Keeping on top of my to-do list

How I manage tasks that I need to get done/handling my to-dos

I want to start off this post by immediately going off topic. Up until fairly recently I would have referred to my list of things to do as a todo list, which is technically fine, but as per my question on the subject, best practice would dictate it should be called a to-do list.  Interesting, huh? *ahem* moving on.

I have decided after giving pretty much every other conceivable to-do list system a fair try that the best way to manage mine in a way that allows me to keep on top of my current tasks is by popping myself an email, or letting others pop me an email.

In my opinion email wins for several reasons;

  1. I always have access to my email - including when I am offline, when I am on my mobile devices and when I am in work.
  2. I already need email - rolling my to-do list into my email doesn't add an extra application, website or function to my daily life.  I would be checking it anyway.
  3. I can categorise my list how I want - or decide not to categorise them, a lot of to-do list managers seem to want you to either not have groupings or categories, or force you to always assign a task to one group.
  4. People can add to my list without my input - with pretty much every other list if someone wants you to action something you have to take time out to put it into your list, with email if someone mails me it goes straight on my list.
  5. Conversely, I can remove from my list easily - I don't feel as bad archiving off an email as I do marking off a to-do list item, if someone sends me an action I don't think I want to do for whatever reason I can easily remove it.
  6. Emails come complete with meta data - a lot of the time the email will already contain who it is for and when it was asked for, these are two of the three most important things you could need for meta data (when it is needed by is the third)
  7. I can easily add links and attachments to my to-do item - this is something that is lacking from a lot of the solutions out there.
  8. Email is normally the first contact - a lot of my actions are born from emails anyway, so it makes sense to capture them at source.

So there we have it, 8 reasons why I am going to use email for my personal to-do list manager. Glad I stopped short of having a top 10 list!

I said "personal to-do list" because one thing email does fall over on is allowing me to report on what I have done in the past hour / day / week / etc. which is something I need to do for work related projects.

Having discussed now what I use, let me briefly mention what I have used in the past and why they have failed in my opinion.

  • Offline to-do list managers - Even the ones that sync feel very clunky and not very connected, always required that extra step to input things and needed installed on every machine you use.
  • Online to-do list managers - Normally lacked core features, very few had good offline capabilities and it meant you had to remember a site to log onto when you wanted to view your list.
  • Paper based list - This actually almost became my main way of doing things, it is quick and easy, gives you full control over what you write down, It's just that I found that my notepad wasn't to hand a little too often.

I would be interested to hear what you use and why.

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