In search of the ultimate to-do list

It was sometime in high school that I got serious about being organized.* During my senior year, I had 8.5 x 11″ DayRunner inserts in my 3-ring binder that I used religiously. Every left page had Monday thru Wednesday and every right page had Thursday thru Sunday, and I wrote everything on those pages — events and tasks. When I completed a task or when an event had passed, I neatly crossed it out. If a week passed and I hadn’t completed some of the tasks, I crossed them out anyway and then rewrote them on the current week’s calendar. It wasn’t the most efficient system, but I stayed very organized.

Since then, I have tried SEVERAL different methods of staying organized but still haven’t found anything that sticks. Here’s what I’ve tried over the last 7 years:

  • 8.5 x 11″ DayRunner calendar inserts
  • Palm Vx handheld w/ both stock and 3rd party software, sync’ed with both Palm Desktop Software and Microsoft Outlook
  • Pocket PC w/ both stock and 3rd party software, sync’ed with Microsoft Outlook
  • Apple iCal, with the calendars automatically FTP’ed to a WAP-enabled web server so I can see my calendars on my cell phone
  • My own homemade web app which I can access from anywhere on the Internet or from my cell phone
  • blue sheets of cardstock paper folded in my shirt pocket
  • a pocket-sized calendar with perforated corners
  • a 59¢ hand-sized spiral notebook
  • a $4 hand-sized 3-ring binder

As for this week, I’ve been writing my to-do’s on a sheet from my brother’s humongous art pad (18 x 24″), folded four times into sixteenths so it [barely] fits into my back pocket. I kind of like it. I can see everything in one glance. If I back up a bit. And for my calendar I’m still using Apple iCal. But I’m sure it won’t be long until I try something else. I’m open to suggestions!

This week while I’m home for Christmas break I’ve been working at my dad’s office. Monday night when I was coming home from work with Michael, we tuned the radio to the Sean Hannity show, as we usually do, and listened to Colonel Oliver North who was covering for Sean. The Colonel was asking callers who had done their Christmas shopping and who hadn’t and was hypothesizing that the ladies had probably done it and the men probably hadn’t. And he was mostly right. I kept thinking, “poor guys that haven’t done their Christmas shopping — they need to get organized!” And while I hadn’t completely forgotten about it, the weight of it finally sunk in today that I still need to do MY Christmas shopping. How did I miss it?

* This summer my mother found a generic Franklin-day-planner-look-a-like that I used in 5th grade. I’m not sure that really counts. I had written in the phone number of 4 friends and 2 events on the calendar. So I didn’t use it much. Can you blame me? Who needs help staying organized in 5th grade?

richard miller