Appraisal of TickTick (and Todoist)

This post will not exactly be in the same mould as most product reviews; it will tend to examine some of the issues relating to personal organisation in a little more of a personal way. There is still though a wide overlap with the more serious debate and consensus, and my particular examples of design considerations are by no means far-fetched or non-typical.

I do mention technical aspects, but my agenda is somewhat more focussed on how I have endeavoured to solve my problems and issues. There is an issue in using such apps which might be partially comparable to overcoming writer’s block; and my comments are somewhat related to going about and getting a clear focus on task-management strategies. One doesn’t need to produce quality prose, but one does need to learn how to shift and sort one’s various issues even although they tend to overlap with each other. Any failure to grasp one’s realities will tend to lead to the risk of giving up on one’s efforts.

So this particular appraisal does look at the state of mind issues in being engaged with a task-management app or, indeed, the purely on-paper technology that David Allen advocated. A portion of what I talk about is rather assumed to be unspoken background within the product review articles that one can find on the internet.

As a task-management app TickTick has wide applicability, of course; and it is more fleshed out than ToDoist. And, I would say, is more suitable than that app for getting more in depth with the ideas of David Allen as expressed in his book Getting Things Done (GTD).

Now, I shall digress for just a moment; and say I was earlier turned off by those ideas of his. But some of his followers perhaps have become zealots; and, for some of us, we do have organisational problems at some stages in our lives; and, yes, I think some of us can become tied up in knots. And we can find that we do need to be pragmatic and become even more in-depth in how we look at addressing organisational issues.

Plainly, also, TickTick requires some investment of effort in getting to use it; and I am not so personally sure that many people would be willing to stick it out while they both learn the ropes of the app and as they also get a good enough portrayal down of the goals, objectives and tasks that they want assiduously to work away at achieving.

A significant issue, in practice, is how does one want to think about the investment one makes in becoming more methodical. And indeed, if one doesn’t want to become methodical, one could also have anxiety issues… a point which indeed David Allen stresses in his highly authoritative book.

Some of us will perhaps want to whimsically argue that we want to be spontaneous in what we do. But hang on a moment we all know that the lives of humans are deeply enmeshed with complexity and intrigue, don’t we? OK, you could be a teenager and be deeply chaotic in how you do everything, but hopefully that is only a passing phase.

Comparison with Todoist

Todoist is a highly popular app and is very neatly organised and easy to come to terms with, but from my viewpoint it has drawbacks. Task specifications that are completed (marked as such with a tick) or deleted can be troublesome to recover. One can add descriptions and comments, but I find the facilities for this to be limited.

In my case, I make frequent journal-type entries where I take stock and review my progress and tend, also, to weigh up my next apparent options (within the overall train of my activities) — these sorts of reviews play a part in my particular workflow. There is a certain handicap to using TickTick for this, and that is that that app does not appear to support any other spellchecker other than its own (built-in) one and, moreover, does not seem to let Grammarly operate within its editing fields. However, there is an email address supplied with which one can compose text and then send it on to the app. (I have more recently found that Grammarly can be gotten to work rather erratically, and it is quite possible that TickTick are working on this issue.)

There are apps which are more complicated than TickTick that do not suffer from this issue. But TickTick’s subscription fee is very modest, indeed. And these more complicated apps tend rather to be designed for corporate use and drift away somewhat from being able to be used in a more generalised sense.

TickTick has some relatively hifalutin features which have been added as result of requests. TickTick is marketed toward personal users and has some special facilities for making use of the Pomodoro method of working, the Eisenhower Matrix and “Habits”. I personally do not use these facilities and have turned them off within the settings. In a general sense, the TickTick display can at first look intimidating. But I make compromises with it and use it.

I also have it earmarked for placing construction notes into it for my novel. The tag (or label) system is rather flexible (but I think one would have to examine examples of what I mean to make my point more substantially). And, anyway, I have not started to experiment yet for the purposes of rearranging and working on my notes for my novel.

My choice of app for use is always a compromise, I think. And all of these products are highly marketed and are not really fully tuned and developed, either. Additionally, personal users will also tend to be psychologically challenged when they try to set about planning and catering for the future. The personal future is, after all, not really a particularly good subject for everyone to be totally honest and practical with.

It maybe a slightly cheapskate or cynical comment of mine, but I think that Todoist has been built to appeal to people with OCD tendencies; it looks so neat and tidy that one might easily assume it can cope with everything thrown at it. But it is widely acknowledged to be failing in the sense that it can’t effectively be used in a standalone sense. It scared me a bit to move on to TickTick and I don’t think that is perfect, either; but that is where I have decided to invest my efforts.

Relevance of my personal background

My earlier emotional life has presented challenges in my organising myself; family feuds were always there and crises would erupt as my mother and various other parties flexed their muscles or embarked on destructive rampages. It has taken me decades to achieve some personal targets. I have had various complex frustrations that I have had to adapt around.

I don’t think, though, that all of this now presents much of a blemish for me. But I did mention earlier in this blog that I do a lot of self-evaluation on my workflows. There is, I think, a bulk of work that I have put in. And, certainly, some of the earlier steps of my achieving targets were intricately organised.

Even if one carefully wrote on Post-it notes and stuck them on a wall and paced up and down looking at them and then kept updating that display that would be one way of getting and developing a sense of focus and moving forward. In point of fact TickTick is a bit like doing that on a computer screen. But It can send you reminders, you can set automatic review timings, you can make timestamped notes. One can carry all of it around on your mobile phone, too; it synchronises across your devices. So that is all a smart way of doing things. Moreover, a clear wall for sticking Post-it notes on isn’t easily available and that certainly isn’t portable!

Concluding Remarks

Task management apps are evolving. Project management software for corporate and small business use has been one influence. Those employees working with such apps have doubtless reflected on their personal organisation agenda and how that could be more thoughtfully managed. Indeed, I have a degree in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science subjects and have become personally prepared to utilise what becomes available and to keep on looking for improvements, also. I have a certain technical background and my earlier anxieties around the broken family relationships have left me feeling restless. And I have rather needed to look at complex possibilities for sorting out my issues and go further than using Post-it notes stuck onto a wall.

David Allen has, I would say, done a lot to promote debate. It is an inevitable factor that, as one clears off one task as being completed, an other or others emerge from one’s subconscious and one tends to go to one’s inbox and make more notes. One’s journey through life is just that sort of process.

And indeed a lot of users of task-management and productivity apps have had to drill down into the issues of having a morass of things that they want to get done. And then finding themselves getting more serious about making inroads into using the making of notes and adaptation of sensible methods for keeping it all better organised.

Finally, I can refer the reader on to This is a solid in depth review and cross-comparison between the same two contender apps that I have discussed in my particular way.

Postscript. Yes, there is the work of David Allen which I have earlier ducked and dived from looking into. Here is a web page that I’ve just been spending a little while browsing It takes you into little snippets of what he says, and one can easily see why he has a large following. Earlier on in my life, I would read posts where folk referenced his thinking in a reverential manner.

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