To-do lists vs calendars

Some people organize their work with to do lists, and some people use calendars. I know there are plenty other methods, but those are the two methods I’ve tried at any length.

These days I am a list person. I use Todoist, and I have for years, but I don’t do a lot of categorization or really anything fancy. I pretty much organize my list of tasks either the night before or in the morning, taking a few minutes to figure out what things I need to do today, and what things I want to do today.

Then I take a look at the list and do some pruning based on what I think is actually possible. Anything that doesn’t get done rolls over to the next day. And that’s about it.

For a while I tried using my calendar as a way to manage what I had to get done. My wife does this, and the argument is that you can get a better sense for what’s possible in the day and you set aside time to complete the tasks on your list so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.

When I tried it, my calendar felt like a straightjacket. I lasted about two weeks, and then I just started ignoring my calendar, so I went back to using a to-do list. Somehow just the habit of spending ten minutes at the top of the day figuring out my most impactful tasks gives me a great sense of bearing, and by the end of the day, of time well spent.