My Low-tech To-Do List

Everyone who works, wants to be as productive as possible, and I’m sure everyone’s got his tools to make sure that’s the case. At work, we’re using a combination of ApolloHQ for project Management, a Joomla 3.2 site with Akeeba Tickets for support, Office 365 for collaboration and OpenERP for… well, all other things.

Each of those tools are good at what they do, but since  I have to work with all these programs and assign work to some of my co-workers that means I’ve got to complete tasks logged in these sources. Then there’s also “e-mail (far less productive than business types claim it to be) and work I come up with through the day… That’s a lot of places to look at for to-do items.Because I sometimes get overwhelmed, I’ve recently started using Todoist which is the closest to how I’d like my “To Do” app to work. It allows me to create “subtasks”, which I can hide or reveal with the click of a button. I’d have loved to see a feature for “depending tasks” but that feature seems to be lacking from every tool I tried. (*)

Todoist is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t suffice for me  – recently I’ve started to use yet another filter and it seems to help right now.

The Single Item To-do List

While Todoist is neat, I still felt that it could be overwhelming . The problem is that I can’t focus very well, and on top of that I can get a bit “overwhelmed” when I’m staring into the eyes of a few dozen tasks. Which should I do first? x is important, Y should be done in half an hour but Z has been open for three days. Choices! Panic!

To solve this problem I’ve created a single-item to-do list. I just grab a piece of paper, and write down one item I’m going to work on. This item is taken from Todoist – or from my e-mails, or it could be an urgent task from either source.

While I work on that one item, I ignore any and all sorts of other “task sources”, unless the task at hand requires me to use them. Once the task is done, I strike through the item to indicate it’s been dealt with. Should I, for some reason, not manage to complete a task before I have to move on to a next one, I’ll cross out the old task first, then write down the new one – so I also have a visual reminder that a task has been “cancelled”.


My to-do list has also been “gamified”. Every task gets a point value from 1 – 5 depending on how much work it requires or how hard it is. Occasionaly, I assign the task some bonus points when it’s something I “really don’t like to do” (mature, I know…) but which has to be done regardless (mature, right?).

At the end of the day, I add up the score, and see how I did. It gives me a bit more satisfaction apps lack, where a completed to-do item dissappears amongst the other grayed out items you completed at some point in time. I also find it to be a better indicator of how productive my day was than hours spent  working / items I managed to complete.

This system might seem a bit silly, but it works for me. The reason I’m writing down this post is so it can be a “reminder” for myself. But if you find this useful – well, you’re welcome!

Is there an app for that?

I wish. I’m considering building an “app” that would help me focus on a single task but I’m not a (good) developer. And lack the funds to hire a developer. And don’t know many developers that’d like to work for free on a strange idea of some guy on the internet. I did, however create an (empty) Github repository which I hope I’ll someday fill with glorious, open sourced code.