Managing a daily/master todo list

I could use some ideas on how to better manage the following!

I maintain one "master" todo list that I consult every morning to determine what todos I want to work on that day. Many of the todos are just plain text because there's not much detail I need written out (no dependencies that need to be done beforehand, I have all the necessary details in my head). The more involved todos will be links to notes that contain the necessary details/reference material.

Because this is a very long list of todos, I use markdown headers to categorize todos - e.g., work-related todos, work inside the house, yard work, administrative/paperwork, waiting for responses, etc.; and many of those are subdivided into near-term, intermediate-term, long-term and periodic subcategories. I use the Outline sidebar plugin to more quickly navigate this list.

Each morning, I'll scroll through and figure out which todos need to be worked on today, and I'll copy/paste those to a "Today" section at the very top of the note. Of course not everything gets done that day, so the "Today" section gets longer and I also get lazy and start adding items directly to the "Today" section instead of the appropriate category.

So periodically I have to purge the todos from the "Today" list and move those todos to the appropriate category, and start with a fresh "Today" list.

Wondering if there's a better way to manage my daily todo list. What might be really cool is being able to scroll though this master todo list and select items (by whatever means) I want to work on today and have those items autopopulate a list at the top of the note (or a separate list). That would save me the hassle of copying/pasting the items I want to work on, and eliminate at least some of the overhead in managing this system.

In the past when using Evernote, I've tried making every single todo its own note, and that system broke down very quickly because the overhead (effort I had to put into maintaining the system) was enormous. My current method isn't great, but because it requires less overhead than a system that makes each todo its own note, it lasts longer before I have to "reset" it. But an even lower overhead method would be even better.

Ideas, suggestions, tips welcomed!

I have a notebook with my immediate todos which I begin with a - so it is alphabetically at the top of my Joplin notebooks. If I were you, I'd break my todos into categories with a separate note for each group. Whether you do this by type or urgency would depend you your mind. That way the list is smaller because you'd only be looking at one section (Perhaps today or Work in house) at a time. You could use the notes tabs plugin to open the 3 or 4 group notes in tabs pinned. Then if you moved some items from one section to another you'd just cut and hit the appropriate tab and paste. Never leaving the note group.

I tried to use Joplin as a to-do manager, but I found all the workarounds to be ugly, because there is no "to-do" view that gathers to-dos from all the pages and shows them to me, so in that way I have to keep a mental note about where my to-dos are for different projects and tasks. I am not a JS/web dev, so I can't do this but if a dev willing to do atm, a plugin that gathers all the done and not done to-dos and shows in an organized list/cards in a page as a home/landing page thing, then Joplin might work for this

Trying to use Joplin as a to-do manager on Android/mobile is even worse since typing markdown is not fun on a tiny virtual keyboard.

I am now using my own todo.txt with Sleek on Linux and Simpletask on Android. There are also couple nice Vs Code extensions for handling a todo.txt

That's certainly doable, but I don't think it changes much. With your proposed setup, I'd be clicking note tabs to see the different categories; with my setup, I click on the category header in the Outline sidebar. Seems fairly similar to me, unless I'm missing some aspect.

I'd still want to create a todo list for the day (a "Daily todo" list), so that I'm not constantly checking each of the category notes throughout the day. Or do you propose/envision/do something different in this regard?

In responding to your post, I'm realizing the crux of my todo system's problem is in how I deal with todos that don't get finished that day. The system is designed so that each day, all todos are done (how realistic is that!), so then I have a blank slate, and can skim through the various category lists to select the todos that I want/need to get done today and copy/paste them to my "Daily todo" list.

But as soon as I have these "leftover" todos, I no longer have an empty "Daily todo" list. After a few days, the "Daily todo" list is now full of "leftover" todos, and instead of being a handful of tasks I can complete in one day, the list is so long it would take a week. Semi-defeated already, I then just add new todos to this daily todo list instead of to the appropriate category lists (which by this point of system breakage, I'm not even looking at any more). And then I need to do a system reset, which I'm doing today, hence this thread.

@uxamanda this is kind of out of left field, but you strike me as the kind of person who understands sticking/breaking points in processes and probably has this todo thing figured out. So here's my hail Mary, or hail Amanda as it were, to see if you have any ideas.

Yeah, workarounds add overhead. The more overhead, the more discipline/time/energy required to maintain the system. And then you're just a few unforeseen emergency todos away from system breakage.

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It occurred to me that a possible very simple solution is to copy (not move) todos from my categorized todo lists to my "Daily todo" list, and then at the end of each day, delete all the todos from the "Daily todo" list, whether I've completed them or not. That leaves me with an empty "Daily todo" list to start each day (or night before), and I can populate it with several pressing todos from the categorized todo lists. The extra overhead would be to delete already completed items from the categorized todo lists, but that seems like enjoyable overhead - deleting tasks that are already completed.

I might try this, unless someone has a better idea.

Overall I must say, Joplin as a very well note organiser isnt that good a task-manager.

Ad hoc lists, with checkboxes are okayish, but real taskmanagement is another league.
Applies to all note-systems, specially for recurring tasks, because 'a note with tasks' differs from 'a task with a note'.

Personally I really would like Joplin to be a good taskmanager, because of philosophy / commuinty etc.
But I accept it isnt, for now. Hoping plugins will solve this tho.

(Lol, this made me randomly understand the phrase "Hail Mary", ha, as in hailing a cab. :smiley: )

I am certainly not a todo guru, unless you count having tried every technique over the years, grain of salt...

I think there are a lot of good ideas in this thread. One you mentioned is breaking each todo into it's own note. Now that there is the Kanban Plugin, I plan to use this technique for managing larger projects. I have used Trello in this way for years and this will supersede that.

My current todo system involves creating a daily note (shoutout to the new Template Plugin) that is named based on the date. I use this note to track / log other things, but the bulk of it is my todos, broken into categories.

Each morning I create this new note and then copy over my entire todo list from the day before. I delete things that were completed and add new things to appropriate sections. My sections are GTD-style, so they are grouped more by where / what mindset I am in (Errands, Focus, etc). Then I set 1 or 2 things as "must be done today" (the fewer and more realistic the better).

While it seems like it would be annoying to have to "remake" the list each day, I find that I am quicker to toss out things I am never going to get around to without feeling bad, and yet I feel ok with keeping long term things I will need to get to on there.

Another nice thing is that the Note Tabs plugin just added a way to see number of checklist items done inside a note, which is really nice for a "single note" todo list.

(This also ended up with a positive side effect – any todo that is on-going generally links to another note with more details, so those end up with a "Backlink" to my daily note. This lets me see how long and when I worked on something. )


I will suggest using a "Notebook" with lots of "todo" type entries and install the Embed Search Plugin.

You will still need to add the tasks in that specific notebook, but now you can filter it easily in any other note.

Maybe you could be interresting by this.


I also think it would be ideal if we could better manage our tasks in Joplin, especially when we work on several machines. What would you have in mind to improve task management that could help @laurent and the dev team?

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I have struggled with years on how to manage my seemingly ever-growing list of things I have to get done. It wasn't until I read Warren Buffett's "2 List" Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities that I finally found something that could work for me. Whether or not this story is true is a moot point for me, but it has helped me to adopt/modify a system that works for me. I have a notebook I've titled "@@Life Wrangling" that sits at the top of all my notebooks.

My first notebook is titled "@@To Do" and in there I have 5 items. 1 that is my main focus, and 4 others I work on when I can't work on the main, plus a note that says Only work on these when the main focus can't be worked just to remind me not to get distracted. I have created one more section called Waiting in the Wings that is a single To Do item from my queue I have deemed as important enough to be the next in line.

I have a note called "To Do Queue" that contains a numbered list of all the To Do items I need to knock out, but they are less important than the top 5. Some of these are simple enough to just be text. Others are more complex and are a link to another Joplin note in some other notebook. That list is ordered so I can reorganize things as priorities change.

One more note I've added in the past 6 months or so is called "@Pick Up From Store" and it's got the stores or store categories (Grocery Store instead of the name, but Wal-Mart makes the list because it's different enough). Under each heading if I need anything from that store, I have a list of checkbox items so I can check them off. Some of these items hang out for a while, such as oil & fuel filters. Even though I do need to replace what I've used, it's not an urgent replacement that's needed. I don't usually put huge grocery lists here because that gets too tedious to be worth the trouble. I've also added a General Items header for things that can be purchased at a variety of stores, such as toilet bowl cleaner. Since I may be going into Wal-Mart or the grocery store for something, this can be purchased at either and I don't want to skip purchasing it because it wasn't under the correct header.

Lastly, because I need reminding sometimes, I've created a note called How to Organize To Do List where I keep my strategy and as it changes, I'll update this note. I've pasted the contents of this note below as a TLDR, or in case it might help anyone who reads this thread.

  1. Focus on one main thing, leaving a max of 4 more to do when the main task can't be done, such as when in periods of waiting on the main thing
  2. The rest of the items in the queue don't need to be worked until there is room in the top 5
  3. Only items in the top 5 get a checkbox & the items in the queue just get a number for organizing
  4. The queue items can be organized by priority, etc so they can pop off the top into the top 5
  5. The reason they are in the queue is to keep them from getting lost or forgotten as well as to keep me from browsing and picking something random to do

Thank you for your comprehensive feedback. And you manage all this workflow in Joplin?

Yes I do. I don't have any plugins to help, just native Joplin.

Took me some time to contemplate and in the mean time many others have responded as well, elsewhere on this forum. But if it helps, some thoughts.

In personal and professional life I have used two different 'platforms':

Office365 at work
Many have a love/hate relationship with it, but it is an ever growing toolkit for collaboration and personal productivity. Because it has to support a wide variety of use-cases and for wildly different organisations it hasn't a one-stop-shop for Todo/Taskmanagement. Though Microsoft is integrating front-ends to at least bring everything together.
So tasks can be tracked in ToDo, Planner, OneNote, Projects, SharePoint lists and Outlook. Each with pro/con for collaboration and personal workflow. For internal support I tend to quickly sort things out with starting questions about how formal/informal things must be tracked and if tasks has to be treated like 'data' with filtering/sorting/dashboarding or even KPI's.
The one thing I struggle with in this regard is the balance between 'jot down quick with OneNote' and 'wanting one place to have it all in view'. My OneNote app has some 20 notebooks for various projects and dossiers. Each with different collaborators. Downside: For my own actions I have to scrape every Notebook/Section/Page for my own stuff.

Sailforms at home
This isnt a dedicated app for something specific but sort of "MS Access for Android". Linked tables, buttons, forms, data, formulas etc and highly flexible. Super for tracking all kinds of stuff and it replaced a lot of other apps for me. BUT ... one retired developer, not open source and mainly if tracking and measuring is your thing.

I deeply feel the need to have at least some overview how different features are used in different scenarios. For example:

  • Jot down a checklist in a note:
    Great for ad-hoc short lists for ephemeral topics. When ready it can be tossed away,
    "Remember to pick the dry-cleaner and call your mom." Great with Joplin.

  • Use a previous filled list in a note as a reference:
    The list is a description of all the things to be done and helps to complete a task. Just looking at the list is enough so one note will do.
    "All the things to be done in the weekly cleaning of the house". Great with Joplin.

  • Use a previous filled checklist in a note as a reference and tick al the boxes for steps within a task:
    Slightly different but if ticking 'feels good' or the list is long the check/uncheck state helps.
    If I dont have a need for keeping all the 'instances' of this note I could use a plugin which just "uncheck everything in this note in bulk". To have a clean start the next time I use it.

  • Use a previous filled checklist in a note as a reference, produce a note for every instance of this task with a template and tick al the boxes for steps within a task:
    Same as the above, except every time I perform a task, I have a new note and can keep it. Great with Joplin, but I could use bulk creation of notes.

  • Write a growing checklist of a project in a todo note:
    During the preparation/orientation I encounter all kinds of stuff I have to do later on, in a project. When the project is done, the todo is checked at the note level. Although just 'archiving' would be enough.
    "I have to measure and prepare for 2 extra wooden cabinets in the kitchen, so the list of materials to buy and other steps are documented"

  • Write a checklist of a recurring event in a note as a reference and use it as a template:
    A bit like a project, but for every instance of the event I want a new note.
    "We go on a weekend trip 3 times a year and this is the packing list. Which I want to keep as a part of the memories about those weekends. Also they change slowly over the years."

  • Use a recurring todo for repeating tasks with set intervals/frequency.
    My main problem with these is they keep haunting me or I have to reset them even if they are not done.
    "I set a recurring task for putting out the trash every thursday evening, now I forgot and the task travels with me on friday, saturday etc or I have to check it." For a lot of people this isnt a problem but I want to measure how often a task is and isnt done. To be fair, even todoist and MS dont have this feature. Its like a table with tasks on a page for every day, a page for every week and a page for every month. And at the end of the cycle you take a new page, but it is still visible how often tasks arent done in the previous. It would be possible to draw conclusions like "I perform 70% of my ideal routine, last year it was 60%".

Of course this list isnt complete but I wanted to share different scenarios and features.

I dont expect Joplin to support 'measuring' of tasks, because a note isnt a normalised database so to say. I do hope templating of reference checlists and maybe bulk creation could be enough for me. Bulk creation would be like: produce template-based all the day/week/monthly notes with checlists for the coming month october. If I revise a checlist template, I change it and it will be 'in production' the next cycle.

Anyway, my longest ramble ever here. Hopes sharing this helps others, gratefull this community helps me with Joplin!


Thanks for the cites in your post!

You don't mention how many tasks is a "very long list of todos". I am the only one using my Joplin install and have about 6000 tasks/notes.

I use Joplin for my daily to-dos; I have a structure to handle them. I also use Joplin to store important information that does not need to be revisited, but needs to be at hand, such as my Wikipedia password.

At the top level, I have 2 folders: Time and Tasks. Tasks are things that I want to get "done", and Time is the available time slots in which tasks are done. My goal is to match my tasks under time; I drag and drop the tasks or task folders into Time.

The time-based folder hierarchy is organized by year, then months, then weeks, then days. My tasks are basically of time length about an hour, so I try to have 8 to 10 tasks under my current day. Most of the time there are more tasks that I have time, but I definitely cannot complete more than 12 tasks a day, so the quick answer is to just throw all the other tasks into the future at an appropriate time (tomorrow? next month?).

My tasks have a checkbox to indicate whether they are completed or not. Completed tasks always get deleted. Recurring tasks are thrown into the future when they are "done". For example, monthly bills are thrown into the next month.

Any task that does not require a revisit in the future is stored as a note and eventually migrates into a non-time folder "Resources" and I only end up looking at such a note via search functionality within Joplin.

The inline checkboxes available via MarkDown have limited use for me and I rarely use them.

I also have many tasks which don't get done. I have applied the Agile principle of a "backlog", which in my install, is just a folder that contains all those tasks that I didn't get to. Backlog contains the undone tasks by a dated subfolder; I use YYYYMMDD as the format because Joplin sorts them alphabetically which is equivalent to a temporal sort.

Tasks in the backlog are revisited when I can, usually via a search that hits on them, then I can easily dragndrop the task where I want it.

Super-old backlog tasks are good candidates to consume and purge. I collect 10 to 30 new notes a week but only complete 5 to 20 a week, so it's clear that I don't have the time to do what I want. Your links to articles on how to Prune are useful to me.




Thanks for your concrete and inspiring answers @joeldebruijn and @markrenier .On my side, I like the idea of comparing Joplin with Todoist because several users of the platform told me that they don't manage tasks in Joplin because they can't leave Todoist. Obviously Joplin is not in the same category in terms of usability and functionality. But we can still do things:

  • in joplin, we have the tags
  • in joplin, we have reminders (which can be used as deadlines)
  • in joplin, we have notebooks
  • in joplin, we have a search engine powerful enough to do as well as todoist :thinkinghead:
  • in joplin, we have the sharing of notes and todos but less the collaboration
  • in joplin, we don't have the natural language recognition of todoist which is a big lack
  • in joplin, we have an android application but it doesn't support plugins so it limits the extension of the task functions that could be added on top of it (e.g. repetition plugin).

So I think we can already do a lot of things but there are still limitations.

On the other hand, the great strength of Joplin is to allow to really consider, with a stable and configurable tool, the combination of notes and tasks. Let's take an example.

I have a file for the people I exchange with. So I have a "Paul Smith" note, a "Karl Klaus" note, a "Vladimir Vladimirovitch" note. I also have a diary with the days in the form "2021-09-26" (one note per day) in which I note what I do, my little notes during phone conversations, etc. If I create a task that mentions a link to "Karl Klaus", when I click on the note I get the backlinks of "Karl Klaus", i.e. both the task I just created and the note of 2021-09-26 in which I had noted elements of our exchange.

Thus, my notes and my tasks are integrated in a kind of Zettelkasten which allows to see the connections thanks to the backlinks plugin. Since I connect tasks and notes, I can no longer consider working in separate applications. Thanks to the Overview plugin, I can make summaries of the notes and tasks, taking advantage of the links between them.

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I think the long term plan is to make plugins available to the mobile apps as well (unless I'm completely mistaken). It's not so much a coding issue as a deployment issue. The AppStore and PlayStore have certain restrictions when it comes to adding elements not from those stores, but from a 3rd party site. Also, many of the plugins use an API that targets functionality of the desktop app. e.g. there are no shortcuts on mobile.

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