Your To-Do List: Print, Digital, Hybrid

The start of a new year is a time for resolutions, and getting more organized and getting things done (GTD) is right there at the top of many resolution lists. For many of us, the common “to-do” list is our go-to indispensable tool for accomplishing both tasks. There are lots of different approaches to compiling and maintaining a basic to-do list. You can simply write things done on a piece of paper and tape it to your computer monitor or pin it on your bulletin board, or you can try to be more systematic – and there are more sophisticated (and sometimes fee-based) programs and software out there to aid in the process.

A colleague recently shared wanting to get back to a more rigorous GTD regimen, and I provided some supportive words on the value of making that commitment. It’s easy to get overloaded with things to do, and it helps to have a systematic approach to staying organized and on top of projects. So I shared this photo:
A look at StevenB's approach to the to-do list

You can see that I employ a hybrid approach, using both paper and digital. But there is a system at work. Paper is for more immediate things I have to do – today or in the next few days. My iGoogle to-do widget is where I keep upcoming projects that are broader in scope, such a paper or presentation. That helps me to keep those bigger projects on my radar screen. I can modify them by low, medium or high priority, but it would be nice to have something a bit more sophisticated for tracking the progress of each project. Do I need to get started or have I already done that? Which projects are near completion? I will add deadline dates when appropriate.

I sent this photo to my colleague to show him how I’m approaching my to-do list. He replied to let me know he’s no longer using paper at all, and is totally digital. Indicating that since his iPhone is a constant companion, it made sense to keep the GTD to-do list there using an app made just for this purpose. It looks (at least one screen) like this:

An all-digital approach to a to-do list
An all-digital approach to a to-do list

I think this looks like an interesting system, and I imagine it has some of the sophistication I’d like to have. But as I shared with my colleague, for my to-do list to work for me – it really has to be in front of my face all day. My Droid is also a constant companion, but I don’t have it sitting on my desk all day, and I find it much faster to use a pencil to modify a listed item or cross out a completed project. I’d get bogged down having to constantly get into the software to edit or add to my list.

The bottom line is that it’s a good thing to have some sort of systematic approach to your to-do list for GTD. Whether you prefer paper or digital or some combination is up to you – as long as it’s a system that works for you and keeps you on top of your projects so that you control them and not the other way around.

4 thoughts on “Your To-Do List: Print, Digital, Hybrid”

  1. My family uses Remember the Milk for a combined ToDo list.

    It syncs across platforms – so is on our PCs or our iPhone/iPads/iPod Touches.

    We have our own profiles, but share some to do lists among our accounts. That means the kids can put their homework into a list, I can double-check it whereever I am and add items to their to do list. We keep our shopping list there as well. And a list of things to discuss at our weekly house meeting.

    Anyone can add or cross off at any time. It’s great for when we shop at the weekend grower’s market – one of us can cross off and item and it disappears from the others’ list as well.

    I have my own Things to Do lists that I keep on Remember the Milk, but do not share with my family. I have one for important deadlines – writing projects, conference presentations; a list of tasks to do for a single project; a list of things to do by the end of the week…

    I also use the “flag as Tasks” option in my work Outlook acct to flick emails that I need to deal with very soon to become tasks. I manually move them out of the inbox and into a “TTD” file. If they are not dealt with within the week, they then make it to my Remember the Milk list.

    I have also used Remember the Milk when I was in a jobshare – with lists for joint projects and our own projects . Let us very quickly see who was working on what, set joint deadlines and be able to tell other staff who asked about the other person’s work when they were not in.

  2. I like how you show that both digital and paper organizers have their place. I also like the mention of the iGoogle widget: I’ll have to try it out. The other comments offer useful tips as well.

    Do you mind if I link to this for my library’s professional blog? I’m blogging on a similar theme. Thanks!–Maureen

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