To Do — Write Blog

by Katy on August 3, 2009 · 17 comments

to-do list

When I was in college I was a big to-do list writer. I had a very specific format complete with small boxes to check off — it was highly satisfying. The sense of accomplishment filled me with a sense of grown-uppiness that comes with a job well done.

Fast forward twenty years and I have pretty much slacked off with the to-do lists. I know what needs to be done, and my status as a grown-up is no longer up in the air.

But when I start to get overwhelmed with the tasks of life, I whip out the ol’ list writing skills.

Laundry, clear off the air hockey table, water plants, check, check, check.

I have read online about all sorts of computerized ways to organize to do lists, but I don’t get it. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned piece of paper? It’s a perfect use for an old envelope, and slips easily into a back pocket.

A simple system with no downsides.

But then again, it’s kind of nice to not always be obsessing about all the things I need to do. I don’t enjoy that mindset, I kind of like feeling that not every minute needs to prove its usefulness.

Which is why I write fewer and fewer lists, yet am perfectly okay with my sense of accomplishment. And I’m pretty darned sure that I have reached the pinnace of grown-uppiness.

Are you a compulsive to-do list writer? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

lauren August 3, 2009 at 5:29 am

i am. but i’m also a huge procrastinator. so i have to switch up my methods every now and then to keep myself ‘tasked.’ some days it is just a piece of paper – some days it’s on my daily calendar – and some days i use gmail’s calendar to remind me. i highly recommend david allen’s getting things done book.


Meg from FruWiki August 3, 2009 at 7:40 am

I love to-do lists because it gets all that stuff out of my head so I can stop worrying about trying to remember it. However, I still haven’t found the perfect to-do list for me.

I was using Remember the Milk, but it seemed to miss some seemingly simple things I wanted like being able to set reminder times differently for different tasks — which Google Calendar does so great for events. Meanwhile, it gave me plenty of ways to tag an event and add locations, too — stuff I didn’t use so much.

Ironically perhaps, I just started really getting into Google Tasks which is much simpler and still doesn’t have all the things I want. However, it ties in better with other Google things I use like Google Calendar. And I hope that Google will be integrating them more in the future.

Meanwhile, my husband just recently discovered to-do lists and it’s really been revolutionary for him. He’s getting a lot more things done and I’ve been able to stop nagging him about things (which I think I minded more than he did). He just uses the plain text editor on his phone and it works brilliantly for him.


Angela August 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

I love lists of all kinds.

I’ve been using to-do lists since sometime in college. Our roommate at that time was fascinated with my friend and I making our lists in the morning. One day, he made his, “1. drink coffee, 2. smoke cigarette, 3. take shower. Later that morning, he declared that he felt very accomplished. We thought that was hilarious.

Nowadays, since I always try to do more than I can actually do, my favorite trick is to write my to-do list and then immediately cross a few things off, making it more manageable.

I use a paper and pen or pencil. I usually have an overall “monthly” list of what I want to get done and then I write separate lists for the day or the week. I’m very low-tech and don’t see the need to use any kind of software. For me, it’s just a matter of making sure the things that are important to me get done, instead of letting the urgent and immediate things take over.


LisaPie August 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

I am the Queen of Listmakers! I adore a good list. I bet I never go a day without making several lists. Not just to-do lists either, shopping lists, pros and cons of a decision list, packing lists, inventory lists.

There is just something about getting it down on paper and then crossing an item off that really lifts my spirits.

I love the pocketmod for a small take with me list, portable, easily personalized for each day, generally awesome!

Nice topic!


Elizabeth B August 3, 2009 at 11:26 am

Angela, that is indeed hilarious.

Ah, the To-Do list. So satisfying to check those items off! I’m down with the paper version, myself. I’ve tried Apple’s iCal, but doing To-Do lists is annoyingly complicated compared with the ease of just scrawling a list of things on a piece of paper. Since I’m a teacher, I have to print a lot (handouts, you know), so I use the back side of a letter-sized sheet, sometimes cut in half, sometimes not. Right now I’m experimenting with multiple columns across the page, one column per day, which lets me plan out my week somewhat.


Fairy Dust August 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm

yeah, I’m a paper list gal, too. I do use google calendar for a lot of reminders, but we have the written grocery list in the kitchen and that gets translated to separate lists for each store with coupons, then at work I have my projects list with deadlines, my list of processes to run each day, etc etc. It’s just so much easier to write them down and cross them off, even in this day and age of the “paperless office” – LOL!


Sierra August 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I make a lot of to-do lists. I find they’re very helpful for me because I’m terribly forgetful. I use Todoist to maintain several to-do lists. One for my writing work, one for my personal finance management, one for my general life stuff, and one for my kids’ appointments and lesson and stuff. It’s a little complex, but it helps me remember what I meant to be doing.


Greta August 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I keep my to-do lists in a notebook and date every list. I love looking back at them as the year progresses to see what I’ve accomplished, what I’m still working on and what little things I do over and over again every week. I do this at work and at home. It’s almost like a diary.


Kathy August 4, 2009 at 5:47 am

I love to-do lists (then again, I enjoy project management).

I’ve been known to add one or two things I’ve already finished, just so I get the satisfaction of crossing them off! 🙂



Kristin @ klingtocash August 4, 2009 at 7:36 am

I’m not huge on to-do lists. I keep lists for other things: grocery lists, possible blog topics, books I want to read. Seeing a to-do list makes me feel too confined. I like to see where my day takes me.


jenn baron August 4, 2009 at 8:34 am

I write a to-do list nightly before I go to bed. That way I don’t have to try to remember what needs to get done, I can sleep well and start off the next day with a clear priority list. I never have to worry about forgetting something important and I can use my brain for creativity rather than storage 🙂


Jean Farris August 4, 2009 at 10:17 am

Glad to hear there are still a few others out there who use and love the paper list. I too have multiple lists–the “today!” list, this week, this month, lists by each room of my house for tasks both large and small, and I have a notebook with a set of lists for an annual oktoberfest bash we have–the menu, the shopping list, the guest list, a prep schedule–while these get tweaked a bit each year, basically all the planning is already done. There’s something tactile about paper and a pencil that I just don’t get from a blackberry or my computer!


penelope August 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm

nope., my to-do list is in my brain


dink2sink August 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm

When I turned 24, I made a list of 25 things to accomplish before I turned 25. With five months to go, I still have a few doozies left:

-go to Europe
-learn Spanish
-bake a pie

But I’ve also checked off some fun ones:

-graduated college
-saved for a down payment on a home (20%, baby!)
-went bike riding along the river


Anon August 5, 2009 at 8:59 am

As a huge type A personality I use my to do list (on paper) as a way to ‘let myself off the hook’ , I keep a notebook where i jot down all the to do’s broken down by day. When i finish my list for the day, i stop! No moving on to the next day, just relaxin.


Pennie August 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Would be lost without my To-Do lists!! DH refuses to “list;” imo his days are much more chaotic and lack a certain structure…

I keep scrap paper and a pencil at the end of my kitchen counter, adding on or lining-thru things as they come to mind or get accomplished. It’s portable, so goes to town or work as necessary. Regrettably, it is rather fluid, so never feels quite *done* in the way that Anon’s does.

Plus I’m extremely visual (and perhaps a bit too task-oriented). This simple method is a satisfying fit for me.


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