How Do You Do Your To-Do?

Posted in House and Home, Life, Technology by Sarah on September 15, 2010

I Wish!

Last week I got a plea for help: I have a lot to do and need to keep it all organized, do you know of a good system?

This got me thinking about how I manage and maintain all of my daily, weekly, and monthly lists of To-Do’s. I realized just how much a well-thought out to-do management system can make me more effective and productive – and even help me find time to relax!

So how do you do your to-do? Some people use scratch pads or commercial To-Do notepads (I used to love these, pictured left).  Others use lots of post it notes stuck to the inside of their glasses case (you know who you are!).  Some write email reminders to themselves.  Still others go whole-hog and use comprehensive life-organizing systems like David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”

Over the years, my own organizational system has changed and evolved. As my own methods change, I’ve found that the important thing is finding something that works for you.  Something that you know you can stick to.  For example, if you write emails to yourself but constantly disregard them, that’s probably a sign your current system is not working for you.

Don't be Forgetful Jones!

One easy solution for those on-the-go is using spreadsheets from Google Docs. You can create separate tabs for the different areas where you have things to do (work, home, school, bills, car, etc…).   Because Google Docs are “cloud-computing” based, you can get to your To Do lists from anywhere that has internet access, including your smartphone.  So if I suddenly remember I’ve got an errand to run while I’m heading to work, I can take a second and add that to my to-do list, wherever I am (and not risk being Forgetful Jones).

Other electronic-based solutions include apps like Remember the Milk or Simplenote.  The CEO of Twitter also recently tweeted his solution du jour: if you’ve got a camera-phone, take a picture of what you need to remember and save it as your phone’s wallpaper.  I’m a bit dubious of this one, but he at least gets points for creativity!

More traditional folks may prefer a planner, a big calendar or even color-coded index cards.

If you’ve found a solution that works for you, please do share!


5 Responses

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  1. mary jo said, on September 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Well, having observed the person with the “post-it notes” in the eyeglass case for over 20 years, I have to say with only one very recent exception, it seems to be a flawless system!!!!

  2. Elizabeth said, on September 15, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Oh boy – I love organization! Man I’m a nerd. I have one system generally that involves lists left strategically places where I will accomplish the tasks. One is usually at work, one is at home, and one is in my purse (normally stuck to the current book in there). And I ALWAYS have a pen on hand. Meredith can attest to the one she saw stuck to my desk each day two years ago. It changed about every day or two. For those tech savvy folks, however, you might try this: One downside is the lack of categorizing that we love about spreadsheets or separate lists.
    Perhaps I will give the spreadsheet a try…

  3. steve said, on September 15, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Very pertinent subject. Good job. One thing I’ve noticed about (my) to-do lists over the years, is the need to go back and check certain “done’s” (eliza is that an errant apostrophe?), actions taken, numbers written down, flight flown, blah, blah.

    I love the cloud idea and digitally accessing a calendar from anywhere, but that also has its drawback. Finishing a meeting last week I was with a relatively high-level person from an organization and was inviting her to speak at an event. She was delighted but needed to check her calendar, which was accessed by her “smart” phone. Only, she couldn’t quite get reception from where we were. It took about 7 minutes for her to access the clouds to respond and neither of us had the time for idle chit/chat while her phone was searching. It was awkward.

    Hence, over the years I end up using several methods. One is the trusty handwritten agenda, small one day per page or one week per two pages. Small, just for must do’s to schedule. For things I really don’t want to forget, I’ll add them to my ICal, which is then synced (via clouds) to all my devices, alarms, emails, the works remind me.

    Then, in the front of the hand agenda (or I’ve made them), I keep a yearly calendar. Sometimes a separate book, very small, very thin (one page per month). In the yearly, I keep track of events that I like to refer to — even from year to year. For tax reasons, I needed in the past to keep track of trips and still find that tracking the dates in this easy manner is most helpful. I also track things like when I get a haircut, change the toothbrush head, change the Brita filter at the kitchen sink, when teeth are cleaned,…etc., all on the month/year summary. When it’s easy to go back and reference key actions, it just makes life so to-doable.

    Oh, and then there are the post-a-notes on the kitchen counter. Those notes that say (scream), “steve, please don’t forget to do this (again).”

    Still, as good intentioned as the to-do lists are, it’s amazing to me how often I’m carrying forward a portion of the “to-do’s” to “will-do’s sometime later’s.”

    So there you have it, to-do’s past, present, and future.

    • Elizabeth said, on September 16, 2010 at 8:56 am

      Steve – that was an errant apostrophe in above comment (along with others). Though my existential side likes the idea of “accessing clouds” so that might make up for said errors.

  4. skf115 said, on September 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Elizabeth, thanks for commenting. I’ll indeed need to add the ‘study of correct apostrophe use’ on (many) future to-do lists. With a sorely limited existential side, I seem to access clouds only when they so heavily surround me, that lights are needed. (or red pens).

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