Minimalism vs Tech: To-Do Lists

on Life  

There’s nothing that wastes time quite like exploring apps for getting things done. Everyone has their own take on what makes a great to-do list, and some have expanded to (or from) complex project management applications.

I’ve tried out my fair share of to-do list apps and solutions, but most tend to be far more complex than I need them to be. This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, just what works for me personally. If you have any recommendations of your own please add to the comments below!

For ad-hoc lists on the go – IOS notes

Often I’ll think of things I need to do whilst waiting for the bus or otherwise on the go, so the option to jot things down quickly on my phone is a necessity.

Up until recently I was using Wunderlist, but the recent updates to the Apple’s default Notes app now allow you to add checklists within notes, serving my purpose for simple ad-hoc lists. Since it’s far simpler and an app that iOS won’t let me delete anyway, this is now my quick list of choice.

For projects & Collaboration – Trello

At work and for Side Project magazine, where a bit more power is necessary, I use Trello – a free, multi-platform, cloud-based app that I mainly use in a browser. The premise of Trello is to have boards, each of which hold multiple lists which appear as columns across the page. In each list is are cards, which can contain checklists, comments and attachments, and can be assigned due dates and a person responsible. Cards can be moved between lists, and archived as they are completed.

This sounds complicated, but seeing everything laid out visually can be a huge help to see what needs to be done and who needs to do it. Clever filtering and tracking of when cards are added, moved and deleted (and by whom) help to get more specific in more crowded boards.

I’ve started trying to use it to plan out blog posts for ChiGarden as well, and to bring across any of my ad-hoc lists that need to be put somewhere safe longer term. I think your average person wouldn’t need this level of detail for personal use, but if you run a blog, are planning a wedding, building a house or just have a lot going on then it’s worth checking out.

FOR short term to do lists – good old pen & Paper

As much as I like playing around with apps, sometimes a low-fi solution is actually all that is needed. All those fancy digital options just can’t compare to the satisfaction of scribbling a bunch of items on a pad of paper, then ticking each one as it’s completed and tearing off the sheet at the end. Having my list physically there in front of me, without having to open an app or a browser, is a much better short-term prompt than scheduled reminders about due dates. And of course I do love any opportunity to practice a bit of brush lettering. Good old pen and paper is my to-do list of choice for short-term lists to be completed within a day or two.

For me at least, this is a good example of realising when technology hinders rather than helps. I did try to make digital lists for the day work, but it isn’t as satisfying and isn’t really any easier to put together. Maybe it’s a bit less high tech and fancy, but the simplicity and the physical nature of a pad of paper and a pen are all that I need in this circumstance, so anything trying to be more than that is simply unnecessary.

What do you use to keep track of your things to do? If you have a favourite app or paper notepad, I’d love to hear it!


These Minimalism vs. Tech posts are all about exploring the tension between essentialist ideals and recent technology, from my experiences. You can read the intro here. More coming up soon!

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