An Interview with Dr. Andus on how WorkFlowy Stacks Up Against other Organizational Apps

This is a guest post by Frank Degenaar, author of the book, “Do Way, Way More in WorkFlowy“.

Today’s interview gives us a peek into, Dr. Andus’s WorkFlowy modus operandi and why it’s such an essential, baked-in part of his life. Dr. Andus, a PhD social science academic, is based in the UK, conducting qualitative research… and has a kick-butt blog, “Dr Andus’s Toolbox” where he dissects and gives us his take on a range of research, outlining, writing and productivity tools. If you’re an academic, his “writing-process” page is an absolute must-see.


FRANK: Dr. Andus, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now. You’re an insanely prolific tinkerer. Could you tell us how you stumbled upon WorkFlowy and what your initial impression was?

DR. ANDUS: You are too kind to associate my obsessive tinkering with insanity. It probably has just as much to do with procrastination as it does the joy of playing with my toys (tinkering with the tools of my trade has also become my hobby). I wouldn’t want to suggest that software tools are necessarily a panacea for all our productivity headaches or that I am a paragon of productivity just because I play with a lot of software tools.

As for WorkFlowy, the first time I heard about it was in September 2012 on the Outliner Software forum (which is where I learnt about most of my writing, outlining and productivity software). I didn’t get the significance of WorkFlowy the first time ’round. However, when six months later I read, again, on the Outliner Software forum that WorkFlowy had just launched an iOS app, it suddenly clicked for me: WorkFlowy might just be that cross-platform solution to my task management and note-taking problems that I had been waiting for all these years! Shortly thereafter I consolidated all my todo lists scattered across a variety of apps and media, and I never looked back… Well, until right now, that is.

FRANK: You’re a social science academic as I read on your blog… and I guess it’s to that end that you’re fixated on “software tools that can help with researching, outlining, writing, and improving personal productivity.” How does WorkFlowy fare in bringing one or more of those things together for you?

DR. ANDUS: Interestingly, WorkFlowy is probably the one tool that I have a purely utilitarian relationship with. This is not to say that I don’t derive enjoyment from using WorkFlowy: but the enjoyment results from it being so darn useful and minimalistic, rather than from playing with its features because they are cool.

But to answer your question: indeed, one of the key strengths of WorkFlowy is that it allows one to “bring things together.” As I mentioned already, the first thing I did with WorkFlowy was to consolidate my many todo lists. For whatever strange reason, I just had real difficulty with developing the discipline of keeping all my todo’s in one place before that. Actually I think the reason was partly due to the individual limitations of all those other tools (besides my own).

FRANK: You’ve really run the gamut of software tools – and you do a thorough job of giving each of them a run for their money. From your hands-on experience, what is it that WorkFlowy does that cannot be replicated in quite the same way in any of the other apps/ tools you’ve given a working over?

DR. ANDUS How is WorkFlowy different? Firstly, thanks to its minimalism, it is most efficient in displaying a list, without any distracting screen elements. Secondly, there is the ability to hierarchically organise the list. Thirdly, the possibility of zooming into an item or a branch is a very powerful way to shut out the noise of the rest of the list (and the world). And for all these reasons, WorkFlowy, as a blank slate (i.e. without much imposed structure), provides a lot of freedom for organising and processing your information. For me, depending on which section I’m looking at and working on, WorkFlowy can be a task manager, a project manager, an outliner, a note-taker, and so on, and often these functions even overlap.

FRANK: Do you think you’ve arrived? Do you think WorkFlowy might be the “chosen one”? Is that even possible? I mean, some people see or use WorkFlowy as a glorified list-maker (the gall!).

DR. ANDUS I am not a believer in the “one-tool-for-everything” approach when it comes to note-taking, outlining, writing, and productivity. I look at these types of tasks in the way a car mechanic might look at a particular engine problem and then choose the most suitable tools for each of the tasks that need to get done. Otherwise one might spend a lifetime searching for the Holy Grail or the perfect Swiss Army Knife of software, while being eternally dissatisfied with whatever tools one is using at the moment. But as far as my current software toolbox is concerned, I do think I have arrived, in the sense that I am happy with my present collection of tools, of which WorkFlowy is an essential part. For a whole range of purposes, WorkFlowy is the “chosen one,” and when it isn’t, it often holds the URL links to the tools I use it in conjunction with, such as Gingko, ConnectedText or Surfulater.


Captain Nemo’s Nautilus – like WorkFlowy – a sum of its parts

FRANK: Could you give us an inside peek into any portion of your list? Maybe related to your academic research, the inner workings of your mind or any setup you’ve got going that could give WorkFlowy users a push in the right direction?

DR. ANDUS: The beauty of WorkFlowy is that, being a blank slate, it allows users to be as simplistic or as complicated as they wish. One doesn’t need to get a PhD in WorkFlowy Studies to be able to use it (though you, Frank, should definitely be awarded one for your book). I belong to the simplistic user category. I am no WorkFlowy power user, although I have been a daily user since March 2013. My method (or non-method) is the following: I imagine that the first (or topmost) line of WorkFlowy represents the surface of the ocean of the present. This is were the most important and most urgent tasks need to rise to in order to be seen, remembered, and acted upon. At the same time, new tasks or notes taken on the fly also start off on the surface, when they are first dropped into it. Then they are either rescued by the lifeguard (me) and get carried out (as tasks) right away, or Captain Nemo (also me) takes them in his submarine to an underwater hideaway (into the bowels of a hierarchical list), to be dealt with later; or they just sink to the bottom of the list eventually through sheer inertia, gravity, and the pressure of the water above.

What I’m trying to say is that my WorkFlowy list is a semi-structured heterogeneous mess—but there is a method to that particular madness. Some bullet points are just individual tasks, while others are de facto folders holding groups of tasks. Then there are others that denote contexts (Home, Work, and so on), while some others serve as Categories. Then I also have items that are remnants of past failed attempts to impose some structure (such as an Inbox with stuff that I haven’t looked at in months, so clearly they weren’t all that important). And I also have various meta branches that hold thoughts about how best to use WorkFlowy or how to motivate myself.

Once in a while I go through the top level branches and shuffle them around according to some new principle. But ultimately what matters is that important or urgent tasks and projects rise to the top of the sea, and that is something I work on every day. Still, it provides a degree of comfort to know that however unimportant a long-sunk task might have been, it’s still waiting for me down there somewhere under a rock at the bottom of the sea, if I ever need to revisit it again.

FRANK: I’ve run into you before on That’s basically a forum for rabid outliner fanatics, right? Do you think WorkFlowy is getting a fair audience there?

DR. ANDUS: The Outliner Software forum is my Mecca, I visit it every day. I’m pretty sure that many of its members and lurkers are WorkFlowy users. How could they not be? WorkFlowy has answered many a prayer that has been uttered there.

Please weigh in (below) with which part(s) of your workflow WorkFlowy excels at….

An Interview With Writer Halsted M. Bernard on Her Work, Using WorkFlowy for Fiction and Writing a Novel in a Month

This is a guest post by Frank Degenaar, author of the book, “Do Way, Way More in WorkFlowy“.

In today’s interview I pick the brains of one of my favorite bloggers, Halsted M. Bernard. You can find and follow her blog at Originally from Northwestern Pennsylvania and currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, Halsted is heading back stateside in January – where she’ll be getting her bearings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her fiction publications are listed here.

FRANK: Here’s your twitter bio:

What would it take on WorkFlowy’s part for you to ditch your nicest of pens? Or is that a habit that’s here to stay?

HALSTED: Great question! Recently I have wrestled with this very issue, because I used Workflowy as a daily planner for a while. A couple of months ago I made the switch back to a paper-and-pen system because I missed using my nice pens. The tactile experience of ticking items off a to-do list is simply too compelling for me. However, I use Workflowy for plenty of other important things!

FRANK: This tweet of yours caught my eye:

Do you have any skeletons in your WorkFlowy closet? I mean, do any of your private thoughts make it in? Also, I’m curious as to where your wormhole would take you.

HALSTED: Workflowy is a creative space for me, but only for fiction. I don’t use it as a journal because I am too in love with fountain pens and creamy paper to give those up. However, I think Workflowy could serve very well as a journal, especially for those of us who make lists of events or feelings we want to remember. And my wormhole would take me to New York City in 1776. (I’m reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton right now.)

FRANK: Here’s how you describe your early writing days: “When I was four years old, I wrote a story about a giant rabbit with no eyes or mouth that haunted my dreams. The rabbit went away, but I kept writing.” Could you tell us about any piece of your work out there in the wild, and how you’d characterize your writing style?

HALSTED: As a writer at the beginning of my career, I’m not sure I can characterise my writing style; I’m still figuring it out. Most of what I write is slipstream fiction, sliding between fantasy and science fiction, and I’m starting to write some interactive fiction as well. Here’s a post about an interactive fiction piece I wrote. I write stories that make me uncomfortable in some way, that prod and pry at the edges of understanding. Memory and forgetfulness play a large part in my writing because I’m so fascinated by what we remember and why we forget. Here is an (audio) excerpt of a story I wrote called “Leftovers” about a chef who can flavour her dishes with her own memories.

FRANK: At this time of year there are a lot of writing apps that join in the NaNoWriMo buzz on social media. I’ve also seen you getting hyped about it. What, basically, is NaNoWriMo… and are you considering using WorkFlowy to get the job done?

HALSTED: NaNoWriMo is this bizarre, wonderful, horrible, inspiring, demoralising, joyous challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I found out about it over a decade ago and tried it. I failed spectacularly, only managing 1,329 words. I’ve tried it several times now but have never made it past 10,000 words. This year, though, I have a secret weapon: Workflowy. I admit to skipping ahead to the book-writing chapter in “Do Way, Way More in Workflowy” for exactly this reason. Recently I devised a Workflowy template to help me sort through some structural problems I am having with one of my stories. I’d like to share it with your readers in case anyone else finds it useful. Here’s the template – in a shared WorkFlowy list.

[Here’s a screenshot of just the collapsed (sibling) lists which Halsted has shared with us. It is an incredible resource (with additional references) that you absolutely have to take a look at. Go ahead and embed the list into your WorkFlowy document!]:

FRANK: Do you have any personal writing tips for those who are thinking about taking the plunge this year? Is it even possible to write 50,000 words in a month?

HALSTED: It is absolutely possible to write 50,000 words in a month. Someone I know wrote 50,000 words in a third of that time, although she does not recommend it and won’t be repeating that performance. The key to NaNoWriMo is quantity, not quality. I’m hoping that the breakneck pace will help to shut my inner editor up, as there is simply no time to worry about writing well. My only tip for NaNoWriMo is to write. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says it is preposterous to attempt such a feat. It is preposterous, which is exactly why we should try. Writing should not be a safe enterprise.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what Halsted has shared with us in the comment section below… and if you’d like to share the love with any NaNoWriMo tips or templates, you could do that here and/ or email me at frankman777(at)

Also… If you have online footprints and a WorkFlowy story to tell, please drop me a line for post ideas or your very own interview ;-)

WorkFlowy People

This is a guest post from Frank Degenaar, author of the book, “Do Way, Way More With WorkFlowy“.

In a couple of days I’ll post the first of a series of interviews about WorkFlowy. I’ll be chatting to some notable WorkFlowy users who’ll be sharing how they squeeze what out of WorkFlowy. There are some interesting folk lined up – but at the end of the day, they’re just like you and I. We’re all about WorkFlowy.

Over the next weeks and months I’ll be rubbing shoulders with many more of you WorkFlowy fans. If you think you’ve got a unique WorkFlowy perspective or a story to tell, please drop me a line at

So as not to leave you empty-handed today, and since I’m the one writing this post, I guess I’ll have to go ahead and interview myself then:

FRANK 1: Hi Frank 2, thanks for allowing me to interview you.

FRANK 2: The pleasure is all mine. Hey… why do you get to be Frank 1?

FRANK 1: Moving on… I wanted to ask you – If there was any one dynamic that you could pull directly out of your book and shamelessly promote to all of us, what would it be? Would you mind if I shared it on the WorkFlowy blog?

FRANK 2: Sure. It’s definitely got to be what I call, “List Title Tags“. Although it’s not exactly a WorkFlowy breakthrough, without it, navigating my WorkFlowy document would be way slower:

List Title Tags – from A to B that much faster

At the time of writing I’ve been watching Star Trek: DS9. The space station, Deep Space Nine, is located near the mouth of a recently discovered Bajoran wormhole, which allows access to the distant Gamma Quadrant. This wormhole makes passage from the Alpha Quadrant to the Gamma Quadrant – a distance of 70,000 light years – almost instantaneous (whereas it would ordinarily take a Federation starship 67 years to go the distance). The Bajoran wormhole is the only known stable wormhole in the Milky Way Galaxy with a terminus (mouth) located in both quadrants.

This is a picture of what I call “List Title Tags”. I usually put a tag in a parent list “terminus” and another in a child list “terminus” buried a number of lists deep. This tag might either substitute the title of a list or add an “@” to a keyword in the list title to modify it. When one engages (clicks on) a tag in a parent list, it will connect you to a tag in a child list, no matter how deep in the hierarchy. Then one simply clicks on the bullet of the child list to zoom in. Just like the Bajoran wormhole, these tags are “stable” in the sense that I keep them as permanent “terminuses”.

Below you will see a portion of my task list for @TODAY, ordered by priority. By looking at the breadcrumb navigation bar at the top of the image, you’ll notice that it would have taken 4 clicks to get here by clicking on one list at a time starting from the home page:

Another instance of this tag is found on the home page – which actually substitutes the list title of my list where all my actionable items are tucked away. It represents one of the most frequently visited children lists therein:

When I click on the @TODAY tag (not the bullet point) on my home page, I get the following filtered search results:

You’ll see 3 @TODAY  List Title Tags which are 3 of the contexts/ lists I visit daily within this parent list:

  • My Kanban Calendar (for general task management)
  • My journal for “thinking about thinking”
  • A health log, containing a record of exercise routine, etc.

So it’s one click on my home page to get to the above search result… and from there, not only will it take just a second click to get to to my task list for today… but also I have a tailor-made menu to cherry-pick from.

I hope a light went on with this simplest of hacks. This focuses specifically on how tags help to navigate one’s established nested hierarchies of lists – the architecture you’ve set up for the broad categories: we know where our lists are, but we just want to get there effortlessly. These tags are permanent fixtures, until you decide to restructure things, that is.

FRANK 1: Ummm… OK. Thanks for that. I think that will be all for now.

Frank And His WorkFlowy Book

WorkFlowy Book Cover

Frank, from, has written a 254 page book about WorkFlowy! How cool is that? The book, “Do Way, Way More in WorkFlowy“, is entertaining and crammed full of WorkFlowy tidbits. He describes using it with different productivity systems, extending it with external tools and a lot of stuff in between. As one of the creators of WorkFlowy, I found the book interesting, so you should be able to learn from it even if you’re an advanced user. Check it out.

After looking the book over I thought, “Wow, Frank is a prolific, entertaining writer and he seems to really enjoy WorkFlowy. Maybe I should see if he wants to write on the blog.” We talked, and lo and behold, Frank starts blogging in a few days. He’ll include some content from the book as well as original stuff. We shall see where it leads, hopefully up and to the right :)

Anyway, welcome Frank! Thanks for investing in WorkFlowy!

What We’re Work(Flowy)ing On

Hello WorkFlowians. This is your friend Jesse. We haven’t written anything on this blog in quiiite a while, so I’m gonna do that now. I’ll try to do it somewhat regularly, and perhaps share more of what we’re working on so you can see what is going on, know that there’s activity, give feedback along the way.

For starters, a short post about what I’m personally working on and our goals.

Today’s Immediate Goals

  1. I want to write a blog post, I feel I owe you all an update.
  2. I fixed an iOS9 bug yesterday and today I’m hoping to release that fix. In order to do so, I need to create a bunch of new launch images for the app because something got borked about those, and now the app won’t launch with the full height of the device.
  3. If I get that done (unlikely), I’m gonna move on to my current big picture project, which is improving our conversion rate from shared WorkFlowy documents, basically finishing up a first experiment on this stuff.

Short Term Goals

Our primary short term focus is increasing the effectiveness of our sharing flow. Sharing a WorkFlowy document constitutes the simplest way for people to spread the word about WorkFlowy, beyond saying “I love WorkFlowy” all the time to all their friends. (Which you should definitely, definitely do. We recommend screaming “I love WorkFlowy” at least three times a day. Especially if you work in an open office).

Regardless, we have never optimized this part of the product, which leaves a bunch of big opportunities.

We’re starting by focusing on the experience of someone new to WorkFlowy.  When Stewart, who has never seen WorkFlowy, receives a link from his co-worker Leshika, We want Stewart to feel welcomed, ushered in and taken care of. We want to show him around the place, make him feel at home. Hopefully Stewart loves the experience, sticks around and shares WorkFlowy with others.

Big Picture Goals

We want WorkFlowy to reach its potential. The product could be so much more amazing, and we just want it to get there. We’ve realized recently that our current trajectory won’t get us there, because development is just too slow and there’s too much to do. So we’ve been thinking hard, talking to people, and examining numbers to figure out a route forward. We’re close to the growth and revenue we’ll need to build a small but great team, and that’s what we’re plugging away on.

Okay, I’m gonna get to work now.

Flowin’ With Butterscotch

What follows is a guest post from Seth Coster, whose studio makes awesome games. I had the misfortune of downloading one of his games, and, I’m not kidding, it took over my life for a while. You probably shouldn’t play Flop Rocket unless you really want to get addicted, stay up late playing it, neglect your family, stop showering and other terrible things!

Hey, readers! Seth Coster from Butterscotch Shenanigans here. We’re a three-man game studio (and family business) based out of St. Louis and Dallas. We’ve launched four major titles on iOS and Android: Flop Rocket, Quadropus Rampage, Roid Rage, and Towelfight 2. Our games have accumulated over 4 million players to date.


Now we’re working on a huge game called Crashlands, which contains dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay, narrative, and lots of complex systems, including crafting and creature taming. Crashlands is big enough that we needed a seriously flexible and useful collaborative project management tool to make it happen, and that tool JUST SO HAPPENS… to be Workflowy. 

The Old Way

When our studio was first formed two years ago, we had never handled projects of the magnitude of games. So when we looked for project and task management software, we didn’t know what to get. After trying out a bunch of stuff that was pretty rigid and generally forced us into a particular way of doing things, we got fed up and just resorted to using a shared Google Doc for all our project management.

It was great to have essentially a blank sheet of paper to work with, where we could put everything where we needed and organize it as we liked.

We just added tasks to the bottom of the doc, and as we completed stuff, we’d cut/paste those completed tasks into our game’s patch notes, which were logged just above. This gave us a record of all we had done, and a consolidated spot to store our tasks. Over time, though, this approach got incredibly cumbersome. As the doc grew, it involved a tremendous amount of scrolling up and down, ctrl+F searching, and scanning for what to do next. 

Then, we stumbled across Workflowy. AND EVERYTHING CHANGED.

The Better Way

Workflowy allowed us to maintain our old approach — putting stuff wherever we wanted, organizing things at will, and keeping a record of our patch notes — while also removing literally every problem we had previously been having.

The fact that we now have nested lists means we can keep every project in one place, instead of a separate doc for each, and just visit each list as we are working on things in that area.


Instead of having to cut and paste completed tasks, we can now just drag them into their appropriate changelogs, and then minimize those changelogs for later viewing. And if we complete a smaller task that we don’t need a record of, we just mark it as complete, and it shoots off into the ether of the interweb, never to be heard from again.

We also developed an “inbox” system, through which we can give urgent tasks to one another. For non-urgent items, we just add tasks on a project basis and tag each other appropriately. If I ever want to see just my part of a project, I just type my name into the search bar at the top, and BOOM! A customized, nested list of everything I have on my plate.

All in all, having Workflowy has streamlined the crap out of our process and made our game development dramatically easier. Anyone working on a mid-size to small team (or even solo) who wants to make awesome things happen… get on this train. It’s going places.

Thanks, Workflowy team!

A Useful Hack for Repeated Tasks in WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy user Gwynn was trying to add the following as a comment to the post about using tags for dates. She had trouble, so she emailed us. I thought it looked good, so I’m just adding a post :) Thanks Gwynn!!!

To simulate repeating tasks I add a tag to indicate when an item must be repeated (#weekly, #monthly, #annually). When I’ve finished a task I don’t use the Complete button but rather update the #d-yyyy-mm-dd tag to the next due date. Once my date tag is updated the task no longer shows up in my date searches and so it drops off my radar until next time.

e.g. 1

open pool #d-2015-05 #annually

When I’ve completed opening the pool I don’t mark the item as completed but instead update the date tag to #d-2016-05 because I’m using an #annually tag.

Since the tag is updated it will no longer show up in a #d-2015 search (nor a #d-2015-05 search).

e.g. 2

change furnace filter #d-2015-02-13 #monthly

If I’m on top of things and change the filter on the 13th I will update the date tag to #d-2015-03-13 since that’s a month away.

If I don’t get around to changing the filter until the 25th (instead of the 13th like originally planned) I will update the month portion *and* the day portion so that the next time I do a filter check is roughly a month later. So the date tag will become #d-2015-03-25.

You can do a #annual or #monthly search to see what tasks fall under those tags. Also, since you don’t ever actually Complete a task it doesn’t disappear so you can describe in detail what steps to follow without losing them when the task is complete. I find this very useful as I can create a bare bones entry that I can refine over time as I actually do the tasks.

I hope this is information is useful to you.