5 Alternative To-Do Lists

Most motivated people seem to have an ongoing ‘to-do list’. It’s usually about five years old, scrunched up in your bag and has more scribbles on it than a colouring book. Although that looks like a clear sign of a ‘go-getting’, motivated person, whether anything gets done on that list is another matter. If, like me, your old-school ‘to-do list’ needs a bit of an upgrade, read on for a few ideas.


1. A reminder not to forget


An old friend of mine used to wear elastic bands on her wrist as ‘a reminder not to forget’. Each elastic band stood for something that she needed to do. She didn’t write any of it down, she just knew that if there were three elastic bands, she had three things to do.

It’s actually a great idea because rather than writing things down and immediately forgetting about them, you have a constant reminder at your fingertips. (Oh yeah, pun totally intended.) Not writing the tasks down means there’s more urgency to get the things done before you forget about them.

However, if you don’t fancy bits of rubber dangling off your arms (this was a high-school friend’s tip) there are plenty of other alternatives. You can put paperclips on your notebook, stickers on your phone or coins in your pocket. Get creative!

2. Must, Should, Want

A screen shot from ‘Google Keep’, a great app/site for notes and lists.

Jay Shirley created this technique to help people do more in a realistic way. Instead of having a ‘to-do list’ that’s the length of your arm, split it into three, more achievable sections; must do, should do and want to do.

This works well because it automstically puts things into perspective. What was originally an endless list of ‘essential’ tasks becomes three shorter lists, one of which is crucial, one can wait and the other is a bit of a treat.

By using this technique, you won’t find yourself ticking off three things that you ‘want’ to do and feeling no better at the end of the day. Instead, you will have a much shorter list of essential tasks that seems a lot more doable. I have tried this one myself and love it, I got more done and I felt less stressed about what I had to do the next day. You also have a lovely list of ‘want to-do’s’ to treat yourself to.

3. Frame it


For those of you who hate carrying around a scrappy little piece of paper, this is how to do the ‘to-do list’ in style. Coax out your creative side and show off your tasks with bright colours and fancy fonts. You don’t have to splash out on a fancy frame, there are plenty of tutorials online on how to make a chalkboard from an old frame.

This technique is great it you’re artistic as every task that you tick off means you can replace it with some new artwork. It can give you that extra bit of motivation you need to complete a task.

4. App It


There’s an app for everything these days, including ‘to-do’ lists. Actually, there’s tonnes of them, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

The great thing about these apps is they always look clean, new and spotless. Unlike your wrinkled paper list, it doesn’t have coffee stains or rips on it. It always looks tidy and you can be proud to look at your neatly ‘crossed off’ accomplishments at the end of the day. There’s something inspiring and motivating about a nice clean screen, it’s almost as good as a new notebook!

Check out a few of the best choices on lifehack.org. My favourite app has to be Any.do (as seen in the picture above) because it’s a neat, simplistic app that’s easy to use. No procrastinating over picking the best background or any of that nonsense!

5. The done list

A screenshot of the iDoneThis app.

The main problem with ‘to-do lists’ is that you don’t get a reward for all of your hard work at the end of the day. After hours of slaving over difficult tasks, all you really get is a piece of paper with lots of lines and scribbles on it. It’s not quite the reward you would like for completing an entire project or getting round to the thing you’ve been putting off for weeks.

The ‘done’ list (or anti to-do list as Marc Andreessen’s model is called) records all the things you have done. Making a list of all the things you’ve accomplished at the end of the day gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. After all, you probably deserve it, you hard-worker you! You can either do this this old fashioned way by writing a ‘done’ list at the end of the day, or you can be a bit more hi-tech and download an app like iDoneThis to do it for you

So, rather than staring at a page of all the leftover things you’ve failed to do that day, you get a bit of recognition for the work you have done. This is the nicest option by far! The apps tend to work best for projects that require team work but you can use them as an individual as well.

3 thoughts on “5 Alternative To-Do Lists

  1. To do list:
    1. Comment on Sudrobelle new post
    2. Tell her I love her posts specially when they are about writing, because I also dream of becoming a writer too.
    3. Wish her a beautiful summer and hope she writes more soon.

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