I've had a to-do list in my pocket for at least the past decade. It's evolved over time to meet its functional need. My philosophy on the hows and whys of a to-do list has also evolved. One thing I'm sure of is that there is no perfect list system. Here's what I think:
- Get everything down, especially the things you don't want to think about. Shame is a useful, human function but it usually goes further than necessary. It's a relief to not worry you are forgetting about a task.
- Create categories as needed. A category is like a folder or a container. When you have an intimidatingly complex and large list of tasks, it's nice for your brain to put cluster the tasks into projects (categories). This is one element of effort and craft involved in a to-do list system. We like to categorize because it is an efficient way to look at the world, although we have a responsibility to be mindful of how we categorize...
- Prioritize. This is one of the harder parts of life. What is actually the most important? I find we easily get paralyzed when things are too complex. Once you set your priorities, you know which steps to take next.
I have a word document that I print to paper and carry around. I like my stylus but it's pretty hard to beat pen and paper.
Here's my current to-do list. It has some arguably embarrassing content but I believe it is best to understand your weaknesses. The redacted content is on behalf of my friend's and employer's privacy.