Some use a diary. Others use an email calendar. Some use a biro and the back of their hand. Whatever your solution, it’s likely you have at least one to-do list that on bad days can reach epic proportions, and things are bound to slip off now and then.
The to-do list is an unsophisticated but important tool for anyone with multiple responsibilities – which, let’s face it, is virtually everyone. Even the act of making one can be a useful exercise, with research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011 suggesting that “plan making can eliminate the cognitive effects of unfulfilled goals”.
In other words, even if you have loads of things to do, writing down how you intend to approach them can assuage the anxiety that they’re not yet finished.
Given that people also like to compartmentalise, it’s likely you’ll have different to-do lists for work and home, or perhaps for different clients and campaigns, knowing that you can only tick off one column at a time. The problem then comes with organising them while also ensuring you don’t forget one or the other.
Software suites such as Microsoft’s Outlook and Google’s many apps incorporate ways to create tasks, reminders and notifications linked to a calendar, however staying on top of jobs with long lead times can be tough. You’ll also be fighting against the noise of irrelevant emails managed in the same inbox.
Dedicated apps such as Any.do and Todoist are an alternative approach. They help keep your tasks top-of-mind – probably the reason you wanted them on a to-do list in the first place – by cutting out extraneous clutter in a simple interface, while also allowing you to categorise your lists and divide jobs into sub-tasks.
Of course, paper and pen remains a tried and tested option if you can be organised enough to keep the pages where you need them and know when to stop adding new lines. In any case, making your reminders easily accessible and clearly defined will help you be more effective and less anxious.