WorkFlowy – How it Improves my Productivity

As a web developer, I have to keep track of an awful lot of things at work, not to mention my life and projects outside of work as well. With a wife and small child thrown into the mix I really have to make the most of my time! I need a way to ensure that the tasks that I have to do get done at the right time and in the right order and somehow still leave me time to enjoy being with my family.

I’ve tried a lot of different web apps for organisation and task management, and WorkFlowy is how I choose to organise a lot of my life, both inside and outside of work. I want to give you an insight into how I use it for everything from keeping up to date with my personal projects to keepings tabs on who has asked for what for Christmas. I’m not dictating how you should use it, as the beauty of it is that it is what you want it to be, I’m merely sharing my techniques for keeping track of things, hopefully there will be a few things that you haven’t thought of doing.

Make Lists not War

For those of you who haven’t seen, heard of or used WorkFlowy before, I would like to point you to the review on Web.AppStorm that Markavey authored. If you read that, pop back here and read about how it’s made me more productive, and could do to you too!

Using WorkFlowy quickly made me realise that pretty much everything that you need to take note of can be broken down into a list. This is what WorkFlowy does: many, many lists, of any length and depth. Each point that you add can be as long as you need, and each point can have as many sub points beneath it as you want.

The way that you make items a sub item is by hitting the tab key, and to make it a more important item you hit shift+tab to move it up in the hierarchy. That’s how simple it is to add hierarchy to your lists. This allows you to add everything you need quickly without having to worry about whether it should be a heading, a subheading, or a list in its own right.

Tags

In my opinion tags are the best part of WorkFlowy. They allow me to put things wherever I like, in different places that might be grouped by different criteria and then allows me to find them with the search function without even having to remember where they are!

WorkFlowy Tags Overview

Keeping the most used tags at the top of your document makes searching a breeze

For example, if I have a present idea for my dad I’ll write the idea down under the “Home” >>“family” heading, a general place for everything to do with my family. I’ll tag it with #Christmas #presents #shopping @dad. I could tag it with #dadsPresentChristmasShopping, but I would lose out on a lot of the point of tags if I did. If the tags are separated I can search each of the tags separately or combine them to filter my notes in a different way to bring up different items. Using this method your items can effectively be part of a number of lists that are defined by the tags. If I have a large number of items of the same type then I’ll put them into a list and tag the heading, this way I save time adding multiple tags to many items, but can just as easily find them when I need them.

Having a consolidated list of all of your tags is a great way to allow you to quickly combine tags to get a really specified filter for your entire WorkFlowy account (see above). Alternatively you can have a list of relevant tags at the top of each of your main sections so that you can jump into the section and then filter your notes with a couple of clicks.

WorkFlowy as an Eisenhower Matrix

Generally the Eisenhower matrix is confined to a square box subdivided into smaller sections to contain tasks that are urgent, important, or any mix of the two. To cut to the chase, Eisenhower’s idea was that you categorise your tasks and work through the urgent and important tasks first, then the urgent but unimportant tasks followed by the non-urgent but important tasks, thus leaving the unimportant and non-urgent tasks until last. WorkFlowy allows you to use your whole account as a matrix when you put a certain few tags to good use.

WorkFlowy Eisenhower Tags Unfiltered

By judicious use of tags you can turn your account into an Eisenhower Matrix

By adding whichever of #urgent, #important, #nonurgent and #unimportant is most relevant to your tasks you can quickly filter those items that you should do next by clicking on #urgent and #important. After those are complete you can click on #urgent and #unimportant as these should be completed next, and so on, until all of your tasks have been finished. I use this constantly and find it to be a great way to generally categorise tasks, especially for project management.

Projects

Everyone has side projects they are working on, from redesigning the house to writing that next best-selling app or planning a career change. I’ve used WorkFlowy for all of these things and each time it’s handled it remarkably well. One of the key parts of many projects is brainstorming and getting ideas down on ‘paper’, and WorkFlowy excels at this as well as management.

Each item you create can be zoomed in on, making it the heading on a clean page, it is then a blank canvas that can be moulded to your whimsical desires. Further to this each list item can in turn be zoomed into, becoming its own document. This means that as your brain is going off on tangents you can keep track of them all and organise them to view later.

As a Development Aid

I also use WorkFlowy as a bugtracker for my personal projects, at work we have a more formal system, but for my own projects I find the layout really flexible and easy to work with and more than powerful enough for my needs.

WorkFlowy Eisenhower Tags Filtered

Filtering by different tags allows you to focus on what is important or urgent

I keep a list headed “bugtracker” for each of my projects, and within this a list of the bugs that are outstanding which I tag with #bug, and then the appropriate urgency and importance level using the Eisenhower Matrix mentioned above. This lets me easily browse the bugs by project by navigating to the bugtracker, or to search for #bug and #urgent to easily find the next thing that I need to work on across all of my projects.

To Conclude

As you might have gathered, I’m a big fan of WorkFlowy. It keeps all the stuff I need to keep in an easily accessible and organised way. Well, with the exception of pictures that is! But that’s a whole other matter. If I was being picky, I would like a better way to access it on my Android phone as the browser based app works ok, but the functionality is limited. There is an iOS app for WorkFlowy. Full offline support is in the pipeline according to the site, but it has been for a little while now so I’m not sure when that is due. Even with these little niggles WorkFlowy is still the best solution for keeping my stuff organised.

What do you think? How do you use WorkFlowy? Or did you try it and find that it wasn’t for you? Let me know in the comments below.


Summary

WorkFlowy. It keeps all the stuff I need to keep in an easily accessible and organised way, one of the best solutions for keeping everything I can think of in one place.

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  • http://www.goingupward.com Micah Choquette

    I LOVE Workflowy. I consider myself to be a productivity enthusiast, and so I’ve had my hands in just about every sort of task management app you can imagine. No matter what else comes along, I always go back to Workflowy, because of it’s simplicity and ability to create your own structure. The simple idea of breaking everything down into lists is genius, and they do enough to make it work without overloading you with add’l features. And it’s keyboard friendly, which is awesome. Fact is, I wrote my own review of Workflowy, almost exactly a year ago from this post. http://www.goingupward.com/product-review-workflowy/

    I also keep a running search for “Workflowy” in my Tweetdeck, which is how I found this article to begin with.

    Great article, Chris. Thanks for supporting a solid app.

    • http://www.chrisdugdale.net Chris Dugdale

      Hi Micah,

      Thank you for your comment. I feel the same, I’ve had my head turned by so many productivity apps that i can’t count anymore, but i keep coming back to WorkFlowy. it’s so flexible that i find i can bend it to my will for most anything i need to do.

      I enjoyed reading you review, and i’m glad that you are still using Workflowy a year on, i’ve been telling anyone who will lsiten that they need to give it a go.

      Thanks,

      Chris.

  • Tim

    After looking at WorkFlowy a couple times I still fail to see how it is better than a spreadsheet?

  • Simon

    Workflowy’s great but I can’t make full use because I’m not tied to my desk. Anything I enter I need access to when mobile and the apps are way too basic with no offline access. It’s frustrating generally that development is so slow especially as I paid early on to give my contribution to what looked like a promising product.

    • http://www.chrisdugdale.net Chris Dugdale

      Hi Simon,

      i concur, i do a lot of mobile work, but i have a laptop with me, so provided i access the app when i have a connection i can work on it offline and the changes are uploaded when i get back into an area with a connection. it’s not something to rely on, but it has worked for me.

      When i don’t have a laptop I do keep finding myself wanting to put notes into the mobile version and it is jsut too reliant on a connection and loading the website to be as fast as other note taking apps. but aside from that, i’m a big fan.

  • https://workflowy.com Jesse Patel

    Hi Chris. I’m Jesse, one of the founders of WorkFlowy. Thanks for the super helpful review! I like the Eisenhower Matrix idea.

    Also, just wanted to point out that WorkFlowy comes with a very generous free option that wasn’t mentioned in the summary section. Our pricing is: Free/$4.99 per month/$49 per year.

    Thanks again.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      I’ll get that info added to the summary. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • http://www.chrisdugdale.net Chris Dugdale

      Hi Jesse,

      I’d like to mirror Matthew’s comment, thank you for stopping by and reading the article, i’m glad you like the ideas!

      I missed out about the free option, my apologies. thank you for bringing it to our attention.

      Thanks again for a great app!

      Chris

  • http://attorneymarketing.com David Ward

    I use Evernote as a productivity system (and wrote a book on it), but I now also recommend Workflowy to my readers. I started using it to outline a new book and love the flexibility it offers. (Evernote doesn’t do outlines well.)

    I like your idea of using WF tags to simulate an Eisenhower matrix. Well done.

  • Graeme

    I was introduced to it about 6 months ago and liked it & used it. Find it good for just dumping liaison points post a meeting or encounter with academics, colleagues and friends for later action or review in my role as a librarian in a University. I hadn’t used it for a month or more in the lead up and post Christmas but have recently returned to it.

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  • http://www.assetpoint.com/ Asset Point

    I love anything that can help me to improve my productivity, after going through the above mentioned features I will definitely try WorkFlowy.

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