Yet Another Attempt At Task Management

Task management is an ongoing challenge for me. I’ve adopted many systems over the past couple of years, but find that I fall into a similar pattern each time. I’ll go all in on some service, spend lots of time refining my system, then inevitably notice I’m spending too much time managing the actual system and fall off altogether. In the end, the amount of effort seems to outweigh the benefit of using task management in the first place.

For example, my latest attempt at this was Trello. For my needs, a very basic Kanban style board with Queue, To Do, Doing, and Done columns , alongside some basic metadata was enough to do the trick. For about two months I was pretty consistent with it, but it wasn’t long before I noticed I was opening Trello less and less. And whenever I did, I noticed I was often altogether missing tasks I was currently working on. This continued for a while until I fell off altogether, reverting to my very unreliable memory system.

This example pretty much sums up all of my previous attempts at task management. So, I decided it’s time to put some thought into what my problem might be. And after some thought, in no particular order, here are what I find to be the biggest barriers:

  1. It becomes cumbersome to open a specific app or log into a specific website to add tasks on the fly.
  2. Similarly, marking tasks as complete becomes cumbersome, or I forget altogether.
  3. This one is purely personal preference, but I am naturally averse to apps that aren’t native. That is, if at all possible, I’d like to solve my problems without having to resort to third party solutions.

There are a handful of other problems, but I feel these three encompass the crux of the issue.

With that in mind, any good solution that would fit my needs has to:

  1. Make it stupid easy to add new tasks.
  2. Make it stupid easy to access existing tasks
  3. Make it stupid easy to mark tasks as complete
  4. Preferably be native to Mac/iOS, the ecosystem I am currently embedded in

This all sounds pretty obvious and one could argue that all task management services offer most of these points to some degree. I completely agree. On paper. But at the end of the day, I personally haven’t found a solution that quite fits the bill.

Enter Siri

I absolutely love using Siri. For things as mundane as fact-checking board game rules, to as critical as scheduling emergency dental surgery for my wife. It’s just incredible to me that I have access to an assistant at all times, at the tip of fingers, or even my wrist! But it hadn’t occurred to me to try and leverage this assistant for managing tasks. Surely, setting something like this up would be pretty limiting, I thought. There’s no way it can be that easy. Well, it turns out it can work, pretty well in fact, assuming your needs are as basic as mine. And as an extra bonus, you can do it all using only native apps 🙌

I’ll preface the rest of this post by pointing out my needs for task management system are pretty minimal. I’ve tried systems of all complexity levels, but in the end, I found I really only need categorized queues of running tasks organized by due date. It’s also worth mentioning I am deeply ingrained in Apple’s ecosystem of devices. So, the following is really only for Apple users who are fine without the bells and whistle of more traditional task management applications (although I’m sure there are equivalent solutions utilizing native apps in other ecosystems). With that disclaimer out of the way, here is how I’m leveraging Siri alongside a handful of native Mac/iOS apps for task management.


The core piece of the puzzle is Apple’s Reminders app. It’s admittedly fairly limited when compared to other options out there, but it has all of the features needed to make a basic queue system work. 

Apple Reminders list view

The setup is pretty straightforward. I only use a handful of lists, but one could create as many lists as needed:

  • Queue (Default): This is where all non-shopping tasks begin
  • Personal: A list for personal tasks
  • Work: A list for work tasks
  • Shopping: A shared grocery list

Note I’ve set Queue as the default Reminders list, which can be done from app preferences. I’ve also created a separate Shopping list as this is shared with my wife. As for metadata, I mostly only need to track due dates, visualize priority, and organize by tag. Luckily all of these features are supported by Reminders natively. Overall, the gist is, all non-shopping tasks begin in the Queue. As part of my morning routine, I spend about 5 minutes going through this Queue, cleaning up, adding details, and moving tasks to their respective lists.


The other important bit of task metadata are notes. Reminders does allow you to add notes directly to individual tasks, but I find it to be distracting when too many tasks have too many notes. That’s where Apple Notes comes in. For more complex tasks that require lots of additional details, you can actually link an Apple note directly to a Reminders task! 

This can be done from within the Notes app, using the share menu. Another disclaimer, but similar to Reminders, Notes is less feature-rich when compared to other options out there. However, for something like adding details to tasks, I feel it’s more than enough, especially for my use case:

Reminders task with linked Apple Note

Enter Siri For Real This Time

So far, this setup isn’t too different from my previous setup. In fact, I’d even say it’s more limited as it’s less visually appealing than what I had with Trello’s Kanban board. The biggest difference though, is compatibility with Siri. As previously mentioned my biggest gripe with Trello was how cumbersome it felt when managing everything. Well with reminders, I can add, update, and mark tasks complete all with simple voice commands.

For example,

Hey Siri, remind me to do laundry

Siri adding a task to the queue

This adds a new “Do Laundry” task directly to my Queue. I can even include due date, priority, and any tags in the same command if needed.

What about accessing existing tasks? I can do that with something like the following,

Hey Siri, show me my personal reminders list

Siri showing tasks from Reminders list

Or if I need to see everything due immediately,

Hey Siri, show me all reminders due today

Siri showing tasks due today

Lastly, I can mark tasks as complete by name. For example,

Hey Siri, mark submit claim as complete

Siri marking a task complete

I’ve only recently moved over to this system, and truthfully haven’t spent too much time seeing what is possible with Siri and Reminders. I can say that I already feel much more positive about using it long term. I am able to manage tasks on the fly via voice command from my phone, tablet, laptop, and even watch! This is pretty game changing for me as it no longer feels like a burden managing tasks. It also feels like a “cleaner” solution as all of these services are native to Apple’s OS’s. And probably the neatest benefit is I feel as though I’m using Siri more like virtual assistant.

I’ll end this post by sharing a few shortcomings that I’ve come across so far. Probably the biggest annoyance so far is linking notes to reminders can only be done from within the Notes app. So for existing tasks, this requires creating a duplicate from Notes, then deleting the original in Reminders. I’m actually not sure if this is really a limitation. I’ve just not come across a way to link existing notes to existing reminders.

Another small issue is the lack of additional views in Reminders. This isn’t too big of a deal, but it would be nice if there were options like calendar or card views. That said, this was something I didn’t really use too often when the option was available to me.

I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase of adopting this new system, and there is still alot of experimentation to come, so it’s hard to say if I will really stick to it. I guess only time will tell ;p

In any case, I hope y’all found this useful, and as always, thanks for reading!

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