Review of Todoist

I love my task list. When I was about 14 years old I started using different physical calendars to manage homework and other things I needed to accomplish. In the intervening cough 33 years have tried a couple dozen different task management systems, both physical (thanks, Franklin Covey!) and electronic.

I had tried Todoist a few years ago and wasn’t impressed, but recently gave it another try. As it is now, Todoist is hands-down the best task-management system I’ve ever used.

I am a pretty intense fan of the Getting Things Done philosophy where you try to get everything you need/want to do out of your head, and into some sort of system. So at the moment I have more than 10,000 tasks in Todoist.

Getting tasks into Todoist was fairly straightforward. Todoist uses what it oddly calls “templates” to import tasks. Basically, create a text file with one task per line, and then you can import that text file directly into a Todoist. It also allows users to email tasks into the system as well as, obviously, just type them into the Android/iOS or web interface.

Adding and Categorizing Tasks

Where Todoist shines is the many straightforward options for managing tasks once they are in the system. Todoist has a sophisticated natural language system where I can quickly enter a task and assign it a due date, a priority, and any number of labels/tags.

Additionally, I can create projects and subprojects to organize the tasks so they are not in one massive list. There are two drawbacks to using projects and subprojects, however. The least objectionable is that each can project or subproject only contain a maximum of 200 tasks for “performance reasons.” In practice I haven’t found that to be a major drawback, although I have had to create multiple subproject-1, subproject-2 folders for projects where I do have a large number of tasks.

A bigger issue for some people will be that the project/subproject system only allows for three layers. So you can have:

Subproject A
Subproject 1

But you could not add a fourth layer under “Subproject 1.” Again, I have not found that to be a major drawback, but for people who do need more than just 3 levels of subprojects, this might be an issue.

Managing Tasks

Where Todoist is absolutely brilliant is its searching and filtering system. I might have 10,000 tasks in Todoist, but at any given moment I only want to see the handful that I need to work on right now.

So I can easily do searches that show me every task that has a certain group of labels and is due with in a certain amount of days. Or I could take that search and narrow it down to only those tasks that meet those criteria and are on a specific project. And have a certain priority level.

I can do freaking Boolean searches to show me all tasks due tomorrow with a certain label and that have a specific phrase in the notes area. Or that search but exclude all tasks that are part of a specific subproject.

Searches like this can be saved as Filters, so they are always just a click away. I have a number of filters designed to quickly drill down through all of those tasks and show me exactly what I need to be doing at any given time. Priceless.


Finally, the support that Todoist offers on its website is superb. Todoist makes it easy to ask questions or file bug reports about platform-specific issues as well as overall questions/concerns about the app. From my experience, actual live human beings (I know, right!) monitor the support forums and typically I receive a reply back to my query within an hour or two at most.

What I Don’t Like

Todoist is very good, but not perfect.

One of the biggest flaws is the inconsistent way it works across platforms. For example, the search interface on the web will return a list of uncompleted tasks and give you a link to click if you want to search completed tasks. The Android app mixes completed and uncompleted tasks together in an unhelpful list (this does not affect filters, however).

Similarly, the iOS and Android apps annoyingly use entirely different input methods to select and mark off a task as complete. That sort of stuff drives me up the wall a bit.

Todoist also has this gamification system it calls “Karma.” Essentially it keeps a running score based on how many tasks you finish, how many tasks are severely overdue, etc., and increases or decreases your overall score. There are also titles that go along with certain score thresholds, so I am currently a Todoist “Master” with a score of +14,124. The entire system just seems goofy.

My biggest gripe, however, is one that seems to be more and more common–no RSS feed or other easily accessible way to export and sync completed tasks. Instead, Todoist relies on its IFTTT integration. When it works, the Todoist/IFTTT integration is good, but there have been two periods that lasted several days where IFTTT and Todoist were not communicating with each other. During that period of time, my completed tasks weren’t syncing properly (I use IFTTT to post completed tasks onto my Google Calendar).

IFTTT also has its own issues. For example, I’d prefer to have all of my completed Todoist tasks on a separate “Completed Tasks” calendar I’ve created, but IFTTT will only sync with a single calendar, so oftentimes hundreds of completed tasks will be on my main calendar, obscuring other tasks and events I’m trying to track.

A straightforward RSS feed or CSV export would be much better.


Those issues aside, however, Todoist is fantastic for managing even very large tasks lists while giving the user extraordinarily fine-grained control to drill down to what needs to be done now.

I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

Leave a Reply