Quick tip: to-do lists

Never write a to do list in a notebook. Instead, write them on a piece of paper you can keep visible on your desk or carry with you.

I often get frustrated that I don’t finish what I plan to do. I’ll write a to-do list in my notebook, but then I’ll either close it or turn the page to start working on the first task. I then don’t see the list again unless I consciously decide to look for it.

Recently I remembered that when I was writing my thesis, I didn’t use my notebook for to-do lists; instead I used scrap paper (usually the reverse side of something I’d printed but no longer needed). This meant that I could keep it to one side, separate from my actual notes, and could refer to it easily when I needed to. It’s also quite satisfying to throw them away when done.

I’ve tried reinstating this habit in the last few weeks, and it seems to work well for me; I think because it takes just that little bit less effort to find.

Sometimes small habits make a big difference!

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4 thoughts on “Quick tip: to-do lists

  1. Interesting. I have recently taken to doing the opposite, keeping my to do lists in a small notebook that also serves as a depository for password hints, notes on phone conversations, billable hours and other random items. I have found it useful to refer back to old lists to help build the next steps (either to re-list items I didn’t get to or to follow up on completed items). There is also some satisfaction to look back on page upon page of check marks. In light of your post, though I think I will find a way to keep the page open to the current list on my desk.

  2. Hi James, I agree with you, that’s the way I do it, write tasks on my personnal planner, and on small notes fixed by a magnet to the whiteboard! ^_^

  3. Tip: use note app in your smartphone. E g for iphone: Notes app. May seem simple but that is a good thing. Simple and quick access is good for todo-lists. Always ready. And can be synced to your computer or other units if you wish.

    • I much prefer pen and paper to any kind of app- the step of unlocking the phone and opening the app, to me, is just like the notebook problem in that it takes that little bit of effort. You have to remember to look, whereas the piece of paper is always visible.

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