Wednesday Workhack: The To-Do List

Borrowing the name loosely from one of my longtime favorite sites, Lifehacker, this is the first of my (ideally) weekly Wednesday installments. Wednesday Workhack will be geared toward helping librarians take advantage of tools out there to help keep our work lives sane, productive, and organized.

Let's start with the ubiquitous to-do list. I started thinking about my own to-do list after reading Merlinn Mann's post about why you should delete dead emails. The central premise being that email is a medium and we should move content out of our email into relevant places in our workflow -- like our to-do list. Instead of treating your inbox as a place where you cage things that demand your attention until they get your attention, Mann suggests keeping that inbox clean and consequently stress-free.

When I polled my library colleagues on FriendFeed about how they manage their to-do lists, the responses ranged from "what to-do list?" to "Put items on it. Wait until items are no longer relevant. Delete items." All kidding aside, a short list of really useful workhacks surfaced that included electronic and analog solutions. Entire industries are built around task management, but here are just a few tools/methods that fellow librarians are using to stay organized:

  • Remember the Milk: an online task management system that looks and feels a little more robust than your typical list manager. Users can set up multiple lists (work, home, study, etc...), assign deadlines, attach notes to lists, and. RTM is free (for basic service). Users point to RTM's integration with Gmail and Google Calendar as one of the big selling points. RTM claims over 600,000 users on their site.
  • TaksFreak: another free web-based solution, but it has to be installed on your local server. There is comfort in having this running on servers you own, but it's up to you to decide if it's worth the effort to get IT to install it for you. 
  • Backpack: less a to-do list manager than a robust intranet for project management, Backpack will run you $24.95/mo for the basic package.C
  • OmniFocus: free task management system for the Mac OS.
  • Toodledo: like RTM, this free online task management that offers a premium service with more features. Their site provides a useful (if slanted) comparison of online task-management systems.
  • Analog solutions: Franklin-Covey Planner, Moleskine books, post-it notes on the monitor, and "piles on desk"

Others mentioned that they synched Outlook tasks with their smartphones, used iGoogle or Netvibes to-do lists, routed emails to designated folders for later reference, or any combination of them all. The myriad options suggests there isn't one magic bullet solution for everyone. Find a method that works for you without having to add "Task Management" to your official job description. Good luck. 

Special thanks to my friends on FriendFeed for sharing!
Have any idea for something that should be covered in a Wednesday Workhack? Let me know.

Tags: techMETRO