For many years I scribbled to-do lists on paper and rarely, if ever, worked through those lists efficiently. Not anymore. Todoist — a powerful productivity app — has entered my world (since Nov 2015), and it has honestly been the single-most effective change agent in my life aside from Benny, a mentor, and Christ my Savior. It actually boggles my mind when I consider how much I have changed in four short months because of this little app.
Here are five ways Todoist has changed me.
1. It Refined My Life’s Vision
Following the direction of Tim Challies in his book Do More Better, which introduced me to Todoist, I use Projects to identify how I want my life to look. I have prayerfully determined the four main areas of my life, and these are my “projects.”
In a nutshell, I want to spend my life doing these things:
- Taking care of myself [my body and my soul]
- Taking care of my family [and our home]
- Taking care of the church I pastor [RMLBC]
- Taking care of the details associated with my writing ministry [Glory Focus]
So my projects in Todoist are personal, family, RMLBC, and Glory Focus.
Furthermore, I use the sub-Projects to break down each of these four major areas into further sections.
The result of creating my task lists within these projects and sub-projects is a refinement of the vision I have for life. Put simply, Todoist challenges me to say Yes to tasks that fit into these categories and No to tasks that don’t.
For example, suppose someone offers me $100 to rake all the leaves in his yard. Even though I would like to provide a service for him (and even though the extra money would be helpful) I would say No. Raking his leaves doesn’t fit. Though it might be a good thing to do, it is a task that falls outside of the parameters of the vision I have for my life.
Saying No is hard for me, but doing so helps me put my time and effort into the things I’m sure God has called me to do. Given individual gifts and callings and the time constraints that everybody must deal with, people have to be willing and able to refuse some (most) tasks in order to focus on others.
Basically, then, I tell Todoist what I want my life to look like, and Todoist responds by telling me which tasks to accept and which to deny.
2. It Challenged Me to Balance the Parts of My Life
With color-coding and the Todoist Karma feature, it is easy to see how much effort I exert towards each of my four projects. I can clearly see if I am spending too much time working at church and not enough time at home, or if I am neglecting my health in favor of writing a book.
This feature led me to prioritize the most important tasks in each category. Using the priority flags and setting due dates / times, I have been able to zero in on the big stuff in each area of life. With those main things done, it has been much easier to transition from one part of my life to another — like work to home — without feeling overburdened.
3. It Helped Me Learn to Delegate
By using labels (requires premium) I have been able to better see which tasks I can delegate to others.
For example, part of my pastoral ministry involves contacting a number of people on a daily basis for a variety of reasons. Every person I need to call, text, email, or visit becomes a task in Todoist that I label “contacts.” When I look at the tasks under that label (I use filters for this), I ask myself, “Can I get someone else to contact this person?”
Hypothetically, there might be a family in distress who has children in our children’s ministry. There might also be a new family with children who are prospects for AWANA. Todoist shows me both of these tasks at the same time in an uncluttered view (all other tasks are removed by the filter).
How Christ Defeats
Darkness, Demons, and Death
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Because my view of these two tasks is unobscured by a thousand other tasks, I realize that instead of calling both of these families, I should contact our children’s director instead and ask her to call these two families and then report back to me. For me, a paper list most likely would have obscured this opportunity to share tasks.
This is only one example of how Todoist has helped me learn to delegate. Though I’ve historically struggled to see which tasks I should personally do and which I should hand off, it is all making much more sense now.
4. It Built Good Habits into My Daily Living
I give credit to the Karma points feature for this — after all, I want to get a high score each day! So when I plan tasks and enter them into Todoist, I really want to accomplish them. As a result of this sort of self-competition, I have been able to watch myself build healthy and helpful habits.
Truthfully, its not Karma points that get the real credit here. I need to give God credit for this, because a number of these things I’ve been trying to do consistently for many years, and now he has given me a tool that is working to make it happen.
Here is a list of what I’m talking about:
- Memorizing Scripture: Though I’ve memorized Scripture before, it has never been like this. I would love to share on another post how I use Todoist as a Scripture memory tool. Because of this habit, as his Word infiltrates my mind and heart on a daily basis, I find myself walking with God closer than ever. [Details on how I set this up]
- Organized daily prayer: I love to pray, but when it comes to praying for a large number of people, I have mostly failed to be regular and consistent. Todoist has allowed me to break my impossible list down into smaller pieces, praying more focused and sincerely for 8 to 10 people a day. Over the course of each month, I am able to pray for nearly 300 people in an organized and focused way, without ever feeling overburdened on any single day.
- Consistent Reading: I also love to read, but my reading has always been haphazard. I would read a whole book in a week and then not read at all for two weeks. Todoist has trained me to spend 20-30 minutes a day reading good books by working through 2 chapters a day. And because it is only 2 chapters, I don’t feel like I’m neglecting other duties when I read. My Bible reading has also been more enjoyable and consistent than ever before.
- Devotional Time with My Wife: This one is huger than huge for me. In nearly 16 years of marriage, I’ve never consistently led my wife in any kind of devotion time. In fact, it has always felt downright awkward to me for some sinful reason. But suddenly, just because Todoist told me to do it (after I told it to tell me), my wife and I have rarely missed our time with the Lord each evening. It doesn’t take long to do — read a chapter of the Bible and take turns praying — but it has drawn us closer together as a couple and opened the door to many deeper conversations.
- Drinking Water: I used to forget, but not anymore. Every day Todoist tells me to drink at least 50 oz of water, and most of the time, I exceed this goal.
- Walking: Since Todoist, I have walked many, many miles. I’m on my feet for at least 20 minutes a day, walking the gym at church, on our elliptical or home, or just through the neighborhood. Many times I will combine this habit with my Scripture memory and prayer time.
- Exercise: In addition to walking, Todoist pushes me to stretch, do push-ups, squats, lunges, and other activities I don’t want to do.
- Fiber: Everyone needs fiber. Todoist makes me eat at least 10 grams per day. ‘nuff said.
- Brushing and Flossing: Don’t mock me! I used to forget to brush all the time. And honestly, I’ve probably flossed more in the last four months than in all of my life combined up to that point.
- Family Finances: Every morning Todoist asks me to balance our family checkbook (with software of course). Instead of waiting a week or two and then finding a surprise, like a bounced check, this habit keeps me always informed of where we are financially.
- Chore Chart: This one has been a major life-changer. Instead of my wife and I cleaning the whole house, we now delegate a number of major chores to our five kids. Todoist pushes me to check the chore chart each evening and hold the kids accountable for their tasks. As a result, our house is much cleaner and my wife and I are much happier.
All of these habits, and several others, were formed in my life as a direct result of using Todoist. Though I used to do some of these some of the time, I never did all of them all of the time. Nowadays, it is a rare exception to miss one. This is probably the main reason I love Todoist so much, and why I am so thankful for it. It has helped me accomplish so many of things I’ve always wanted to do, but just haven’t been able to make happen.
(This may be a good time to say that I’m not being paid a dime to write all of this! I get no commission or kickbacks if you get Todoist — which is free anyway until you upgrade to premium. The honest truth: I’ve never had a productivity tool that has been this effective, and I simply want to share my experience).
5. It Provided Peace of Mind
When I’m telling people about Todoist, I usually say, “It has made me twice as productive and half as tired.” Both sides of that are probably overstatements, but not by much. This little app has given me peace of mind like I haven’t had in many years.
Here is one practical example of what I mean:
At the conclusion of our Sunday morning services, I stand at the church door and spend time chatting with people. These conversations often give birth to tasks that need to be accomplished. One lady may say, “My surgery will be Wednesday morning.” A man might request, “Can you make sure the church door is unlocked Friday evening? I’m hoping to finish painting the kids’ Sunday School room.” Finally, I may talk with a new family visiting our church for the first time, listening as they share basic information about themselves.
Each of these conversations (and lots of others) lead to tasks that must be accomplished. On the first one, I need to visit or contact the lady on the day of her surgery and pray with her. With the man, I need to make sure the church door is unlocked when he comes to paint. And with the new family, I need to send them a welcome letter and perhaps reach out to them on Facebook. I may also need to tell our youth director that this family has a teenaged son who should be invited to the next youth meeting.
Before Todoist, I found myself frazzled trying to remember all these details. I would stand there at the church door with a crazed and dazed look on my face as people hit me with bits of information I needed to remember.
By the time the end of the line came through, I was not even present with the people, mentally speaking. My mind was wandering, attempting to retain all the data. Once everyone dispersed, I would quickly type an email to myself, trying to remember what people had told me. The result was a haphazard collection of facts and figures, many of which were indecipherable when I checked the email later — pure frustration that made for long and tedious Sunday afternoons.
Jonathan Edwards’ classic treatise
Updated for today’s readers
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Now, with Todoist, I simply open the app and have it ready. As people tell me something I need to remember, I quickly create a task in the Inbox. And here is the key: Once I add the task, I mentally let it go. I’m done with it until later when I can open Todoist and process it.
This method allows me to give each person my undivided attention. I can actually be present with them as we converse! I feel confident that I have captured the most important information and can therefore plan my week quickly and effectively.
And this is just one way God has used Todoist to grant me peace of mind. There are many others. This peace, too, is an answer to prayer. I’ve been asking God for this for quite a while.
So, Todoist has changed my life, and I am extremely grateful. I realize that it doesn’t work the same for everyone. Not everyone needs it like I do (or takes to it like I did) and not everyone will use it the same way I do. But for me, it has been a tremendous benefit. I see it as a gift from God that helps me live the way he wants me to live. Ultimately, he gets all the credit and glory for the good Todoist has brought me!
If you are a Todoist user, leave a comment and let other readers know how it has changed your life.