Email making a comeback

For years the tech industry dismissed the idea of email as a productivity tool: too old, they said, and too out-of-step with the new generation of tools.

Until this year.

Email, it seems, is making a comeback:

All of this talk about email was intriguing enough for Mike Butcher, editor-at-large for TechCrunch, to ask: What’s the best “to do” app these days? The comments show a range of tools, including a pointer to Good Todo from Lorenzo Wood (thanks, Lorenzo!).

Good Todo, as the world’s first online todo list when it launched in 2005, has been email-focused from day one. While Good Todo works well as a standalone Web-based (or iOS-based) todo list, it’s especially good - we’d say better than any other service out there - at managing email, from any email service, that you forward into your account.

And it doesn’t run on a Big Tech platform.

-Mark Hurst

A New Recurring Option

Based on a user suggestion, we have added a new option for recurring todos: you pick the days.

As shown below, it’s called “Certain days every week (you’ll pick)”.

Certain days each week

Once you choose that option, you’ll see seven checkboxes, one for each day of the week (see below):

Seven days

The recurring todo will then appear on whatever days you’ve checked off, for the duration of the todo (until the end-date, or the number of occurrences, you’ve stated).

For example, if you click the Tuesday and Friday checkboxes, and ask for three occurrences, the todo will appear on the next upcoming Tuesday-Friday-Tuesday, or Friday-Tuesday-Friday (whichever comes first).

To create a recurring todo, use the “Create a recurring todo” link (available via “Add New Todo” or the New Todo field’s “more options” link).

Email as Secret Weapon

A recent column by Aaron Klein, How I’ve Made Email my Secret Weapon, shows his reliance on email for getting things done.

Emptying his inbox is central: “I get to Inbox Zero anywhere between 1–3x a week,” Klein writes, followed by helpful tips:

  • “Slow the fire hose”: be careful what you subscribe to

  • “Kill the notifications”: turn off unnecessary alerts

  • “Upgrade your tools”: get a to-do app.

And here’s where Klein comes so close to Good Todo! He recommends Asana, he says, because it turns emails into to-do list items: “I can hit forward on an email, change the subject line to ‘call Bill re: contract terms’ and hit send. Bam, it’s on the list, and I can archive that email.” Which of course is what exactly what Good Todo does (and did first, years before Asana launched!).

Klein describes an email-management process very similar to what’s in Bit Literacy, moving emails onto the to-do list - and even using a text expander for quicker typing.

All in all, well worth reading. Just wish Klein had recommended Good Todo!

OSX Good Todo App With Fluid

Users occasionally ask how to use Good Todo as an app on the OSX (Mac) desktop. It’s easy and we recommend it! You can use the handy FluidApp service to create a Good Todo app that opens our website.

On OSX Mac computers:

  1. Download Fluid, for free, on the website.

  2. Open the “” file, and double-click the Fluid app (the one with the globe icon).

  3. In the “Create a Fluid App” popup, fill out the following…

Name: Good Todo
Location: Desktop
Icon: Use Website Favicon

…then click Create. From now on, just open the Good Todo app on your desktop.

Bonus Tip: You can keep the Good Todo app running at all times, so that you can switch to it - much like you switch to email, or the calendar - with the Command-Tab keystroke.

Bonus Tip 2: Drag the Good Todo app icon into your dock, so you can access it any time with a click!

Questions? Drop a line to

Drowning in Lists?

America Is Drowning in Lists, from the WSJ in April, bemoans the multiplicity of platforms (“the list of possible lists is maddening”) and the shortfalls of popular productivity systems.

The article doesn’t mention Good Todo, which is unfortunate, since it helps people avoid those shortfalls.

For example: the article describes the overload people feel from the sheer number of list apps out there: for grocery lists, agenda items, as well as “reward apps,” “punishment apps” (whatever those are), and so on. But Good Todo is flexible enough to be used for multiple purposes. Manage groceries and agenda items in one app!

No need to go back to a pen, paper, and a list with just three items, as the article mentions. Use Good Todo to separate today’s todos - perhaps just three of them! - from those of other days. This way, you can have many todos in the system and still not be overloaded.

Sign up for Good Todo on our homepage.

Alternatives to Big Tech

From the Creative Good blog, here’s Mark Hurst’s list of alternative services to those offered by Big Tech.

Search: Instead of Google, use DuckDuckGo – a search engine that doesn’t track you. I use it as my default search engine and it works great.

Email: Instead of Gmail, use FastMail – a fast, well-designed email service that isn’t owned by Big Tech and doesn’t depend on surveillance for its business model.

To-do list: Instead of using your inbox, or nothing at all, use my own Good Todo – a simple to-do list that doesn’t track you. It also allows you to email your to-dos to the list, helping reduce inbox clutter.

Calendar: Instead of Google Calendar, use BusyCal (on OSX), and sync your calendar with Apple’s iCloud – or the calendar in FastMail.

Browser: Instead of Chrome, use Firefox (or Safari) with the DuckDuckGo privacy extension installed, explained more here. (See also my interview with DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg on my Techtonic radio show.)

Music: Instead of Spotify, listen to WFMU. I’m serious. This independent, listener-supported radio station – where I run my Techtonic show – offers an unmatched collection of human-curated, non-algorithm-driven shows and an unbelievable treasure trove in its archive, all available for free. (Actually right now is WFMU’s annual fundraiser, and you can donate here. More info below.)

Social media: Don’t use Facebook. Or at least minimize your usage. As Matt Klinman put it in this outstanding interview, “every time you scroll through content on Facebook, you’re depriving independent media of a way to exist.” To reach your community, just send email. I recommend Campaign Monitor, which I’ve used for many years to send out this newsletter.

I’m hardly the only one advocating for a new approach. Here are more voices on Big Tech:

On Facebook: Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram writes that as Facebook increases its control, “they’ll decide which brands they are going to elevate and which they will filter out..Facebook effectively decides which media outlets survive and which don’t.” Read the full article.

On Google: The NYT’s Charles Duhigg wrote The Case Against Google. Nailed it. And Jason Kint writes that Google continues to obfuscate its numbers.

On YouTube (owned, of course, by Google): Zeynep Tufekci writes in NYT about YouTube, the Great Radicalizer.

Pay attention.

A new Help screen for the Good Todo iOS app

We’re just about to launch a new version of the Good Todo iOS app with a much improved Help screen. Here’s a sneak peek:

Good Todo Help

Quick tips for using Good Todo:

To sync your todo list, drag down on the screen (similar to the syncing action in many other apps).

To re-order todos, tap and hold on any todo, then drag todos up or down the list.

To see tomorrow’s list, tap the right-arrow button on today’s list, or swipe right on the screen.

To see the calendar and navigate to any date, tap the orange Good Todo logo in the top-left.

If the todo list in the app doesn’t match the website, try the “Full sync” feature on the Settings screen (tap the wrench icon on the bottom of the screen). Full sync gets a complete download of your todo list, instead of the quicker incremental sync that usually occurs.

Every night around midnight, undone todos roll over to the next day. You never have to worry about undone todos on past days. If you want to send a todo to a future day, just tap the todo to open it, then tap the Redate button.

To make links clickable, tap to open a todo, then tap “View links” on the bottom of the screen. This is helpful if a todo’s title or detail text contains Web addresses or email addresses.

Email a todo to your list: In any email app, forward an email from your login address to and it will show up on today’s list. Then archive or delete the email, and you’re one step closer to an empty inbox! (Also try these: days like, dates like, and numbers of days/weeks/months in the future, like or or

To approve other email addresses to mail into your account, log into the website (on a computer is best) and then click into Preferences -> Approved Addresses. You can also set your time zone there, and you can sign up to get a daily email from Good Todo containing your todos.

For more tips, see the Good Todo blog.

Thanks for using Good Todo!

The followup superpower and how to use it

A superpower is a special ability that only a few people have, and that can be used in all types of missions. Good followup is a superpower. Not many people have it. But all Good Todo users have access to good followup.

Here are two ways to use the followup superpower - in receiving tasks, and in creating them.

  • When someone says, “How about checking in with me in 2 weeks on that,” you need good followup. Just email - in the Subject line, type “follow up with” and the name of the person - and in the body, write any notes or details about the followup. In two weeks, you’ll see it appear on today’s list!

  • When you email someone else a task you want them to complete, you can BCC a date in the future when you want to follow up with your colleague to make sure they’ve completed the task. For example, when you email your colleague, BCC and in three days, you’ll see the email as a task in today’s list.

Email addresses are flexible! In addition to “d” for days and “w” for weeks, and you can also use “m”… for example, email to email items a month in the future.

We hope you enjoy your followup superpower, using Good Todo!

How to check a todo done

While observing new users of Good Todo, we occasionally see someone hesitate when they’re ready to mark an action item “done.”

How to mark a todo done in Good Todo: two ways.

  1. Click or tap the box to the left of the todo title: an orange check-mark will appear (it’s actually a mini-version of the Good Todo logo), and the todo will pop down to the lower section of the screen, where “done” or completed todos for that day are stored. This works exactly the same across the Good Todo website, iPhone/iPad app, and Android app.

  2. On the website only, you can delete a todo. Go to the todo’s detail view (by clicking its title), then click the red button marked “Delete entirely” in the lower right. This is a permanent deletion with no undo, so we intentionally make it more difficult than clicking the todo done.

Generally, we recommend clicking todos done rather than deleting them. By tomorrow, they no longer show up on today’s list - since completed todos stay in the day on which they were marked done. So getting things done looks good on today’s list (you build up a nice list of checkmarks on the bottom of the screen), and by tomorrow, only the undone todos have rolled over to that day.

Any questions? Feel free to contact us at

Watching an Ongoing Issue

Here’s how to use Good Todo to track ongoing issues:

  • Create a todo on today’s list with the name of the issue. For example, call it “Ongoing TPS”.

  • Type in the detail field of a todo. You might start with today’s date: perhaps it would be “2-10-17 TPS is fine”.

  • Don’t check the todo done. Instead, let the todo roll over day-to-day, so it’s always on today’s list.

  • Whenever there’s an update to the todo, type it in the detail field with the new date. For example, a few days later it might look like this:
    2-10-17 TPS is fine
    2-13-17 needs attention

For more on log files and canvas files, and how they can be helpful for ongoing items, please see Mark Hurst’s book Bit Literacy.

Thanks to user T.S. for pointing out this usage of Good Todo!