My history with todo list management: part 2 of 2 (2004-2017)

This is the second part of two blogs about my todo list management.

In 2004 I started business with six employees and around 40 clients and continued to use excel to track my todo lists but the nature of the business meant I couldn’t have access to excel at work so I adopted an index card system so I could capture all of the new todo points instantly and transfer them to the master excel list at home.

The Excel sheet was very detailed and difficult to print on only one sheet of paper but I needed that information to hand every day in a place where I didn’t have a laptop or other computer.

Fast forward three years and I start teaching adults. All my work is now on a desktop PC and I was still using a combination of Excel sheets to track lesson planning, marking, portfolio management (that is the students work across multiple units for their qualification) and my large to do list. Index cards are still useful for remembering stuff…but I start using a paper journal so that there is something of a timeline for things to remember – every lesson brings new items for my to do list. At times I had up to 300 items on my main list.

I played with having separate multiple lists to aid focus on the individual course or subject. The trouble with that is never having a good overview of what I should be doing so you end up looking through the individual lists and copy/pasting items into another list. Messy.

I finally escaped the tyranny of teaching (I loved the teaching, liked the planning, hated the administration and marking) and went back into IT. (So we are now in 2014 – plenty of changes to go).

I used my tried and tested Excel system to start with in my role as a Business Analyst/Project Manager hybrid but wanted something that would be available on my phone (google sheets wasn’t great back then) and something that could be reorganised easily. I heard about people using plain text files so I tried to do that on my own but didn’t settle on a format. Then I read about Gina Trapini’s todo.txt and its various Windows, CLI and android clients. That was going really well for me for a while but seemed to take a lot of maintenance. So I investigated todoist, wunderlist and many others but nothing grabbed me until I tried Nozbe.

The Nozbe software was great and I paid for a subscription and used it for exactly one year. I didn’t renew for a 2nd year as I was getting fed up with the nagging to carry out overdue items (things change quickly at my workplace, a due date set last week may not be relevant next week) and also the constant work to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

So I went back again to plain text files and used workflowy – an online and android personal outliner for a while until I heard about something called “org mode” which enabled formatting of plain text files to become useful outline based todo lists. It is a major mode (meaning a subsystem) of emacs.

Much more about that in further posts as I intend to talk about emacs use at greater length.

Thanks for reading. Leave comments if you want to ask questions or tell me about your to do list journey.

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