How I use Workflowy to get things done

I’ve been using Workflowy for a couple years, but with a couple tweaks in the last couple months it’s become my sole GTD app.

Workflowy uses a really cool collapsible interface to make lists of lists of lists, so it’s the perfect place to organize small random-but-helpful notes (travel packlists, movie backlists, web launch checklists) plus longer good-to-review notes from lectures or books. The deep nesting feels like all the hidden folds of your brain. Here’s an (old) demo:

It’s great in combination with simpler, less overwhelming to-do apps like Momentum or TeuxDeux, but I’ve recently figured out how to use it alone.

I use four main categories. The first two are more short-term lists; the second two are longer-term.

  1. Business (active clients/products, holding/cold, dream, checklists)
  2. Personal (side projects, chores, reviews)
  3. Fun (what to see, watch, listen to, read, make, learn, buy, etc)
  4. Notes (on art, activists, tech, writing, packing, yoga, whatever)

Lists are shareable, so you can share your whole “business” list with your team, or just share a particular project list. And I don’t cross off the good things I read/hear/watch — I just move them to a “loved” list so I’ll remember them later.

When I’m in planning mode, I add the tag #soon to anything that needs to be done in the next week or two. Then, each night or morning, I add the tag #today to make a plan for the day. (I used to use day-of-the-week tags, but #today lets tasks rollover if I don’t get to them.)

The critical hack for me was with the tag view. When you click on a tag it shows you all items with that tag — plus their parent items. This feels overwhelming to me; a list with seven relevant items might be twenty lines long.

So I made a Stylebot skin that shows only the individual items.


Yes, they’re missing context, but I only use this view for “soon” and “today”, so the tasks are quite familiar. And to stay focused during the workday, just click on the “business” bullet before you click on the “#today” tag — you’ll only see your business shortlist. (You can also star any view to save it in your top nav.)

I also brought back my three-letter day tags (#mon #tue #wed etc), but for deadlines, so I’m reminded of those when I skim my lists.

Note: I was using Workflowy as a Fluid app before, but I had to switch back to the browser to use Stylebot. I honestly don’t mind; I made it my first pinned tab in Chrome and it helps remind me to focus on my task list instead of my email.

Check out the Workflowy Tips section on their blog to see how other people use the app. Or let me know if you have any Workflowy tips for me!

UPDATE: Jay Rawlins turned my design and CSS into the FlatFlowy browser bookmarklet!

comments powered by Disqus