There are a million apps, hacks, tips, and tricks offered to help you master your to-do list. I’ve been searching for task list nirvana for over a quarter of a century. Each time I find the next great app I am excited. But, that excitement doesn’t last long. Within a week, I’m finding the list stale, my engagement with the app in decline and my frustration growing. Soon, I am resorting to my old tried and true method of writing it down in my Moleskine and keeping it in my back pocket, still clinging to a belief that there is a better way.
I am sure your list is like mine, insurmountable. I pride myself on both my ability to crank out a ton of work and accomplish what I set out to do each day and week. But, there has to be a better way to organize all of that. There must be a process that will make me more efficient.
I’ve read the books, the blogs, and listened to the podcasts. I’ve tried all the “systems”. None of them has worked. I now understand that a to-do list is a highly individual undertaking. What works for one person, likely will not work for another.
I’ve also learned a few specific things about the way I process a list. It needs to be tangible. The best app still does not replace the visceral sense of accomplishment of crossing out a completed task. Writing down an item makes it more real, it imprints it in my mind. Even if I don’t look at my list, I am better able to remember that it needs to be done. I recognize that I am more likely to review my handwritten list than one typed on my computer or phone.
The above, however, comes with some challenges. A handwritten list doesn’t lend itself to collaboration. One of the motivators in trying to find an app is that I’d like teammates to be aware of what I am working on, so we can discuss and determine potential items to delegate. Another is while it sits snuggly in my back pocket, I don’t always pull it out and have it sitting in front of me to help prioritize my actions. I tend to review at the beginning of a day and at its end. A handwritten list is more difficult to maneuver, to prioritize on the fly. Plus, my handwriting sucks, so there are often entries on the list that hours later I can’t decipher.
I don’t have any sage advice, no conclusion to offer, or ah-ha moment of discovery. I write this article for two reasons. The first, if you have yet to find your ideal to-do list solution, you are not alone, I share your pain. Second, if you have found task list nirvana, share it with the rest of us. Maybe you’ve discovered a process that will work for others.
At least now I can cross this article of my list.