I try to be productive as much as I can, filling in as much stuff I can, but at the end of the day I’m still a 19 year old uni student who hates trying to structure my life at all. Most of us have tried using a ‘to do list’ app at some stage of their lives to ‘get stuff done’; I know I have used a handful of them, but to no avail (Any.do, Clear, Wunderlist, Google Keep and iCloud Reminders, for those keeping score at home). I found this was for two main reasons;

  1. Tasks are easy to add, so you add tonnes of them even if they are unimportant or you are unlikely to ever be motivated to do them by simply adding them. Task apps, while many try to replicate the function and feel of, are not like their analogue counterparts in that they are essentially unlimited in length; you can keep adding tasks willy nilly. Humans, are not unlimited in time and cannot complete
  2. There is nothing permanent about to do lists on a computer, whereas there is something satisfying in the tactile feel of writing down a task on paper and then being able to cross it off once you’re done. Furthermore the huge amount of items ‘to do’ eventually becomes so daunting that it’s just easier not to even bother attacking your stack of tasks.

I came across an idea for how to best manage your to do list with a dedicated, physical notebook; essentially you halve each page, and have half a page for every day. Then you fill in the days with tasks that you need to do. This works really well, and solves the two previous problems in a simple way.

Because you’ve only got half a page for each day, you’re more likely to only add the five or six tasks that are most important, and the ones that you are realistically going to actually finish. Also, unlike on a computer, which hides past tasks from view, you can review over each day and see the tasks you’ve completed with a strike through them. This gives you a sense of accomplishment as you go over your week, seeing what you’ve completed, and what you have left to complete.

Whilst a notebook isn’t as portable or pervasive as a web note taking service, it’s that very analogue interface that makes you force yourself to complete tasks.

It’s also very important to stick to a simplicity mantra; don’t add things that aren’t absolutely necessary

I’ve been using this method of getting stuff done for the past few weeks and it has proved surprisingly useful to me. Give it a go, you might be surprised.