Image courtesy of Vic, Flickr, (CC BY 2.0)

Why To do lists are so passé

Are you a list person? Or do you like GTD methods (or as I like to say, Getting Stuff Done)? Do you Pomello or Pomodoro? Maybe we’ve been doing it all wrong….

Image by Rebecca RitchieAre you organised by nature? Or are you like many of us (myself included) who have to force ourselves to be organised?  To be honest, I’m a total procrastinator. Always have been.  I couldn’t start an assignment until I had that absolute pit of dread in my stomach that it was due in x days or x hours.  The adrenaline seemed to push me in a way that no other motivation technique has ever been able to.

One of my favourite pastimes (often when procrastinating) is to look for the latest apps or programs that would help me to reach dizzying organisational heights.  I love to hear what methods or programs others are using.  Trello, Things, Wunderlist, any host of To Do programs such as Todoist, task lists in our old gmail, Remember The Milk.  Oh, the amount time I’ve invested in investigating and trialling these types of tools with no real success, yearning that it had to be simpler.  Turns out it very well maybe.

Last week I came across a blog post Why Calendars are More Effective than To Do Lists.  It had me at To Do.  So I took the bait and clicked.  This could be just what I’ve been searching for.  Why over complicate things?  I have a dread of numerous ‘portals’ – what I refer to as anything I have to log into, so if using my calendar is the new ‘black’ of organisation, I’m willing to give it a try.

Image by Rebecca RitchieNow there is some logic and research behind the idea of ditching time management programs and To Do’s for the calendar.  The blog post mentions that our lives are driven by units of time.  Be at work by 8.30am, be at that meeting at 9am, etc.  So we need to approach our GTD methods from different angle – manage our time, not our to do’s.

I thought I’d give it a go.  For the past week I’ve been using my calendar to block in units of time to work on tasks.  I have a bigger picture of what I’m working on (ironically, on a To Do list) but rather than staring at the breakdown of tasks, nervously fidgeting in my chair, getting up to go get a coffee or go tell someone in the next building something really important, I have been working on set tasks in units of 15-30 minutes.  I’m pleased to report that this new technique for GSD, has helped me to work x% more productively.  X being unidentified as I have no quantitative data to back up my claim.

I’m interested to know, do you use a To Do, task list or time management tool?  What works best for you?



8 thoughts on “Why To do lists are so passé”

  1. Good post Rebecca! I have been using my calendar as a task list for a long, long time. It works to a certain extent but is still not the total solution. I am currently trialing Trello after a colleague posted about this same issue!

    1. Thanks John!
      I agree with you, the calendar isn’t the whole package but I’m finding it a more successful way to keep myself on track.
      I’ve used Trello as part of a few different team projects I’ve been on. We’d all sort of fallen off it at some point through the project but let me know how you find it.

  2. Hey Rebecca. I use many of the above. Online calendar for time-sensitive to-dos (I miss the Gmail multiple reminder setting!), Pomodoro for focus, paper reminders left on my keyboard for attention in the morning. Trello is in trial for teamwork, but it can be hard to form the habit of recording things there: it requires commitment.

    For me, it’s a matter of understanding how I work best and fitting tools to my needs. Pomodoro has been a great help in structuring time and keeping my mind on the task. Study buddies and I have also used Pomodoro effectively for both single ‘shut-up-and-write’ sessions and for longer writing retreats.

    1. Hi Natalie!
      I remember you starting with Pomodoro a few years ago. Good to hear you are still with it.
      I definitely agree that you have to ‘know yourself’ (and be honest with yourself!) about the ways that you work to find the yellow brick organisational road!

  3. Thanks Bec! I also use calendar to block out times to do things that are on my to-dos. So I think calendar is an super important complement, not a substitute to a good working to-do list. OneNote is a criminally underrated app for organising workflows and to-dos!

    p.s. curious to try all the apps you cited in your post : )

    1. If only there was the holy grail of organising programs. Maybe we should come up with something and retire on the proceeds!
      I’ve never really tried OneNote. I might have to have a look. Thanks for the tip!

  4. I keep coming back to Things as it’s been super fast and robust for me. I use Trello for tasks and projects which need input and visibility from others.

    I like the “GSD” ethos, a friend also referred to it as “JFD” 🙂

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