Honestly, I have a fixation on to do lists. Why? Because I think that the list will somehow make me do more. Facts are that the list has VERY little to do with being productive. Motivation has a lot to do with it, but the list itself... not much.

So I've worked through the to do lists that we're available. Most recently, Astrid, before that, Toodledo, before that Emacs org-mode, before that Remember The Milk, and before that, [TiddlyWiki]http://tiddlywiki.com, I was trying some recipe cards, GTDGmail, now ActiveInbox and memory gets faint further back tan this... do you think all that switching was productive. Oh no it wasn't! Why did I switch so often? Chasing the next feature. The one that I believed would make the todo system work.

This was all kicked off by an out of control inbox. Which led me to read The Inbox Zero series of blog posts. Which all made perfect sense. Then I read Getting Things Done, which seemed to make sense but for me, it has always created more work maintaining the system and less doing good stuff. So this blog post is really my declaration that the system is worth very little. All it needs to be is a list. So, I'm putting that list back into my email, not my inbox but my email. Why? Because that's my number one goto point when free time hits and everything I've tried so far really hasn't changed that. And you know what? Email has some kicking features. Especially, in a world where we've learned how to tag emails rather than put them in folders. Gmail is great. Personally, I'm using notmuch for my system, cause I want to be able to do stuff without Google, but really it's just a token effort to keep Google honest, (a little).

  1. Sharing is easy. Email to the person who needs it. If you need a response tell them you need a response. Or if you gotta make a waiting tag.
  2. Want notes send yourself an email with some notes about the topic. you got notes.
  3. Want subtasks send yourself another email with the subtask in it. Archive the part that is done.
  4. Want recurring tasks. Use a calendar with email reminders
  5. Want a specified date reminder, use a calendar, with email reminders
  6. Want contexts, I don't I never really used these, since I have a phone in my pocket and most of the stuff that I end up doing is @computer contexts always seemed kind of useless, though I tried to love them.
  7. Want ubiquitious capture. Email hello? heard of it.
  8. Convert inputs to todos just tag them with a label
  9. Belongs to a specific list, tag it with another label.
  10. Need it on every device I have... IF you're using Gmail, you've already got that.
  11. Time tracking, if you're billable, I'd say use a calendar, otherwise, who cares, it takes however long it takes.

How this system will work for me.

  • I think of something I want to do, email myself, when I get to doing email, I mark it "todo" and with a label to categorize it.
  • You want me todo something, you send me an email, I decide I'm going to do it, mark it todo and categorize it.
  • When I do something I remove the todo label.
  • Notes, subtasks, pictures, required resources all get emailed to myself as a reply to the original email.
  • Things that have a specific time attached all go into a calendar, that sends me email reminders when they come due, which... get labelled todo and categorized if necessary.
  • What to do next... The list is there, the brain will do the filtering/deciding. It's always doing it anyways. I used to imagine the system would help to decide, but I am a sensitive being not in the mood for anything at any time ;)
  • Is this a work task? It goes in the work tracking system. Jira. No mixy mixy of work and play for me.

So I guess I'm not giving up on a todo list system after all, I'm just bringing it back to my email. And now I tell myself I've said my piece on this topic. Move on, stop accessorizing what needs to be done, breathe the truth that the system really doesn't matter and just tackle the jobs one at a time.