Use a calendar instead of a todo list

There are about a million different techniques for “getting stuff done” in the world. There are old fashioned pen and paper techniques. There are iPhone apps, desktop apps, and websites. There are books, blog posts, and seminars on the subject. Recently, I stumbled into something that’s been working really well for me, and I thought I’d share it here.

Don’t use a todo list. Use a calendar instead.

In my experience, you can spend your whole life working on a todo list and never finish it. I hate the feeling that there’s always something else I could or should be doing. I want to close up my computer at the end of a day feeling like I accomplished the things I set out to accomplish. I want a short list of the things I need to do today, and that’s it.

So, I’ve moved all of my old lists into Google Docs just because I’m too much of a baby to delete them outright. But they’re never going to get done. The only things I’m going to do are the things I want to do, and the things I’ve scheduled.

I use Google Calendar as my dashboard. I set it to the “4 Weeks” view, and I quick-create “all day events” for things I need to get done on the day I figure I’ll have time to… you know… actually get them done. If I can’t get something done, I shift it to the next day where I expect to have the time. If I’m not sure where to put something, I dump in into next Sunday and deal with shuffling my schedule for next week… next week.

This has worked very well for me. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and seem to have a never-ending todo list, give this a try. You’ll like it. And if you end up needing some kind of ancillary todo list anyway, you’ll find that Google Calendar has a handy “Google Tasks” sidebar that you can use in a pinch.


Published by

Trevor Turk

A chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, promoted as an automaton but later proved a hoax.