To-Do List – what makes some successful task managers

to-do-listEveryone has a to-do list. Even if you keep it in your head, everyone has one. I use a simple app on my iPhone that syncs with the same app on my iPad and on my desktop to manage my to-do list. This is a recent replacement for a technology I used for 30 years, 3×5 note cards (preferably un-ruled) that stuck out of my shirt pocket.

Regardless of the to-do list technology employed, I am sure that your to-do list is almost always longer than can be fulfilled and increasingly filled with “overdue” tasks. Mine is chronically creeping in that direction.

A recent article on Brain Pickings (BrainPickins.org) “A Brief History of the To-Do List and the Psychology of Its Success” by Maria Popova reviewed some recent research ((1)) ) that touches on two useful points. Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. mostly focused on a chapter about to-do lists, the third chapter, titled “A Brief History of the To-Do List, From God to Drew Carey,” in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister []

Old Technology Displaces New Technology

In a recent coaching session, a long-time client expressed frustrations at keeping track of all of his day-to-day tasks, especially the little items of following through with people he had met. He felt that lots of useful new and old contacts were languishing because he had not followed up on items brought up during a discussion or emails. They are falling through the cracks.

So, I asked him, “How do you keep track of your daily work?” “Well, I still have a Palm Pilot in working order. I enter stuff there.” Clearly this was not working. We kicked around different ways of keeping a task list up to date. Then, I recalled how I solved this same problem for over twenty years. I kept notebooks that I carried around with me and entered notes and tasks chronologically page after page.  Knowing that my client was old enough to predate PDAs and other such devices, I asked him whether he had ever used notebooks.Notebook technology for task/priority lists “Of course. I kept everything in notebooks. Each was carefully dated and then filed away when every task in it had been completed.” I shared my memories of using notebooks. Even odd moments when a co-worker would come to me to ask what i recalled of a meeting that had taken place months earlier and I dragged out my notebook form that period and found the pages with my notes of the meeting.

My client agreed to try out a notebook as a way of attacking his current problem. There is something very satisfying about putting an arrow in the left column indicating a task or date to be reserved and then, later,putting big check mark next to it with a date when a task is accomplished.

Shortly after wards, it came to me that I was not doing all that well my task list technology (Google Tasks in the calendar), so I have returned to this device that served me so well for so long.