts that do point that way, and parts that don't. I prefer one and only one Next Action, myself.

    > But what happens when a project grows and you have a large Project
    > with multiple aspects to it? Larger projects are likely to contain
    > aspects which can and indeed MUST be executed in parallel.

    I divide the large project into multiple parallel projects. Those projects aren't hierarchically below the large project; all of my projects are at the same level of the hierarchy. That's not what everybody does, it's just what I do.

    > But is it not useful to be able to keep all these smaller projects
    > tied together?

    Not for me. I find that extra level of hierarchy to just be clutter.

    If I do want to tie the projects together, I can easily do so in the project name. As in:

    Project: Jacket Effort
    Next Action: WAITING FOR multiple JacketEffort projects.

    Project: JacketEffort--Choose a pattern.
    Next Action: Schedule a time to get into the city to look at patterns.

    Project: JacketEffort--Recruit help with fitting.
    Next Action: Ask Jane for the name of that seamstress.

    Project: JacketEffort--Plan beaded lapel.
    Next Action: Ask Mary if I could hire her to draw a beading design.

    And so on and so on.
     
  15. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    The GTD methodology requirement: you have at least one Next Action (including @WaitingFor) for each active Project.

    This requirement does not solve a problem of managing complex projects but it allows you to move forward on many paths leading to the Successful Outcome. For example in my book project I had independent Next Actions for text, graphics, cover, and landing page.

    But you cannot build a bridge or a skyscraper using GTD for project management. In such big projects my GTD system is a tool for managing my personal involvement and commitments.
     
  16. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    Thanks for the feedback, people. I shall digest and revert.

    TesTeq - I agree with that one needs to be able to have more than one Next Action per project, and I have no time for any rigid automated system that doesn't readily allow this.

    Oogiem - yes I take your point re doing weekly reviews more often. Every week for example.

    paper-edv - IQTell looks potentially interesting if rather overwhelming.
    - Does it allow for multi-layer projects? [see my original point "3."]
    Yes, still extremely important for me.
    - And does IQTell allow trivial conversion between project and action? [my original point "5."]

    Meanwhile one problem I have is that for small-ish stuff I still find that the distinction between Action and Project can feel slightly artificial. I mean yes, I get the distinction but I want to be able to move swiftly between something being an Action or a Project, even if I need to change it's title to reflect this.

    PAPER
    I agree that there is much to be said for paper. It is immediate and it is very visual - the eye recognizes a mental photo of each bit of paper. And you can mark it up / highlight it very easily. Also, sometime making a commitment that you can't easily change is a really good thing psychologically.

    However, to me the main key problems with paper are:

    A) I want to be able to move something from list to list. This means crossing out and re-writing it on the new piece of paper. ==> v tedious.

    B) You eventually end up with bits of paper with most of it crossed out. And this gets messy. Eventually once there are only a few items left you are forced to re-write them too on a new piece of paper.

    C) I find having one list of projects and separately a list of Next Actions that are not physically/visually connected is really painful.

    Plus of course you can't do a text search, there is only one copy and can lose it. etc
     
  17. paper-edv

    paper-edv Registered

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    A visual way to organize all your stuff is TheBrain (www.thebrain.com). Further information about GTD und TheBrain can you found here...
     
  18. Ship69

    Ship69 Registered

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    Interesting suggestion. Yes, I have already tried TheBrain. On paper it is absolutely brilliant because in many ways it is how the human brain works.

    In practice, I absolutely hated it. The reason why is because it turns out that I think very visually, which shapes and colours. And what I couldn't STAND was how everything kept leaping around and changing shape. Fwiw, I couldnt get your link to work either http://blog.thebrain.com/gtd/.

    Nice suggestion though.
     
  19. Joshua Theisen

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    @Ship69 , I agree with most of your requirements, particularly 6, 8, 13, 14, 15. I have been managing without 1 and 2 using Outlook + GTDOA. Have you found anything you like? Thanks
     
  20. Stephen Dewitt

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    One little note: I have found that for any apps that support them, in-text emojis can be used to add extra features - they can be an extra in-line tagging system that can work separately to the main tagging system - they require you to have phrase-express third party programs, but if you always put them e.g. at the start of sentences you can automate their addition / change in almost any context
     

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