I’ve struggled with to-do lists for a long time. I’ve tried many of the popular apps (and blogged about those experiences) and even used Evernote as a to-do list for a while. The problem was that over time I would check the app less frequently and the process would start to lose its effectiveness. Even Evernote, which I love, I don’t use every single day.
What I landed on, with some help from a friend that was having the same issues, was to embrace the email inbox and use that as the to-do list. Like most of us, I check email too much as it is, so why not use the inbox as a sort of “list delivery system”. Also, if you think about it, email already is a giant to-do list.
Here’s how it works. I use the tool Boomerang within Gmail that allows me to send emails to myself or others at any time in the future. So let’s say I want to send a thank you note to someone in a few days. I will send myself an email with the task I want to achieve and I choose the date and time I want that email to end up in my inbox. I push “Send Later” and its off in the cloud (ha) until it lands in my inbox at the right time.
I also use my calendar in conjunction with this process to block time out during the week to work on email, which essentially means knocking out my to-do list. I’ve actually created a fairly sophisticated calendar system that I’ll likely be blogging about next week.
After doing this for a month I realized that I was losing site of the big items, the things that were looming and not just easy tasks to knock out. For instance, let’s say I have a big presentation in a week that I need to be working on. It doesn’t make as much sense to send myself an email each day to work on it. If I did, it would be surrounded by easier to knock out items and I’d always end up working on those to shorten my list. Plus, its something I need to be thinking about throughout the week, so I need it somehow present in my mind but not clogging up my inbox.
What I do now is use a note widget on my Nexus 5 second screen (sorry iPhone friends, no widgets allowed yet for you guys) with my big items on it. I read in The Four Hour Work Week about each day writing down the big things you want to accomplish so they are top of mind, and so far its been great to have this list on my phone, front and center.
So that’s my process for To-Do Listing: email + calendar + phone note widget. It’s working really well for me…at the moment ;)