With the news that Microsoft is shutting down Wunderlist, I thought it made sense to take a look at my obsession with finding the perfect “to-do” list, and my failures to maintain a consistent, enduring system for tracking my tasks, thoughts, and long-term goals.
Rather than outline the numerous apps, mediums, and methods that I’ve attempted in the past, and the reasons that they haven’t quite worked for me, I thought I would reverse engineer what might be the best solution for me based on my requirements, which hopefully is a step towards more purposely adopting a new routine in the future.
Wanted: A new ‘to-do’ list. Must be:
1. Accessible: While a slip of paper can serve as a useful to-do list when at my desk or in a moment of particular heads-down concentration, ideally my to-do list would be readily accessible at all times: whether via a handy notebook or a nearby phone or computer. This strikes domain-specific applications like Apple’s Notes (I don’t have a Mac computer) and freemium applications like Evernote (which I frequently use to store longer-form thoughts, objectives, or inspiration.
2. Able to split into lists, or long-, medium-, short-, and intermediate goals: Another shortcoming of the notes app, or even a notebook, is that they make it difficult to “lump” all the different to-dos rattling around in my head from the mundane and ordinary (reach out to xxx) to the complex and multi-step (read articles about coffee cultivation). While applications like Wunderlist can break out the to-list into lists, I oftentimes find myself resorting to the default “inbox” list, rather than parsing through the newest combination of lists that I most recently curated for myself.
3. Uniplatform: One of the things that I especially appreciate about Google’s suite of apps that may merit a revisiting of Google’s Tasks function is how it’s all within a single universe, and thereby minimizing the number of steps required to reach out to someone / schedule a meeting / create a doc/spreadsheet. Google’s apps are free, multi-platform, and only require one password to access as well, as opposed to more labor-intensive webapps and software that require me to return to Gmail and Google Calendar to carry out / remind myself of the ‘to-do.”
4. Indexable: Here’s where Evernote really shines – my entire collection of notes can be easily searched by keyword. While Evernote doesn’t always strictly translate to productivity, it is incredibly useful to consult past thoughts or resources on a particular topic. However, its breadth requires me to have the intended task in mind ahead of time, rather than attempting to sit down and make some progress on some long-held goals.
With small exception, I think this makes up my requirements for a useful to-do list. Unfortunately, the apps that I’m familiar with may not quite suffice as a Wunderlist replacement, so it may be worth researching a bit on Lifehackers collection of ‘How I Work’ posts, or survey Ryan Holiday’s Writing Routines series for inspiration, and hopefully report back with a new system to replace (and improve on) Wunderlist. For now, the scraps of paper will have to do.