5 Powerful Ways to Manage your “To do” lists

Are you using lists? I’ve been using lists since my early adolescence, and I’ve went through big changes.  Here I showcase benefits and flaws of 5 major ways to run your “To Do Lists”

  1. Pen and Paper
  2. Cell phone (dumb phone)
  3. gTasks and Google Calendar on Android
  4. Evernote on Android
  5. Omnifocus on iPhone

Pen and paper

Pen and paper was my basic list making system for countless years. Main problem of Pen and Paper was mobility.  I didn’t carry my notebook with me every time I left the house. This left a lot of empty space without my organizer being physically with me. Pen and paper is still viable method, despite of it’s flaws. Benefits of pen and paper are numerous:

  • Almost free
  • Low entry barrier
  • Freedom

Flaws:

  • Mobility
  • No reminders
  • No overview

I never made it to work for me the way I wanted to! Freedom was more of a obstacle to me, than it was an advantage. I didn’t know how to tag items properly and “link” them. I would get around that right now, but back than it was too much work. Especially at the age of 15-17. When you are young patience is not a virtue.

pen and paper productivity

(Dumb) Phones

As you can see, immediatley after my pen and paper switch, I’ve moved to phones. Oh the old phones, I can remember now how tedious it was to type your tasks using 12 buttons phone keyboard.  Despite of it’s flaws, phones were definitively more reliable device for my lists than paper ever was. Benefits of the phone:

  • Mobility
  • Always with you
  • Reminders

While this was the first system that actually worked for me to an extent, there wes one big flaw: input! This was a sticking point when you had to collect information. Every productivity system is dependent on collecting information. If you have too much friction while collecting information, the chance of not collecting it at all is getting bigger. Because of this flaw, system wasn’t working in it’s fullest swing. Trick that you can use is to make Google Calendar send you text messages as reminders, instead of setting up the reminders on the device itself. This can ease the input, since it will be taken care of on the computer.

Sony Ericsson dumb phone

Android

Once I got a hold of Android powered phone, my productivity system launched into stratosphere. Input became a breeze and finally there was a way to synchronize my tasks with a computer. I was using gTasks app, that allowed me to put the widget right on the homescreen. So my tasks were visible on my phone and I could add new ones with a single tap. If you are just starting out with “To Do Lists”, I highly recommend this setup! Benefits:

  • Same as regular phone: Mobility, reminders, always with you
  • Synchronisation
  • Easy input
  • Visibility
  • Easy to learn

Flaws of this system:

  • Android weak battery life
  • Not capable of processing large chunks of information
  • No way of including repeatable tasks
This system I am really proud of, because I utilized it to the maximum. Unfortunately at this point I became highly engaged with my to do lists, and my needs started growing. Biggest advantage was that it actually worked for all short term tasks! But the number of tasks appearing started growing at exponential rate! Still, if you want to evolve from pen and paper system, I highly recommend it. It is perfect for beginners.
Google Calendar Widget on Android

Evernote

Evernote was my next short term stop, on my full transition to Apple. Evernote was home for all of my tasks as well as my primary notebook. At this point I became pretty much paperless. Benefits of Evernote:

  • Cross platform Synchronisation – you can sync with virtually anything
  • Easy input
  • Powerful search

Flaws of this system:

  • Getting the output
  • Too much time required in order to organize your tasks
  • No reminders
  • No way of including repeatable tasks
  • Online access dependence for non premium users

Evernote is robust, requires work in order to get going with it. In spite of robustness I recommend it for writers. And I still keep a habit of writing things down in my Evernote inbox, if it has any clippings in it. If you are a writer, than you might consider sticking with this platform for a while. It is stable and works flawlessly on all devices. After you create a task, if it involves writing, you can just continue writing from a note. It was a temporery solution, until I moved to my current “To Do List” Setup…

Evernote - Remember anything

OmniFocus

OmniFocus is big program, packed with tons of features! It is perfect for any Mac Power user! Especially interesting feature is Forecast, which is helping you with visually displaying your day. Benefits of the OmniFocus:

  • Mobility (works on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad)
  • Stability
  • Ease of input
  • Repeatable tasks
  • Reminders
  • Visibility
  • Organisation
  • iCal integration
  • Geo Location reminders

Now beside powerful list of positive features, there is huge number of flaws that OmniFocus has:

  • Apple only! Doesn’t work on non Apple platforms
  • Price – Entire suite of OmniFocus costs around 140$ (iPhone app – 20$, iPad app – 40$ and Desktop client 80$)
  • Too many features for beginner to understand

If you are a Mac user with high interest in productivity, this package can seem as a worthy investment. If you don’t have any Apple products, I would recommend to stick with Evernote. Writing about OmniFocus requires way much more space than part of a single article. It is the ultimate solution for people who have hundreds tasks at hand, but it might be an overkill for some people.


Now it’s your turn! What do you use as your “To Do List” manager? Do you consider switching to the systems mentioned in this article? Your thoughts and comments are appreciated and welcomed in the comments.

Comments

  1. Mullenann4 says

    You certainly have a lot of options listed here. I prefer paper and pen because I have lost a lot of stuff on computers and phones. I just don’t trust electronics to permanence.

    Good blog.

  2. C. Spencer Reynolds says

    Have you checked out Wunderlist yet? Granted it is very basic To Do list, but drop dead simple and beautiful! I love Siri now on my iPhone 4s and it is changing MANY things for me with reminders on iOS 5!

  3. Normen Arule says

    I donno, pen and paper works for me…using your physical self to pen words on paper connects me to the Universe–Disclaimer-may not work fot everyone 🙂

  4. Dubem Menakaya says

    Interesting article Bojan, I am currently on the evernote stage, and I think the big problem is the lack of reminders and the sheer number of notes that pile up.  I am looking into buying an Ipad so I might have to ‘evolve’ lol

  5. Niels says

    I use different apps for different activities, evernote for motes, producteev for todo listing, sometimes pen and paper when my phone isnt’ around.

    • says

      Hi Niels,

      This article was exclusively about task managers and to-do lists. I, like you use Evernote for note taking, but at certain stage of my productivity journey it was the go-to task manager as well.

      Glad you’ve liked it.