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To-do or Not To-do–And how should I track it?

on October 29, 2013

I have always been a list maker.  I find serenity in writing down the tasks I need to accomplish and making a plan for their completion.  Simply getting them out of my head leaves more room for important thoughts for the day and help me focus on what the important things–being in the moment and enjoying life, but also really paying attention to what the people around me are saying or doing whether at home or at work.  Sometimes, it is hard for me to focus when my thoughts are swirling around everything I need to get done today or this week or next month.  I also find immense joy in crossing things off of that list.  It is so rewarding to look back and see all that one has accomplished and helpful to see what still needs done.  But, what is the most effective list making tool?  Do you use old school paper lists?  Do you track your items on an App on your phone?  Do you use your daily calendar to mark what needs done and when?  I don’t think I have the best answer to this question, but I have found some ways lists work best for me.

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My list of scheduled events or activities is kept on a Gmail calendar that I can update online or on my phone.  You can read about it here.  My cleaning routine is pretty well ingrained in my daily life now, so I don’t really track it anymore—keep reading to hear more about this.  So, basically my to-do lists are for two different purposes—work and non-work.  I have tried keeping track of everything in one place on lists in my ARC systems, both the big and small ones on laminated sheets with wet erase markers.  I have tried keeping a small notebook in my purse or work bag to track the same.  Neither of these seemed to work all that well.  I think over time, I realized I cannot keep my work and non-work lists together necessarily, because they are both quite long and looking at them both is overwhelming.  Plus, I need them in two different places.  My work lists generally stays at work, while my non-work list needs to be very mobile and at my fingertips.  I feel like I have come up with a great way to track my non-work tasks, but I am still working on the best solution for my at work tasks.

1)  For my non-work to do list, I have found that I really like using apps on my phone.  They are then mobile and easily accessed.  I have tried a few different phone apps to track to do items.  I really like these because if something pops into my head, I can immediately type it into my phone, assign it a due time, and then promptly forget it and focus on the task at hand.  This is very important for me.  Have you ever been deep into a task and all of the sudden something pops into your head that you know needs done but doesn’t need done now and if you don’t write it down chances are you’ll forget about it until two days later?  Well, that happens to me all the time.  So, being able to quickly jot that piece of info down somewhere it won’t get lost and that is handy is a lifesaver for me.

How I use to-do apps:  The to-do list I keep in the apps really only pertains to the stuff outside of my normal routine.  For example, today I have:  fix sock drawer (it’s bugging me), pull flowers past their season, carve pumpkins, finish updating address book, etc.  These are usually personal tasks that I want to accomplish.

Apps I use:  First of all, I very rarely actually pay money for apps, so the ones I have used are all free.  In the past, I used Remember the Milk–which is really nice to set up recurring events.  Over time, though I found that I wasn’t really using the app much because I had become comfortable with my weekly routine and no longer needed a visual reminder to clean the bathrooms on Tuesdays or vacuum the floors on Thursdays.  Plus, the daily emails I was getting were cluttering up my inbox.  It is a nice app with many merits though and could be useful to others.  The app I am trying out right now is called Anydo.  I really like the simplicity of this app.  I can schedule items for today, tomorrow, upcoming, or someday.  I can schedule the items at specific times and the app send me a reminder on my phone (not email).  I also found that if I turn my phone on its side, I see a calendar view which incorporates the events from my Gmail/phone calendar.  I just thought that was the coolest thing.  The app also sends me a reminder every morning to plan my day–which I could honestly do without but isn’t terribly annoying.  One other feature I really like is that it tracks my “done” tasks.  I can go back and look at all of the things I have accomplished–which you can’t really do with paper lists that are typically thrown away upon completion (or when a new list is made).  You can also decide if the tasks are personal or work related–which I haven’t really done yet.  There are other settings, but these are the ones I find most helpful.  So far, I really like this free little app.  I also found it sends you coupons when you accomplish goals–which was an interesting surprise.

2)  My work to-do list.  This is a tough one.  My job has many different aspects to it, as many of ours do.  And, keeping track of each task, email to answer, phone call to return, report to write, has been a struggle.  I am still working on finding the best way to do this.  Up until today, I had been using the old fashioned paper pencil list.  I cross off what I get done during the day and add whatever isn’t done to the list I make at the day’s end for the next day.  While this works ok, I feel like it is #1 a waste of paper and #2 a bit inefficient.  I wanted to find a way to have the list displayed on my desktop screen and have it be portable to see when I am out traveling around the city or in the building away from my desk meeting with colleagues.  I did a little research and stumbled upon Wunderlist.  It is a program that I can update online and also use on my phone!  So, I can have the online version open on my desktop during the work day and still carry the list around on my phone as needed.  I was able to sync from my computer to my phone and the other way around–just what I wanted!! I am currently liking that I can see/update my list in multiple places and I was able to choose my own background.  You can also make separate lists for personal, work, shopping, movies to watch or make your own list—all kept in one place—which could be very handy to some folks. I can set a due date and/or a reminder, add subtasks, and take notes for each task which will be really helpful for my work items.  I hope this is going to work as well in real life as I think it will in my head.

I am very excited to have my Gmail calendar, Anydo personal to-do list, and Wunderlist work to-do list all working together to keep me more together.  Is there anything out there that you absolutely love using to organize your to-do lists?  I am always open to suggestions!

P.S.  Ok.  So I’ve lived with both of these apps for a few weeks now, and I LOVE them!  I really do enjoy having my lists separated, and that both apps provided functions that fit my varying needs.  Wunderlist has been great because it syncs easily from my phone or computer, and I can have a portable list to carry with me or I can display it right there on my computer desktop to see.  Anydo is great because it gives me fun noises and words of encouragement as I complete tasks, which comes in handy when some of them include cleaning the shower, doing laundry, or grocery shopping–yuck!  I also enjoy that both apps track the amount of tasks I have completed, and I can go back and look at my list of completed tasks so that I can bask in the glory of all that has been accomplished!  Woohoo!


2 responses to “To-do or Not To-do–And how should I track it?

  1. […] finally, I worked on organizing my calendars and to-do lists.  Mainly I had trouble because I had too many of them–between paper and electronic I […]

  2. […] will be easier now that there isn’t a pile of books on top of it).  I do still use some on phone apps to help track some long range projects as well or as reminders for errands/special tasks when I’m not right […]

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