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Finding the "Ideal" Productivity App

Brandon Kalinowski

TLDR: While there is no perfect app, I have settled on using Twos for managing my tasks. Give it a try and use referral code 3781335

My Timeline of Task Management Apps

This is a crowded space, and it seems a new app is released daily. A quick search on YouTube will yield hundreds of apps promising to help improve productivity. And the rabbit hole is deep.

1. The Hit List

In the past, the best app I ever used for managing tasks is called The Hit List. It is a $50 Mac app that excels because of its simplicity. It is close to using pen and paper and the innovation it brought was being able to infinitely nest tasks and subtasks like an outliner. To add a subtask, you would just hit enter to create a new line and then Tab to indent. You could set start and end dates (many todo list apps can only set end or "due dates"). Unfortunately, the application wasn't maintained and I had to move on to a new application.

2. Todoist

I then switched to Todoist which again was attractive because of its simplicity. I used it extensively for certain projects in college and then for development of my software product. After a few years where it really helped me keep track of things, I found myself not wanting to open the app. The app that once brought calm and sanity now brought overwhelm.

The issue with Todoist and really most task-oriented apps is that it is much easier to add items to the list than to remove items. Unlike paper planners which can only fit so many tasks per day, Todoist can be an infinite list. Adding items to the today view is so much easier than putting it into a seperate space, which compounds on this problem. Each day, the list of tasks that are due grows. When I quit using Todoist, I had some 200+ tasks that were "due".

Todoist is used at my place of work so I do use it still. Since abandoning it for myself, I have used it on occasion to quickly capture a thought on mobile. But I have now replaced it with Twos for that use case.

3. SkedPal

SkedPal is an algorithmic time-blocking planner. You tell it what areas you want to work on when (ie family stuff in the evening, creative work in the morning, exercise 3 times a week, I want to read this book that will take me 8 hours to read, etc) and it looks at your calendar and schedules tasks in a way that makes sense. Adding the time component is really helpful because only so many things can fit in one day. I used it for some time but stopped using it because my work schedule didn't fit well with the product. I also didn't feel like I was getting enough use out of it to warrant the $15/mo cost.

The other issue I had was that it was hard to show my boss what I had worked on. It had an integration with Asana, but tasks I created in SkedPal did not exist anywhere except for my account. I did like how SkedPal was outline-based. But I felt I was constantly fiddling with the app as I didn't like how it was scheduling my day.

4. Focuster

This app was a lifesaver during and leading up to my finals week before graduating. You put tasks and their duration into it and it immediately schedules it for you. It answers the question "what should I be working on right now?"

5. Logseq

Logseq is where I think and take notes. But it isn't great for task management in my case because it is not designed to be collaborative.

6. Checkvist and Dynalist

These are outliner apps. I prefer Checkvist because everything can be done with the keyboard. I used it when discerning marriage with my now wife. I had a list of discussion topics in Logseq that I pasted into Checkvist to share with my then girlfriend.

Checkvist has a few things I don't like. First, the experience on mobile isn't great. I found myself using Google Keep and Apple Notes in its place for ephemeral lists.

7. Tana

I was invited to the Tana alpha. I like how it is similar to Logseq and Workflowly with the addition of Supertags (which are really like classes for those familiar with programming). I built my "ideal simplified task management system" in Tana. But in using it, I found it too complex. I don't want to have to think about how to use an app. The app should help me not corner me into a complex system. I found a lot of YouTubers were spending a lot of time tweaking and demonstrating their "system" on Tana rather than actually doing work.

8. Kanban Tools

I looked at different software packages to manage tasks with kanban. One nice-looking option is Stacks. Ultimately though, I settled on a different app.

9. Twos

I had discovered Twos a while ago. My initial thought was

  1. Thinking in Logseq
  2. Deep task management in Tana
  3. Lightweight list making in Twos.

Twos was something I could share with my wife. It brings the day-centered view from Logseq to a web-based application that has a clean and simple UI. Anything you want to remember you write in Twos, and it is saved into that day. Notes, memories, tasks, all in one place.

From there, you can move items into dedicated lists.

It also supports basic nesting of tasks -- not as powerful as a dedicated outliner like Logseq -- but good enough for my usecase.

Ultimately I decided I didn't need Tana.

Twos is sort of like Todoist but better. Because each new day is a blank slate. I can work, and when I have an idea for a new feature or thing to do, I can write it down in the today view. Then if I can work through that list. Personal and work tasks can coexist in the day view. When I complete a work task, I can move it into the shared "Work Done" list, where my boss can track the project status. I can file ideas into a "Someday list" so that my actual task list is managable and not overwhelming.

Give Twos a try for managing your tasks. It doesn't cost a thing! Be sure to use my referral code 3781335 when registering because I have found that the referral link doesn't always include the referral code.

Additional Tools

Looking for a singular app to manage everything in your life is a fool's errand. It is better to use each tool for its strengths, and supplement with other tools where it makes sense. While I could keep all of my notes in Twos, I like having them locally in my Logseq graph. To link these two together I use Hookmark. Note that you could generate the Logseq links without Hookmark, but having a keyboard shortcut is invaliable. Hookmark also allows you to create links for local files and emails. I then insert these links into my Twos Reference list, and the links resolve on Mac only. This further allows me to refer to private notes while sharing the Twos list publicly. This is a crowded space, and it seems a new app is released daily. A quick search on YouTube will yield hundreds of apps promising to help improve productivity. And the rabbit hole is deep.

Brandon Kalinowski

I specialize in integrating technology seamlessly to help others tell compelling stories. For instance, I helped a professor construct a live television studio. I also managed a student news program. These and other experiences spurred a fascination with live streaming. I intern for Legion M as a streaming technical and data analyst. My expertise includes modern web design, video editing, and photography.


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