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Get Ready to Get Things Done in 2010 with TeuxDeux

Get Ready to Get Things Done in 2010 with TeuxDeux

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    As far as I’m concerned, there is no better personal productivity tool than the humble to-do list. Just the ability to put down and visually scan everything you’ve got on your plate offers a huge benefit – as anyone who’s ever reached for a sheet of paper and started listing tasks when they were feeling overwhelmed will attest.

    What’s missing in most to-do lists, though, is the element of time. My beloved Moleskine is a case in point: whenever I think of something I have to do, I add it to the end of the list. During reviews, I’ll sit and brainstorm tasks, and they too go to the end of the list. In good GTD fashion, there are no priorities and only tasks with fixed time requirements end up on my calendar.

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    Which means that when I have time, I have to scan through pages, skipping over finished items, to find something to work on. If I were a better GTD’er and used contexts more efficiently, I’d have the same problem, although the lists would be shorter since they’re be limited to what I can do in my office or out and about or on the phone.

    Enter TeuxDeux, a new task list that bills itself as “a simple, designy, free, browser-based to-do app.” “Simple” is right – TeuxDeux’s interface consists of columns for the next 5 days and a “Someday” section underneath. You can add tasks in the text box at the top of each day, click finished tasks to cross them out, delete finished tasks, and drag tasks from one day to another or to the “Someday” list.

    And that’s it. No contexts, no projects, no time tracking, none of that stuff. You enter tasks, you do them, you cross them off. If you don’t finish something, you can drag it to another day. The interface is lovely – you wouldn’t normally call something “designy”, except that TeuxDeux is a collaboration between two design houses that are clearly looking to demonstrate their skill to potential clients – and everything just works.

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    Using TeuxDeux as a planner

    I have accounts with a dozen online to-do list managers, and yet I keep coming back to my trusty Moleskine. So what makes TeuxDeux special? What do I need with yet another online task list? And could it possibly be that I’m giving up my beloved Moleskine?

    Have no fear, my Moleskine isn’t going anywhere. It’s still the best tool I’ve found for on-the-go capture, not just of to-do list items but phone numbers and addresses, notes to myself, project outlines, and random ideas.

    TeuxDeux fills a gap that I hadn’t really known needed filling, and that no other task list manager has really addressed – daily and weekly planning. As a daily planner, TeuxDeux acts as an MIT list – “Most Important Tasks”, also known as “Big Rocks”.

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    I have hundreds of tasks in my Moleskine – after all, I’m a college instructor, a freelance writer, a blogger, a website manager, a book editor, an apartment renter, an uncle and brother and son, a single man, and a person living his life. Each of those roles comes with dozens of things to do, from researching an academic presentation to buying toothpaste and breakfast cereal.

    But I can’t just sit down and do all those tasks one by one – on any given day, there are certain things I have to do and certain things I’d like to do and certain things I’d do if I found some spare time. An MIT list is a list of the 3-5 things that are, as the name suggests, most important to get done today. The things that, if you finished just those tasks, you’d have had a good, productive day.

    TeuxDeux makes it easy to whip up a list of the day’s tasks quickly, and I can drag and drop them around to roughly prioritize them. When they’re done, I can go back to my Moleskine and cross them off. If I don’t finish all of them, I just drag the remaining tasks to the next day.

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    Since I can see the whole week in one view, TeuxDeux also allows me to plan out what I need to do in the days to come, making it really useful for a Weekly Review. A calendar isn’t a really useful tool for plotting out tasks; rather, calendars are good for blocking out time to do those tasks in. For example, I might block out 4 hours for writing on my calendar, but the particular things I need to write go on TeuxDeux. Or I’ll block out the time I spend in my office on campus on my calendar, but the tasks I need to do while in my office are on my TeuxDeux list for that day. And whatever I don’t get done can be easily dragged to the next day.

    You can do all this with most task lists, of course, but not so easily or intuitively. The only real drawback is that TeuxDeux is entirely self-contained and not easily accessible except through a computer browser. An iPhone app is apparently in the works, and hopefully they’ll develop apps for Android, Palm, and Blackberry as well. But it would also be nice to be able to add tasks via third-party services like Jott or Dial2Do, or to access your daily lists in other applications.

    Still, as it is, TeuxDeux is proving an immensely useful tool that fits well with my mostly paper-based productivity system. As you look forward to the new year, you should definitely give it a try and see how it can help you stay on task and get things done in 2010. And let us know what you think in the comments!

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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