There are so many things you need to do and so many ways to keep track of these same things, from the simple paper list to the most sophisticated applications for smartphones and PCs . Just check the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to understand that the number of applications available to manage a To Do List are really a lot, in the thousands!
We have already seen how the To Do List is a tool that can increase your personal productivity and what are the steps to effectively use this tool, now let’s go further and understand what are the methods to keep track of activities, each one with its pros and cons.
Entire books have been written about some of these methods, so much so that you may think that in the end it is better to keep everything in mind and leave the company. But this is not the solution! In this article we will try to explore the most popular methods of running your business so that you can choose the one that suits you best.
In fact, there is no single method that adapts to all needs, precisely because each one of us has different ways of relating to reality and different ways of achieving goals using the five senses , let’s see what they are:
The “shopping list” is probably the simplest method you can use and probably what many people use without even thinking about it too much: you simply create a to-do list and mark by when to do them.
There are tons of applications to do this type of thing and the way to use it is extremely simple as there is no need to keep track of sub-tasks or other details.
It is not certain that this mode is the one that suits you best, in fact if you need to trace more complicated projects, with activities linked to each other or with long-term deadlines, the shopping list is not the best way to approach your needs. . If you just want to remember things to do, for example take out the trash, pick up the kids from school, tidy up the room etc. this mode is definitely for you!
The shopping list: pros and cons
Pros: Suitable for tracking daily activities and not forgetting things to do. The available applications are very simple to use and install.
Cons: Not suitable for tracking large projects or activities with many details linked together.
Recommended applications : Remainders iOS, Web, Mac; Google Keep Android, Web; Google Task, Web; Clear iOS, Mac; Any.do Android, iOS, Web, Mac; Remember the Milk Android, iOS, Blackberry, Web; Wunderlist Android, iOS, Windows, Web, Mac;
No sooner said than done
This method became popular thanks to the English book Getting Things Done, usually abbreviated as GTD, by David Allen and also available in Italian under the title Detto Fatto ! The GTD consists of a powerful method to manage the shopping list and details of activities, for this reason the available applications that I take inspiration from this method can resemble a shopping list, but it is also possible to manage sub-lists, time and many other properties.
To give an example of this application you can consider having to write a thesis. Starting from the title you will first define the chapters, then the paragraphs up to the sub paragraphs, adding the notes and sources you need as well as establishing the time to write each part.
Applications of this kind usually also allow you to associate documents and other types of files to each activity in order to make the content search process simple. The basic idea is therefore to have all the things you need to do in one place by organizing the lists and related activities categorized according to the place or context in which you will have to carry them out.
Usually the applications available are for desktop in consideration of the fact that it is not easy to write all the details of complicated projects using the phone keyboard, but there are also mobile applications that allow you to synchronize content with your PC.
Said Done: Pros and Cons
Pros : Method suitable for tracing complex projects with many details, associating other data and documents to the activities to be carried out
Cons : It can be dispersive and too complicated, especially for those who do not need to manage complex and articulated activities
Recommended applications : Omnifocus iOS, Mac; Things iOS, Mac; Todist Android, iOS, Windows, Web, Mac; Toodledo Android, iOS, Web;
The concept behind using a text editor is very similar to that of the shopping list, but instead of using a graphic interface that could be distracting, it allows you to stay much more focused besides the fact that it is enough to have any computer provision to create your own To Do List.
Also in this case there are applications that can help you. The best known are Todo.txt and Today.txt .
The first is very simple and allows you to create a task list for each file. Each activity can have a priority and belong to a project simply by using rules at the time of writing.
Today.txt is even simpler than the previous application and I particularly like it because it incorporates the philosophy of doing things well, but not at all costs: the text file starts with “If nothing else, today I am going to __.” (if I do nothing else, today I do __.) and ends with “If I do this and only this, it will be a good day.” (if I do this and only this, it will be a good day), increasing your motivation and your focus.
Text Editor: Pros and Cons
Pros : Using a text editor to make the process very simple and intuitive, it’s free and allows you to use applications you are already familiar with
Cons : Using text-based applications can be boring in addition to the fact that you need to be organized having no guidance in defining the To Do List
Recommended applications : Todo.txt Android, iOS; Today.txt Android, iOS; Evernote Android, iOS, Windows, Web, Mac;
With the Kanban method you can keep your projects and your progress in plain sight! To apply this method, all you need is a blackboard or a sufficiently large sheet of paper, a marker and post-its. Divide the whiteboard into three parts: the things to do, those you are doing and those you have already done, then fill the post-its with the activities and move them according to the stage you are in – that’s all!
This method is particularly useful if you work with a group of people and for example set up regular meetings to understand the progress of the work. The colored post-its can help you to track the activities of different people or to divide yours according to the type or place where you want to carry them out.
Also in this case there are applications that you can use both on your smartphone and on the desktop by synchronizing them.
Kanban: Pros and Cons
Pros : With Kanban you have a clear representation of what is always going on in front of you.
Cons : It is not possible for you to manage very complicated projects or activities linked in a simple way and some details are inevitably excluded.
Recommended applications : Trello Android, iOS, Windows, Web; Leankit Android, iOS, Web; KanbanFlow Web;
Spreadsheets are often abused and used for many purposes for which they were not designed, so much so that with it it is also possible to create Gantt with Excel . If you want, they can also become powerful tools to create and manage your To Do List, all for free or almost .
With Excel or similar programs, you can create a sheet for each project or different types of activities. For example, you can use one sheet for work activities and one for personal ones, coloring the cells in the way you prefer and adding as many details as you want by simply inserting other columns.
As with text applications you can manage the spreadsheet however you like with the added benefit of using an application that you are already familiar with. You can also find many ready-to-use templates online. We offer you the iWolm template for the To Do List .
Spreadsheet: Pros and Cons
Pros : Method by which familiar and versatile tools can be used
Cons : Features are limited and you need to have at least basic knowledge of spreadsheets
Recommended applications : Microsoft Office , Office for mac , OpenOffice , LibreOffice , FreeOffice , IBM Lotus Symphony , Microsoft Office Online , Google Docs
Photo by NEC / CC BY
The To Do List is not only used to manage personal activities, but also those of a work group. For example, in the realization of a project to write a book or the creation of a website, several people could be involved, each one with their own activities and tasks to be performed. In the renovation of a house it is necessary to involve several companies and each company has its own times and activities, as well as its own comments to share with the elements of the working group. There are so many examples, but imagine the power of these tools if the project must be managed remotely or if the companies in the example of the restructuring cannot always be present at the same time to share needs, opportunities or changes to the project!
In this case there are many applications that support the work, from the best project management software to applications like Trello or Wunderlist that allow you to work in a team.
Many of these applications use GTD (Getting Things Done) methods, therefore, in addition to the completion date of the activity, they also allow you to manage multiple lists, sub-activities, comments to share with users and private projects, i.e. projects relating to a single user. obviously including personal ones.
Working group: Pros and Cons
Pros : This method usually fosters collaboration and exchange of ideas, and applications are usually available for multiple platforms.
Cons : Applications can be expensive, the team is not always ready to manage and share their needs with others or see this activity as a waste of time.
Recommended Applications : Omnifocus iOS, Mac; Things iOS, Mac; Todist Android, iOS, Windows, Web, Mac; Toodledo Android, iOS, Web;
Paper and pen
Photo by Teo / CC BY
It may seem like a not very advanced method, but it is a good solution especially if the mobile phone and the computer are a source of distraction. When you study or work you need concentration, to be focused on the goal and not to watch WhatsApp or Facebook, so if you tend to get distracted easily this system can be a good solution. If you think you lose your To Do List you can always scan it or photograph it and save it in the Cloud, or simply put it always in plain sight on your desk!
Paper and Pen: Pros and Cons
Pros : This approach limits your distractions, is free, and works even if you don’t have a connection
Cons : It’s not versatile and doesn’t encourage sharing. You don’t have an automatic backup so if you lose the list you have to make a new one.
Recommended applications : none
I tie it to my finger
This method may seem a little too retro or a joke, but changing something in your habits is extremely effective! Here a wire tied to the finger or a colored ribbon attached to the phone can be good systems. If you want to be a little more modern, you can always change your desktop background or attach a digital post-it. This system works particularly well not so much to remind you to shop or take out the trash, but to remind you of a habit change you want to undertake. For example, if you want to sit properly while you work, you could set your desktop background with a photo of a person doing yoga or if you are getting too irritated at work lately you could change your pc password to “relax”, “breathe” and also add a nice post-it in the background!
I tie it to my finger: Pros and Cons
Pros : The simplest way to remember something
Cons : You may forget why you tied your finger
Recommended applications : none
Choose the method that suits you best
Each method focuses on a specific area with its pros and cons. If you need something quick and simple that allows you to remember the main activities while leaving out the details, the “shopping list” is for you. However, if you need to manage complicated projects with sub-tasks and also add other external data then you should focus on the GTD method.
Either way you will have at your disposal different applications and different computer tools, each one designed to work in a specific way.
There is no better method than the other, but look for the one that suits you best even trying different alternatives and applications.
If you like, share with us what your experience is and what are the ways you use to organize your day, your study or your work!