The best today list system is one you will actually use. There is no one size fits all system.
https://github.com/todotxt/ is my weapon of choice.
Simple text file with a small set of conventions and with a nice tooling. Easy to sync, easy to diff, super easy to edit…
I tried everything. From Remember the Milk, todoist and a plethora of other online web apps to org-mode, task warrior & a full implementation of GTD using various tools (including a cork board for pinning notes).
The bullet journal approach is the only thing that really worked for me and that’s what I am doing now. The difference is amazing, I have things actually planned a month ahead and regularly executing on them (which was almost never the case in the past).
Software didn’t work for me for two main reasons:
GTD failed with too many items to book keep and it encouraged me to just continue filling in more items to-do.
In contrast with the bullet journal:
If you are having issues with picking a method or a tool. Give bullet journalling a try - it worked for me.
I also applied this tactic on one of my first jobs. At my desk, an A3 paper was beneath my keyboard, and I rested my arms on the thick paper. Everytime someone asked me to do something, or something popped in my mind, I wrote it on the paper.
Eventually, there were so many tasks on the paper that I applied some backpressure. I discussed the relevant tasks, to decide what was still necessary, and crossed out all other tasks. Tasks that were completed were marked by a checkmark.
After a few months, I got a little archive of A3 papers. This really helped me get a sense of progress.
I greatly enjoyed using Bullet Journaling. I tried Project Evo and bought 4 from the Kickstarter, and it’s kinda good, but I kinda regret it. I thought “Oh, I would use this monthly layout! Oh, I would use this weekly todo list” and I never do. I do like the gratitude/wellness prompts, but I could have come up with those myself. I get no particular value out of the app aspect.
The forcing function of rewriting tasks is the clutch bit of Bullet Journalling. I used to put all my tasks in Inbox, snooze them, snooze them, snooze them, I got anxious and deluged. I think I will go back to Bullet Journals once I fill up my current Evo.
I swear by org-mode. https://orgmode.org
What do you do when you’re not at a computer?
I’m new to the emacs crowd, but just today I’ve installed Orgzly on my Android phone, syncing is a little bit odd though.
I’m not sure though if I prefer the built-in calendar/reminders system or rather go with some emacs <=> CalDav integration (if such a thing exists).
That post seems a bit like an overkill to me. I personally prefer to use the built-in sync with Dropbox (disclaimer: only built in in the Google Play version, not the F-Droid one), but people that keep it clean from closed code recommend Syncthing to do it
You can call it overkill, but right now it’s the only way of syncing with this tool - I don’t have Play Store and I also don’t have Dropbox. I think Dropbox is acting in bad faith.
Have you considered using Syncthing? It’s a peer to peer file synchronization utility that doesn’t rely on Google, and doesn’t store your data anywhere but your devices.
Syncthing is mentioned in the thread I’ve linked to in my initial comment. I’ll still give it a try, since I haven’t considered it at all. Note: I haven’t used Syncthing in the past two years, maybe it has improved.
Syncthing is pretty terrible on Android, regularly was out of sync, and took my battery from ~28 hours to ~4. Wondering if there are specific setups that use less cpu for syncthing.
I must have randomly stumbled into a working configuration, since my Keepass database stays pretty well-synced and my phone will usually last a day without needing charging. Sorry it doesn’t work for you, though.
I keep my org-mode files in my Nextcloud instance, and in the Android app mark all the files to be kept in sync. Orgzly auto-syncs them now, no need for Tasker or anything.
I actually worked on something  to sync up the paper list with computer. Still has a lot to do…
One of my ideas for a mobile app is one where I could open a photo of a todo list, and then “cross out” items on it by painting a wide gray line over them with a finger.
I’m currently experimenting using a to-do list as just a simple control mechanism to make myself not waste my life doing dumb stuff on the computer. Or at least to log it for myself every time I do.
In a nutshell: I write everything I do to a list before I start doing it, and the list is context/location-specific. And it’s just paper, otherwise the list itself would distract me.
https://vegai.github.io/posts/fighting-adt-with-the-list.html (sorry about the lack of CSS, the blog is brand new and I haven’t bothered to write one yet)
I, like many fellow engineers, wrote my own called muda. Why “Muda”? Because productivity is waste. It’s web-based and completely written in C++. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compile with the latest version of Wt
a screenshot in the readme would be helpful.
Thanks, good idea. Will do that when i get it runnig with the new version of Wt.
I copied John Carmack’s finger files, its p great
Hah, interesting, that’s something from Master of Doom, it’s in my reading list for a while https://garbagecollected.org/2017/10/24/the-carmack-plan/
I read it about a year ago and really enjoyed it. I knew about Carmack’s finger files prior to reading but after reading about them in the book I decided to give it a whirl. I changed it a bit to fit my own needs but it’s the same general idea.
Here’s what one of my files looks like from Nov 2017 shortly after I finished reading the book. My system is like this:
[x] - did the thing
[ ] - didn’t do the thing
[-] - decided not to do the thing
Sometimes I include more liner notes indented under an item.
[x] fix GET emails endpoint
[x] change filtering to favor daterange over lookbackdays
[x] test email attachment api
[x] send whole attachment object after upload
[x] GET email attachment by id
[-included in the email-] GET email attachment by email id
[x] add EmailAddress, Address1, Address2, City, State, ZipCode, Work/home/MobilePhone to GET
[x] get/add/edit/delete email templates for user/settings
[-] associate template w/ user
[x] CRUD workflow rules
[x] go over bulk email mechanics
[x] add DELETE EmailTemplate
I doubt any of those guys who posted fancy to-do lists ever use a to-do list.
I doubt any of those guys who posted fancy to-do lists ever use a to-do list.
This reminds me of a friend who’s started keeping a hand-drawn “bullet journal”. Essentially you get a white notebook, and you draw a fancy planner layout yourself on a two-page spread for each week. Then you take a photo with your phone/camera, add some filters, and post it on twitter/instagram.
I really doubt she got any work done with it, because every week after spending two hours just drawing the damn thing she complained that she didn’t have much to write in it. Last time I checked, she had switched to a layout for multiple months.
It’s 2019 and I has moved my blog so many time, so if you’re looking for this article, read it on my new blog https://jft.rocks/random/the-best-to-do-list-system
Or the archived one https://web.archive.org/web/20180828053120/https://huytd.github.io/the-best-todo-list-method.html
I use paper a lot for kinda ephemeral stuff but by far the number one problem I have is that it prevents being able to always capture. If I’m away from my desk I now need a secondary capture system to get it onto that list.
This is a bit inevitable of course, I think you can’t avoid having more than one and doing some cleanup work. The trick I have at the moment when I’m away from my primary todo-capture systems is to use my phone to set a reminder to remind myself to write it down later.
For the “don’t keep a long time” thing, I tend to make daily to-do’s and review the previous day’s to-do’s to actively build the following one. This requires a lot of honesty about not doing something though (otherwise you end up aggregating dead to-do’s in your list). For some things that have been in the list too long I set a calendar event to come back to it in a week or two (time for me to accept failure/have a different perspective on the task).
Yeah, for me it’s a bit different, I’m a kind of sitting-all-day guy, I do have a second list at home as well, the two lists for two kinds of tasks. So I guess, if you gonna need a list when you’re away from your desk, that list should have a different type of tasks from the one you have at your desk :D
The Bullet Journal app on iOS is pretty good for this. It lets you add tasks… but it deletes them after 2 days. You have to put them in your book or they’re gone. So when you’re away from your desk you can enter stuff, but you have to jot it down if you care about it.
I used to use a bunch of square papers. Like postit notes, but not sticky. They were all over my desk and my handwriting is not the clearest (although not unreadable). Been using Todoist for the last couple weeks and it’s been working pretty good for me.
After using a whole bunch of TODO systems (various online stuff, dating all the way back to when Remember The Milk started to more recently with ClickUp, and various local stuff like Todotxt), the one thing that I always come back to is indeed the good ol’ paper TODO list. Also because I have a couple of fancy expensive pens that I need to justify having bought :)
The key for me however is to have a separate, thin notebook for TODO (like Field Notes… or something better if you use fountain pens), because otherwise I would mix up TODO items with general notes and then I lose/forget what I needed to do.
I am currently only working on a single project, therefore a ‘grep -r xxx .’ Does the thing. I also have a notebook by MUJI and I just today compared my notes with my source comments. 100% consistency.
Kinda feels like a waste of time. But somehow it’s nice to have the same info/task in different representations.
Rearranging them and changing them is easier in the notebook. But my notebook doesn’t have VCS and comparing progress is different.
I’ve been using the “diary” https://github.com/vimwiki/vimwiki entries for managing my todo list.
I just copy over the entry for the day before to a new file for that day, and delete anything I accomplished the day before, so I can focus on what to do for that day. I keep my wiki directory synced through dropbox/syncthing/onedrive/what ever. Since it’s all just markdown plain text, I can easily sync it to my phone and use a markdown editor there to update.
I use vim OTL (and an extension in vscode that’s mostly compatible) for work stuff. I’ve gone through a lot of different options for personal stuff (including authoring todotxt.net) but I’ve settled on Trello.
It’s not perfect (I’d prefer something self-hosted and text based) but I can access it anywhere, it’s flexible and most importantly, it works well for sharing lists with my wife and kids.
To me, the beauty of the bullet journal is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. My personal system isn’t anywhere near the original, but it works for me. The videos and other resources are nothing but a starting point. I don’t see why the idea of bullet journaling and the system discussed in the post are at odds at all.
There’s nothing wrong with bullet journaling, but there’s a productivity flaw for it, I’ve seen so many people spending too much time on beautifying their journal, or make it more minimalism, or… keep it clean, in short, it’s very easy to be distracted by the unnecessary things instead of the note/to-do list itself when you go with bullet journal.
Is that a productivity flaw or just a hobby that you don’t share? There’s nothing wrong with spending time on making a journal pretty. Minimalism might be king to you, but plenty of people find relaxation and catharsis in beautifying their journals. Perhaps being “distracted by the unnecessary things” is just the way you look at your own journal / todo list; perhaps others don’t find it distracting, but enhancing.
If using a tool becomes a task of its own, it’s not helping you manage your tasks.
Hobby != task. This varies person to person. For the record, I don’t beautify my bullet journal - I keep it minimal, with a different set of symbols & different use patterns than the “original”. It works for me.
What about those who want to spend time on prettifying it? That’s not a “task of its own”, that’s a hobby. On what authority would you tell that person that their beautified bullet journal is “not helping [them] manage [their] tasks”?
A task is anything you spend time on. Hobbies are something you spend time on. Therefore, a hobby is a task. No inherent negative connotation there.
Now: what’s the point of an organizational system if you focus on the form over the function? Is the urge to beautify helping the user do what they need to do? If not, it’s a distraction. As a result, I would not recommend it to most people.
On what authority? I have no authority; I have only reason & experience. Just like anyone else on the planet.
You concede you have no authority, yet you’re prescribing actions to people that you don’t share experiences with. Perhaps organizational systems have different purposes to different people. Perhaps the things you value in an organizational system aren’t necessarily the things everyone (or even most people) value in an organizational system.
I do paper for very short term lists, but everything else goes in workflowy. Use it for scoping projects too. Lists of lists.
You get referral money for that link?
Nah. Free version is limited. If you sign up with the link I get a few more items. I’m throwing it out there.
It is a good tool, works well on my phone in both web and app.
Same idea as dropbox has (had?). Still good to know, thanks for answering.