Why I use… WorkFlowy

I organize my entire life with WorkFlowy, so it’s an excellent topic for my first blog post.

What is it?

WorkFlowy is a nested list accessible via the Internet. Yes – it’s very simple and very elegant.

Why is it relevant as a dyslexia-coping strategy?

I find it helps me to remember and plan things by making organized lists that are easy to reorganize, and then to share and sync that information across platforms, i.e. my laptop and my smart phone.

What do I use it for?

I have always had a preference for nested-list type planning over mind-mapping, even when I used pen and paper. So having a computerized and always accessible list on my computer and my smart phone is incredibly useful, and I do all sorts of different kinds of organizing with it.

I use my WorkFlowy list to remember stuff. For instance, I keep a kind of permanent shopping list. The idea is that I have a big list of things that I regularly need to buy categorized by type. Before I go shopping, I mark as incomplete (using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Ent) all the items I need to buy, while sitting down typing at my computer. As I go round the shops, I access the list on my phone and mark them off as complete once they’re in my basket.

My WorkFlowy shopping list.

My WorkFlowy perma-shopping list. It is important to remember to buy lapsang souchong.

I also use it to take notes and brainstorm. I find WorkFlowy especially useful for getting my ideas down on paper, as I can type an item, press Ent on my keyboard, and quickly type another item or press Ctrl+V to paste items on to the list, and then use WorkFlowy’s built-in keyboard shortcuts (Alt+Shift+arrows) to reorganize that information. I touch-type and use the keyboard as much as possible to prevent the recurrence of my terrible repetitive strain injury, so I find the keyboard shortcuts particularly helpful.

I wrote my entire PhD thesis plan in WorkFlowy: I think this was my longest ever sublist. I wrote the thesis text up in LaTeX, and I think the WorkFlowy–LaTeX combination really complimented each other, which I may write about in future. Incidentally, I also wrote the outline for this post using WorkFlowy.

The outline for this blog post, written in WorkFlowy.

The outline for this blog post, written in WorkFlowy. Note keyboard shortcuts on right-hand side.

Workwise, I use it to write procedures. For the copy editing work I do, each manuscript I’m currently working on has a list, made up of a stock-list of things I have to every time (like “turn on Track Changes”, and “add to invoice”) that I cut and paste, and then items I add while working, like “check tense in abstract”. In a not-so-dissimilar vein, there’s a post on the official blog about how to use WorkFlowy lists for running a recruiting process.

I also have fun lists in WorkFlowy, e.g. this list of the top 250 movies on IMDB as of the 20th October 2012: you can see that I’m not doing very well in watching more good movies…

A list of the IMDB Top 250 as of 20/10/2014.

A list of the IMDB Top 250 as of 20/10/2014. You can see that I’m not very cultured…

How do I use it?

PC-wise, I started out using WorkFlowy within a FireFox browser, but later moved to using it as a Chrome app following these instructions. Now WorkFlowy themselves have a Chrome-based app, and I use this as it has the advantage of working offline. It is the fourth icon pinned to my taskbar after KeePass (my password manager, which I intend to write a post about it soon, but you can read the one that inspired me to investigate in the meantime), Thunderbird, and Google Calendar. On my Jellybean Android phone, I use WorkFlowy Agent, which is ok-ish but not brilliant at loading quickly, rather than the official app, which my phone is apparently too old to use. Grumph.

How do I back-up?

Following Schofield’s first and second laws of computing, I back-up my WorkFlowy list in two ways. First, WorkFlowy sends me an email every day stating changes I’ve made to the list. Second, I periodically do a manual back-up to a .txt file that I save into my DropBox; I do this especially before making a major change in the structure of the list, or after adding a new and especially big list.

Where can I get it?

You can try WorkFlowy here, and following that link will both get us both 500 more monthly list items for free. Here’s an excellent video from the WorkFlowy team to help get you started.