Toodledo: an accessible research project management tool

Completing a PhD project requires not only good research, analytical and writing skills, but time management and organisational aptitudes. Sometimes the good old pen and paper list method or calendar does not suffice to stay on top. If, like me, you fear losing track or forgetting something without a good task management system, you may be interested in reading about Toodledo.


Toodledo is a task management software/application, available for desktops, mobile phones and iPads/tablets. It synchs between all these devices via the internet so that you can easily access and edit your task list at your work station or on the go.


I have been using the system for over 10 months now to help me get my academic (and other life) projects in gear to completion. I would not consider myself to be a seasoned task management app user, however, as I have only used rudimentary Outlook functions and list apps such as Wunderlist or scheduling apps such as Planner HD as a basis for comparison.


Here are few of the reasons why I have found Toodledo suitable:

– It offers a  clean, simple, ergonomic user interface, allowing you to add tasks to your list in one click and have a good idea of what needs to be done at a glance (especially with the customizable list view);

– You can then edit the details such as due dates, notes, folders, and even goals, quickly;

– Your list is easily accessible and editable on the go, via different devices;

– Once a task is completed, you can just tick the box and it will disappear instantly from your list (but kept in a history for one week with free account or more with a pro or pro plus account);

– There is a free version (free registration for desktop use, however, the iPad/iPhone app is £1.99 on iTunes).
The key to success with Toodledo, in my opinion, is to make sure to keep your list complete and up-to-date. When I started using the free app, I first sat down and quickly entered every single project, task and subtask I could think of to free my mind (and desk from paper lists). For instance my thesis project required completing tasks such as:

– Booking and preparing for supervision meetings

– Identifying, reading and annotating relevant books and papers

– Planning, writing and amending early stages of research (lit review, research questions, conceptual framework)

– Developing an ethical protocol, consent forms, data management plan and getting them approved

– Developing questionnaires, interview protocol and questions, observation grids (and in my case, setting up and moderating research blogs for participants)

– Finding necessary software and equipment (such as data analysis and reference manager software, as well as recording devices, photo or filming equipment) and getting adequate training or support when needed

– Gaining access to datasets/fields and recruiting participants

– Coordinating and conducting interviews with participants, field visits, focus groups

– Booking venues, visual aid and refreshments for focus groups

– Saving, backing up (encrypting) reviewing, transcribing, reading, organising, annotating and analysing data

– Writing-up, submitting, getting feedback, correcting, proofreading and laying-out the text of the thesis

– Completing administrative forms (for upgrade, thesis submission, viva, myPGR meeting updates)

– And frequent ad-hoc troubleshooting


Other parts of academic life can also be added to the task list:

– Participating in seminars and conferences (including preparing proposals and presentation and sorting out registration, travel and accommodations)

– Writing journal articles and acting as a reviewer for journals and conferences

– Completing administrative tasks (registration, research grant applications, funding bodies progress reports)

– Building and maintaining a professional and academic network (including profiles on and Linkedin, Exeter eProfile, organising contacts and managing emails)

– Applying for academic positions or other degrees/jobs

– Undertaking training modules, coursework or teaching duties (LTHE, ERDP training)…


And this is aside from all the personal stuff. I use Toodledo to manage several aspects of my personal life such as planning and managing bill payments, home chores, purchases, appointments, activities, travel, moves, international visas and so on…


Please note that these tasks are bundled-up in groups for the sake of brevity. I would generally note down a task in a format such as “Book October supervision meeting with Professor X”.


Once my list was made, I then edited it by making sure each task was legible and assigned to its relevant “project” folder, as well as completing fields such as start/ due dates and notes. I added stars to the elements requiring immediate attention, but there is also a priority field that can be used partially for that purpose.


I also find the process of drilling down each project or task by identifying its subtasks made it that much easier for me to get in and keep the flow of productivity (a subtask of “Read book Z” could be “Order book Z from library”) .


Toodledo is available in 3 versions, free registration (however iPad/iPhone app is £1.99), pro ($14.95/year) and pro plus ($29.95/year). I started using the pro version because of the subtask option (enabling me to itemise each task into linked subtasks). However, if it wasn’t for that, I could have made do with the free account because i don’t personally feel like i need the other functions. (I used to manage  with the free account by just listing subtasks in the note section of each relevant task).There are various features that I have not used yet such as the (free) notebook (I have been using Evernote), the (pro) collaboration tool, the (pro) scheduler feature which allows you to identify tasks to fill in time gaps, the (pro) location tool as well as a wealth of third-party apps to synch with calendars, email service providers, or other list formats, such as “Action Lists” for fans of the  “Getting Things Done” productivity method. I have briefly looked into the latter method and find it quite promising for my future projects. Perhaps it could come in handy for those in need of stringent productivity solutions.


Posted under Follow the Data, PGR students, Research

This post was written by Annie Blanchette on November 1, 2012