Tag Archives: chaos no more

The To-Do List Conundrum

I’ve always been fascinated by planners and productivity blogs and things like that. I’ve even given GTD (Getting Things Done) a try. And nothing’s ever "worked" for me before.

Now I know why.

Last year, I went the DIY way and made my own planner, which I used to a certain extent before my excitement about being productive fizzled away. The reason, I’ve realized, is this:

I never really had a whole lot of different things to do.

Not that I wasn’t busy, because I was, especially with all the indexing I was doing. But back in the day, my to-do list tended to be the same every single day: Index. Write. Exercise. That was it.

No wonder I got bored with my planner.

But now, here we are, and boy, has my life changed. In other words, I am busy, really busy, but unlike the busy-ness of before, when I’d be swamped by a deluge of indexing deadlines, I’m busy doing a lot of different things. There’s still the indexing, but now also the freelance writing and blogging, plus the marketing required for this new branch of my business. And the personal side of life, which has been really heating up, since both Ward and Dylan are in upcoming Canadian Opera Company performances. Not to mention the fiction writing, which still obsesses me but now that I’ve gotten back into a daily writing habit, it’s not an obsession that’s frustrating any more, thank goodness.

Last week, I took a look at all the things I had to do each day – big things, little things, important things, not so important things – and I knew I had to get a handle on it all.

But the big conundrum: electronic or paper?

carrot-to-do-app

I’d been using the Carrot To-Do app for a few weeks. It’s a fun app to use (there’s nothing like being called a "lazy human" by your productivity app) and after a while, you realize you really don’t want to make Carrot upset at you. But I was finding I needed more than an app that lets you list and prioritize your to-do’s, no matter how much fun the app was to use.

I downloaded a couple of other to-do list apps, but they just didn’t feel right to me. A planner/to-do list system is just so personal to each user, I think, and no amount of tweaking worked for me.

So why not print? Well, the thing I’ve discovered is this: I almost always have my phone with me, even when I’m at home (which I usually am during the day, although at night i can often be found shepherding Dylan to and from his many different activities.) To make a to-do list function well for me, I absolutely have to have what I’m using close by at all times.

But I really like paper-based systems. I like the feel of my pen writing things down on the paper, and if that paper happens to be gridded, I’m even happier. But unlike my phone, if I use a paper planner I won’t always have it on me.

Or would I?

I decided, finally (last night, actually) that it’s just a matter of developing a new habit. I can have my written to-d0 list right in front of me when I need it, as long as I make it a habit to always having it nearby. Right?

Photo 2013-09-23 12 52 54 PM

So I found that DIY planner I’d created last year, and I opened it to the first blank page (I’d used up about a third of the book last year). I stamped a date on each open spread, starting with today’s date (I stamped about two weeks’ worth of spreads) and then I put a "must get done today" list on the right hand side of the first spread, and a running to-do list of things I’d like to get done but which aren’t urgent, on the left hand side.

There’s room for doodles, and I plan to draw a box and brainstorm ideas every night, too. The book is a sturdy Moleskine with gridded pages (yay!) and although it’s hardbound, it’s not so heavy that I’ll feel like I’m carrying an elephant on my shoulder when I stick it into my handbag.

It’s here in front of me as I write this blog post (on the list for today: "write blog post" – hah! You see? It’s working already!).

We’ll have to see how it goes.

What about you? What kind of planner/to-do system do you use? I’d love to hear about your methods, since I’m still tweaking the one I’m using!