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One of the first things I try to do in the morning while having my fantastic ginger tea is to make my todo list for the day. Below is an example of what my todo list for a day may look like,

  1. Buy tomatoes
  2. Buy potatoes
  3. Buy ginger
  4. Buy milk
  5. Go for a run in the evening
  6. Find the time to watch “The cabin in the woods
and so on and so forth.  Now given how small each of these tasks are you may guess that my todo list for the day often ends up getting quite big i.e. I may have about 10 to 15 to dos for a day. I actually quite like it this way and the reason for that,
a) Smaller ToDos means I can actually finish them which is a sense of accomplishment and motivation to go on and complete other outstanding to dos
b) If I cannot finish something, I can add it to my to dos for the next day
p.s. I think it maybe because I am a software engineer who understands separation of concerns quite well. So naturally when I see a problem I try to decompose it into a number of sub-problems.

But surely I can finish these small tasks in the day, right?

Yes and no! Ok, let me elaborate on that,

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about my todo list and he said “shouldn’t you just combine the first 3 todos into one todo something like ‘buy vegetables’ which would make your todo list shorter“. Now the reason why I think it shouldn’t be that way is because what if the grocery store/supermarket has tomatoes and potatoes but ginger is out of stock (sold out)? In that case I will buy the tomatoes and potatoes so those todos are done but I would want “buy ginger” in my todo list for the next day.

How did I solve my todo list problem?

Those who have been reading my blog would know that I released a todo list app for the iPhone called My Day ToDo and I have updated it a number of times since it’s release. Now the question is, with over a 100+ todo list apps out there, why did I create my own?

Simplicity

Prior to the smart-phone era, I used a pen and paper todo list where you can quickly note down your todos for the day. Now think about it, how does a pen and paper list work?

  1. You use the pen to write down a todo on a piece of paper, and
  2. Once you finish that todo, you mark it done by drawing a line through the todo text

I tried a number of other to do list apps and I found that in most of those apps when you try to add a todo it takes you away from your to do list by presenting a dialog box or something. Then you enter the text for your todo and have a bunch of other options at your disposal, like adding any other extra notes for your todo etc that you can potentially use. So while all that is great I found that process to be a bit slow for my liking. I mean if I was making my to do list on a post-it note, I would just write down my todos and stick the post-it note somewhere. So how do I achieve the aforementioned “quick” adding of the to do? have a look at the screens for My Day ToDo below,

 

As you can see in the screenshots above you add to dos via a very simple interface and the process is,

  1. Enter the text of your to do
  2. Push the go button on your iOS keyboard
  3. Your to do is added i.e. it appears in your to do list without your keyboard disappearing
  4. You can now enter the text for your next to do and so on and so forth
  5. This way you can quickly add a number of to dos

I hope this paints a clearer picture of what I mean by “quickly” adding todos.

Extending the simplicity

Ok now I buy potatoes every Tuesday and Thursday and I wasn’t too fond of the idea of adding that to my todo list every Tuesday and Thursday. So I thought why not add a feature whereby the user can configure the todo such that it repeats certain weekdays in a way that the app’s ease of use is maintained. Have a look at the next screenshot to see how I achieved that in My Day ToDo,

 

So when you swipe left on the todo in your todo list, it brings up this Edit todo dialog and you can,

  1. Select the weekdays when you want the todo to be repeated (recur)
  2. Or even edit the contents of the to do

To achieve this(recur to dos) functionality I could show a calendar where you can select the days you want your to do to repeat and that would work great! but seriously for me, I don’t want to see a calendar, I know I buy potatoes on Tuesday and Thursday every week and since this is not a reminders app, I should be able to select the weekdays and that’s all.

What if you cannot finish a to do for the day?

Earlier in this post, I wrote
 
what if the grocery store/supermarket has tomatoes and potatoes but ginger is out of stock (sold out)? I will buy the tomatoes and potatoes but I would want “buy ginger” in my to do list for the next day
 

With My Day ToDo the first time you access your to do list for the day it checks if you have any unfinished to dos from the last two days and it adds them to your to do list for the day. In case of the above example, the app will copy “buy ginger” to my to do list for the next day,  so I don’t have to remember what I couldn’t finish the day before and manually add it to to do list.

FYI, there are two versions of My Day ToDo, the paid version and the Lite (version).

2.1 update: The widget

Now while shopping at the grocery store or supermarket, I just want to have a quick look at my to do list without having to unlock my phone. To achieve that, in the 2.1 update, I added a widget or a Today extension for my app, below is a screenshot of what it looks like,

 

I saw that lot of the other apps offer a widget but the widget doesn’t always show all your to dos, it shows you some of the to dos and if you have more than 5-8 to dos you need to see them in your app which may require unlocking phone. As I mentioned before, my iPhone is locked when I am shopping and I would prefer not to unlock the phone, so with that in mind I created a solution such that I can see all the to dos using pagination so my widget doesn’t occupy too much space.

Ok how about I explain that with an example, say you have 15 to dos for a day, the widget will break your to do list into pages so in each page you only see 5 to dos. You will have 3 pages with 5 to dos on each page and you can scroll through pages using next and previous buttons.

In most of the other to do list apps, I realised that when you click/touch the text of a to do in a widget it tries to open the app, which meant if your phone is locked it takes you to the phone unlock screen. I found that quite annoying and hence I made sure that in my app you can touch the to do anyway you want without it prompting you to unlock the phone. If you want to open the app, just push Open app.

2.2 update: Weather summary

One of the features of My Day ToDo is you can set an alarm and once you unlock the phone after the alarm goes off, it speaks your to dos for the day followed by a summary of the weather. Till the 2.2 update the only way you could know the weather was either after the alarm goes off or you push the Speak my to dos button. However while working on the 2.2 update, I thought, hmm “I don’t always want to listen to all my to dos just to find out what the weather is like, I should be able to see that info somewhere else in the app”.  This prompted me to update the app such that you can know the weather is like without having to listen to all your to dos for the day. The screenshot below is what the app looks like after the 2.2 update.

So how does the weather info help me with my ToDo list?

Sometimes it helps if I know what the weather is like and if I should take any precautions for a task(ToDo) for the day that involves some outdoor activity. E.g. if it’s going to be a really cold day and I need to go to the grocery store to buy some muesli bars, the way I will note down my ToDo would be, “Buy Muesli bars, wear a jacket before leaving the house”.

Conclusion

In summary, I like my to do list for the day composed of a number of small to dos(tasks), such that I can at least finish 60-80% of the tasks in the day if not all. This is inherently more satisfying of me than having a to do list with few big tasks that I cannot finish. The last thing I want to see at the end of the day is a to do list with more unfinished tasks than finished!
A pen and paper to do list was a way for me to quickly create a to do list for my day however since we now live in the smartphone era, it’s naturally more convenient to use an app for that. So I wanted an app that gives me the best of both worlds – the speed of adding to dos with a pen and paper to do list as well as benefits that may come from using a smart device for it. To achieve that goal I created My Day ToDo an iOS app that amongst other things helps me quickly add to dos to my app and provides a more convenient way for me to manage my to dos for the day.

As usual, if you find any of my posts useful and want to support me, buy or even try one of our products and leave us a review on the app store.

My Day To-Do Lite - Task list
My Day To-Do Lite - Task list
Snap! I was there
Snap! I was there
Developer: Bhuman Soni
Price: Free

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