I did complete all of those tasks.

I did complete all of those tasks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the phrase To Do List can mean something nebulous like, The Things You Need to Do Today, I want to take about the original meaning. That paper (or electronic) list of the things you have to do. How do you, well, do it?

Trying to keep track of what we have to do and the best way to do it is something we all struggle with daily and I thought it might be nice to compare notes on how we each achieve it. Sometimes hearing about how others accomplish things can give you a better perspective on what might work best for you. So, to get things started, here’s how I do it…

For many years, I’ve used the Tasks feature in Outlook to keep track of my To Dos because they had some advanced features I liked. I sync those tasks up with both Gmail and Thunderbird so they’re with me wherever I go, no matter which program I check something off on. But I mainly use those electronic means to keep track of recurring tasks and very large projects.

There are countless apps and services to help you manage your To Do list and I’d love for everyone to chime in below with your favorites. There are also many of us whose daily tasks are irrevocably tied to our calendar and there’s a host of applications for that as well. But me? I like good old paper for my daily list.

Back when I used to have a normal desk job, I started a routine that I have kept until this day. Each morning I check my paper To Do list and work towards completing everything on it by the end of the day. As new tasks come up, I add them to the list with as much detail as possible. (Example: I wouldn’t write: “Call Bob.” I’d write: “Call Bob Re: Project X before 4 PM” and then list his phone number so I don’t have to bother to look it up.) At the end of the day, I’d take a fresh sheet of scrap paper (and I always use scrap paper such as the back of yesterday’s calendar page, the back of that report I misprinted, etc) and copy over everything I didn’t get to finish the day before onto a new list for tomorrow. This not only makes the list neater and easier to read, it also reminds me of what I’ll need to do when I get back in tomorrow so that I can get started right away when I sit down.

Could I do this with an electronic list? Of course I could. But I find it faster to jot down notes by hand as I think of them rather than wait for some app to open, until I find my phone, etc. I also find it satisfying to physically cross things off as I finish them and the exercise of writing things I didn’t finish over onto the new list gives me more incentive to finish them so I don’t have to keep copying them over every day. The things I need to do also seem more real on paper than being just another thing on my computer. I find that, without any bells and whistles from an app, I tend to get more things on my list done. That said, I do the bulk of my work in the same location everyday and I could see how someone whose business is more mobile would need a different solution.

For the tasks I do track electronically, I organize them by category so that tasks for different facets of my business as well as things I need to do for my hobbies or personal life are all in their own separate lists (which I color code). My paper To Do List is always a mix of things from all of these categories with one thing in common: they’re all the most important things I need to get done that day.

But enough about me and my (admittedly) low tech solutions. How do you keep track of what you have to do each day? Do you have a favorite app or service or are you old school like me?