I’ve long struggled to find the “perfect” to-do list solution. The “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology has never really striked me as any great secret — it’s literally just writing down what you have to do in small enough chunks that you can then tick them off and feel like you’ve achieved something.
Still, it does work. You would think putting a very simple tickable list into an app or just writing it down on a piece of paper is the simplest thing anybody’s ever done, but apparently it’s something massively complicated that has spawned a whole industry of innovative app-makers.
Yet, I never really liked most of them.
I think I first started using to-do list apps when I was about twelve as a way of organising my homework. The smartphone was yet to be presented to us by Mr Jobs so I wrote all my homework down on paper (we call them homework diaries here in the UK) and then got home and transferred them to my computer. Thoroughly inefficient and probably entirely pointless, but it was a start. My app of choice? Remember The Milk.
The tasks above are some of the first tasks I stored in RTM, back in early 2007. I hated learning Latin.
I did actually use it relatively consistently for four years straight and I can see from the archived list of my competed tasks I came back to it just as I was starting Uni around this time last year. I only stuck with it for about two months this time though.
What I’ve always really liked about RTM — and still really like — is the way you can add tasks and use a series of keyboard shortcuts to add priority, due date, repetition, lists and tags.
So to produce a task “Write ‘the to-do list chronicles blog post'” with a priority of three (I used to have everything priority one cause I need to do everything on the list, but if everything’s priority one it might as well be lowest by default. Clever, eh?), on the list #Personal, due today I’d enter:
Write 'the to-do list chronicles blog post' !3 ^today #Personal
That’s it. I’ve tried out more or less every to-do list app I’ve found and none of them have that simple functionality, so I keep on coming back to Remember The Milk.
For the bulk of the last year I’ve been using a slightly simplified version of Bullet Journal, which I first read about on LifeHacker last year. It’s kinda neat and I do actually really like it; you get a notebook, block out days and then use different types of bullets for appointments, reminders and things to do. Small Moleskines or Field Notes work best as you can take them everywhere (the downside being you have to take them everywhere, cause it’s only in paper form).
You’re meant to write out a huge calendar, keep indexes of what you’ve done etc etc, but I keep mine simple. I just use it as a short term calendar and for simple tasks I’ve got to do that day.
Sadly I’m notebook-less at the moment as whilst in Vienna I poured coffee all over my Moleskine, basically ruining it. Once I’ve got myself a replacement/when I’m back at Uni I’ll be back Bullet-Journaling.
The moral of this story, then, is that the GTD methodology is bloody obvious, nobody’s made the perfect to-do list app yet and in a horrible twist of irony, me, the person most likeliest to be using technology for everything out of more or less all my friends, has gone back to pen and paper. Your move, internet.