I’m a believer, not a skeptic. At least that’s what I was told when I started paying for TeuxDeux last week. My free trial (of the neux version) was finally over, and I had two paid subscription options to choose from: skeptic ($3/month) or believer ($24/year).
Having used this “simple designy to-do app” for the past three years, the decisions was easy. I’m officially a TeuxDeux believer, making it an appropriate time to share why and how I use it.
Why I Use TeuxDeux
Before I dive in to the details of how I use TeuxDeux, allow me to share some of the reasons why I like it so much:
- Just enough. TeuxDeux is simple enough to not get in the way. It’s just enough of an app to enhance my work and “compete with a piece of paper.”
- Adaptable. Simplicity makes it flexible. It adapts to my methods of organization, not the other way around.
- Easy on the eyes. It’s minimal and beautiful – characteristics I appreciate in something I look at all day.
- Consistent. On its purpose page, TeuxDeux asks, “Can’t something on the Web be more or less finished?” This is a welcome philosophy for a product I use and depend on every day.
- Bird’s Eye View. Seeing the whole week at one time allows my brain to comprehend to-dos in a unique way. Other apps show smaller amounts of information. Perhaps this is what makes TeuxDeux so brilliant.
- Rollovers. Today’s unfinished to-dos automatically appear on tomorrow’s list. The only way to shorten the list is get something done and cross it off. Now that’s motivation.
How I Use TeuxDeux
The way I use TeuxDeux is an ever-evolving process. My current system is the result of years of use and will often look a bit different a few months from now. Here are some of the finer points of my method:
All To-dos are Action Steps
Every to-do must start with a verb (an idea borrowed from 99u’s Action Method). “Trash” is not actionable and, therefore, not an acceptable to-do. “Take out the trash” is more like it.
Weekly Planning Ritual
I begin every Monday morning by taking some time to plan and prioritize the week’s tasks. Prioritizing helps ensure that my time will be spent on the most important to-dos and not just the easiest or most appealing to-dos. Also, I find positive motivational pressure in feeling the weight of the many to-dos queued up for the week.
Small Chunks of Time
TeuxDeux is structured over the framework of a calendar. Each day has it’s own list of to-dos. Doing weekly planning, I discovered that it was helpful to break down each day into smaller, more comprehensible chunks. These smaller time segments allow me to get a better handle on what can be accomplished in a given day. If a segment is unavailable for to-do work, I fill it in with a note in brackets.
I reserve the first column of the bottom row as an inbox for new to-dos. Instead of disrupting my flow of work to prioritize or schedule a new to-do that comes to mind, I simply add it to the inbox. Later, I can consider where it fits within my plan for the week.
The remaining four visible columns of the bottom row are organized by priority (another idea from Action Method). From week to week, I move projects and to-dos between these columns, which helps me focus on what is most important. Working on to-dos from left to right keeps me accountable to working on what matters most.
Mission Critical Tasks
I sometimes copy and paste a star character before a task that is mission-critical for the day. This helps be focus in on the one thing that I really need to get done, even if nothing else gets crossed off the list.
Backburners are action steps that are not yet actionable (yet another idea from Action Method). I store them in hidden columns on the bottom row. (You can add as many extra columns as you need.) As I used to keep backburner items in separate text files, this greatly reduces the complexity of my system. As a bonus, it doesn’t clutter the system, as they stay out of view in the hidden columns until needed.
Within the prioritized columns of the bottom row, to-dos are organized by project. Project names are bold with to-dos for each project listed directly below the project titles.
To tame unruly to-dos, I sometimes use a divider of spaced dashes as a quick and simple way to break up long lists.
Work + Life
I used to maintain two separate TeuxDeux accounts – work and personal – stemming from a pursuit of work-life balance. This proved cumbersome and unhelpful. Both work and personal to-dos are now unified in one account, which keeps things simple and helps me see the big picture. I use a line made of equal signs in each column of the bottom row to mark the separation between work and personal projects. All personal projects go above the line, all work projects go below it.
Line of Focus
Perhaps the silliest, but nonetheless helpful, way I use TeuxDeux is with a line of up carets. I use this line at the top of the current day column to denote the one to-do I’m currently working on. Before I start working on a to-do, I drag it above the line, which helps me unitask.
Another somewhat silly tactic I’ve tried with some success is adding explicit rewards or distractions to my to-do list in italics. When I’m feeling distractible, the reward “task” gets added to the list after the work I should be doing. This silly mind trick helps motivate me to stop procrastinating and get the work done quickly in order to reach the reward.
How Do You Use TeuxDeux?
As already stated, one of the things that makes TeuxDeux great is its flexibility. The way I use it is likely very different than how you use it. Hopefully, these details of my method will help spark ideas to refine your own workflow. Do you have any TeuxDeux tips you can’t live without? I’d love to hear them.
- <p>Tina Roth Eisenberg, TeuxDeux’s founder, <a href=”http://www.swiss-miss.com/2009/12/teuxdeux.html”>described using it</a> in a similar way when the original TeuxDeux app was released: "As I pretty much ‘live’ in the browser, I have it set to be my homepage, so, every time I open a browser window (which is every few minutes) I am being hit over the head with what I need to get done, which has proven to be very effective." <a href=”#fnref1:1” rev=”footnote” class=”footnote-backref”>↩</a></p>