Managing a To Do list

There are thousands of to do lists applications to choose from, across most every kind of programmable device we’re surrounded with. I have a to do list, but I don’t use any of the apps. A few years ago someone noticed how I did this and asked me to write a few words about it. Whoever it was… I have forgotten, sorry to take so long.

I manage my list using a spreadsheet. Yes, an old-fashioned, dawn of the PC era spreadsheet. The killer app from before that term existed. Why?

  1. A spreadsheet is an amazing general purpose tool.
  2. It has the columns of data I wanted to have right now. I want a new column? Click click and I have it. It doesn’t matter if someone who wrote the to do app thought I needed that column.
  3. Some old column of data no longer useful? Click click, it’s gone.
  4. Finding or sorting data? Yes, in arbitrary ways, right now.
  5. Fonts too large or too small? I don’t go shopping for a new application from someone with a better sense of design. Click, the font is whatever size I prefer.
  6. Sometimes color coding or bold seems like a good idea… and it can be done instantly. Or removed – without shopping for a different application or trying to persuade an author of an application is a good idea.
  7. Sometimes I want to access my list from my phone or tablet. Therefore, I use a cloud spreadsheet application – and have access to the list anytime, without yet another app.
  8. Print? Sure, everyone once in a while.

I think this is a good general pattern: pick out an app for a special purpose only when there are aspects of the behavior of such an application that are not easily met with the general application. But by default, it’s your data, keep it in one of the many applications that already deals with your data in a generalized, flexible, proven way.

At the technical level, my to do list is very well managed. But what about at the logical level, what about really managing my to do list? That’s for another post.


6 thoughts on “Managing a To Do list”

  1. I also use spreadsheet for my todo list. I thought I was just not cool/hip enough, but glad to hear you are doing the same. =)

  2. Google Docs myself. Microsoft office 365 Excel is also quite good. If you are 100% Apple, Numbers can synchronize across Mac and iOS. There are probably others.

  3. Mostly, I use 3×5 lined cards.

    I know, it’s such an Extreme Programming thing.

    It’s simple. It works.

    And if I have too many things to do than can be managed by a handful of 3×5 cards, then I ***Have TOO MANY THINGS TO DO!!!***

    Typically, during boring useless downtime (like most typical corporate meetings >;-> ) I’ll flip through the cards, prioritize them, and toss the ones I don’t need to do any more. Some problems get solved because someone else was suffering from the same problem, and it was a higher priority for them. So they fixed it. Sometimes conditions change, so that something is not worth doing any more. But most of the time, I’m doing the top priority things (and tossing the cards).

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