A List of List-Making Tools

The first official to-do list I ever made was in January of 2006 at age 12. I broke my day

ToDo List
First Baby To-Do List

into 15 minute increments and dutifully filled each minute with a task or activity. I know this because in addition to be a neurotic list-maker, I am also a neurotic archivist of my own life.  The biographers will have plenty of material.

 

Sometime in college, I realized that scheduling out every minute of my day wasn’t healthy for me and I returned to the traditional to-do list.  Problem was, I kept it on my computer’s sticky note application which liked to spontaneously self-destruct, destroying my beautiful lists.

I’ve spent the last 3 years experimenting with various alternatives for the best to-do list tools out there, here are my top 4 for list-making bliss!

#4: Todoist

Todoist is an app that integrates across all devices, has a super clean interface, and todoistbreaks projects down with sub-tasks. It’s meant for simple to complicated to-do lists and does allow for collaboration, but I wouldn’t suggest it for a major project management.

Pros: simple user interface, unlimited lists, gamifies the to-do list by giving you a productivity score and tracking your productivity streak, creates recurring tasks

Cons: have to purchase premium to access labels and filters, no visualization of a project moving through multiple phases, clunky integration with Gmail

#3 Trello

Trello sets the golden standard for robust and fun project management.  Yes, I said fun. Trello goes way beyond your basic to-do list with Kanban boards that let you drag tasks through a pipeline of progress, which is super satisfying.

trello.PNGPros: free version is robust for all household/freelancing projects, 100s of templates from wedding planning to job searching available, great for collaboration, color-coding, and integrates with everything

Cons: bit of a learning curve, overkill for basic list needs, doesn’t integrate well with calendar apps

#2 Google Keep

googlekeep.pngI use Google Keep for temporarily tracking special expenses, planning upcoming trips, and reminding me to send invoices and reconcile my accounts.  It’s a simple and clean as Todoist and integrates wonderfully with all things Google (of course).  You can create reminders from e-mail and Google automatically adds them to Google Keep.

Pros: create recurring tasks easily, collaborate with others, color-coding and labeling for free, cross-device integration, simple to use, chrome extension to save things from the Internet, integrates well with Google Docs and Google Calendar

Cons: no desktop app, not a robust project management solution

#1 Pen and paper

img_20170111_171153While there’s a lot of great electronic to-do list options out there, I wanted to be able to check out where I was with tasks for the day without opening up my laptop and inevitably end up watching cooking videos for 4 hours on Facebook.

I used sticky note style lists for a while, which are great for daily to-do lists, but not great for longer term planning.  Luke got me a Nomatic planner + journal last year for Christmas and I’m in love.  It makes it easy to create daily repeating tasks and helps break down monthly and weekly goals into day-sized bites.

Pros: non-digital option, satisfaction of physically checking things off, handwritten goals are more likely to be accomplished

Cons: might spill coffee on it, no device compatibility, zero integrations

 

What are your favorite list-making tools?

 

The Day the Sun Cried

A quick glance out the window assured me that the day was bright so the cold kerplunk of a rain drop on my nose caught me by surprise when I stepped outside.  A sunny rain shower is a rare phenomenon, even here in Southern California.

I’m an either/or personality.  You can have things either this way or that way.  Buy this or that. My favorite saying in college was, “You can’t have it both ways” which led me to cancel one of campus’ most popular events when no one volunteered to help put it on.  It’s also why most progressive political policies ultimately fail (but that’s another blog post entirely).

But here comes the sunny rains and every little teardrop falling from the clouds holds the promise of a radiant rainbow as the sun doggedly perserves in shining through the showers.

How many beautiful rainbows in my life have I missed because I don’t see the both/and moments?  Joy mixed with streaks of sorrow.  Bad days with sparks of hope.  The adrennaline rush of accomplishment tempered with a lazy afternoon. Having fun and investing in the future.

Both/and makes for messy spreadsheets and uncategorizable moments. I’m too quick to classify my days, weeks, and years with one predominent emotion instead of recognizing that it’s the mixture of many feelings that gives life its beauty.

It might not fit into my color-coded, tabulated life, but the next time life gives me the chance; I’ll take a little rain with my sunshine.

 

Red Tape

When I was 4 years old, too young to be left unsupervised ( I was the child who had to learn not to touch burners the hard way ), my mom would take me downstairs with her to the laundry room.  One of my favorite activities during these monotonous times of sort, wash, and folding was button sorting.

We had a delightful jar of mismatched buttons collected through the years.  I’d grab an old tin pan, dump all the buttons out and then sort to my heart’s delight.  Red, maroon, circular, star-shaped, old, new, thread-less, blue, green.  Each button had a pile to call its home.  Then, I’d throw them back into the jar and start all over again.

My dad is a handyman. I’ve never encountered a problem he couldn’t fix.  Sometimes, though, his solutions required multiple trips to the local hardware store.  I loved accompanying him on these voyages.  While he searched for the perfect gauge of wire, I was magically drawn to the screw and nail aisle.  Beautiful blue bins with nice, clean labels on the front, telling the astute observer what contents were within.  Yet, more often then not, a quick glance inside  revealed that the screws and nails were all mixed up!  I made it my personal responsibility to right this great wrong.

I created my first spreadsheet at age 10.   I used it to schedule out my day, broken into 15 minute increments.  Each time slot had an activity or category.  If just a category was listed, an additional spreadsheet was utilized that listed out possible options under said category.  I haven’t the slightest idea what first possessed me to budget my time so meticulously but if you know me now, it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with Excel.

Sometimes, however, I wonder if I’m stuck in a toxic relationship with my plethora of time-management tools.  I make sticky notes to create to-do lists to draft a spreadsheet with a Master Task List.  Every step and breath I take is color-coded and duly recorded.  It is a wonderfully predictable existence, but a dangerous one.  What if Outlook malfunctions? Or I accidentally delete a sticky note?  Am I left wandering aimlessly, incapable of eating or sleeping without being told to do so through a preprogrammed project management system?

Not yet.  But one day, I’m afraid I will wake up to find myself thoroughly entangled in red tape of my own design.