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19 Aug

A to-do list? Certainly, but in what format?

Datum: 2009-08-19 22:43

A cen­tral part of a well struc­tured, per­son­al work rou­tine set­up is a to-do list.

By that, I mean a list that you use over a long peri­od of time, rather than write a new list every morn­ing. A gath­ered list over all that you have to do, dis­tinct­ly defined and with tasks that are ade­quate in size, gives you an easy and quick overview over what tasks you are respon­si­ble for. 

That makes it pos­si­ble for you to con­cen­trate on your cur­rent task with­out mean­while keep­ing sev­er­al oth­er tasks in your mind. Besides, it will give you a kick of sat­is­fac­tion every time you will be able to check off some­thing on your list.

But in what for­mat should you keep the to-do list? Well, that is a mat­ter of taste. Here are six suggestions:

  1. The Tasks”-function in Out­look

    Our most com­mon e‑mail appli­ca­tions all have con­ve­nient func­tions for han­dling to-do-lists. If a large part of your work­day is spent by the com­put­er this is an excel­lent alter­na­tive. It is easy to cat­e­go­rize the tasks by con­text, cus­tomer or project. It is also easy to sort them any­way you want to. You are able to add a due date and be remind­ed when you will have to start with the task.

    If you have a smart­phone you can syn­chro­nize it with your desk­top (depend­ing on your com­bi­na­tion of phone and e‑mail appli­ca­tion, though) and in that way you will be able to car­ry the list with you when you are out of the office.

  2. Web ser­vice

    If you are a fan of web based solu­tions (maybe you use Gmail for e‑mail) there are a num­ber of web ser­vices to choose from. The one I am most impressed by at the moment is Todoist​.com. There, you can keep your lists task by task in a very clean and min­i­mal­is­tic fash­ion, and check them off as you com­plete them one by one through­out the day.

    One of the ben­e­fits of the web ser­vice is that your list is reach­able wher­ev­er you are con­nect­ed to the Inter­net. In addi­tion to that, you can con­nect to your list through your phone if it is web enabled.

  3. Spread­sheet

    Excel or any oth­er spread­sheet appli­ca­tion are great alter­na­tives if you would pre­fer your list dig­i­tal. Here also, it is easy to cat­e­go­rize, sort and choose to see only those tasks that are of inter­est at this par­tic­u­lar moment.

  4. Ded­i­cat­ed applications

    Today, there are ver­i­ta­ble heaps of appli­ca­tions whose sole pur­pose is to help you keep track of every­thing you do and make sure that you are mak­ing progress toward your long term goals. If you are a Mac user, I real­ly rec­om­mend Things” from Cul­tured Code that con­tains all the func­tions you need, and in a very aes­thet­ic way.

  5. Pen and paper (such as a notepad)

    But, there are solu­tions not based in elec­tron­ics and com­put­ers. Pen and paper still have some large ben­e­fits. They demand no time to start, there are no bat­ter­ies that may run out and they will not break if you drop them. 

    Maybe you pre­fer your list on sin­gle sheets where every sheet rep­re­sents a cer­tain con­text in which you need to be to be able to com­plete the task. Then it is easy to design tem­plates on your com­put­er and print them out. Then, the A4-sheets can be equipped with lines and columns for dead­lines, cat­e­go­riza­tion by cus­tomer or project etcetera.

    Would you rather pre­fer a notepad that you always bring to meet­ings, make sure you are strict about what you write in it. Is it for keep­ing your to-dos, fill it with to-do-tasks – page up and page down. Do not mix the tasks with ran­dom scrib­blings, phone num­bers or thoughts that we usu­al­ly use our notepads for. Why? Because, since you often every day need to decide what is the right task to do right now, you will be dis­tract­ed if you have to browse through the notepad hunt­ing for tasks hid­den among oth­er text.

  6. Index cards

    Last but not least there is the stack of index cards, sized as play­ing cards, made famous by Mer­lin Mann as the Hip­ster PDA”. In my ver­sion, they are pre-print­ed with ded­i­cat­ed space for cos­tumer- or project-cat­e­go­riza­tion, the tasks in ques­tion and con­text. A doc­u­ment clip holds the cards togeth­er in a neat stack of, say ten-fif­teen at a time.

    They are easy to write tasks on, portable, easy to access and demand no time to start.

What is your favourite medium?

What is your best tip on how to orga­nize task lists? Tell me!