The reason why you fail to manage your to-do list isn’t your to-do app; it’s your methodology

Why it’s so hard to manage your to-do list

The reason to-do list apps often don’t work for busy people is because they don’t bother to adopt a methodology.
 
I feel you need a good task management methodology to succeed with any to do list.
 
When you take a to-do list app off the shelf and just start using it, you unconsciously adopt the default methodology built into that app.
 
Unfortunately, most apps don’t have good default to-do list methodologies. And that’s why you usually fail.
 
For example, the task module that’s built into Microsoft Outlook assumes a methodology out of the box.
 
It assumes that you are putting due dates on everything. It assumes your oldest past due tasks are the most important ones. It basically states that you should always work on your oldest past-due tasks first.
 
This methodology was developed about 75 years ago, well before computers, email, and high volumes of tasks. It doesn’t work today.
 
So, you need to change the methodology.
 
You can make those changes in Outlook by modifying the settings of the task module. But there are limits, particularly once you move away from the Windows desktop Outlook platform.
 
So if you use the Outlook on Mac, the web, or on a mobile device, your options are suddenly limited.
 
Gmail has a tasks module, but it’s sort of an afterthought; there are very few features available and few ways to customize it.
 
One reason I like Toodledo so much is because you can change its configurations in a remarkable number of ways. You can match virtually any methodology you want to use.

Which to-do methodology should you use?

The key thing that distinguishes one to-do list methodology from another is how it prioritizes tasks and presents the right tasks to you at the right time.
 
There are a number of methodologies out there.
 
Getting Things Done, or GTD, was popular for a quite a few years. Franklin Covey had its own methodology that it adopted from the classic books on time management and that company has trained on those for years.
 
In the last decade I’ve developed and taught two task methodologies (Master Your Now and The One Minute To-Do List)—I’ll talk more about those in future articles (see my link in the Bio below).
 

The biggest mistake to avoid when you pick a to-do list app

What most people do incorrectly though, is simply adopt the methodologies built-in to the app that they are using. That’s not a terrible way to go because. Through trial and error, you may stumble into a methodology that works for you.
 
But I think it’s better to consciously adopt a methodology: it is better to pause and consciously think through why one methodology over another is better for you and choose it separately from the app you use.
 
And that’s the key. Which methodology you use really depends on you: your volumes of tasks, the industry you’re in, your job role, and what works for your style of work.
 
For example, if you work in project teams where you plan and coordinate project tasks with others on the team, then a to-do list that’s built into or integrates with a project management tool might be best. The built-in methodologies on those tools are optimized for projects. And in that case, a tool like Wrike might be good for you to use.
 
If you are in the sales department and setting up or following sales leads all day long, then a CRM package may be best for you. I happen to like one called Avidian Prophet because it plugs into and coordinates well with Windows desktop Outlook.
 
But for people who collect tasks from a wide range of daily operations, a generalized to-do list and a methodology designed for that is what you want. For you, Toodledo makes sense as the platform to apply a simple to-do list methodology within. (Windows Outlook can make sense too.)
 
In upcoming articles and videos, I’ll talk more about to-do list methodologies and how to apply them, so watch this space!

About the Author

Michael Linenberger is a former Vice President at the management consulting firm Accenture and is the author of eight books on workday productivity. One of those books, Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook, has been the number-one bestselling Outlook book for nearly ten years and is in its 5th edition. You can learn more about his works at www.michaellinenberger.com.
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