How I Made my To-Do List Fun to Use [en]

This is just a simple way I made my to-do list a bit more fun, with a sheet of paper, a ruler, and coloured pencils. Give it a try, if you’re tired of to-do lists!

[fr] Au lieu de faire une bête liste de choses à  faire, j'ai fait un grand tableau sur une feuille. J'ai ensuite mis chaque chose à  faire dans une case (ou deux, si c'est une "grande tâche"). Quand j'ai fait quelque chose, je colorie la case. C'est plus amusant que de biffer des choses sur une liste, et le résultat final est bien plus joli!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself more than once in front of a very long and depressing to-do list. I’ve given up on to-do lists. I’ve given them another chance. I’ve given up again. I’ve done them on paper. On the computer. On my phone. I’ve tried sticking individual post-its for each task on my front door. Nothing really works for me.

I had an idea yesterday afternoon. I’m at a point in my life where I’m realizing that I need to find other drivers for my actions than my old friend fear. (Oh my God, I’ll never have time to finish on time, Oh my God, I’ll be late and they’ll be mad at me, Oh my God, I’ll get in trouble, Oh my God, they’ll stop liking me… you know the chorus.) Anyway, the point is I had a sudden idea for making my to-do list fun and getting some pleasure out of maintaining it, rather than just seeing it like a long list of “things-I-must-do”.

My first idea was to get rid of the “hierarchy” that a column-like list imposes. Compare this:

  • put clean laundry away
  • correct maths tests
  • call doctor
  • clean cat litter-tray
  • pay the bills
  • write blog post

with the following:

kitty litter pay bills
call doctor write blog post maths tests
laundry away  

First, notice that the table layout supresses the “first do this, then do that” implied by the column-type list. Trying to decide what to put first in a list is usually a very efficient way for me to avoid writing anything down. Here, I have a whole page I can fill up in any order I like.

Second, I use up one, two or three table squares for each task. This is just a gut-like evaluation of the “size” of the task. “Size” comprises the time it will take, but also how much energy it will take me to get it done. A longer task that I find easy might fit in one square, and a shorter one that I’ve really been putting off for a long time might use up two or more squares. I don’t try to calculate this, I just use up the number of squares I feel like using when I write my task down.

Where is the fun? Well, I thought that instead of just crossing things out when they were done, I would colour the square(s) they are in. This means accomplishing a task allows me to choose a pretty colour pencil and colour part of the page. When I’ll have done lots of things, I’ll end up with a multi-coloured mosaic of things accomplished. Not much, maybe, but enough to make me happy.

Get started! You’ll need:

  • a sheet of paper (preferably squared)
  • a ruler
  • coloured pencils, or markers, or whatever you enjoy colouring with.

Then do the following:

  • draw lines on the paper to separate it in “task-sized” blocs (I did something like 3cm by 1.5cm)
  • write down your tasks in the squares you have drawn, anywhere on the paper; use colour! I also go over the outline of each task square in colour (useful for multi-block tasks)
  • when you’ve done something, rejoice and enjoy the colouring!

3 thoughts on “How I Made my To-Do List Fun to Use [en]

  1. How about taking a photo of your masterpiece in colourful modern art and illustrating the article? My technique to do away with to-do lists is to keep them short, by always doing things at the earliest opportunity (I returned my tax form before the end of January, for example). OK, I know this tip probably doesn’t help! 🙂 A chacun sa méthode…

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