I have still never found a to-do list format and medium that works consistently for me. I’ve been a Filofax user, tried GTD, experimented with various flavours of Kanban and tried Asana and a few other apps, but nothing’s quite stuck.
I’m hoping to fix this in the coming weeks, so I’ve been thinking about what makes a good to do list.
Information it needs to be able to hold:
- A set of priorities or major goals with provide an organising principle for the rest of the list – and a couple of categories to catch trivia and miscellanea.
- The detail of a task – including a series of steps or substeps
- A range of dates: due date, do date, date created
- A priority system – perhaps in terms of importance, definitely in terms of time: today, this week, this month, later
- A place for context-providing notes, link to googledocs etc
Other features. A to do list should:
- Be accessible almost anywhere (on any device)
- Be easy (and fast) to enter, modify and tick off tasks
- Be easy to re-order tasks
- Make completed tasks disappear somewhere else but not disappear
- Have a kanban-like feature for tasks that are queued, started, being waited for (and in need of followup) and done.
Lastly and probably most importantly, it needs to be built into a practice – a disciplined practice – of prioritisation and review so that it gets regularly reviewed, acted on, and updated. Out of date to do lists are horrible. This is probably the hard part.
Good to-do list use looks something like:
- The to do items and their prioritisation emerge from your strategy.
- To do list referred to in the morning and priorities tweaked for the day ahead (5-10 minutes)
- Important tasks given high priority – whatever happens they will be moved along. No excuses.
- To-do list updated in response to the day (emails, calls, colleagues, etc)
- But nothing that takes less than a couple of minutes to do gets onto the list – such tasks should be done immediately to reduce mental overhead and remove yourself as a bottleneck.
- The list is pruned and re-tweaked at the end of the day, in preparation for the next one (5-10 minutes)
What am I missing? What works for you?