Getting started with Super Productivity

Super Productivity is an advanced open source To-Do list app with integrated Timeboxing and time tracking capabilities. While the app won't magically solve all your productivity, time management and procrastination issues, the combination of planning ahead and quickly re-planning whenever necessary, breaking tasks down into smaller bits and doing a bit of timeboxing can be a surprisingly powerful combination.

The following article will introduce the basic features of the app. Since quickest way to do things in Super Productvity, is to use keyboard shortcuts, I will be focussing on using the most important ones in this tutorial.

Plan your tasks and break them down

Adding new tasks

First thing you want to do when starting the app is to create a task. When there are no tasks the app should greet you with an input box to do so. If you already created some you can use the "+" button in the top right or the keyboard shortcut Shift+A to do so. You can close the add task overlay by pressing escape.

Add task bar

Below the input where you enter the task title you can see a little info text which introduces the short syntax. Using the short syntax you can quickly add and edit the time estimated and spent for a task (and also the project and tags assigned to it).

Adding estimates at task creation

Giving time estimates to tasks (aka Timeboxing) is recommended as it can help to increase focus, avoid procrastination and reduce the time spent on a task. To create a new timeboxed task:

  1. Press Shift+A (requires the app window to be focused)
  2. Enter "Getting to know Super Productivity 30m"
  3. Press the Enter key to create the task
  4. Press the Escape key to close the overlay

Tracking time

To start tracking time you can either press the y key while a task is focused or click on the little "play" button that appears once you hover it. To stop press y again or press the "pause" button at the top right of the screen.

Productivity Tip: Don't beat yourself up about not meeting the times you estimated and re-plan instead!

Timeboxing is meant to be a tool to help you and not intended to provide you with fixed deadlines to be stressed out about. Plans are always very likely not to go exactly as you intended and that is fine! However, an exceeded time estimate might give you a good indication, when it is time to take step back and to consciously adjust your plans and maybe to tackle the problem at hand from another angle.

Completing tasks

Tasks can be marked as done by pressing d or by clicking on the checkmark button that appears when hovering it. For the mobile app you swipe the task to the right.

Editing tasks

Once a task is focused (indicated by the colored border around them) you can quickly navigate to other tasks in the list by using the arrow keys. Pressing Enter will allow you to edit the task title (and also using the short syntax here again). Press Enter again to save the changes you made.

Prioritize tasks

In addition to using custom tags (e.g. "#A #B #C #important") the most efficient way to prioritize your tasks is by simply ordering them. You can do so by dragging them around using the drag handle to the left of the task title or by moving them via Ctrl+Shift+ArrowUp and Ctrl+Shift+ArrowDown to move them up and down.

Break tasks down by adding subtasks

When you are facing a big and/or complex task, it usually helps a lot if you break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This will help you avoid stress and procrastination. The quickest way to add a subtask is to press a while a task is being focused. Alternatively you can use the task context menu which can be opened up by right-clicking on the task (or long pressing it on macOS).

Hint: Use markdown checkboxes if you need another subtask level

To avoid never completed giant mega tasks – which can be frustrating to deal with – subtasks are limited to one level, if you really need another level, you can use markdown, inside the task notes panel to write another checklist. To do so select a task via keyboard and press the ArrowRight key, which will open up an additional panel form the right. You can select the items in this panel via the arrow keys (ArrowUp/ArrowDown to move and ArrowRight/Enter to select an item). Under "Description" you find a small panel where you can enter some markdown text for additional context information. Using the following syntax will provide you with a check-list:

- [ ] Some item
- [x] Checked item
- [x] Another checked item

And produce the following result:

Nested subtasks

Hint: Avoid mega tasks

It also might be helpful to avoid long ongoing tasks with hundreds of subtasks. It might feel better to create a new task instead and simply assigning a number to them such as "My long task 2" and to then drag the remaining subtasks over to it. This approach might also make it easier to focus on the current problem at hand and to put irrelevant stuff out of your mind.

Recap: The most important shortcuts

  • Shift+A: Open add task bar
  • Enter: Edit currently focussed task title
  • Arrow keys: Navigate around task list
  • D: Mark currently focused task as done
  • A: Add subtask to currently focused task
  • Y: Toggle tracking time to currently focused task
  • S: Open schedule dialog for currently focused task
  • Backspace: Delete currently focused task
  • ArrowRight: Open additional info panel for currently focused task
  • Ctrl+Shift+ArrowUp: Move currently focused task up in list
  • Ctrl+Shift+ArrowDown: Move currently focused task down in list

You can edit these and all other shortcuts on the settings page.

Moving done tasks to the archive (and finishing your day)

At the bottom of the task list you find a button labeled "Finish Day". Clicking it will bring you to the another page, that gives you an overview over what you did that day. We ignore that for now and scroll to the bottom of the page where there is another button labeled "Save and go home". By clicking it all (non sub-) tasks will be moved to the task archive.

Productivity Tip: Why reflecting and winding down is a good idea

In most literature about productivity giving yourself a pat on the back, winding down and taking a moment to reflect after a busy day is considered a good practise as it helps you among other things with getting some distance between you and your work, which in turn allows to be more refreshed and productive the next day.

What else is there?

These are the most important basic Super Productivity offers and that should be enough to get some benefit out of the app. There are other helpful (and all optional) features, too, which I would recommend gradually exploring and to experiment with whatever might work for you.

Projects, Tags and Color Coding

Each task can have multiple tags assigned, but only a single project. Each project and tag offers its own sortable list, which could be helpful if you only want to work on a particular subject and hae everything else out of the way.

Import tasks from your companies project management software

Super Productivity allows you to directly import tasks from Jira, GitHub, GitLab and Open Project. This allows you to integrate your personal planning with that of your team.

Get an overview over time via the Timeline

The timeline view offers a quick overview on how your planning might work out over time. Non-scheduled tasks float around scheduled tasks, and you can also show data from your calendar there.

Time sheets & worklogs

There are multiple ways that allow you to export the tracked time in different formats, which might be handy in case you need to report your time worked somewhere.

Productivity Helpers

Break reminder

Reminds you to regularly take breaks. Can be (de)activated on the settings page.

Pomodoro timer

Integrated pomodoro timer if you need some extra focus. Can be activated on the settings page.

Procrastination Helper

Some emergency information about procrastination and some tools to help with it. Can be reached by clicking on the flash button in the top right.

Simple counters

Freely configurable stopwatch and single click counters, to be used for whatever you please. E.g. a coffee counter. Can be configured on the settings page.

Evaluate your work days

Collect simple metrics to get a better grasp at what works for you and what doesn't. Can be filled on the "Finish Day" page and evaluated on the "Metrics" pages.