Review: LifeShaker; or why I like my to-do list shaken, not stirred

LifeShaker, a desktop to-do list application from Funky Cloud, makes adding items to your daily list almost as fun as crossing them off. It’s available for Mac OS X and costs $29 USD.

I’m going to be blunt for a second. Let’s get real… I can use a simple pen and paper to track my daily goals. And that’s how I typically go about writing down all the things I need to track and when to get them done by. So why would I even bother taking a software to-do list application for a test drive? Because it looks cool and makes entering goals into it more fun than a piece of paper. If you’re picky like me, you know a program has got to have something special in it to make me WANT to give it more than a passing glance. And LifeShaker has got that something special that makes me want to use it.

LifeShaker immediately draws you in with its unique interface. The bulk of the window shows you 9 squares, each with a goal or “next action” step for a goal. This innovative grid view allows you to quickly see how many tasks you have without feeling too overwhelmed. The bottom of the screen includes lines for you to add new goals. Click the “plus” button to add your tasks. If your task includes several steps before it’s done, then click the “plus” button in the Steps list to add the steps you need to do before that project is complete and the goal achieved.

As you enter goals and steps, you can assign a category to them that you select and choose. Categories appear in the left hand list, and new ones can get easily added by selecting the Manage Categories button. You can even prioritize your goals by giving them a star.

The three icons on the right side of the window give LifeShaker the edge up over any other to-do list program. LifeShaker comes with a mixer, a fire pit, and a green check mark. If you click on the mixer, the application shakes up all the available tasks in your goals list and randomly places them on the grid. This gives you a fast and fun way to see what you have going on. You can drag and drop a task or a goal onto the fire pit icon to put the task “on the back burner.” This moves the task to the bottom of the list. Consider it a sort of virtual, “I don’t want to do this now” so I’m setting it aside for later. Finally, click on the green check mark to move your goals off the open goals list. Clicking on each icon reveals a fun sound effect that actually made me giggle and smile when I first heard them.

But what if you need to take your list on the road? Does this app expect you to re-write it all down? Nope, the developers even thought of the perfect printing solution. LifeShaker comes with a great built-in print feature that eschews the boring list format of most traditional “to-do” lists. It allows you to print your list out in a unique booklet that includes a quick view of the 9 goals in the grid and detailed checklists inside. This way, you can take your to-do list with you, to the office or on the road, in your back pocket.

Everything in LifeShaker is customizable. You can define your own categories. The system defaults categories to “Home”, but you can create your own categories very easy. I’ve decided to use the “@” system: so all my categories start with an @ sign. I have @home, @work, @phone, etc. This way all my tasks get grouped according to where they need to be done at. You can also set the colors for your categories. I have mine set to a variety of blues, greens, and purples.

So what made me decide that I had to have LifeShaker? Well, a few things actually. I love the way the interface looks. It’s different than many other OS X applications. I like the sound effects. It’s fun to click the shaker and hear the list shake and see how the grid changes. I like how easy it is to work with the program. Within seconds after installation, I was creating categories, making goals and creating steps for those larger than one single task goals that I have. I love that it allows me to plug in whatever type of productivity methodology (like GTD) into the application, instead of pigeon-holing me into a single style. However, ultimately what won me over to using LifeShaker, were the tutorials on the Funky Cloud website. They’re amazing. They clearly and concisely show new users exactly what they can do with this application.

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