Ask Mac Automator: My Recommended Task Manager?

Hi Bakari,

I’m sold on Dragon Dictate.  I think I’m going to purchase it today.  I’m an American living in Sydney Australia so I don’t know ifI can still get deals through amazon.
I’ve been looking around you site.  I wish I had found it years ago.  You use all the apps I own (and many more).  Well done.
I’ve been using Omnifocus for a couple years now, but it almost seems overkill to me.  I noticed you use 2Do.  How do they compare?  Are you happy with it?  I’m assuming you can use it both on a Mac and an iPhone?
 A few years ago I tried using Omnifocus mainly because of the positive reviews it received. But for some reason I found myself spending more time trying to wrap my head around how to effectively use the application than actually using it to set and manage tasks.
I’m not saying Omnifocus is not a useful program, because it obviously is based on its wide user base. But it wasn’t working for me, and perhaps I never understood how to take advantage of what it has to offer.
After trying a few other task management systems, including Things, I settled on 2Do, because of it’s more attractive user interface. I liked that I could apply colors to projects and folders, which I don’t think can be done in Omnifocus.
2Do Management application
2Do also had a slight learning curve, but I eventually figured it out and actually used it on a daily basis. I especially used it for recurring tasks, projects, and brainstorming lists of ideas and workflows. (I have more to say about creating lists a few paragraphs below.)

Enter Informant

Though 2Do worked very well for me, about two months ago I came across Informant while browsing apps in the iTunes store. What immediately caught my attention about Informant is its calendar week view of tasks and events. The spacial view of my tasks makes a huge difference for me because I can get an overview of my week, instead of just linear list of tasks, which is the only way you can view tasks in 2Do and Omnifocus.
 Informant task management application
Informant is not as attractive as 2Do, but the more I played around with it I learned that it has dozens of features and preferences to configure based on your needs and how you want to view and create tasks.
Informant is also a cross-platform iOS (affiliate link) and OS X application, but it requires an annual $15 data synching subscription. These type of subscriptions are becoming common for developers who need to maintain a consistent income and pay overhead costs. (The same goes for professional bloggers who need to monetize their work in order to consistently produce useful content.)
I took the entire 30-day trial period to decide if I wanted to switch to Informant and pay the annual subscription.
So far I’m happy with the switch. I still think 2Do is a great task management application, but Informant is in many ways more useful for several reasons.

Other Useful Features

Beside the week and current day views of tasks, I especially like that Informant includes the ability to create event and task templates.

For example, my “Doctor’s appointment” task template includes the title of the task (“Call and make doctor’s appointment),  two custom alarms, a color code, and an icon for the task. When I use the template all I have to do is apply the date, and everything else is already set. I have a similar template for setting a doctor’s appointment event.

 Informant

Since I make changes to tasks and events in mainly the Mac version of Informant, I like how easy it is to right-click on a task and defer the date.

 Informant deferred date

The week and day views of tasks and events is also very convenient, especially on the iOS version of Informant. I like how easy it is to check off completed tasks, and to always see what the rest of my week looks like.

How I Use Informant

One of the lessons I learned from using 2Do is to not use my task manager as a tool for brainstorming tasks, lists, and ideas. I did that a lot in 2Do and after a while the application became cluttered with content that distracted me from the real tasks I needed to get done.

I especially use Informant for recurring events and tasks, as well as  tasks that are truly time sensitive.

On the other hand, I use Wunderlist for brainstorming lists of tasks, ideas, and step-by-step workflows that are not tied to dates and times.

Wunderlist task management system
A workflow list in Wunderlist

Informant also of course includes project folders that can be set to handle parallel, sequential, and single actions, just like in Omnifocus.

Informant task manager

I’m still not as good about using Informant as a project manager, mainly because I have difficulty focusing on projects as a list of tasks to complete. Wunderlist works better for me in regards to planning out projects. It’s even easier in Wunderlist to hit the return key and input a new task instead of having a new task window pop up like it does in Informant. In working with projects, I do create related time sensitive tasks in Informant.

Your Task Management?

The above is a fairly long response to the Ask Mac Automator question, but it gave me the opportunity to write about an application that I find very useful, and that I recommend for Mac and iOS users trying to decide which task management application they should use.

I’ve shared my preference, but let’s hear about yours. What management system do you use and why? Are there features missing in your chosen task management system that you would like to see added? And also, are you using Mac automation hacks or actions with your task management system? If so, let us know about them.

 

  • I use TaskPaper and an Alfred Workflow that I wrote to automate the daily creation of repeated tasks. I also have a menu view of my task list in BitBar. I use Keyboard Maestro to launch the task builder command I have in Alfred when I log in. The system uses several pieces, but is very flexible and convenient for me.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for sharing your setup. I’ve never seen TaskPaper. I just peaked at it, and I like how it has a clean, clutter-free user interface. BitBar is also new to me. I’ll need to download and check it out. And as for Keyboard Maestro, you’re definitely on track with it. It’s really great when Mac automators know how to map actions between programs to save clicking and other manual actions.

      Definitely keep in touch. Glad to have you as a reader of my site. I welcome your feedback anytime.

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