What do you need to do today? Other than read this blog entry, I mean.

Have you ever noticed that a huge percentage of Lifehacker-like productivity porn site content is a breathless description of the details of Yet Another To-Do Application? There are dozens upon dozens of the things to choose from, on any platform you can name. At this point it's getting a little ridiculous; per Lifehacker's Law, you'd need a to-do app just to keep track of all the freaking to-do apps.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:
1 Like

I agree about lists (or maybe it’s because I’m too lazy to maintain them). But you have a seriously dodgy taste in music.

Genius! A to-do app to manage all to-do app. I’m gonna be rich making one!

Bruce, despite your insouciance, your kiss is still on my list.


My 2 top productivity tips:

-Stop reading about productivity and spend the time you save doing productive stuff.
-Don’t write yet another TODO list app (YATDLA). We have reached the TODO list app event horizon, where it actually takes longer to evaluate all the existing TODO list apps than it does to write your own TODO list app.

This blog post brought to you today by Trello… Organize anything, together! (Just kidding!)

Although I totally agree that todo list making helps make procrastinators feel like they are doing something… I do wish there was a better way to determine and provide task dependencies… That would actually help determine priorities.

Say that your driver-license are about to expire, and you never get the new card from the DMV. You keep postponing it - cause let’s face it, who wants to call the DMV, let along go there…

So you don’t have a TODO-list, and you’ve had a really hectic week - then bammmm, a cop stops you for a routine check…

Don’t know about you, but I need a TODO-list exactly for all the important things that I don’t want to do…

Same for me, My list is for the stuff I don’t want to do. I don’t think your advice is very helpful here, as I don’t want to coach myself into waking up thinking “I can’t wait to clean the air filter today!”. Not cleaning the air filter isn’t a better option.

Todo lists are backups for your brain.

Sometimes there’s meta-work involved in cleaning it up yes, but that’s the price of keeping your data in sync.

It feels like the same type of person who’d be against TODO lists would be against unit testing.

Well, the best approach for me has been using Google Calendar. It is very flexible, you can put things to do there that repeat weekly, monthly, every 6 months, every 35 days… anyway you want… and then I setup Google Calendar as my initial page on Chrome. Done.

The superior choice of song would be Butterfingers’ “Yo Mama”

To quote the sage, “I can’t go for that.”
“no can do”


My to-do lists (and yes, I have 3) are:

  1. Google calendar for things I don’t need to remember right now. I just need to remember them down the road and I’ll send myself a reminder so that I do them (dentist appointment, etc.) Non-work things go here. Appointments go here.

  2. The big whiteboard on my wall where anyone on my team or I can write down something that needs to get done by me at some point but not right now. If it’s on the board, it’s going to get done but isn’t priority 1.

  3. A single sheet of paper on my desk where today’s train of thought goes. I get interrupted throughout the day. Stuff comes up. Each day I write down today’s tasks and mark though them as I’ve finished them. No pressure… no feeling that I’m a failure if I haven’t finished them all yet… I’m not racing, I’m developing solutions to problems. This frees my brain to think about solutions, not try to memorize what’s next. Then I’m not “out of touch”.

Yeah… Hall & Oates… you make my dreams come true. :wink:


So you just fix bugs when you remember them and it feels right? /rhetorical snark

Yes, pushing back on the productivity porn is important. I remember Merlin Mann had a pretty good post about just that when he put down 43folders for a while. (Which I apparently didn’t bookmark. List fail.) But addiction to todo lists is an addiction problem not a todo list problem. Find what works to augment your brain, recognize when you’re going down the gear whore hole, and then go outside and do things.

My problem with To-Do lists was that while there was a bit of a high when crossing items off the list I didn’t have an adequate method of keeping track of what I had gotten done.

I found a website,, that tackles this problem. It is still in the early stages, however I like the idea of getting away from the traditional To-Do list with a future-focused approach and looking back at what you have actually finished.

If you have lists of to-do lists then I think you have a problem. I think that would require a Lifehacker’s anonymous class.

Clearly you do not have Attention Deficit Disorder.

No, I disagree. Time is a resource and just like money, it needs to be managed. Without a budget, we lose track of what we spend money on and waste money. Without a to-do list of some sort, even just an agenda, we lose track of what needs to be done. Saying that if you have too many things that need to be done, you need a lifestyle change is like saying if you have too many allotments in your budget, you need to spend less. It might be true to an extent, but it does not mean do away with the budget.

I maintain fighter aircraft and you better believe lists are important.

1 Like

I write 'em on a 3x5 and throw 'em out at the end of the day. Messy is flexible.

"Come up with the three most important things you need to do that day "

That sounds a lot like a list! The difference between writing down three things in the morning vs. memorizing three things each morning escapes me, except maybe the former is less stress.

I’ve found a light “to do today” list actually has real value, followed by lists for work project ideas, restaurants I want to try, and projects I’m currently working on. I’m not 100% sure the last list is useful, but “to do today” is great around 3 o clock when I’m tired and lost in the details of the day, and forgot what I set out to do in the morning.

I don’t obsess about the tool; right now I’m keeping everything in a lightweight web app called Trello (perhaps you have heard of it :slight_smile:

1 Like

By the way, about 99% of the productivity lists I’ve made have indeed been wastes of time, so I think you’re on to something. But “to do today”, limited to at MOST five items and usually around 3, has been great.

I’ve never had luck with most productivity applications, and I think it’s because those highly idealized “things I kinda want to get done over the next half-year” lists never work out for me.

In practical terms, Apple’s Reminders is good for very time-sensitive things that absolutely have to be completed by a deadline (groceries, chores, my wedding prep), and Google Calendar is great for keeping track of my schedule. I’ve tried other things and realized that whatever doesn’t fall in those first two categories is fodder for my procrastination.