I am always on the hunt for new software for my mobile devices that will make me more productive. One way that I manage what I have to get done is with a to-do list. It is disappointing that Google does not provide a to-do list program for Android, but the good news is that there are to-do list programs in the Android Market. One of these programs that I recently discovered is Shuffle.
Shuffle is more than the typical to-do list program because it is built around David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method of time management. GTD is very popular, particularly amongst the technical community, and there are a variety of products available that implement the method.
The key parts of Shuffle are the Inbox, which is where all actions (tasks) should be entered; Due Actions, which are actions that have a due date; Next Actions, which are the very next physical action to be taken for a project; Projects, are a grouping of one or more actions taken towards a desired outcome, and Contexts, which are labels that you use to designate where an action is to be done. Due Actions, Next Actions, Projects, and Contexts are all different views on the actions you are working on, and Next Actions is intended to focus you on those actions you must get done first.
When you first start Shuffle you will see a prompt asking you whether you want the program pre-populated with sample items to help you understand how to use the program, or you can start the program with a clear database. There is an option in the program’s settings to Delete Everything so after playing with the sample data you can remove it and start fresh with your own data.
To get started with Shuffle first review the Contexts to see whether all the areas where you work are listed. When you create an action you can assign a context to the action. One way this helps is to separate actions you do at work from actions you do at home. Next, enter the Projects that you work on. For example, if you need to repair the bathroom sink, create a project called Repair Bathroom sink. Finally, enter the actions you need to take to repair the sink, which may involve going to the hardware store to buy parts, removing items from the bathroom vanity, etc.
Ideally, I want programs like Shuffle to synchronize with a desktop equivalent to provide a back up of my data and to make it easier to enter data. Shuffle synchronizes with a web-based implementation of an open source project called Tracks. You can find a free implementation of Tracks at www.gtdify.com. After you create an account on gtdify.com, you then enter your account information in Shuffle, which can be configured to automatically synchronize at defined intervals, or you can manually synchronize. Unfortunately, in my experience the synchronization between Shuffle and gtdify.com is not working as you may expect. You can enter information in either and it will synchronize, however, I have found that when you mark an action complete in Shuffle and synchronize, the action is never marked complete in gtdify.com. If you mark an action complete in gtdify.com, the action will be removed from Shuffle, and I suspect this behavior is intended to manage data on the device, just be aware that this happens and the completed actions remain in gtdify.com.
There are a couple of enhancements that I would like to see with the program. One obvious one is the ability to use the location awareness ability of Android to detect location-based contexts like At Work and automatically filter a view to only the actions with an At Work context. The program provides the ability to back up data to the SD card in the phone, and it would be nice if the back up feature could be scheduled to occur automatically, right now it requires manual initiation.
Despite the problems synchronizing with gtdify.com, I plan to keep using Shuffle on my phone until I find a better to-do list manager.