7 alternatives to a to-do list for people who hate to-do lists

Daily Briefing

7 alternatives to a to-do list for people who hate to-do lists

Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter with Social Media, recently ditched the traditional, daunting to-do list for a new, stress-free productivity system.

Conventional to-do lists don’t work for everyone; often, they become glaring reminders of all the tasks left undone. For Samuel, the solution was as simple as using different tools for different tasks. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Samuel shares her recommendations for recording tasks in a system you will actually want to check:

1: Jot down big-picture priorities

Some tasks are too big or too vague for a conventional to-do list, Samuel observes. Taking note of big-picture priorities—a list of five to ten items—forces you to choose what to focus on in the coming weeks. According to Samuel, the primary purpose of this note is the act of writing it, but it may be helpful to refer back to throughout the week to ensure you are on track. 

2: Record strict deadlines

Marking strict deadlines on a calendar is a reliable way to ensure time-sensitive tasks aren’t lost on a list of dozens of other items. Samuel maintains a specific “deadlines” calendar where she not only records due dates, but also blocks out the appropriate amount of time to see the task through to completion.

Also see: Why you procrastinate—and how to stop

3: Keep a shared shopping list

Keeping an up-to-date shopping list can be difficult, especially when multiple people are adding items to the list. Samuel recommends creating a shopping list in a tool that allows multiple people to update as needed, so you never forget another item at the store.

4: Maintain ideas and aspirations

Because you’re not ready to start on every idea you have, maintain a separate list for potential future projects and ambitions. Samuel suggests creating a spreadsheet for these aspirations that can easily be accessed, and even filtered by date or type, the next time you need some inspiration.

5: Reorganize emails

Many people treat their email inbox as another to-do list, Samuel explains. In order to prevent emails and tasks from falling into a black hole, take advantage of email add-ons that bring old emails back on your radar after a specific date or period of time.

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6: Fast-track requests

Some items you can simply avoid listing altogether. Samuel notes that quick questions or straightforward requests can be fast-tracked through texting or messaging apps such as Slack.

7: Create reminders

Items that aren’t necessarily deadline-driven, but that you may need to be reminded of, belong in their own category. Samuel arranges electronic reminders for a time she anticipates she will be able to address those tasks, snoozing the alert if the moment turns out to be inconvenient. According to Samuel, electronic reminders allow you to appropriately time tasks without having to constantly consult a to-do list (Samuel, Wall Street Journal, 3/8).  ‘

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