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To Do List Tango

I am a list girl.  I always have been.  I think it matches up with my type A personality.  It actually blows my mind that some people do not create any lists at all.
I would like to be a fly on the wall of these people to see if they are calmer. Are they more organized or do they frantically later remember things?

Anyway.  One thing I have noticed is that I cannot seem to keep a consistent method for my to do’s.  I realized this recently.  I am obsessed with keeping lists but I also seem to be in search of my perfect tracking mechanism.

Within the last year alone I have used at least 5 different ways to track my tasks.  This seems crazy to me.  Do you have one consistent way you track lists?  What is it?  Why do you think it works for you?

Here are the things I have been using in some combination over the past one year.

  1. White board – Jackson & I each have a white board.  I used this extensively during our wedding planning to keep track of the endless tasks.  I still use it now to track my countdown weeks (I am always counting down to something exciting – right now I am counting down to my trip to CA over Thanksgiving) & to track my exercise.  This entire year I have exercised at least 3 hours per week with very few exceptions.  Tracking this on the white board has been hugely helpful.  I also track what I would like to do on a weekend on this board. Recently I started to add a Should Do & a Could Do list to the white board. I am seeing if this puts less pressure on me than just To Do, which implies MUST.  The Should Do’s are a higher priority than Could Do’s.  I’m still determining if I like this strategy.
  2. OneNote – I use this for mostly work tasks.  It gets a little unruly sometimes because I have a million things I would like to do at work.  I am always trying to determine the highest priorities so I can keep my focus there.  I also track my power hour & admin hour tasks (See more here)
  3. Post it notes – I often make a list for that day only & put down what needs to be done.  When I do this, I will put it on my notebook or PC screen to be sure I focus on those until they are finished.  This should not be necessary in combination with the One Note & white board, but somehow I need to do this.  It is like a little security blanket.
  4. Awesome Note app – I was using this religiously for about a year.  I got out of the habit somehow.  I like this app, but I think for now my other methods work better.  One challenge I had was I had trouble syncing it between my iPad & phone.  OneNote does this seamlessly, plus I can see it on my desktop.  I think this is why I transitioned away from any app that tracks my lists.  I like to be on the same page with any devise I have.
  5. Flagging to do’s in my inbox.  The other way I keep an eye on tasks is through my email.  I flag things I need to do or I move then into a folder called ‘For Immediate Action’. I have recently taken a new approach to my email.  (This is specific to work emails, I have not tackled my personal email yet).  I normally have about 2 – 3000 emails in my inbox. Honestly it would have been worse but they get auto-deleted after so long OR my inbox gets too full & I have to clean it to keep getting emails. It is so inefficient.  I recently learned some great tips from April & Eric Perry (more info here).  I have not implemented their whole system, but this part has been very helpful for me.  I try to check email less frequently (all time management folks recommend this — I am only somewhat successful so far 🙂 ).  And when I do check it, I try to follow the basics.
  • If I can answer it 2 minutes I do so right away & then file the email.
  • If I can’t I flag it for follow up.
  • The key here is to move it out of your inbox.

After I read each email I file it or move it to a folder for Immediate follow up.  The other trick I love is creating a folder called To Sort.  Here I put things that needs filed but I am not able to take the time to file correctly right then.  This gets it out of my inbox & available for sorting when I have more time.  It honestly makes sorting later faster because I can grab everything from one person and file once vs. every few days when I am trying to clean up.  One other note, it took me about a month to sort my inbox, which was at 2500 emails when I started this.  I completed it by sorting one or two letters of the alphabet every day.  I just worked through any emails from an A or B on the first day & put them in the right folders.  So, for the first time in my entire life, I have had an inbox at 0.  I usually only get there once a week.  Normally on the weekends.  But I feel like I am more organized and I have miss less things that require action.  I used to just say, ‘I am bad at email’. I would still not claim to be great, but my inbox feels less overwhelming…. HUGE WIN.  One other Side note.  My To Sort folder gets big quickly (I get 100 – 200 emails a day), however, I have found a great time to catch up on this is when I am stuck in a meeting that I am not adding a lot of value!  Win!  I can partially pay attention & partially clean my emails.

  1. Asana – I also played with Asana for about a month.  I have given up on that for now. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the future.

Part of the fun for me is experimenting with new ways to track things.  (I know Super Nerd).  When I started this post, I was hoping to come to the conclusion that I could really settle on one way of tracking.  After thinking about all of these, I do not think that is going to happen.  At least not right now.  I think I am the type that likes to manage myself with multiple avenues.  It is working for me.  I think I will continue to tweak and monitor in a way that helps me without being overly burdensome!

How do you track your to-dos?  Or do you skip the tracking all together?  I’d love to hear.  Really I would!!


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