Feeling disgruntled with how my task manager Nirvana worked, I continued my quest to find the ideal cross-platform task manager. When an app with a very interesting name was mentioned by someone on Reddit, I dipped in to take a look at Amazing Marvin.
On first running Amazing Marvin, I was impressed by how clean the interface was. The tutorial videos explained the ethos behind the app and at first glance it seemed like a lot could be done with it.
I set up the workspace using a Workflow preset to mimic Nirvana and imported my tasks. This turned out to be a bad move. It quickly overwhelmed me with the mess and I ran away!
The next day, feeling like I should give it a second look, I found the factory reset button and tried again. Setting up with a basic GTD workflow, and then adding my tasks from Nirvana manually, I soon began to see how Amazing Marvin could be the ideal task manager app for me.
Why I Wanted to Switch
I’m a to-do list geek and have been ever since I first read Getting Things Done. Honestly, I don’t think I could survive without one, especially now my life is busier than ever both at work and at home.
A friend said to me “Why don’t you just wing it like I do?”. Yeah, I suppose I could let go and try it that way, but I get the feeling I would quickly descend into chaos, and the whole idea is to be able to dump whatever open loops are in your head and know that you will take care of them, leaving your mind clearer for creative thinking.
I have a solid capture habit. As soon as something pops into my head, or someone asks me to do something, it goes straight into my task manager. No problems there.
But when it comes to actioning tasks, I find I get overwhelmed quite quickly, my inbox builds up, my next actions build up, and I procrastinate and simply don’t get stuff done.
With lot of task areas in my life: household, work, friends, work website, personal website, local trade association, selling unwanted household items, photography, art, writing etc I need something that can help me handle them all in parallel. With multiple projects on the go at once, I need to make gradual progress across the board.
And a major thing is, most task managers don’t take into account the chaos of real life. If I’ve planned to do a bunch of tasks a particular morning, and the baby is up in the night and plans have to change, I need a task manager that can quickly and easily help me through this.
What I Like About Amazing Marvin
Easily schedule tasks
This is the main “yes!” for me . Scheduling a task is so easy. I like the plain English today, tomorrow, next week quick buttons too. They just make sense and when working on mobile, it’s a great way to get on top of a list during some down time. Amazing Marvin moves the task to the Today list on the day it’s scheduled for. You then start each day viewing your Today list.
Everdo and Nirvana would add scheduled tasks to the focus list, but it was a faff to remove the star icon and reschedule them. Whilst it may be a gateway to procrastination, I love having a button to quickly reschedule each task. Marvin also has a procrastination count to show you tasks that you keep rescheduling.
In a similar vein to SparkMail, snoozing tasks is a killer feature. This is especially true for my tasks at work. I may need to call someone, but they are unavailable, or I have a last minute appointment booked and won’t be in the office for an hour. A simple snooze for an hour or two retains the task but gets it out of my sight for the moment so I can concentrate on others.
At home in the early morning, when I view my Today list, the list can sometimes be huge. But at 4am, I can’t dispatch packages, I can’t phone people etc, so snoozing a lot of the items on the list for a number of hours gets them out of the way and reduces overwhelm leaving me to work on clearing the list of things I can do.
I like the Master List in Amazing Marvin. It’s useful to see your whole task list in a nested, organised format. You also have the option of showing or hiding ‘backburner’ tasks. MyLifeOrganized also had a nested list, but I found MLO’s interface ugly and a bit confusing, and in Nirvana and Everdo, it just wasn’t possible to see everything like this.
I like being able to create areas (or categories as they’re called in Marvin). This provides clarity. One of the problems I had with Nirvana/Everdo was that whilst you can create areas, and filter by them, you can only see one area at a time. At home, I don’t really need to see my work area, but at work there are elements of my home area that I would like to see such as errands.
In Marvin I can apply a global filter for wherever I am. So at work, I have my Work category showing, and my Errands category (as whilst out and about at work, there are home-based errands that I can fulfil)
Categories in Marvin can also have sub-categories which helps keep the multiple facets of my work life organised.
Marvin is so customisable it’s insane. Almost to the point of overwhelm. Rather than working on a prescribed ethos (like Everdo and Nirvana are based on GTD), Marvin leaves it open for you to choose how you work. There are features & strategies, workflows, sidebars, bottom bars, buttons, squares… it just goes on, but with a little bit of time setting it up, I’ve got a workflow based on GTD that really works for me now.
I love how clearly the tasks are displayed in nice chunky bars with colours. MLO could add colours, but the tasks just looked like lists. Everdo and Nirvana didn’t have any serious colour coding features, so again the lists looked very ‘listy’.
The Today list (and the other lists) can be set to group items and sort. I like grouping items by category as they’re all colour coded and it keeps it all easy to view. Plus I’ve set more urgent items with close due dates to be at the top of each category.
This was a bit of a surprise. Amazing Marvin has a goal manager. You can add trackers, phases, existing tasks and your goal progress can be shown at the top of the main screen as a constant reminder. I strongly believe that goals belong in a task-manager app, but haven’t seen them implemented as well as they are in Marvin. I love the fact I can see them every day at the top of my screen along with my progress. And again, you can filter goals by categories showing Work goals at work, and Home goals at home. Nice!
The Mobile App
Whilst Marvin on desktop is the way to organise everything, being able to capture, reschedule, and action on the go is also important.
When I first installed Amazing Marvin, the mobile app was a little limited, but they updated it on 9th Jan 2024 to include most of the things I felt were missing on the mobile app. Reminders are much easier to set on mobile, and the snooze feature is also available.
I’ve now got swipe actions for rescheduling and snoozing set up, so a simple swipe and tap is all I need to stay on top of my list on mobile.
Marvin also supports setting a reminder for a task on desktop, and it triggering on your phone. MLO had this, but Everdo and Nirvana’s reminders were mobile only and clunky at best. For me, reminders are so useful. I need a poke to do something when I’m in the thick of it. Sometimes there’s just too much going on to remember.
What I’m Not So Keen On
In the short time I’ve been using Amazing Marvin, my only niggle I have is its speed. It runs a little slow on both Windows and Android at the moment and just doesn’t feel snappy. Maybe the code needs to be tweaked? I don’t know. It’s a minor gripe, and I can live with it considering how it excels in other areas.
I’ve emptied Nirvana of all my tasks and cancelled my subscription. In the short time I’ve been using Amazing Marvin, I feel it’s definitely the right choice for me. My trial period comes to an end at the end of the month, and whilst at $12 a month, it’s more pricey than other task managers I’ve used, I feel it’s worth it to benefit from its features and to support the developers in improving an already great app!