As of late I’ve been pretty deep in a geekified wormhole evaluating various solutions and applications for streamlining my life and business organization. In a nutshell, I’m outgrowing my fairly basic systems of to-do lists, calendars, etc. which are spread across various Excel sheets, spiral-bound notebooks and emails to myself. It’s worked for me for a long time, but in these crazy days of always having more to do and less time to do it, it’s just stretching thin. So with some trepidation I have entered the world of productivity and time management applications.

In the past I’ve spent a fair amount of time and resources looking at (and in some cases using) project management software for business projects (Studiometry, Billing, Daylite, Bento, etc.) but I’ve never really checked out productivity or time management apps until now. For various reasons I feel ready to take the leap — but I will say that researching the possible solutions is incredibly time-consuming. Whew!

I’m by no means done, but I did find a cool product that I thought I’d share with you today: TodoMapper. For reasons I’ll describe in a moment it won’t work for me, but I think it has a lot of potential. At a minimum it would be fun to play around with, even if it couldn’t play a major role in organizing my life and business. And maybe it will be developed down the road, so if you’re interested in productivity or mind mapping software, keep an eye on it. If new versions give it even just a few critical features/functions, it could really be great.

So here are the priority items that I’ve been looking for:

  • to-do lists that are accessible across my laptop and iPhone, and whatever other devices I may use
  • a calendar I can share with my husband and others
  • ideally some integration between the to-do lists and calendars, so I can schedule and add due dates to to-do items, and
  • the info for all the above would also reside locally on my devices in case I can’t get online.

When I got started looking for the above I also re-stumbled across mind mapping software, which got me excited about the idea of mind mapping functions integrated with to-do lists. The mind mapping part is definitely not essential for me, but I thought I’d at least look to see what was out there. Mostly I didn’t find good integration of mind-mapping with to-do functions — but I found TodoMapper to be intriguingly close.

First, the bad news. Here’s why TodoMapper won’t work for me:

  1. It’s cloud-only (all the data lives on a server, not on my computer) so if I didn’t have online access I wouldn’t have my info.
  2. There is basically NO documentation or support. Not even a knowledgebase or an FAQ with any details about how to use the software. Just a few “tour” videos that have no audio! They’re marginally helpful but a far, far cry from enough.
  3. Overall, preferences and features are really lacking. View options are particularly weak.

But, I will say the concept of TodoMapper is closest to the vision I had, in that it really marries mind mapping with a to-do list. Each item/node you add to the mind map is by default a to-do item, mostly by virtue of a checkbox right on the node. And you can assign dates to the to-do items too. Unfortunately the calendar isn’t syncable with iCal, Google calendar or whatever. (The TodoMapper website promises “Google integration” but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I missed it. Uh, documentation please?) Your maps/lists are also sharable with other people which is cool.

Another thing to note is that if you’re into the “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology, TodoMapper has some features to support that such as being able to manage contexts, use “focus” views, filter/search, etc.

If TodoMapper 1) integrated with Google Calendar or iCal, and 2) kept info locally on my computer and was syncable across devices, and 3) had more and better features, preferences and view settings, and (a big one) 4) if there were reasonable documentation/support, I’d love TodoMapper.

Moving on, I’m pretty much going to let go of the mind mapping function. Syncable, shareable and schedulable to-do lists are the main priority. Also, I gave up on finding anything that integrates with Google calendar and plan to go back to using iCal. While I found no to-do apps that directly interface with Google calendar, lots of them work with iCal. So why fight it? I’m done.

Please note: I’m only half geek so if I described something wrong, please correct me and accept my apologies. And hey, if you have any ideas, suggestions or direction for me in my quest for technology-supported organizational nirvana, lay ’em on me.

Onward!

4 Comments

  • I’m in the same boat here. You might think that being a full geek would help with finding technological solutions, but the technology is only part of the solution.

    I find that, more and more, the tech solutions I find are actually pretty solid, but at the cost of agile use. I’ve gotten more done faster with a well-enough managed pocket notebook and pencil than I ever did managing tasks on a computer. I don’t want to *have* to fire the thing up, open a web browser, categorize my thoughts, refer to an interleaving system of relationships… just to mark off a task.

    By the time I get all that done, I find I’m either distracted by something else or that it’s more of a task to manage my list than to actually do the tasks on it. I get the Lifehacker “plan once, do many” ethic, but managing something that’s over-implemented is just as wasteful as muddling through without a plan at all.

    Congratulations on recognizing that iCal satisfies your needs, and that it’s enough. Letting go of management is as much a part of getting things done as embracing it is.

  • You and I are on the same page Cameron. A big reason I’ve always been a fan of emailing lists to myself is that I ALWAYS have email open. I’ve long been reluctant to get attached to any system that requires another piece of software. And I will probably always still have times where I just want to sit down with pen and notebook and take freeform notes.

    But if I can find simple enough software, and something that’s exportable to some editable format (because I don’t want to assume that I’ll use the same solution forever), I’m willing to bite the bullet and reap benefits such as shareability and accessibility.

    One thing I meant to mention was that Google apps almost fits the bill, but its Tasks feature is really lame. It’s now shareable (which is an improvement) and you can assign dates to each to-do task, but I can’t just copy/paste/print the list which is super annoying. And you can only look at one list at a time. Lame.

  • Hi Peri,
    I’ve been using smartsheet for the last two years and really like it. It’s a really easy to use to do list, in the cloud; I access it from my computer and my iPhone. I use it kind of like a glorified excel spreadsheet (but it also has full blown project management tools), but unlike Excel it’s really easy to move rows up and down, prioritize, add new rows, etc. I have several lists in it–one main one for work, one for personal; another for tasks for others; another for meeting agendas, another for goals, etc. You can also attach documents and discussions to tasks, and calendar them. I just noticed it publishes to google calendar, but I haven’t tried that yet. Also exports to google spreadsheets, and you can use your google signon. Also ties into voice-based Jott so if you leave a message, it appears on your to do list. The basic subscription level lets you share it with a few users; the to do list can send emails to others. You can make some of your lists shared, some private. The only way to have it offline is to regularly export it to Excel, kind of like backing up. I think if you pay more than the basic subscription, you can get automated backups, so it’s always up to date when you’re offline. Excellent documentation and they’re always adding cool new features. They get it.
    Good luck!
    Beth

    • Very cool–I hadn’t heard of Smartsheet Beth! I will check it out for sure!

      Gotta say I like the sound of “glorified Excel spreadsheet.” I love the manual-ness of Excel and that it’s totally customizable. if Smartsheet has made customization even easier than Excel, well dang it all I’m interested.

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