Update on How I’m Keeping Track of My To-Dos


“My to-do list is so long that it doesn’t have an end; it has an event horizon.”

– Craig Bruce

Luckily, my to-do list isn’t nearly that bad, but, like most people, I still need a way to keep track of my to-dos, and I hadn’t been doing a very good job of it. In fact, about a month ago, I mentioned needing to get my to-do list under control, since it consisted of piles of small random notes on my desk.

In the comments to that post, Nathan Atkinson said that for small tasks (vs large projects) he “kinda sorta” uses a version of the Bullet Journal or the Dash/Plus System.

Coincidentally, shortly before I read Nathan’s comment, I’d been researching options and felt that something “kinda sorta” like those systems would work well for me. They’re similar in that they both use symbols on a paper to-do list to help categorize and organize tasks.

“Originally a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the increasing expense and complexity of personal digital assistants, the Hipster PDA…simply comprises a sheaf of index cards held together with a binder clip.”

– Wikipedia

Instead of using a notebook, though, I went with the Hipster PDA. It’s a luxurious type of planner, consisting of a stack of index cards stuck together with a binder clip.

I already had the supplies in my desk drawer, so no shopping was necessary, and, when I need more index cards, it’ll cost me a few bucks for a couple of years’ worth.

Best of all, the Hipster PDA is just a more organized way of doing what I do naturally – scribbling notes on small pieces of paper. This means it’s easier for me to keep up, since I don’t have to learn a new system.

It’s also portable, if you need that, but, as I mentioned, I like keeping my home to-dos on my desk.

If, like some people, you want to keep records of all this stuff for an extended time, a notebook may work better for you, but once I’ve “processed” everything on both sides of a card, it goes straight into the recycle bin. No need to keep a whole notebook when I only want a dozen or so pages (cards) at a time.

“[T]here is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.”

– Umberto Eco

I mentioned that I already use Google Calendar for keeping track of appointments, birthdays, etc., as well as my new home maintenance calendar, so I really just need a way of tracking small to-dos like picking up my hold at the library, buying new walking shoes or getting Mr. Wilson’s insulin prescription refilled.

I also wanted some reasonably organized method for noting things like restaurants to try, movies to watch and the names of the new neighbors. Some of you are thinking, “Evernote!” Not for me. Tried it, don’t love it. I prefer paper for these kinds of to-dos.

“[W]hen we’re in the midst of our to-do list work flow, our brains favor the instantly gratifying, single step to-dos and inconveniently ignore the ones that require modest thinking.”

– Karden Rabin

Since my to-do list isn’t responsible for tracking much, my method is simpler than most. I’m using a few symbols (as in the Bullet Journal and the Dash/Plus systems), but since I’m tossing most of the cards fairly quickly, I don’t need an index or complex tracking system.

I label a card with the day of the week for the next few days (a week at most) and add to-dos to those cards. Although I have appointments listed on Google calendar, I add those to these cards as well. I have another card with long-term to-dos that can be done whenever it’s convenient.

Then I have a few different cards with things to remember: one for neighbors’ names (it’s an area of new construction, so we keep getting new names to remember), one for movies to read and books to watch, and one for miscellaneous stuff.

Depending on your personality, this might sound hopelessly chaotic or compulsive to you, but it’s working really well for me.

Since I don’t have much to track, there’s not much rewriting that needs doing. Already, having the “when convenient” to-do card has helped me accomplish several things I would have forgotten to do if I hadn’t had them organized this way.

How do you organize your to-dos?