To-Do Lists that Help You Work

To-do lists can work for you or make you crazy. There are many ways to create them, and the only one that works is the one that works for you.

First, I have to admit that I use a paper to-do list. Even with all the electronics, the fastest, most efficient list-making for me is done with a pencil and index. card.  I don’t have to boot it up, recharge it, or open it. It’s available to me at all times, and a pencil doesn’t need to be connected, opened, or tested. It’s always ready to go. I’ll admit I have a pencil thing.

Here are two ways to use a to-do list. Both involve 3 x 5 index cards, or 4 x 6 cards if you write big.  (I turn the cards and work on them portrait-orientation.) I work on several projects at a time, so I use one card per project. Each project’s name is written on the top of the card, and the to-do list underneath. That way, I can put all the project to-do lists next to each other and see how much work I have and which project needs to take priority. When I have a lot of projects going at the same time, it’s wonderful.

color coded index cardsWhen I get really into projects, I assign one color to each project, and color code the cards to match the project. (You can also use different color cards.) Color coding gives me overviews and helps me draw conclusions faster. (“A lot of blue cards, do I need to farm some of this out?” “The yellow project is due in a week. Why so few yellow cards? Am I done early, or is there something missing?”)

Then there is the worry list to-do list. When I wake up at night, unable to sleep and busy worrying, I make a list of things I’m worrying about. Having written down the worries, I go back to sleep. The next morning, I tackle the things that need to be done.

The last to-do list is called the tag-cloud to-do list. Because I use the same method as tag clouds–the more important a task, the bigger I write it. Because I have small handwriting, I draw a box around each item on the list. The bigger the box, the more important (or worrisome, or pressing) the item. That gives me two facts at once: the item and the importance, all in one glance.

You can use a mix of these methods. Color-coding works with tag-clouding very well.  Tag-clouding works with worry-list well, too. And no matter what method I choose, writing down all the things that need to get done helps me free up more memory cells.


–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a trainer specializing in communicating. That includes Writing for the Web and Giving Powerful Presentations. See all the topics at © 2007 -9 All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “To-Do Lists that Help You Work

  1. Google Voice is still “by invitation” but I think it will open up to everyone soon. It’s a bit unusual in that Google didn’t invent this one; they bought it. It was originally called “Grand Central”.

    No idea when it will be available outside the US. It probably depends on the labrynthine and draconian telecommunications laws every country seems to have been tricked into enacting. We’re very lucky that things like writing, printing, and paper predate all modern governments.

    • I remember Grand Central, but Google Voice didn’t invite me. I have an app called Google Voice, but it’s a little different. It is simply a voice-activated Google. It searches for I ask for instead of having me type it in. –Q

  2. My problem with to do lists is that I create too many of them. My solution is to use email as a todo list; I send myself emails with the title “To Do” and my email program has a rule that “if the title is ‘To Do'” then put this email in the “To Do List” folder. This works for me because I almost always have a phone that can send email. A new wrinkle, now that I have Google Voice, is that I can do this with voice notes — I call myself, leave voicemail, Google Voice transcribes the voicemail and emails it to me so it goes into the same list.

    • How I wish I had your phone Pete! Now I always write my to do lists on a piece of paper with a (my favorite)Parker ballpoint, but lately my lists get lost between magazines, other to do lists or in my purse.. Google Voice sounds interesting something for my alarmclock maybe 😉

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.