Analogue v Digital 3. – Task Management

Who can resist a bit of productivity? It’s the Holy Grail of the 21st century.

Whether it be David Allen’s Get Things Done methodology or a variation thereof, everybody has a task management system. I have several. There’s nothing more productive than working on productivity, right?

OK – my tongue is in my cheek, I’m almost certainly the most guilty. It used to bother me, until I re-framed things. The quest for productivity is one of my hobbies. Like golf. Now, I don’t feel guilty about playing with apps designed to make me more efficient. A large part of productivity is task management.

The Digital

I shudder to think how many task manager apps I have purchased. Some examples:

Omnifocus. If managing my own 8 hours a day is the walnut, this is the sledgehammer. “Fresh and familiar design for the trusted, gold standard to-do app.” Get them. Yours for $100 a year. (Cross-Apple fee) Most reviews will casually mention “a learning curve.” That’s affinity-marketing speak for “block two weeks on your calendar, this thing is impenetrable.”

ToDoist. “Free up your mental space. Regain clarity and calmness by getting all those tasks out of your head and onto your to-do list.” Quickly. Off you go. There’s a free version, but should this be your silver bullet, you are going to want to upgrade to Premium for $3 a month. Somebody looked at Omnifocus, cut out the 75% that nobody understands, and painted everything white. I think Jonny Ive would prefer ToDoist.

Things. “Things is the award-winning personal task manager that helps you achieve your goals.” Go you! $50 for Mac. $10 for your iPhone and Watch and then $20 for your iPad. It can be as complex as Omnifocus or as simple as a To Do list.

Currently, I am playing with Moleskine Journey. “Designed for creatives minds (sic), independent workers, audacious backpackers, and free spirits, Moleskine Journey is the first app that blends productivity with wellness tracking features to help you get stuff done and find inner balance every day.” I feel windswept and interesting already.

Honestly, I could continue for pages and pages. I have tried many, many task manager apps.

Occasionally however, I have to be productive.

The Analogue

Write down the tasks. Do the tasks. Tick them off.

I have written elsewhere how I use notebooks. There’s plenty of scope to bury myself in “productivitying” with paper, but I tend not to. Task management is simplicity itself. I spend ten minutes to write a list. Five minutes to prioritise and then I get working. When a task is complete, I pick up a pen, tick the item and go again. As the day proceeds, the ticked items act as a pat on the back.

I task manage in my desk books, and my pocket books. My current favourite on the desk is the Endless Recorder, where the Tomoe River paper allows me to use fountain pens. In my pocket, there currently lives a Moleskine softcover, dotted notebook, but I use all sorts of pocket notebooks.

The Winner

Doh! The analogue, obviously. The digital is great fun, a lovely distraction. Sort of Twitter with less hysteria.

But to get things done? Get your notebook out.

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Working Tools 27. Apps-tastic


The trouble with stock applications not working is that I look for other applications. While looking at an app for one thing, I inevitably find numerous apps for all sorts of other things.

Oh, the first world problems that plague me.

I started with Notes, and then fell down the rabbit-hole.


I always pursue productivity, a chase that invariably circles back to task management. I bullet journal, albeit in a simplified way. It’s a struggle to make the system work for project management and segmented lists. I decided to revisit some old friends, namely Things 3, Time Page and Actions by Moleskine. I also had an idea that I wanted to look at habit tracking.

Now, the thing about Things (if you’ll excuse the pun) is that the more you put in there, the more it does for you. Cue a stream of consciousness brain dump into the app. Everything goes into “Inbox”, until I sort it somewhere else. Happy hours ensued setting up areas of responsibility and projects. The greatest irony of productivity systems is the amount of time that you have to put into them.


The Moleskine apps are beautiful, particularly the calendar one. I enjoy that I can customise the views, and the simple aesthetic of the display. Actions integrates beautifully, but lacks features compared to Things, so for the time-being at least, Actions will not get used. I bought an annual subscription to both Timepage and Actions which expires in a few months, so I’ll keep experimenting with them until then, when a further decision will be required.


In my journal, I have a habit tracker. One that is becoming increasingly complex to manage. Would that work better electronically? Turns out, I had already thought that at some point in the past, and had purchased “Productive”, an app for habit tracking. So – I’m back in that too.

Food Journaling

I have been reading about food journaling. Mostly because I am in danger of being awarded my own postcode unless I start getting smaller rather than bigger. In the past, I calorie-tracked through “My Fitness Pal”. It’s great, but it does require a level of input that I’m not prepared to give any more. I am interested in the psychology of recording what I eat and drink, without necessarily comparing the calorie count between an apple and a pear.

Could I use Day One? I have had this App since 2013, dipping in and out. Now – I am photographing my food, and noting how eating it has made me feel.

Is this going to replace all my analogue tools? I don’t think so. It may change the way that I journal, but I think it unlikely to replace it entirely.

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