Gini Dietrich

Technology vs. Paper for Your Task List

By: Gini Dietrich | July 10, 2012 | 

Yesterday afternoon, Allen Mireles and I were talking about our to-do lists. Not from the aspect of how busy we are, but in how we track everything so balls don’t get lost.

You see, I love technology. I love Evernote and Instapaper and Dropbox and Google Reader and alerts in my calendar that tell me when it’s time to do something.

I’m always the first one to jump on a new social network to check it out and determine if there is something there we can pass along to clients to make their lives more efficient.

But I keep going back to the tried and true method of a paper task list.

I asked Allen what she uses and she lamented, “I still use my legal pad. There is something visceral about physically crossing off something when you’ve finished it.”

The Paper Task List

I blog (a lot) and I read (a lot) and I use technology to help me do both of those things. Instapaper and a good old fashioned copy of a link into a draft blog post in WordPress work really well for me.

So why can’t I give up my paper task list?

I don’t know if it’s because I spend most of my nights on planes, without access to the web, or if it’s because, like Allen, I get great satisfaction from physically checking something off my list, but I just can’t give up the paper method.

Other Tools

Michael Schechter and I have this conversation, as well. In fact, it’s an ongoing conversation with the two of us. A few weeks ago, he wrote a great blog post about keeping yourself more organized. In that he included ways to manage your to-do list.

He said:

Without a way to store the things you need to do, you will find yourself overwhelmed and you will notice things slipping through the cracks. No matter how good you are, it’s improbable that you can keep this all together without a system. For some, that will be as simple as a sheet of plain paper; for others, robust task management systems like OmniFocus will do the trick.

My Suggested Tools: OmniFocus for iOS and OS X, Due App for iOS, Fantastical for OS X, Listary for iOS, and David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner.

I’m pretty sure he was channeling me when he wrote, “For some, that will be as simple as a sheet of plain paper.”

Costs for Each

Mike’s suggestion: $79.99 for OmniFocus.

Gini’s suggestion: $14.99 for a pack of 12 in any color you desire.

Long live the paper to-do list with dates written in chronological order and little boxes drawn next to each for the satisfying check when you’re finished!

How do you manage your to-do list?

A version of this first ran on Schechter’s blog.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • I have multiple lists, including paper. I have virtual “sticky notes” on my desk top with various lists, I have reminders in Google calendar, and I have the plain ol’ piece of paper. I’ve tried to move to strictly digital, but like you, it doesn’t work as well for me. I think part is the function of my age and generation. I still like books. I still like CDs. It’s what we’re used to. 
    Younger generations will adapt much more easily to going “all digital”, I think. 

    •  @KenMueller Yeah…you’re an old man. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

      •  @ginidietrich Says the woman who still prefers paper.

      •  @ginidietrich I’m with  @KenMueller Is it hard to get your ink jar and quill through airport security?

        •  @adamtoporek  @ginidietrich No ink jar here. I just use a knife and blood. Not necessarily my own.

        •  @adamtoporek  @KenMueller Not hard at all. I don’t have to go through security anymore.

  • I definitely identify myself as a digital native, use Evernote and MindNode extensively – but there is indeed a very visceral and satisfying feeling with scratching out that task list on paper and crossing them off one by one. 
    I <3 my Moleskine. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski I <3 my Moleskin, too!

      •  @ginidietrich If I don’t write it down, it’s gone forever. 

  • I use a Mac product called Curio (which is a OneNote/Evernote competitor). I use paper sometime. I still brainstorm best with a pad and pen — but eventually it gets translated to digital; otherwise, it gets lost in the paper abyss in my office.

    •  @adamtoporek Alright. I’ll check out Curio, but I can’t promise anything.

  • First of all, I never have a to-do list because it never gets tuh-dun. I schedule priorities, instead of prioritizing my schedule. A to-do list has a way of mutating into a never-ending story, whereas scheduling priorities, and blocking them into time slots, DO-ing them and crossing them off (yes, there is great pleasure in passing that pen through the item, once accomplished) means things get done.
    I’m paper and pen all they way (as you’ll see in 16 sleeps:) I was at my hairdresser’s the other day and my twenty-something stylist LOL when I pulled out my bound daytimer to schedule in my next appointment. He said to me “What’s that?”, and laughed. No matter: it’s how I roll. (And you should see my cell phone…not. That’s a whole other story:)I write longhand. I prioritize my schedule. I love lined journals. I think of myself as a Renaissance woman living in a digital world. And that works well for me and the people I work with. Cheers! Kaarina

    •  @KDillabough I would laugh at your daytimer, too! 

      •  @ginidietrich Be my guest: laugh away. Works for me:)

        •  @KDillabough Well, I wrote a check the other day. And did you guys know something? You don’t actually fill out checks anymore. you just hand them the check they scan and hand it back to you. huh. 

        •  @Lisa Gerber  What?!? I didn’t know that!

        •  @ginidietrich I speak the truth! I did it at a gas station (Weird, they still take checks!) and at a grocery store. Both places said, “Hun, you don’t have to fill it out.” 
          HAHAHAHAHAH. I added the “hun” in there so you could get the North Idaho flavor. 

        •  @Lisa Gerber Huh? Never heard of that

  • TMNinja


    Ah…. Can’t resist jumping in this one with you and Michael. 😉

    My todo list of choice for some time has been Wunderlist.

    I prefer its simplicity and the fact that it syncs across all my devices… Mac, iPhone, iPad…

    Paper lists are great… But I tend to find that they are often set down or forgotten.

    Either way, my slogan is always, “Choose tools you’ll use.”


    •  @TMNinja I think my issue is if it’s on my phone or iPad or Mac, I don’t see it so I forget about it. When it’s on paper, I see it constantly on my desk and can’t forget!

      • TMNinja

        @ginidietrich Visibility is key. Absolutely.

        If you don’t look at it, your todo list can’t have your back. 🙂

    • MSchechter

       @TMNinja Amen to the last bit. I’ve often struggled with that. You’ll probably find this crazy (not that people haven’t come to expect crazy from me), but every 90 minutes or so on my laptop OmniFocus pops up into the foreground (I use Keyboard Maestro to do this). Just serves as a gut check and ensure that I see and due or upcoming tasks that need attention.

  • TREE KILLER! well….uhm….please choose recycled paper. Plus why would anyone use an IPad for keeping organized.
    I am very organized and horribly organized. All depends on the day and what is happening.
    The thing that I learned working for my second employer many years back was to not only list things but also give everything an A,B,C, or D ranking. It seems it is really easy to do the easy C and D tasks and blow off the more important ones till the last minute.

    •  @HowieSPM Sounds like Priority Management to me:)

    •  @HowieSPM That’s a totally different blog post. How do you keep notes and things you need to do so you don’t forget?

      •  @ginidietrich if I told you, you would know my secret to pure organized chaos. I do use evernote, the salesforce task list, and stickies.

  • If I had someone to write the list for me, I’d totally be about paper! However, my 8 yr old frequently reminds me that his penmanship is better than mine so I don’t like seeing reminders of it!

    •  @SociallyGenius And we know his glue works really well, too. I’d go with his recommendations.

      • @ginidietrich let’s get it straight, that was my soon to be 5 yr old’s glue. But at least I made good on my promise to have a G on my chest the first time I met you… Even if Scott Monty and the rest of SMCdet thought I was a tool!!

        •  @SociallyGenius  You should have worn a cape too. All the super powers are in the G though right?

        • @etelligence not sure how familiar you are with the cartoon movie “The Incredibles” but I don’t do capes 🙂

  • I definitely favor pen and paper. Though sometimes I *gasp* email myself a list while I’m commuting into the office, which I then print and still check off with my pen. I am working on embracing Salesforce tasks which we use internally here, but I’m not quite there. I started using Evernote only for podcasts. 

    •  @katskrieger The Evernote OCR is damn awesome, too. 

    •  @katskrieger I email myself links, too, when I’m traveling. I know it’s not very efficient, but it works.

      •  @ginidietrich lol I thought I was the only one still doing this. Is that a Cyan ink pen you’re using?

        •  @etelligence It’s a Sharpie! I have them in all sorts of colors.

  • I use a combination. Every morning I write a list of objectives for the day – realistic ones. I get this list by reviewing what happened yesterday and carry over what wasn’t done, cross-check with the planning calendar to see what is do and then add in some fun projects if time allows. I also set reminders in my calendar for things that are happening that day (these are often planned so far out that i dont trust the notepaper for this one).
    I love crossing the items off and leaving for the day looking at my notepage full of squiggly lines and checkmarks. Feels good to see it done!

    •  @C_Pappas It does give you a sense of accomplishment, doesn’t it?

      •  @ginidietrich It really does! But then for crazy over-achievers like me, I want more to do 😉

  • polleydan

    My to-do list is (mainly) stored on Google Calendar. I create events of what I need to do and when and then get an email reminder of that task. I still use a paper list for to keep notes for smaller tasks.

    •  @polleydan Does that interfere with actual meetings and appointments?

      • polleydan

         @ginidietrich I haven’t had that problem (yet). Of course, a lot of the work tasks I have aren’t necessarily time sensitive and can be moved around if a meeting pops up.

  •  @ginidietrich I laughed out loud (no I really did) when I saw that you had included our conversation in this post. And yet, I stand firmly at the intersection of paper and pen and electronics and refuse to part with either. I know many others who work with a combination of old and new so I guess we’re not alone no matter what michaelschecter says. 😉

    •  @allenmireles  I had this sitting in my drafts and was too sleepy to write something new this morning. So I refreshed it with our conversation!

    • MSchechter

       @allenmireles  @ginidietrich  I don’t think you’re alone… just crazy 🙂 Like I said to Gini in my first comment. I envy the hell out of it, I just don’t know how it scales to major projects. I get it in the short-term (although I usually prefer tech), but I just don’t get how you keep track of it all for long term projects.

  • I definitely use both, my Google Tasks, Calendar and note pad in my iphone but I too love paper, especially at work. I really think by physically writing it down it helps me remember and digest it better. But I do love Google Tasks too because that doesn’t get lost like my post it notes might! 

    •  @rachaelseda Hmmmm…maybe I’ll try Google Tasks.

  • I am a fan of the ‘ol Moleskin. I have been using one now for almost 9 years and when it is filled (back, front, covers, dogears, etc) I purchase a new one. The cool thing is when they are filled up they kind of serve as a journal of your last year or two!

    •  @anotherkindofdrew I have a box of Moleskines from the past fifteen years. What a cultural artifact, eh? 🙂 

    •  @anotherkindofdrew That’s what I really love about notebooks. I’ve saved all of mine and it’s fun to look back and see what you were doing 10 years ago.

  • yvettepistorio

    I tend to ignore the alerts on my Google calendar, but anything that pops up in my Outlook reminders or things I write down…those get my attention. And there is just something about crossing things off my list…it makes me feel like I accomplished something.

    •  @yvettepistorio I don’t have Outlook anymore, but I used to LOVE the task list in there. I used that religiously. But since I switched to all Apple products, I haven’t been able to find something that efficient.

  • With all the papers my kids bring home from school, etc if its not on my outlook calendar it doesnt happen cause it gets lost in the shuffle!  I hate paper!  I make quick notes in email drafts if I have to vs writing it down.  I think for me, with our office and 3 kids schedules I need everything in one central place or its out of my mind.  So, if its not on  my phone (which means its on my iPad &  Mac too) it doesnt exist!

    •  @sydcon_mktg Yeah…with kids that’s a whole different ball of wax. I can’t even begin to fathom how you do it.

  • I am also a junkie for the latest technological to-do list, and I’ve tried them all.  Currently, I do company task sharing with Flow App (love it), personal notes in Evernote (super crush) and a hot pink Moleskine, and daily organization on a pad of paper from this shop:  That printed pad is the closest thing I’ve found to my brain on paper (no affiliation, just mad love).

    • TMNinja

       @rosemaryoneill Love the daily organization pad! Nice. 🙂

    •  @rosemaryoneill OMG! I LOVE THIS!!!! I’m getting some. LOVE!

    • MSchechter

       @rosemaryoneill Love the water glasses. Nice touch!

  • ifdyperez

    Lots of post-it notes! The brighter, the better. 🙂

    •  @ifdyperez I love bright post-it notes, too!

  • Confession: If you leave your calendar open when I am around I will add things for you to do. Those mystery doctor appointments, haircuts and spring cleaning notes are all me.
    If I use paper it tends to be a post it note but I rarely use paper because my penmanship is terrible. My lists are written on the computer and then dropped into Google Calendar with reminders that pop up at set times so that I review my to do list to see that it all has been to done.

    •  @TheJackB Confession: If you leave your computer on when I am around, I will copy your desktop, save it as an image, and then paste that image on top of your apps. So it looks like your desktop, but you can’t actually click on anything because it’s really a screen grab. It’s really freaking funny!

    • MSchechter

       @TheJackB Same here. My manual dexterity is god awful (thanks ADHD), so tech always ensure I can actually… you know… read what I capture…

  • I’m in your camp Gini. I literally make a living from technology. It is my job to know about as much of it as possible, especially web and mobile tech. I blog about tech. I have every video game system known to man. I watch anime. So on and so forth. Yet, paper is my go to for task management and note taking. I prefer the slightly more expensive blueline (I think that’s the brand) college rule notebooks. That way I can keep a separate one for different types of things. I have my daily notes one that also includes my to-do list. I have my 121 meetings one to track notes from meetings with my staff. Lastly my ideas one for random ideas that I get throughout the day (this one should really be waterproof).
    My biggest issue with the iPad is that writing on it is even messier than when I write on paper, and I have such messy writing as is that it really doesn’t work.
    Maybe one day, but for now, the notebooks win.

    •  @aramirezomni I used to only carry around those notebooks. I love them! But they got too heavy with all my travel. Now I’m wishing I had one. Really good choice!

  • HeidiZuhl

    I create a new to-do list daily on a legal pad and write an inspirational message at the top. Sometimes its a famous quote. Often it’s just a note of encouragement.

  • I totally agree with Allen. Sometimes I start a task list with items I have already completed so that I can cross them off. It might seem silly, but it puts me in the proper frame of mind. And, it gives me the gratification that comes with completing a task.

    •  @bradmarley A little secret: I always put the Spin Sucks blog post on my to-do list just so I can cross it off. 

      •  @ginidietrich  @bradmarley DORK!!!!!

  • As much as I’m a fan of technology, I found that I function best when I have whiteboards around. I keep my weekly schedule, to-do list, and other white boards all around my room. My favorite one is the one posted right above my bed, so that if I wake up with a brilliant idea, I can write it down and go back to sleep. Then, when I wake up in the morning, I am reminded of what I want to think more about that day. Great tips, @ginidietrich

    •  @AdamBritten A few other people do that, too. That would not work for me because I’m in my office only one day a week right now. But I like the idea of having one in your room for those middle of the night brainstorms.

  • rustyspeidel

    I HATE when balls get lost. I feel so…empty.
    Paper for me. In a book. It feels more real and committed that way. 

    •  @rustyspeidel I have no works for your first two sentences. 

  • M_Koehler

    I’m sorry fellow footsoldier In the pork mafia and the originator of a following based on Bounty towels, but I’m with Gini on this one. To-do lists are not meant to be permanent and writing them out on paper is very un permanent IMO. The way it should be. Plus there is something so satisfying scrathing tasks off your list. Or in my case scrathing them out until you tear through the proceeding 2 pages.

    •  @M_Koehler The originator of a following based on Bounty towels. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH!! I have to make sure mschechter sees this. LOL!!

      • MSchechter

         @ginidietrich It was not missed 🙂 We really let that religion fall to the wayside…

  • I used to make lots of lists then constantly rewrite them when they got too unwieldy and found that because they were in a book, I didn’t look at them all that much (just knowing they were there was good enough). With Evernote, I’ve trained myself to keep one list updated and organized and instead of crossing things off, I get the same thrill from pressing delete. I’ve recently learned how to do that with email too after saving virtually everything and crashing outlook a couple of times – but that’s another story…
    That said, it seems like we may be a hybrid generation – one that straddles analog and digital and uses both in ways that work best for us. I like that approach – it’s not all or nothing it’s customization – bespoke organization tools. 

    •  @martinwaxman I was doing that with Evernote and then I’d get busy and forget to open it and suddenly I’d forgotten to do some things I’d promised. Oy.

      •  @ginidietrich That’s not good. I found I had the same problem with paper…

      • MSchechter

         @ginidietrich That is why I prefer a true to-do app. Start Dates (to keep crap out of my line of site) and Due Dates (to ensure I don’t miss things) are key.

  • katie_mccartney

    You are using technology.  An older version of technology and in the form of paper.  But, it is technology none the less.  Technology is used as a means to an end.  You have a method.  Mike has a method.  Neither is good and neither is bad.  It depends on how you want to keep the tasks tracked.  Keep doing the things that make you successful and if it costs you $14.99 for a pack of 12 the by all means plunk down the change:o)

    •  @katie_mccartney You are never allowed back if you don’t agree with me! Take it back! Bwahahahaahah!

      • katie_mccartney

         @ginidietrich No, no, no:o)  I do agree with you oh, wise one:o)

        •  @katie_mccartney LOL!!!

        • katie_mccartney

           @ginidietrich :o)  Eh, I’m a techno freak only when it suites me…  I still journal, which entails paper and pen – gasp.

        •  @katie_mccartney I love to journal! See…we do agree!

  • Adrian_Dayton

    I do my weekly planning each week with a on a paper planner (similar to Franklin Covey) and I have that hard copy list on my desk all week. I love it, and don’t expect to change it anytime soon.

  • Adrian_Dayton

    I do my weekly planning each week with a paper planner (similar to Franklin Covey) and I have that hard copy list on my desk all week. I love it, and don’t expect to change it anytime soon.

    •  @Adrian_Dayton See, I really love my task list because it’s portable. I have it on the plane with me right now. Sitting right here on the armrest so I can see what I need to do next.

  • I struggle with this constantly – between my calendar and daily reminders, my written to-do list, in a moleskine, with each page drawn into five columns to reflect different categories, to my email inbox, instapaper and bookmarked links, and all the screens open on my computer……. I’m still searching for a way to streamline it all. 
    I’ve had evernote for ages, but still am trying to figure out how to set it up to work for ME. I am experimenting this very week with the tagging system suggested here:
    this is my first week trying it so we’ll see how it goes!

    •  @Lisa Gerber Oh Lord…please let her find something. Please, please, please!

      •  @ginidietrich HAHAHAHAHA> I’m sorry, who are you, again? 

    • MSchechter

       @Lisa Gerber I find an awesome balance of using paper for the day and tech for long term planning. As I mentioned, the thing I love most about OmniFocus is the ability to create tasks for all of those things. As for Evernote, if you’re struggling check out Brett Kelly’s Evernotes Essential book. it’s the defacto “user manual” for the app with great examples of practical applications. I just use it as my filing cabinet. All paper goes through the scanner and into Evernote as do essential files, email and web clippings.

  • Brian Posey

    I am still using a paper-to-do list / daily scheduler that I received from a print shop in the 1990s.  I just keep photocopying an empty page.  I just can’t bring myself to move to the electronic schedulers.

    •  @Brian Posey That’s awesome! You should take a picture and show us!

      •  @ginidietrich  @Brian Posey So how come you laughed at me, huh? :)))

  • KimVallee

    I still love pretty notebooks, list pads and agendas. I always carry with me a small notebook to take notes and make list. I feel that it is quicker to simply handwrite my ideas or the things I need to do. The main advantage of computerized lists are when you need to reorder the lists and move the dates. 

    •  @KimVallee ME TOO! @martinwaxman gave me a notebook that has tweets I’ve sent on the bottom of each page. I’m carrying that around right now. I love it!

  • I’m with you on this one, Gini — give me a Moleskine notebook and a great .5 pen any day! I think I actually crave the feeling of physically crossing something off of a list. While I have an iPad and some productivity apps, the majority of my calendar and to-do lists are kept on plain old paper. It’s comforting. 

    •  @annedreshfield I knew I liked you for a reason…the .5 pen!

      •  @ginidietrich  @annedreshfield Ooh! Ooh! Extra fine-point. *drool*

        • MSchechter

           @jasonkonopinski You guys all really need to check out Brad Dowdy’s stuff. He’s the pen guru for Jet Pens (does a great podcast called The Pen Addict).

        •  @MSchechter  @jasonkonopinski I hate writing with anything BUT a .5! 

  • jennimacdonald

    I schedule all tasks, blogs, posts, anything I need to do and the time it is due as a task or event in Outlook, that transfers to iPhone so I have all my To-Dos at all times.
    I do use a notepad when I’m in meetings for projects tasks because sometimes typing on a keyboard is too loud. I do almost always add those elements into my task calendar with different due dates and times.
    My iPhone reminds me of things every 20 minutes it seems. : ) It’s sad to admit but I need to remind myself to call my Dad, or send a letter to my grandmother. At least this way it gets done!

    •  @jennimacdonald I used to do that with Outlook, too. But I no longer have it so I’ve gone back to paper.

  • sammacmillan

    GoTasks & Evernote = paperless workflow. And the best part is it’s free. I can sync all my todo lists and notes from meetings between my ipad, iphone and desktop.
    I was about to drop the 79.99 for OmniFocus but this free setup works great.  

    •  @sammacmillan Can you access GoTasks from any device without an Internet connection?

      • sammacmillan

         @ginidietrich You can access it but it won’t sync until you have a connection. I have a Wifi only iPad and it still works great.

  • I am with you Gini on this one. I have a smart phone to manage things but when are smart phones really smart? And what if they run out of battery. 
    Somehow I have always found my peace with a paper. It makes things more sorted out and the satisfaction when I strike out a task done is plain awesome! 🙂 And on paper you can never chose “remind me later”! Its like they are all staring at you…. serious!

    • MSchechter

       @Hajra  The ubiquity and dependability of paper are a major leg up, but that’s why the universe (or more accurately Morphie) created the battery pack. It is also the ability to work off of your system when it fails (because all systems fail, even paper).

    •  @Hajra  LOL! You’re right! There is no snooze button on the paper list!

  • NancyCawleyJean

    Oh GIni, I do love my check lists on paper. I’ve tried so many techy things to help me, but the only things that get done are the ones on paper!! Thanks for this post!

    •  @NancyCawleyJean It’s just so fun to check it off!

  • MSchechter

    You’re wrong and let me tell you why… Just kidding you know this isn’t really a matter of what’s right and wrong. Just what’s right for Gini, right for Allen and right for my addled brain. You need less support. Paper’s enough. Paper drives me mad. I love it for the short term (especially David’s ETP), but I can’t have things I don’t need to do staring me in the face. It’s just a well of distraction. OmniFocus gives me the ability to have that go away until I need it to show up. While I’m sure there’s a way to do that with paper (Hello David Allen’s 43 folders), tech is my tool of choice. It also lets me create tasks that link to relevant materials. Need to respond to an email, OF links to it. Need to research something on a site, I can add that to the notes (I can even create tasks from Instapaper). Need to act on something in OmniFocus, I hacked a way to get those in.
    When I joke that you’re wrong or crazy (not certain you aren’t… hell you tolerate me 🙂 ) it’s more the amazement of how you do what you do, the way that you do it. It’s envy.

    •  @MSchechter OMG, you had me at the first sentence. Hilarious.

      • MSchechter

         @Lisa Gerber I’ve had friends tell me time and time again that I should own 🙂

    •  @MSchechter You know what? We might actually agree on this. I only use paper for my immediate to-do list (which is pictured in the blog post). But I don’t use it for anything else. We probably use a similar process with a few tiny tweaks.

      • MSchechter

         @ginidietrich I figured that you were just playing up the “fight” aspect. As much as I’ve gone deeper down the rabbit hole on the tech side, you’re push encouraged me to find better ways to use paper. A plain pad still won’t cut it for me. I like the structure of the ETP or the meeting capture form I use (or even something subtle like Aaron Mahnke’s Capture Pad), but I’m seeing the benefits more and more. Just still wish it was easier to read my own damn handwriting (although Brad over at The Pen Addict is helping me out a bit there).

  • matthixson

    I have worked on this issue personally for years.  I have been implementing and reimplementing GTD for over 10 years.  I used OmniFocus in the past but I can’t work with my team with it.  I have heard of people that rewrite their todo list manually each day.  This gives you a way to review it all the time.  I have found that I need to be electronic or I end up keeping multiple lists in multiple place.  At that point I have no idea which list is current.  I now use Asana.  Price = free on all devices and works with up to 30 people.  It is also designed for GTD which I like.   It really comes down to what works for you.  

    •  @matthixson I’m one of those who writes my to-do list manually every day. But it’s interesting to think about sharing task lists with your team. Hmmmm….

      • kamichat

         @ginidietrich I am totally with Matt Hixson on using Asana for teams. It rocks and sends you email reminders, too.

        • MSchechter

           @kamichat  @ginidietrich I find the email reminders to be a bit unwieldy, but hope they fix that in a future version. I use it with Mike Vardy (he swears by them), but I find their reminders overwrought due to the lack of start dates.

        • matthixson

           @kamichat  @ginidietrich I knew that Kami was smart.

        • matthixson

           @MSchechter  @kamichat  @ginidietrich The reminders in what?  The daily emails?  If it is about the due dates – they are designed to be used in a very limited way.

        • MSchechter

           @matthixson  @kamichat  @ginidietrich Too limited 🙂 I don’t need to see something that’s due a month from now. And since they don’t offer start dates, I can’t not see it until I need to start working on it. 

    • MSchechter

       @matthixson @ginidietrich Have either of you looked at iDoneThis? I’m also fascinated with their approach to team communication.

      •  @MSchechter  @matthixson I haven’t…the name kind of bothers me because it’s grammatically incorrect.

        • MSchechter

           @ginidietrich  @matthixson Understandable, but the approach and the developers overall philosophy of the slow web movement are interesting.

        • matthixson

           @MSchechter  @ginidietrich I haven’t but I will check it out.  I love task management stuff.

  • A bazillion years ago, I read my first (um…and maybe last) time management self-help book. I think it was called If You Don’t Have Time to Do it Right, When WIll You Have Time to do It Over? Or something like that. All I really remember is that it is where I learned the concept of the Master List. One piece of paper (thank you very much) with all the to dos. Not just work related, but all the things to which you must allocate time, no matter how messy the sheet and how many notes are in the margin…just one go-to list. I still keep one. I also keep a nifty spreadsheet of work projects, deadlines and progress in the event someone actually wants to see some tangible evidence that I have priorities. Because my master list isn’t pretty…it’s a perfect reflection of my life. In one spot. Yay. And when I’ve celebrated checking off and adding to until the page is bursting, I start a neat new list, transferring those items I still haven’t checked off to the top. And, although I tried a moleskin to keep my list under wraps and more current looking, the legal pad is the format to which I return. I think of it as my launch pad.

    •  @MimiMeredith This is really fun! Learning about how differently people do things. I want to see your launch pad someday.

  • Oh my word. My favorite topic: my to do list and how best to wrangle it! I think the key, whether it’s paper or technology, or a hybrid of both, is to stop adding so many things to the darn list!!! Easy peasy.
    I am only half joking, you know that, right? If only I would heed that advice, I’d be I’m really fine shape, or very bored…I can’t decide.

    Truth be told, I use a combination of my mental noggin (dangerous), my moleskins (plural, one for each client account), Evernote (useful for subcontractor messages and lists), and most recently, Basecamp. I have to say, my brain is fairly good at keeping track of pressing matters, although I have forgotten topick up the dog from his daycare a time or two. My Moleskins are just awesome for notes, capturing client meetings, etc. Basecamp? My new favorite tool. I can schedule my staff, myself, keep projects front and center, and stay tuned in. The trick has been to get into the habit of checking it and scheduling everything. I’m definitely getting better, but I also realize there is no perfect science here …other than my first solution of less tasks on the list. 🙂

    •  @EricaAllison We use Basecamp for a couple of clients and it works really well, but I hate it because it emails me. I don’t need the email reminder, you stupid tool!

  • I’m with Allen because I LOVE physically crossing an item off my to-do list (it’s freeing, I can’t explain it unless you know the feeling!). But, I also live and die by my work/Gmail calendars, email reminders, Google Reader and Evernote.
    I use my physical planner/calendar to jot down my very tactical work I need to remember throughout the day, as well as things that pop into my head that I need to immediately write down before I forget them. 

    •  @Nikki Little I’m seeing a trend…all of us type A, perfectionist types straddle both.

  • Several years ago I began using BusyCal (iCal on steroids) for my calendar. I can wirelessly sync specific calendars with various team members or keep some to myself. About a year ago they came out with a companion program, BusyToDo. It works I sync with BusyCal. Oh and they wirelessly sync to my iPad and iPhone. I love it and can imagine going back to paper. Of course, there are still a few Post-it’s on my desk too. Their website:

    •  @mdbarber Ohhhhh. I’m going to check this out. Thank you!

      •  @ginidietrich Cool. Let me know. I love how I can electronically check things off my to do list…and also put things on other people’s to do lists. Their support’s pretty good too.

  • metaquoteswebs

    Thank you Gini, I tried many different systems, but to see the difference in task management systems need to try and test the free version. In many known systems working together have free versions, for example on is implemented well. Or you can search for other systems.

  • I also prefer paper, but I’ve been forcing myself to use Producteev. It’s a great free app for both Droid and iOs…

    •  @fitzternet OMG! Their video is hilarious!

  • I like sticky notes for top items but I also keep all my to-do is in our project management system. I like receiving notifications and reminders… But, talking about dropbox etc, I just don’t get how people manage their tasks via Evernote. And how do people manage all these different “boxes”? It’s been driving me nuts and I just found a synching tool and I brought Evernote, Dropbox and Google docs (and Basecamp files) all in one place: I think it’s the same with the notepad, sometimes you just have to keep it simple…

    •  @manamica That’s what I was feeling…being overwhelmed by the tools. But I like this tool you mention. I’m going to check it out!

  • rdopping

    How old school am I?
    1. Outlook – schedule, tasks and email
    2. A hard cover book – conversations, doodles, notes and tasks (go through1 per quarter)
    3. Blackberry – ideas + connection (linked to Outlook)
    Efficient for me but I have been operating like this forever. Kind of in between the paper and the digital. Never lose anything though.

  • I love trying out new technology, including all the task list apps.  I actually have moved away from the pen and paper task list.  However, for a quick note I do find it faster to just find a pencil and paper to make a note.  That’s probably why it’s hard to move completely to a techie solution.  Siri helps a lot though and I’m slowly, but surely getting used to speaking my reminders.

    •  @richescorner I love Siri! I was driving last night and needed to send an email so she sent it for me. She’s a lifesaver!

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  • catrinasharp

    I like the digital to do list complete with action items that I can print and use as a reference. I have found that the “action items” list can be rather long and overwhelming so I create my short list on paper. I think that writing it down helps me remember it as well. I have tried a few “list” apps. I haven’t been thrilled yet. If they had a tighter integration with the iPhone and Outlook, I would be more apt to use them.

    •  @catrinasharp Yeah…I think our need for Microsoft and Apple to work together is never going to happen.

  • masonkesner

    @scrappy_face @spinsucks Totally old school, I use paper!

  • adriasaracino

    I use both paper (Post-Its FTW!) and digital. I’ve found that digital works great for collaboration. My team has moved to agile project management and we use to create tasks that any one of us can be assigned to and remove. What I like about Trello is that it still has that physical “cross off” feel – you archive tasks as they’ve been accomplished and slowly watch the lists get smaller. If you are a manager, I HIGHLY recommend managing your team in this way – if you have any questions about agile for marketers, let me know!

    •  @adriasaracino This might be good for my team. I’ll ask them to check it out. Thanks!

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  • kntoepfer

    I am a paper-task-lister, too! I found that since I type so often, I am more likely to remember something if I actually write it down. Although I’ve used nearly every task management app or software out there, it’s not the same. 

    •  @kntoepfer Since writing this, @mdbarber introduced me to BusyCal and I LOVE IT! I have been using it for about a week and I get the same value from it as I do my paper task list. 

      • kntoepfer

         @ginidietrich Thanks for the suggestion!

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  • angelabdotme

    I use a combo of online and paper: Trello and a comp book day planner.  They actually complement each other very well!  I just posted about it today 🙂

    •  @angelabdotme Ohhh! I’ll stop by and read it!