I live by to to-do lists. Without them, I flounder helplessly and end up using my time ineffectively. With them, I am more likely to stay focused and task-oriented.
In recent years, I had started to become discontent with pen and paper lists for a few reasons. One, they got long and overwhelming in a hurry. I didn’t have a system in place to organize or prioritize them. Two, they quickly became outdated or sloppy as things got added or changed.
In an attempt to remember undone items, I would scribble new ones before, after, and in the margins. It didn’t take long before my already overwhelming list became unbearable and disheveled, which served to hamper my productivity mindset. It helped to rewrite the list, but for whatever reason, I loathed having to do that. I was stuck in this stage for quite some time.
An In-Between Solution
To ease the struggle, I started writing my lists on a spreadsheet, with a column for each day of the week, and tasks for that day underneath. This tactic helped not only in visualizing the week at a glance, but I also was relieved to be able to copy and paste items from one day to the next when needed. Pretty sure I am not alone in having undone tasks at the end of the day.
This solution was an improvement over paper lists, but after awhile it started to feel clunky because I still had to do a lot of updating and it was a challenge to implement a sense of task hierarchy.
Introducing a game changer
Discovering Todoist rocked my little old-fashioned world. It is an app/website that allows you to create project lists according to your needs, create tasks within each and schedule them by the due date. For whatever reason, the idea of a task management app had never even occurred to me. Don’t hold that against me, you ultra-techie types.
Once you’ve set up a task under its appropriate category, you can set a reminder for whatever time in advance you choose.
Project list view:
Since it has a calendar tool built in for scheduling, you can set up reminders as far in advance as you like. For instance, I set up an item that reminds me of a yearly charge to my debit card every January. It pops up a reminder a few days before the charge goes through, so I plan accordingly with my finances.
Or it works wonders when a project at work gets postponed to a date in the future. If I fear I might forget about a deadline six months out, a simple reminder with the proper amount of lead time beforehand eliminates any cause for concern.
This app has indeed helped me feel in control of the tasks I have, both at home and at work. A few more things I find nifty about it:
- The web version and app sync up, so if I am doing more extensive updates on my computer, they automatically carry over to my smartphone.
- If a task comes due that I am not ready for, I can reschedule it for a future date with just a few clicks. Much slicker than rewriting a paper to-do list constantly, IMO.
- Setting specific due times triggers alerts when they are due, with advance notice as I direct. Helps me master my timeline and schedule.
- For items that occur regularly, I can set up recurring tasks that reappear at intervals I set up, such as every Monday, or every other Sunday.
The ability to set up tasks at the beginning of the week, by day and time, is quite liberating. It takes my planning to a higher level, but still allows the flexibility that is often needed when things change. If you struggle with taming your to do list, as I did, I heartily recommend Todoist.
If you are already a task management beast, what is your secret?
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