I rely on Word documents for to-do lists. I know there are a myriad of more sophisticated ways to list office work, or those 54 odd-jobs around the house (like getting a bathroom tile fixed) - but do they really help?
The latest to-do helper is Gmail Tasks
. Tasks appear in a handy popup window, so you can see it while you read your email (and you'll need to manually turn it on). Click to add tasks, and you can turn emails into tasks as with Outlook.
For people that use Outlook or Gmail to run their life, having a useful task list embedded in the client sounds like the holy grail of organising yourself electronically. Using Outlook or Gmail vs Word
But as much as it sounds like a good idea, I find I keep reverting to Word. With Outlook Tasks I found I was getting bugged too much with enormous lists of reminders. This works for some, and if you're prepared to fiddle with some settings it is possible to make Outlook Tasks less painful, and even add some useful categorisations.
A Blackberry guru told a training sessions I attended recently that people should setup their Outlook window so the Calendar and Tasks lists are always visible at the same time. The idea is to make sure you're treating your fixed appointments (Calendar) and flexible to-dos (Tasks) as one.
Manage your To-Do list online
There's also umpteen online to-do lists like Remember the Milk
(which works with Google Calendar). On the upside, it gives you a centrally updatable list, and you can have reminders on your phone. But the promise that it makes "managing tasks fun" seems a bit far fetched.
As the Remember the Milk site says, these apps are great for "list lovers". You can slice and dice your workload till the cows come home and tag lists. There's even a task cloud.Helping, or time-wasting?
On the other hand, there's a point where to-do applications can stop helping and become time wasters themselves.
Word is just . . Word. The beauty is its simplicity - no passwords, it's one file you can stick on a USB, or email around, and you can be as elaborate, or as simple as you want with your lists. And you can still categorise your tasks to your heart's content, if that's what you want. What Word doesn't do is give you any syncing smarts or alert functionality, and it's clunky to update compared to Remember the Milk or Outlook/Gmail Tasks.Alternative rules of thumb
Some basic prioritisation can go a long way towards solving a task-list crisis rather than, say, a fancy application that gives you reminders. If you're interested, there are all sorts of manifestos on the subject, including this one
, and another one here
Right now, Gmail tasks is not ready for prime time - it's still a Labs feature, and you need to enable it. And the ability to set reminders is reportedly
not available yet. Still, one to watch if you're a slave to To-Do lists.