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Quickview: An App for Your Personal Workflow

A go-to app to manage your to-do lists.

Bill Winterberg, 04/26/2012

If you use applications like CRM, document management, or even Microsoft Outlook, you likely already have a place to enter outstanding tasks and to-do lists to manage your workflow responsibilities in your firm. Although these applications may (or may not!) work well for your firm's workflow, how do you effectively manage your personal workflow?

A few months ago I discovered a new Web app called Workflowy. Workflowy, a product of a San Francisco-based startup, is described as an "organizational tool that makes life easier," and has quickly become my go-to app to manage all the things I need to do for my personal life as well as my business.

Signing up for a Workflowy account is free and requires only your name, email address, and password. Once active, your Workflowy page appears as a blank text file.

I like to think of Workflowy as a mind map without the visual map. Begin by adding top-level entries by typing on the first line. Each top-level entry supports a nearly infinite number of sub-level entries. For example, a top-level entry may say, "Plan date night out with my spouse," followed by sub-level entries for to-dos such as making restaurant reservations, booking a babysitter, ordering flowers, and so on.

If you want to view only the to-dos for your date night planning, simply click on the bullet point to the left of the entry, and all your other lists will collapse. To restore all your lists, click the Home label at the top of the page. This navigation allows you to quickly drill down to whatever level of detail you wish on all of your outstanding to-dos.

While Workflowy's layout is simple, you can flex the app's muscles through its search and filtering capabilities. Simply enter a keyword or phrase in the top search bar, and your Workflowy list refreshes to display only those entries that match your search terms. As you begin to get comfortable with Workflowy, you can use its tagging features to identify task characteristics you may search for at a later time. Tags are unique keywords preceded by the "#" symbol and can be used to indicate due dates (#today), priorities (#urgent or #important), or task complexity (#large or #small). Tagging entries allows you to quickly identify tasks and to-dos that share some common properties.

Workflowy is also compatible with most mobile browsers, meaning that it doesn't matter whether you use an iPhone, iPad, Android, or Windows phone, you can always open and edit your Workflowy list from anywhere with Internet access.

I love Workflowy's mobile compatibility, as I can quickly scan through my list of to-dos using my iPad when I'm on the road, and I can quickly add in new tasks by simply opening a Web page. There are no convoluted procedures to ensure a new to-do entry is synchronized to a master account record or database.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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