September 18, 2012


Pen or electronic?Maintaining a To Do list is challenging. An entry could go in different categories (e.g., business, family, personal). What you need to do a task varies (e.g., phone, car, office, computer, quiet). The priorities differ and change. The due dates do too. Any system you use will have ways to deal with issues like these.

I use a combination of Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

The Tools

The challenge is finding the right tools and using them consistently.

Ease of use varies.
  • pen/paper is fastest but the least organized, easiest to lose, least likely to be with you when you’re on the move and toughest to reorganize
  • with electronic tools like your smartphone, tablet or computer, input takes longer but the lists are well-organized, easier to share and tough to lose (with sync and online backup)
With any system, there will be tasks that don't get done. As the list of incomplete items builds, it's easy to get overwhelmed and stop using the list. It's like missing gym visits and finding it easier to stay away than return.


Being able to add, edit and remove tasks anywhere is handy. I want to see the list on my smartphone, which I'm most likely to have with me. For inputting items, I prefer my tablet or computer. When working with a team, support for different devices helps. I have collaborators who use iOS and Android. Web-based tools are a compromise but less inviting to use than an app.


You may want to share some tasks with your team and keep others private. Sharing might not be free. An environment like GlassCubes may help if you have a budget and other needs (free for two workspaces with unlimited users).

Messed Up

Recently, I've been using
  • assorted paper (whatever is at hand) without organizing the pages
  • Toodledo: web-based, integrates with my Pocket Informant calendar (which syncs with my Google Calendar) on both my Android phone and iPad
  • CRM: for some work-related tasks that I want to associate with specific clients
The result is a bit messy and inconsistent. Maybe a hybrid is the best solution for now. Your thoughts?


PS You might want to try the Twitter-like Fetchnotes, which is free. As a bonus, you get a generous 25 GB of Box storage for free if you’re not a current Box user (see MakeUseOf for the steps).

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