For the Love of Lists: the Wonders of Toodledo


I’d like to talk about the one thing that makes parenting, household management – and indeed, my very sanity (what remains of it) – possible: lists.

I love lists. Grocery lists, errand lists, project lists, sub-lists of the steps for various projects on various lists. When a day is extra frazzled, lists keep me centered, and there’s no feeling quite like getting to scratch a line through a task. (Hands up if you’ve ever written something on a list just to cross it off. I know I have, and it absolutely counts!)

Maybe you have the same problems I do, though. Lists wander off. They get so many items scratched off (if you’re lucky!) that it’s hard to parse them at a glance. They don’t get finished, so you have to make a new one for tomorrow. It isn’t hard for lists to become a time sink, even if they’re a necessary one.

Enter Toodledo.

I’ve tried a few online list apps, but Toodledo won my heart (and brain). Here’s why:

  1. It’s Free
    Let’s face it, free is the perfect price for most of us. Yes, there’s a paid version that is more robust, and perhaps you’ll find it’s worth it, but for my needs the free version works great.
  2. Notes Section
    Every task you enter has a section for notes. It’s a great place for grocery lists, phone numbers, directions to a party, or any other relevant info.
  3. Scheduling
    You can set due dates on things, even if what you mean by “due” is “I really hope I get to this today.” If you don’t, it’s easy to change the due date to the next most likely opportunity.
  4. Recurring Tasks
    This is the one that really won me. There are so many adult tasks that are important but only happen occasionally: change the furnace filter, schedule the kid’s well child appointment with the pediatrician, dust the ceiling fan, order heartworm medicine for the cats, etc. Every time I do something of that sort, I enter it as a task, set the recurrence frequency, and release it from that cloud of thoughts that ambushes me at one in the morning when I’m trying to sleep. The options go from as simple as daily/monthly/quarterly/etc. to things like “every weekday” or “every Tuesday and Thursday.”
  5. Sorting
    Toodledo lets you create and assign folders. Characters To Level Up, Projects, Responsible Adult Crap… whatever covers it for you. You can also define/sort by context, location, and several other fields. I mostly use folders, but I’m sure others would find the additional fields insanely handy.
  6. Add Multiple Tasks
    If you have several tasks that need to be entered with the same folder, due date, etc., there’s an option to add multiple tasks at once. I’ve found this especially handy when listing component parts of a project.

The really great thing about this, though, is that with a little creativity you can make anything part of it.

For example, I have a folder for birthdays and other important dates (*cough* release date of the next Star Wars movie *cough*). For gift-giving occasions, I have a separate task set a week or two ahead to remind me to shop for a present. I keep a list of gifts given and ideas for the future in the notes section. This is especially handy if you, like I, like giving books but can never recall what you’ve given to whom.

Also, I have a folder for tasks related to performing at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I have several tasks set to weekly (wash garb, pack garb, pack food, etc.), some set to yearly (pack med kit, pack bug spray/sunscreen, condition boots at the end of the run…), and one for the expiration year for my ID badge so I know when I need to send a fresh picture to The Powers That Be. It’s also a great place to note any costume repairs or necessary accessory replacements/additions so there are no rude surprises the night before Opening Day. I haven’t gotten involved in the convention scene, but I imagine something similar might be useful for those.

It does take about a year to get it to auto-pilot status, but that’s more a function of writing tasks down as you encounter them rather than any issue with the software itself. If you have a calendar or planner with tasks that you copy from one year to the next, your setup could be significantly faster than mine was.

So, there you have it: my secret thing that makes all things possible. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me!