Getting Things Done®: The 10 Best Apps for GTD®
New App: Turn Todo Lists into Priority-Sorted Schedules Automatically with Focuster
It's all too easy to forget crucial tasks. Just one meeting, or one other task that takes too long, and you'll end up skipping over that thing that you had to do today—something you'll need to work later to finish once you notice it's still on the list at 5PM.
Traditional to-do lists are great at keeping track of everything that needs done. They're not that great, though, at helping you know when to do the tasks. Calendars are better at that, with appointments scheduled for precise times, but they aren't designed for listing everything that needs done and planning it in micro time slots.
That's where Focuster comes in. It's a hybrid calendar and to-do list that can automatically reschedule tasks and make sure you never forget anything you need to do.
It starts out with your Google Calendar account, which you'll use to sign into Focuster. It pulls in your calendars, noting when you have appointments scheduled throughout the week. You'll then see a 3 column view by default, with a to-do list on the left, a list of tasks to do today in the center, and your calendar on the right—with each of today's tasks in their own slot on the calendar. Focuster's settings let you list your work times, and how long tasks take by default, so it can automatically schedule today's tasks into your calendar.
To start, you'll want to list your tasks in the left-most column. It's a basic to-do list, where you can add tasks and a due-date, add tags with a hash sign (like #writing or #email), and include a duration with m for minute or h for hour (say 30m for a half hour, or 2h for 2 hours). The duration is what Focuster uses to schedule tasks—and if you don't include a duration, it'll use the default task duration from your settings. The to do lists—and yes, you can add multiple lists to organize tasks, and can drag tasks to put them in the order you want—are a great way to keep track of everything that needs done. And if you need to track anything else—say, sub-tasks or notes about a task—just add them in the note field, with Markdown formatting.
Then, you need to figure out what to do today. That falls to the center column, where you can drag in tasks from the broader to-do lists, or add new tasks for today—and again, you can drag-and-drop tasks to the order you want. Focuster will automatically schedule them in the calendar on the right around your existing appointments, filling up each time block of the day without letting tasks overflow into the evening. And if you need more time for a task, or want to reschedule it, you can extend it or move it around on the calendar. Want to schedule more days? Just hover over the options at the top and select the multi-day or week views, where you can see more days at once and fill out tasks for your full week.
Then it's time to get back to work. Focuster will automatically add your tasks to your Google Calendar, so you'll get normal alerts about your tasks and can see everything you have to do right from any calendar app you already use. When you've finished a task, just open Focuster and check it off. If you don't finish something in the time it's schedule, Focuster will automatically move it down to the next available slot in your calendar. Or if you get everything done, it will give you new tasks that are short enough to finish in the time you have free. There's even a focus mode to show only the current task and the one after that, so you can quickly work on what's most important.
For the most part, you won't need to worry about your calendar and to-do list. Perhaps you'll spend a bit of time on it in the morning, planning your work for the day. Then you'll just get back to your work, trusting Focuster to remind you about the next thing you need to do. It's a clever way of pulling your tasks and calendar together, and letting you indicate which tasks will take longer instead of treating each tasks as an equal-length chore.