Machete Creative 21 July, 2024 Productivity Hack: Use TickTick to Integrate your To Do List & your Calendar

Productivity Hack: Use TickTick to Integrate your To Do List & your Calendar

For an absurdly long time I have been struggling to manage my time using two familiar tools that should have been talking to each other, but weren’t.

One is a to-do list and the other a calendar.

Two simple and ancient systems that have both successfully evolved from their paper-based origins into the digital world, where they now cheerfully emit reminders and nudges and chirrups and alarms of various kinds.

The problem is, until very recently, these two systems have been competing for my precious pool of available work hours — not collaborating to help me to get the most out of this non-renewable resource.

Generally speaking, my calendar wins hands down. A meeting must be honoured, whether it’s in person or on Zoom; a deadline for an ad must be observed; and must be followed closely, it seems, by a second meeting, only to be succeeded by a medical appointment, a lunch date, a trip to fetch a family member from the airport, and then another Zoom call or two and … hey presto!

That promising patch of potential productivity between 9am and 5pm has been transmuted into the past imperfect, littered with the remains of my largely untouched list of tasks and priorities. The unticked items take their sullen revenge by ruining my evening, their unshortened agenda casting a lengthening shadow of guilt over my leisure time, and doubling the to-do pressure for the following day.

Drag-and-drop time-blocking with TickTick

If this sounds familiar, I can heartily recommend a time management technique called time-blocking, and a very handy app called TickTick that can help you get your calendar and your to-do list to mesh, overcoming some of the effects of digital overload.

In essence, TickTick is a powerful and flexible task management app — apparently right up there with Todoist and Things 3 — that includes a graphic calendar view. This allows you simply to drag the tasks that you have set for a particular day down into your calendar so that each one is given a specific starting time and a duration. This effectively blocks your day into periods of productivity between your meetings and other appointments, and lets you see at a glance when it’s time to say, “No, not today, José.”

Distraction-free, deep focus Pomodoro periods

Although it’s still early days, the daily planning session this requires is helping me be far more realistic about what can be rationally undertaken in a single working day, and allows me to carve out precious pomodoro periods for deep focus work — periods of distraction-free time during which I switch off my email and text notifications, silence my phone and grapple hand-to-hand with copywriting or strategy.

This simple drag-and-drop integration of calendar and to-do list is TickTick’s killer app for me, but other compelling features are:

  • The ease and speed of getting tasks into TickTick’s inbox
  • Integration with Siri, Apple Reminders and the Spark email app
  • Integration with Google Calendar and iCal
  • The adjustable Pomodoro timers for deep focus work
  • The Habit function for setting weekly walking, reading, and yoga goals
  • The dopamine-releasing little chime as each item is ticked ‘done’
  • The gamifying charts and graphs for broader performance review

Yes, TickTick’s graphic user interface is a little clunky, perhaps betraying its Chinese origins, but it works seamlessly across desktop and mobile devices, its free version is generously feature-rich, and its paid upgrade very affordable at R37,50 per month from the App Store or Google Play.

If you’re Not Getting Things Done because your calendar and your to-do list are at war, it might be well worth giving TickTick a whirl for a week or two. Check it out at


Nic Shepherd About the author
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