To-do lists are like fashion. One season sky-high stilettos are in, but three months later it's all about ballerina flats. Since the barrier to develop a to-do list app is relatively low, every few months a new tool pops up that gets people passionate about productivity. The key is finding one that works for you over the long haul, and using iistkeeping methods that'll keep you feeling footloose.
Teux Deux is one of the best in the category. This digital list-maker offers an easy platform to input your to-do's and cross them off as you complete them. When it first launched, Fast Company called it the "Web's Most Beautiful To-Do List." With a weekly calendar as your jumping-off point, using Teux Deux you can quickly add tasks to a day, drag them to another date if you run out of time, and there's even a "Someday" section for those items that don't need your immediate attention. The company's new iPhone app lets you sync your tasks on the go.
While Teux Deux's interface is clearly a winner, don't get sucked into its pretty bells and whistles. Instead, to make this and other services like it work for you long-term, follow these steps for a healthy to-do list.
1. Choose the right tool: This isn't all about technology. For some people the tool of choice might be a Moleskine notebook and a ballpoint pen. For others, it's a whiteboard hanging in the office. Whatever you do, focus on finding an option that works with your lifestyle. If you're an iPhone addict, Teux Deux might be a good choice. If you do a lot of work offline, maybe sticky notes will do the trick.
2. Be in the now: While it might be tempting to write down everything you have to do for the next few weeks, try to focus on what's on tap for the day or two ahead. Also, use a lot of verbs. This is something that author David Allen talks about in his popular book Getting Things Done. Instead of writing a broad task such as "Social Media Strategic Plan," change it to an actionable item such as "Complete competitive analysis for strategic plan."
3. Learn to delegate: Productivity blogger Merlin Mann talks about this regularly on his site 43folders. Instead of overwhelming yourself with too much work, think about people on your team or colleagues who can help you complete a task. For example, while you might stress all day something small like faxing a contract to a client, consider delegating this to-do item with an entry such as "Email David to ask him to send off contract."
4. Prioritize and reward: Your to-do list doesn't always have to be painful. While it should be a place where you manage your tasks, in order of importance, it's also a good idea to include some mini rewards on your list. If you know you have three or four things to do within the first hour at work, at the end of that specific list of items add a line such as "Grab a Starbucks coffee" or "Make restaurant reservations" as a way to break up your day and mix up your to-dos.
5. Plan ahead: Set aside some time toward the end of the day to revisit your to-do list and add items for tomorrow. This will help to keep your mind clear at night, so you're not haunted during your sleep about what's on your plate for the day ahead. Remember to include items that you didn't get done today, and check your calendar to make sure you're not forgetting anything that might be tied to a specific appointment.
[Image by Rob and Stephanie Levy]