tooling around: to-do tools that did not do

You don’t know it, but I’ve already written this post. I had this ridiculously long post all about TeuxDeux and Evernote, the pluses, the minuses, blah blah blah…but the whole thing was just so biased – I had already been spoiled by my whiteboard.

So, as you read this, keep in mind it is written by the enemy.


click on image to follow the link

The pros:

  • There’s no false advertising here. It is easy easy easy (and free) to sign up and use this app.

“TeuxDeux is a simple, designy to-do app […] The idea was to build a bare-bones, but visually compelling and highly usable to-do app: Use the free browser-based TeuxDeux at work/home and then take your to-dos on the road with the iPhone app. Yay for checking things off!”

  • The FAQs are presented and answered with a sense of humor, which makes searching for info much less of a chore.
  • Because it is browser-based, your TeuxDuex account can be accessed from anywhere (even if you don’t have an iPhone).
  • Unfinished tasks are automatically rolled to the next day.
  • You can still put a nice satisfactory black line through completed tasks.

The cons:

  • This is a to-do list. The end. Explanations for this unfortunate state of things are covered in the FAQs.
  • Regarding the FAQs, good luck finding them once you sign in, in teeny, tiny font.
  • Browser based = internet needed


click on image to follow the link

The pros:

  • Easy and free to sign up.
  • You can download the app straight to your desktop so, while internet is needed for the initial signup and occasional synching, you can still access your stuff when the internet inevitably goes down 2 hours before your major deadline.

“Use Evernote to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer or device you use.”

  • Like TeuxDeux, this is a browser-based application, so as long as you’ve recently synched, you can access everything you’ve saved anywhere you have internet access.
  • Info, tips, behind the scenes happenings are all easy to find thanks to the blog, forums, and a search feature. They even send you links to various how-tos in their confirmation e-mail.

The cons:

  • There is no calendar. You can save a thousand things but don’t count on making this your appointment book.
  • Bait and switch.  Yes, signing up is free. Yes, you can do cool things with the free version.  But you can’t do everything Evernote advertises and when you try, you are the lucky recipient of an apology lacking contrition and an ad for the Premium Service. Well, that’s not annoying.
  • Browser-based + desktop app = computer required

The moral of this story is…

Remember last month when we started talking about getting things done?  I told you about my series of corporate jobs: Bookkeeper, Business Assistant, Legal Assistant. If I had any one of those jobs I think I could use TeuxDeux or Evernote (or Basecamp, Workflowy, etc. etc.) until I wore them out. Why? Because those jobs required me to sit in front of a computer at least eight hours a day. There are several creative jobs that could really make those programs work for them as well. Jobs such as web designer or full-time blogger.

But I don’t have a job like that.  I spend time at the computer, sure, but I’m also at my sewing machine, my cutting table, the ironing board,  and thrift stores. I’m shooing cats away from my jars of buttons, fielding phone calls from the PTA, and chasing down my six-year-old for her forced weekly bath.  I just can’t work with an application that requires me to log in or even double click an icon on my desktop.  It is too easy to just not open the app. And sometimes, I’m sneaking work in during the five minutes it takes the cheese to brown on my dinner casserole.  I can’t afford to lose time waiting for my sleeping computer to wake up.

I need my highly visible, very large white board staring me down and shoving my technicolor to-do list in my face.

Based on a lot of your comments last month, I’d say most of you are with me on this. 

The computer apps sound nice, but, it turns out, sometimes technology does not equal efficiency.

But – and don’t tell my husband – I could be wrong.  Where can your browser-based, get-it-done programs take you that my white board and post-it notes can’t?

7 thoughts on “tooling around: to-do tools that did not do

  1. I’ve been using your whiteboard method (with a notepad on my desk, since I haven’t _got_ an actual whiteboard yet) pretty much since you posted, and I _love_ love it for keeping track of today’s tasks.

    I still use Basecamp for keeping track of everything I have on my lists, though — I have a lot to keep track of, and one whiteboard isn’t going to hold everything for today, tomorrow and next Thursday. Plus, Basecamp is great for when I’m in the middle of one thing and think of something else I need to do — I put it down there, and then I don’t have to think of it, and it’ll make its way onto the whiteboard in a day or two.

    The combination is working _really_ well for me, but I do need both. (And BTW, thank you for your post about using a whiteboard, it’s _really_ been useful!)

    1. Thanks, Kate! Sometimes I write Tooling Around and feel like a total fake because, really, who besides me is going to think a white board is breaking news? But it is! And I’m so glad it is helping someone (besides me). I also don’t think I could do everything on my board, but I certainly do more than ever before. I really need a wall calendar, though. As in, a 12 to 18 month, pretty photos of Paris, hang it with a thumbtack wall calendar. Crazy, right!?

  2. I’m the same way! I’ve tried to use web and smartphone based to do list and calendar services, and I keep coming back to the old fashioned versions instead. there is just something infinitely more satisfying about scratching off my accomplishments on a real live list!

    1. You know the saying, “best thing since sliced bread?” I swear there is no “best thing since pen and paper” for a reason. Maybe if my job required me to be more mobile…I don’t know. Sometimes the best technology is old technology.

  3. I like the idea of online management tools, but nothing works quite as well as my trusty Moleskine calendar, and a larger notebook to track projects. Plus I love the freedom a page provides: list of fonts here, random ideas there, and I can see it all at once.
    I use online tools for longer-term planning. Google docs and calendars are great for wedding planning, but day-to-day tasks? Better when I physically write them down.

  4. Unfortunately these to do apps and programs will never do everything for everyone. I use Evernote (on my Mac and my iPhone with Awesome Note which syncs) just for notes – love the folders and I can keep everything organised.
    For My To Do list I have tried just about everything and am currently using iProcrastinate on my Mac and phone. I am actually happy with this program as you can write a simple list with due dates or you can expand each to do with it’s own set of to do’s – great for projects!

    My whiteboard is for ideas – before the note and to do stage. Ideas are always in front of me then and I start thinking them thru. Plus my whiteboard would never be big enough for all of my notes and to do’s!

    1. Oh gosh, I hope I didn’t give the impression that my white board is my be all, end all. I still use Google Calendar and Google Tasks religiously. I also post super rough drafts on my blog that sit there until I can develop them into full posts. No, no I need more than just my board. It’s just that, I don’t think I could function as well without my board but the others sometimes hinder me as much as they help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *