At the end of the day, if your main goal is to finish something, the only thing that matters is the progress -- not the process.
Planning vs. Doing
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail! ― Benjamin Franklin
In battle, proper planning makes the difference between swift victory and a long, arduous defeat. But sometimes, over-planning can end up making you less productive overall. Applications like Notion, Habitica, and Todoist are some of the most popular productivity apps out there with the sole purpose of task management. These work immensely well for more long-term planning, but these applications' complexity could lead you to over plan and procrastinate on smaller, more immediate items. It is relatively easy to get sucked into the positive feedback loop of continually writing, categorizing, and reorganizing without crossing anything off. Over time, your small list of things to do ends up spreading across two calendars, 5 Kanban boards, and 12 spreadsheets.
My point is, in the time some people spent organizing and tinkering with an app's features, they could have crossed off a couple of items, if not all the things, from their list.
These apps' vast capabilities, which is supposed to be their selling point, could end up being its greatest weakness. There simply is no need to spend so much time thinking about which emojis to use for your title, what color scheme to set for your tasks, or over embellishing the layout. This is time that you could've spent getting things done.
Back to the Basics
Now, I'm not trying to entirely knock on these platforms by saying that they add unnecessary overhead. These tools are great for many uses, but just not all. When so many bloggers and YouTubers recommend these applications as the best tools to be productive for *insert year here*, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to switch from these to a simple text editor.
After giving many of these applications a chance, I ended up using Notepad to keep track of the things I need to do. What is Notepad you ask?
Notepad is a revolutionary new way to manage your tasks with dozens of free productivity templates, calendars synced across multiple devices, real-time collaborative tools, and more!
Not really. Notepad is a standard Windows application for text editing. s Besides, I also recommend any text editor native to OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, etc. as they:
- Open up super fast.
- Work offline.
- No extra fluff that bogs the whole application down.
Sometimes my best ideas on what to do next come during unexpected moments, whether if I'm getting groceries, playing video games, or making an offering to the porcelain throne. I want to be able to record something down whenever I want before my thought ultimately vanishes. Some apps either didn't have offline support or had a very clunky interface with slow performance. I can recall numerous occasions that I forgot about an idea due to a bad network connection or an app freezing on my phone.
Organizing My Notes
There is a system I tend to follow for my notes, and it looks like this:
Project A ---------- - Task 1 (optional due date) - Task 2 - Task 3 Project B ---------- - Task 1 - Task 2 - URGENT do EOD - Task 3
Tasks are broken up into different groups. Each task should be descriptive enough that I know what to do even after all the context switching throughout the day.
Now, what if you end up with a never-ending list of things to do? To combat this, I maintain a separate list of things that I either: 1) need to do ASAP 2) need the motivation to do. The critical point of this list is that you don't save it at all. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.
If you're a Windows user, you're very familiar with the forced auto-updates you get now and then. If I'm not at the computer to delay the update, Windows will proceed automatically. Because of this feature, anything in Notepad not already saved will be deleted. This gives me a sense of urgency to keep this list as empty as possible.
Drawbacks of this Approach
With all this simplicity, there are some drawbacks. For starters, you cannot sync across different devices. Unless you manually transfer each item across your devices, you'll be stuck with a split-brain to-do list.
Another point is the overall lack of features. A text editor is just a text editor. However, I urge you to give it a shot because sometimes its strength comes from its sheer simplicity.
Is this approach for you?
I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and say that I have spent more time getting my work done rather than tinkering with my schedule after trying this method for eight months. Without the app's complexity getting in the way, you can focus on the things that matter most.
If this approach sounds interesting or it may work for you, definitely try it out 🚀. I'd love to hear how it works for you. Did it help you do more or remember more? Did it slow things down?