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App Review: Wunderlist is a Cross Platform, Easy-To-Use Task Manager

App Review: Wunderlist is a Cross Platform, Easy-To-Use Task Manager

    If I’ve learned anything in my quest to become a productive person over the years by using technology tools it is the following two points.

    1. Love the tools you use.

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    If you find something wrong with your productivity tool within the first 5 minutes of using it, chances are it won’t stick. There are a ton of list making and action tracking apps out there. Find one that has the features you want and is fun to use.

    2. Your tools have to be everywhere you are.

    The GTD guru, Mr. Allen speaks of making sure that you have a “ubiquitous capture tool” wherever you may go. I tend to take that one step further: you should have a ubiquitous set of tools wherever you go. This holds especially true with how much mobile computing has exploded in use and popularity over the past few years. We are all mostly connected via our smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.; we should have our productivity systems with us.

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    Like I said before, there are a ton of “GTD” apps out there that promise you how productive you will be and how easy they are to use. While there is no “best GTD app” out there for everyone, there are some that come close and can be highly recommended. The new kid on the block is Wunderlist (by 6Wunderkinder), a cross-platform “easy-to-use task manager” that is available for Windows, OS X, iOS (iPad and iPhone), Android, and the browser that includes over the air syncing across all apps. It sounds pretty awesome, huh?

    Today we are going to look at how Wunderlist stacks up as a productivity tool.

      Simplified task manager

      The thing that I like the most about Wunderlist is that it is dead simple. There are some task management apps out there that have folders, tags, contexts, priority, locations, subtasks, etc. Wunderlist isn’t like this; it gives the user the choice to create a bunch of list groupings (think contexts in GTD) and under each of those grouping a list of tasks. It appears you can have as many contexts as you want and as many tasks in each context as you want.

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      Your tasks can have a due date, reminder, a note, or a star. They also can be dragged to any list grouping that you want (Windows, OS X, and web versions) or the list can be changed in the details of the task (iOS, Android). There is also a set of filters at the bottom of the desktop and web apps where you can see all tasks, starred, completed, and tasks due today, tomorrow, next 7 days, later, and without a date. One thing that bothers me about these filters is that when you press any option you get a blob of tasks with no indication of what list grouping they are in.

      Cloud syncing

      You can also set up a Wunderlist account and have all your data sync with the Wunderlist cloud which allows you to keep all of your devices synced up. In general this works well and is faster than any sync I have experience on a desktop task-managment app (I’m looking at you OmniFocus). I have an installation on every platform that is available and the sync seems fairly reliable. What I mean is that sometimes when deleting tasks or marking them complete, the mobile versions on Android and iOS have trouble updating list counts. This can be remedied by exiting and starting the app again but it does happen more often than not.

      Other features

      Other features include being able to print your current task lists from the desktop and web versions, publish your list “to the cloud” where you are given a “secret” URL to share with friends or colleagues, or email your tasks. And of course, what would Wunderlist be without its beautiful choices of background images? As far as I can tell you can’t add any background or your own without doing some “tweaking” of JavaScript which brings me to the last killer feature; Wunderlist is open source and therefore just begging to be added on to. It is made of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS and can be accessed via github to have your geeky way with.

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        Cross platform goodness

        One of the other best things about this application is that it is truly cross-platform and for someone like me who is using Android, iOS, OS X, Windows, and Linux this is a major feature. All the versions of the apps seem to be similar in features and look-and-feel, and I have to say that 6Wunderkinder did a good job of porting this app to all platforms without totally changing the user experience. The mobile apps are great, but there is still some room for improvement of the UI and possibly utilizing location by providing location based contexts or tasks. But, for a first start that has only been available for a couple of months, Wunderlist hits the major features needed for a good GTD application on all platforms.

        Pros and Cons

        To wrap up let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Wunderlist:

        Pros

        • Cross-platform support: Windows, OS X, web, Android, iOS
        • Fast “cloud sync”
        • open source
        • Beautiful backgrounds
        • Easy task management including due dates, reminders, star, and list groups (contexts)
        • Search
        • Email, print, and “cloud sharing” options for tasks lists
        • Free!

        Cons

        • Sync can be unreliable on mobile devices at times
        • No options for subtasks or subcontexts
        • No start date or repeat options for tasks
        • No utilization of location on mobile apps

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        CM Smith

        A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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        Last Updated on July 10, 2020

        The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

        The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

        Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

        Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

        The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

        Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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        Program Your Own Algorithms

        Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

        Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

        By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

        How to Form a Ritual

        I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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        Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

        1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
        2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
        3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
        4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

        Ways to Use a Ritual

        Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

        1. Waking Up

        Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

        2. Web Usage

        How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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        3. Reading

        How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

        4. Friendliness

        Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

        5. Working

        One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

        6. Going to the gym

        If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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        7. Exercise

        Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

        8. Sleeping

        Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

        8. Weekly Reviews

        The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

        Final Thoughts

        We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

        More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

         

        Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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