The merits of maintaining a second, dynalist-dedicated smart phone

This post is long, summary: Get a cheap second phone, keep dynalist running in the foreground 100% of the time and have (almost nothing else) on this phone. Keep this phone with you at all times to have instant, zero-load-time access to your entire dynalist account.

Recently I have been playing around with maintaining two phones: one dedicated entirely to dynalist, and one for everything else. While this might seem wacky, I think it is better to think of the second ‘phone’ as a pda, or as the equivalent of a paper diary.

This is probably only necessary for those who really manage their day to day life (including errands, to dos, personal project management etc) in dynalist and who need a mobile, responsive platform for rapid input of to dos (e.g. spouse asks ‘Can you do X, Y, Z later dear?’, ideas, etc and rapid output of what needs doing right now etc … If you are interested in running your life (and maintaining a manual calendar) in side dynalist, see this post of mine:

Unfortunately for these purposes Dynalist on mobile, and workflowy before it are not up to the task. While they are fine (great even) for deep work, the load time (even if only 5-10 seconds) is far too long for a snappy to-do recording. This will of course get better when they introduce email-to-dynalist, but anyone who runs their life in dynalist will still I believe find huge benefit in having full, instant access to your dynalist account without load times.

Through playing with this process there are several hitches that I have had to overcome and find solutions to. Without these solutions, the dynalist phone can be more annoying than helpful, but with them, it really is wonderful thing. Everything I talk about from hereon is android focused, but I am sure similar things can be found for apple devices.

Problem 1. No internet on dynalist phone.
The lack of internet on the second phone can cause major issues with your dynalist phone being out of sync with dynalist on your laptop etc … in my opinion you need internet on the second phone constantly if possible. You could get a cheap second sim (you would hardly need any data and can get this for roughly £4 per month) to put in your dynalist phone, but there’s no need to waste this money. Instead I have taken the approach of automating my first phone to provide a wifi hotspot for my dynalist phone every time I leave home or work. For this I use the excellent and free ‘Llama’ app which is able to learn your home, work etc based on your location and, whenever you leave these, turn the wifi off on your main phone and turn hotspot on (and the reverse when you return to these places) - the dynalist phone instantly and automatically connects to phone 1 and never loses internet. I have been using this for a couple of weeks and it works like a dream. This also barely drains battery on the first phone at all and hardly costs any data either.

Problem 2. The mobile dynalist app is too slow anyway At least for me the actual android dynalist app is unusably slow at the momnt - if this is the case for you I recommend using the chrome browser, which is the fastest for dynalist I have come across on mobile. To get a pseudo-app version, navigate to your dynalist page on chrome (on your dynalist phone) and go into the menu then click ‘Add to homescreen’. This creates a full-screen version of chrome dynalist without the chrome-browser search bar, giving you more screen space … this of course doesn’t store your data offline, but as long as you keep dynalist in ram all the time (this just means not opening other apps, which is actually easy) it will never have to reload / lose data (any way if you follow the solution above it will be constantly syncing to the cloud).

Problem 3. Carrying two phones around is annoying and I keep leaving my dynalist phone on the side and losing it. Agreed! This can be made substantially less annoying with a dual-phone case like this one, which you can get in various sizes for different screen sizes:

I have been using this for a couple of weeks and after developing the habit of always replacing my phones into this pouch this problem has entirely disappeared - my dynalist phone is always within reach.

Problem 4. It is still much slower to make to do items on my dynalist phone than with e.g. todoist There are a few tricks to speed things up on mobile dynalist. Firstly, get the swype keyboard app. I prefer this to swiftkey as you can create your own ‘words’ very easily, which can include tags like @Today. Secondly, to make a to do item (or quick note, or whatever) just write it literally wherever you find yourself when you open up dynalist and then move it (i.e. don’t navigate to where you want to go to write the note) - store your most used move locations like @Inbox in swype or your preferred keyboard for rapid sending.

Ok, now we have an always-to-hand, zero load time, rapid entry device for getting things into dynalist. Here are a few more tips to make the most of it. Firstly, design your bookmarks and ‘home page’ in dynalist to work best for mobile - it is on mobile, when out and about that you are going to need speed the most, so the shortcuts you use most ON MOBILE should be at the top of your bookmarks bar - for me these are @Today, @Inbox, @Tomorrow, @Ideas, @Shopping etc …

Now, reminders:
I regularly make reminders for myself to do something (e.g. put a wash on, or whatever) throughout the day. With this approach I believe you can entirely dispense of a reminder app like todoist. Firstly make sure your dynalist phone has google calendar and has calendar syncing. Also make sure you have a calendar app with pop ups which allow you to snooze or dismiss items (business calendar 2 is a favourite of mine). Now, active google calendar syncing and when you want to remind yourself of something, do it directly in dynalist with date / time stamps. These won’t appear instantly (or if you are offline), but you can be certain they will appear on your google calendar within 5 minutes if you have even fleeting internet access, which is perfectly fine for my needs.

Next, get the wonderful ‘Calendar Notify’ app. This provides a highly-customisable ongoing notification in android showing your google calendar appointments for that day (it can be however many days you want of course). Wherever you are in dynalist, pulling down the notifications menu will now show you this calendar with everything you have stamped in dynalist for today. In GTD fashion I now stamp everything that HAS to be done that day (Allen’s ‘hard landscape’) - when used in this way, this pull down notification provides an invaluable snapshot of the hard landscape of your day … there is a setting in this calendar app to ‘hide’ (effectively dismiss) events, so you can ‘check off’ things which are done.

(PS. With this approach I recommend making recurring reminders (and birthdays etc) on your google calendar which can also be made to show up on the ‘Calendar Notify’ ‘Today’ pane so you never miss a thing)

(PPS. Another great android app is ‘Quick event’ which brings up a Google calendar ‘Event creation’ dialogue box overlay (So doesn’t swap out the dynalist app) - it has really good natural language processing so is really fast - these are added to your calendar offline and will appear on the Calendar notify pane instantly / offline - so you could have a second ‘reminder’ calendar (with red colour, for example) if you wanted)

(PPPS. ANOTHER great app is ‘notification shortcuts’ which allows you to put a bunch of shortcuts right on your notification pane (Such as the quick event shortcut for example)) so that again you never need to leave dynalist.

If you are in a rush and want to make a reminder I recommend just doing it wherever you are in dynalist. If you have the time, send it to @Today or @Inbox (or whatever you use) so you can clean them up later … but really a few miscellaneous reminders hanging around isn’t a big deal - when you come across them later you can just delete them then.

This ‘Today’ notification pane really was a game changer for me - it is effectively a glimpse at your day, wherever you currently are in dynalist - and it doesn’t need you to leave the dynalist app, so it will never reload, and takes far less RAM than a floating widget (which I also tried and gave up on).

So this really covers it I suppose. Get a cheap second phone, load up full-screen chrome dynalist, keep it front and central at all times (I recommend having no lock screen on this phone also to speed things up further, but that’s up to you of course). Keep this phone with you at all times to have instant, zero-load-time access to your entire dynalist account. Enjoy!


thanks @Stephen_Dewitt these are all great ideas :slight_smile:

however I have a different view on using my phone as a productivity device though

Since I can do things on my computer significantly faster than on my phone, my phone is mostly a dedicated “I’m bored let me look at reddit / social media” phone. For me its a always a question of “Whats the best use of my time currently?”

Consequently, if I travel as well, I never do any work while travelling. I catch up reading on my favorite authors, etc

The only time I ever use dynalist on mobile is when I want to explain / share some notes with someone I am talking too, because I have images and gifs on there too


Hey Vincent, yes I totally get some might not need this at all. I don’t do professional work on my phone but do personal work / things I share with my spouse (e.g. finding a new home, organising a holiday etc etc) and for me these things happen at unpredictable times and can’t wait to get back to a computer … probably some will have a similar lifestyle.

I totally agree with doing the right work at the right time if possible to maximise efficiency :slight_smile:

Thanks for that. Some Japanese developed apps like MemoFlowy that enabled quick entry into Workflowy from the notification bar. I will write to them and seek their interest in developing something similar for Dynalist. Otherwise, your work arounds look promising.

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yes I would really like a fast easy way of adding notes from outside dynalist + specifying some way of moving that to a document / anything that you can normally use with ctrl+shift+m

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That would be awesome, I used memoflowy a lot - the templates were a wonderful thing too!

the app is unusable at the moment, agree.
Ive tried to use it but its impossible to check some data in your smartphone…

Thanks for reminding me to whitelist Dynalist from doze (mode?) on Android.

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Not sure what you mean by this - do you mean there’s a way of maintaining dynalist in the foreground on android even when swapping between apps? or have I got the wrong idea? I’ve searched for things like this but never had any success

While I can’t guarantee success, because I’ll probably need to test this over the span of a few hours, you should have the right idea.

What I used to love about Android is that you could return to an app and it wouldn’t refresh unless you restarted it, which is great if you needed to fill in form and take info from another app. IOS used to be a PITA, because it would refresh apps all the time. But it seems like iOS and Android have crossed paths, and now you can open any app in the former a day later and it’ll open to where you left off. (so I guess maybe getting an iPod would be worth the investment?)

So what I’ve done is searched for doze in settings, tapper on battery optimization (twice) and then adjust the filter to show apps that are optimized and tap on them to remove them from that list (they can easily be added back later).

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I would pay $500 without a second thought if I had some technological way to keep a list, filter it, and input to it effortlessly. So far the dozens of platforms I’ve spent hours fiddling with all have major annoyances that just don’t work well. To be honest, a sheet of blank paper + a frixion pen is currently the best technological option at the moment. I currently also use a spiderweb of Dynalist Pro (though I cancelled it because I kept typing “!” into the Send to Inbox box only to remember it’s not supported there [jk i uncancelled its actually pretty good anyway]), iPad Pro’s instant notes from lock screen, memoflowy for workflowy, Todoist IFTTT/Zapier pipeline, OneNote Zapier pipeline. But let me tell you, money is the least of my concern, I’ve probably burned 100 hours fiddling with notetaking technology. A scroll of Papyrus, still the technological leader 5000 years later…

A device that only runs notes is definitely on my shopping list if it exists. I got a Windows 10 tablet to keep OneNote open but Microsoft really makes it hard to disable the lock screen, and the last time they patched the hack I was using I just tossed the tablet in the goodwill bin and got an iPad Pro

Have you tried the Dynawrite Android app, by the same people who made memoflowy?

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That looks fantastic. I will try it once i figure out how to set a dynalist password. Dynawrite doesnt support google login.

Update: Reset password in dynalist let me set a password.

I just paid for ad-free Dynawrite, it’s pretty useful, much better input than the dynalist app currently has. Thanks!

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I;m old school, “raised” on GTD notetaker wallet. They stopped making them and getting new pads is possible but I thought it’s a great time to see if, finally, my phone can become my inbox.

I’m using Google Keep, with the 3x1 widget on the home screen. That widget includes the Pen option, to write with your finger, and so far…works pretty good :slight_smile:

On this ‘Inbox’ note, I have recently moved to a system where my inbox (on Todoist) is completely disconnected from where I keep my actual lists (Dynalist). While part of the reason for this is the rapidity you can get things into Todoist, another major reason is that I am forced by necessity with this system to sort my inbox every day in case I miss something, something I have had the tendency to let lapse for years - this also forces my brain to ‘re-process’ it (as copy paste is clumsy from todoist to dynalist, I re-type them all), rather than just tag and file with minimal engagement. It’s working well for me :slight_smile:

Ah yes, the triage zone method. I was once hopeful like you. But it eventually got neglected and too big and I went weeks without looking at any of it. At that point I change platforms entirely, which forced me to go though each item.

I have accepted that I will always neglect an inbox, and so I just keep everything in my inbox, and tag every input, and have a link to search for untagged items in case I missed any. Now instead of any organization whatsoever, I click tags. Tags for priority #1 to #9, tags for @home, tags for #fun. If I am never in the context of the tag of an item, then that item will never be seen by me ever again, and I can accept that.

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