My ToDo-Lists

Lately a lot of people have shown interests in my notes and todo-lists I always carry with me, so I thought I’d explain them here :)


These are my lists, folded from regular A4-sheet paper. The left is for my general notes and task, and the right is for tasks that have to happen on a certain day, which each line representing a single day. I’ve figured this out over the decade I have been using todo-lists, and I really like how writing and scheduling this all down frees my mind to do other things.

And after explaining this to my friends some have started their own lists too :D

How it works:

Everything I write down is an actual task that can be accomplished, otherwise ideas just pile up. Everything also needs to be removed from the list at some point (i.e. crossed out)

Whenever I have an idea (“Buy Cauliflower”, “look up this song on Youtube”, “Pay Rent”) I write it down on the general list. Anything that has to happen on a certain date, like paying rent, gets assigned to a day.

How to be productive:

  • Do tasks that take less than 1 minute immediately
  • Break down large tasks into smaller, managable ones. So instead of “Write report” the list says “Setup empty documents”, “collect ideas”, “write outline”, etc
  • Doing ANYTHING from the list advances your goals further
  • Once a line for a day is full no more tasks can be scheduled that day. A full line is roughly how much I can get done in a day
  • Everything on the general notes either gets done asap or scheduled for another day. Ideally the note-sheet is empty, and the next days in the day-sheet are scheduled with things to do

FAQ:

I can’t read this!

Well, it’s really small. Also in my handwriting. And just for me, so nobody else really needs to read this

Why don’t you use a cellphone and an app?

Well why don’t you just use paper?

Here are some benefits of paper notes:

  • Work without electricity
  • Work without internet-connection
  • Work without having had to pay for a cellphone-plan
  • Are somewhat water-resistant
  • Can be immediately accessed without starting a device, inputting codes, and opening apps
  • They give a visceral feedback-response to when you cross something out
  • Give a visual overview over how many things you have accomplished
  • Can be used in situations where cell-phones are impractical or not allowed (meetings, theater, cinema, etc)
  • Obscure your potentially private notes to others who when seeing them will have to decipher them
Why don’t the days have date-numbers like “25.05.”?

I tried this. It was a lot of work setting up and it didn’t work. Also for the days it is more important to know that they are “next tuesday” instead of “the 25th of Mai”

Doesn’t this remove your freedom to do things if your schedule is so full?

To the contrary, it gives me the freedom to do much more things than before! Having a full schedule means I get to enjoy going to events, seeing friends and meeting partners without having to worry if something will happen “spontaneously” in an evening or not.

Don’t you make mistakes sometimes?

Yes, those do happen. Those are not from illegible handwriting, but mostly from unclear instructions, which could also happen on an electronically typed note.

-Matthias

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