How can I break out of the pen and paper to-do prison?
September 14, 2012 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Can you reccomend any good Right-brained/Visual/Spatial/Kinesthetic alternatives to pen and paper, linear to-do lists?

I have never gotten along well with to-do lists. The concept seems so simple and helpful, yet very rarely do I work off of the to-do lists that I create. I either happen to get the things on the list done because I already know in my mind that I need to do them, or I just don't get the tasks done.

Although I can look at a to-do list and logically comprehend what it means, it doesn't really "click" with me, know-what-I-mean-Vern?

What I really want to do is find a way to make my to do-list more of a visual/spatial/touchable experience. I think this will help me a lot because I comprehend things better on this level. There have been times that I've tried different productivity systems, GTD etc. With all it's envelopes GTD seems like it with fit some of what I'm looking for, but that system overwhelmed me. I'm not actually looking for a productivity system - I really just want to replicate the function of a traditional to do-list; to have a set of items to show what you need to do in a day, and a way to see when they are completed.

I have no problem making a list on paper, or in a word processor, and setting deadlines and start dates for projects that way. Really, I could create a daily list on paper first, but then I'm looking for something more 3D and right brain engaging to work with during the day as I work through the tasks.

Those of you who process things in a similar way, what techniques have you implemented to make to do lists work for you? I know I can't be the only way who can't stand the linear, word based, sterile, and often not aesthetic, way that traditional to-do lists work.

I've been brainstorming a bit and my starting ideas are some of the following:

- To use a bulletin board, and pin a note for each action item all over the board. And have a place to move completed tasks. But no plain boring bulletin board. I'm thinking a pretty quilted fabric board that I could pin the tasks to, and things would be pinned helter-skelter - not in straight lines or a grid (that's really important to what I'm trying to come up with)

- To hang up some string or yarn, clothesline style from my ceiling (yay home office!) Not just one straight line, but instead cris-crossing a few spider web style. And then use clothes pins to attach pretty slips of paper with each task. Maybe when I complete the task I could past it into a page of a to-do scrapbook for that day.

- A final thought I had was to have a jar or vase filled with some sort of sewed or crocheted balls that I could pin the task onto, and as I complete them, move them to a "completed" vase.

So that sort of gives you the idea of what I'm wanting to find. Have you used any sort of spatial and pretty to-do list? What was it? How did it work for you?

I can't wait to hear all of your creative ideas!
posted by chocolatemilkshakes to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I'm bored but stuck somewhere (like in class back in school, or in a meeting or something), I will sometimes draw my to-do list.

Need to do some laundry? Picture of a t-shirt and socks.
Need to bathe the puppy? Picture of a dog with stink lines.
Need to buy groceries? Picture of a full grocery bag.

And so on. Still pen and paper, but not a list of words.
posted by phunniemee at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2012

I've used two strategies that might help you:
1. Mind mapping my 'to-do' lists. Lots of sprawly bubbles and lines of different sizes and colors (yay for colored pencils/markers), with shadings or shapes to indicate completeness or type of task, etc. Moleskine notebooks are awesome for this.

2. A big white board covered with colored post-it notes with tasks written on them. Draw a grid (or any shape, really, whatever suits your fancy) on a white board, put stickies in "mulling on", "doing", "done", "deferring", "really want to do", etc. regions (name the columns or shapes however you want) depending upon which state they're in. Easy enough to move them around as needed. When the system no longer works, erase the board and draw on new shapes/categories.
posted by skye.dancer at 1:33 PM on September 14, 2012

Along the lines of mind-mapping, Inspiration is a software that worked well for some of my former students. What's great about it is that you can mind-map something, and Inspiration figures out how to make it an outline pretty accurately if you need that flexibility. I haven't used it in 10 years or so, but I remember it working for them quite well.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:11 PM on September 14, 2012

I see they've come out with Webspiration for adults.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:18 PM on September 14, 2012

sky.dancer & luciddream928's recommendations of mind mapping tools just reminded me of Exobrain, a new brainstorming & interactive web app that I've been playing around with. It's free, easy to use, and fun!
posted by colorproof at 4:24 PM on September 14, 2012

I began using Evernote to capture thoughts and ideas, and I love it. I use a combination of Evernote and ToodleDo to implement the GTD system. What's great about Evernote is the ability to take a picture and save it as a note with my phone. It's so fast and easy. If Evernote had the functionality of ToodleDo, it would be perfect for me. I, too, am a visual-learning person and I can't deal with too much on a To Do list unless it's visual or at least broken down by time or context.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:25 PM on September 14, 2012

Woa, Colorproof, you read my mind! I saw the price for Webspiration and was disappointed by the $$ and that it's web-based. Thanks for suggesting Exobrain : )
posted by luciddream928 at 4:26 PM on September 14, 2012

Have you tried The Brain software? Mr. Luciddream928 suggested it.
posted by luciddream928 at 7:01 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love making to-do lists but I hate actually performing tasks, so I made a little game out of it: I numbered the first 6 tasks on my list, rolled a die, and forced myself to immediately complete whichever task I rolled. If I rolled a 5, I did task #5, crossed it off the list, and assigned the number 5 to a new task on the list before rolling again.

In some cases, there are tasks that can only be completed after another task is finished, so I wouldn't assign a number to those until I rolled and finished the earlier task. I also tried to break the tasks down into smaller pieces (so "rearrange bookshelf" became five tasks of "rearrange one shelf") so I wouldn't end up doing too much at once and getting discouraged.
posted by brookedel at 9:48 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I saw an interesting system for recurring tasks around the house. It was on the fridge, with each task on a magnet. When someone did the task, they would move it to the bottom of that section of fridge. Tasks that needed doing sooner would be towards the top.
posted by yohko at 9:16 PM on September 17, 2012

« Older How do I handle the salary negotiation discussion...   |   What are our choices in caring for an infirm uncle... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.