Better Your Productivity: To-Do Lists – Part 1

Scott CostelloAll, Blog 20 Comments

The last few weeks I’ve really gotten a lot done, so much more then I have in the past.  I owe my increased productivity to a little iPhone app I downloaded called ToodleDo.  I have always heard that the best way to get things accomplished is to create a To-Do List and I couldn’t agree more.

When my wife and I write down our weekend “things to get done” list, it’s amazing how quickly and easily we move through the list and get our errands done.  Conversely, if we neglect to write the list out we squander the day thinking of what has to be done instead of doing what has to be done.

Over the past 6 months I’ve been experimenting with different ways to create my To-Do Lists.  To me this is important as the list has to be…

  1. easily accessible from where ever I am,
  2. easy to update
  3. easy to organize
  4. be able to schedule tasks for future dates
  5. have reoccurring tasks

All of you work differently and your needs may vary, but the above is what works for me.  Below I’m going to list the 6 ways that I’ve come up with to write my To-Do Lists and then I’ll give you the results I’ve had with each.

Pencil and Paper

Very simple, throw all technology aside and just use a simple notepad and pencil.  Each morning (or night before) you write down the things you want to do that day.

My Results: I had some pretty good success with this method.  I found it to be simple, easy and effective.  My only gripe is that you have to carry this list with you every where and if you have a reoccurring task you must remember to write it down again.

iPhone App

For those people who use the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS (or other app capable phone), you have access to some great applications for keeping track of your ToDo lists.  The feature set for each is a little different, but in the end I think this is a great options for many.  There are features to categorize, prioritize and set reoccurring tasks as well as future tasks.  You can get lost in all the features, so you have to pick the application that will best suite your needs.

My Results: I’ve currently only tested ToodleDo and am enjoying the results so far.  You can sync it to their webpage which will then send you email and push notifications for upcoming tasks, overdue tasks and more.  I am going to try out the other apps, but they all cost a few bucks.  What I like best about the iPhone apps is that my phone is always with me and if I think of something I need to do I can quickly and easily enter it into my task lists.

This is a great idea by Joshua Dorkin, creator of  If you are a member you have free access to the Task Application tool, otherwise join up for a free account and get going.  The interface is a simple check list where you can add new tasks and thenark them when complete.  This is a brand new feature for the site so I’m sure over time it will be expanded.

Here is the complete rundown of the BiggerPocket’s Task Application

My Results: I haven’t really given this a full test run because I don’t really like web based to-do lists because you have to physically log into the site and look at your list.  It’s not always at your fingertips.   This might be good for people who are on the computer all day, but as real estate investors we should be out and about.  If Josh can create an iPhone app that ties into this page it would be a great thing.

Google Tasks

Google Calendar has a feature called Google Tasks that lets you setup ToDo list items and when you’d like to have them accomplished.  Those items would then show up on your Google Calendar.  All the features of Google Calendar would then be available to you, such as notifications and syncing with your iPhone and Google based phones.

My Results: Before I found Toodledo, I was using this method.  It’s pretty effective but I’d get a little put off by having to specifically go into tasks to mark an item as completed instead of doing so through the Google Calendar itself.  I like things to be one or two clicks away or I get annoyed pretty quickly.


I got this idea from Pat Flynn over at  He writes out his todo lists on a white board in his office.   He actually has just installed giant, wall sized whiteboards that he uses to brainstorm with.

My Results: I don’t have a whiteboard in my office just yet, but I really like this idea because it puts your ToDo list right in front of your face when you are in your office.  To me this would be more effective then a paper and pencil, the only draw back is it’s not portable.  Maybe if you combine paper and pencil and the whiteboard it could make for a killer combo.

They also have electronic Whiteboards that you hook up to your computer and can read what you are writing.  Pretty slick!

More Options

If you are looking for more options for keeping track of your tasks have a look at this well put together blog post over at

25 To Do LIsts to Stay Productive

In Part II of this series I will layout some techniques for writing affective todo lists.

Scott Costello
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Comments 20

  1. Nice post, Scotty. I use good ol' Notepad on my computer since I'm typically at the house in front of my computer most of the day. My hubby & I also communicate via a big whiteboard that's in our home office between our desks so I know what he's working on even if we're unable to talk (because I'm often in conference call meetings).

  2. I'm always trying to figure out what best works for me. The more I think about it and test ways I'm finding that I'm the problem most of the time. I need to be more self-disciplined.

  3. Good post. I use page a day calender on my desk. Over 3/4 of it is space for a todo list. I write down my goals every morning first, then my to do items. Everything I don't accomplish I have to write the next day. Since I hate having to rewrite the list, it pushes me to accomplish more. I also take the previous day with me in my back pocket. Any missed items are circled. My long term goals are also written on my white board. The more places I have to see my goals, the better my odds are.

    I have tried dozens of todo list methods and this has worked better for me then any other method by far. Whatever works best, I recommend sticking with it. Do not let yourself go to bed without making the list or reading over it. I strongly urge writing down your mid and long term goals everyday. That way you know if you are taking action towards them everyday.

    Again great post, something all people should do.

  4. Actually, Google Tasks does not sync to iPhone by itself, even if you sync Google Calendar with iPhone the tasks won't show up.

    The only two way to use Google Tasks on iPhone are either by using their website in Safari if you have network connect, or by buying a third-party app that sync the tasks locally if you don't.

  5. You are absolutely correct memengo. I swore I was able to do it before but I just doubled checked and you can't. Thanks!

    What I did find out that is awesome is you can import a live feed from a toodledo account right into google calendar. Now I just have to figure out if the iphone will pick that up.

  6. Great post Scott!

    I use the good ole notepad and pen method. I don't really like the web-based stuff for the same reasons you mentioned….you gotta be online to see 'em.

    Kathy and I also use a whiteboard but it's not so much for to-do and goals, but I think that's a great idea (we just use it for bills, etc.)

  7. Thanks for the full features list of the tasks application, I'm sure I missed a few.

    How do you keep track of your tasks Joshua? at least before you created the task application on your site.

  8. Great post Scott! I'm going to have to get the Toodledoo thingy for my iPod Touch.

    You know what works really well for me is writing my to-do lists on my big dry erase board that I have right near my desk. That way they are always in front of me, and then when I complete each task I take the marker and make a big fat “X” through it.

  9. From doing my research for this post, “Things” was one that intrigued me a lot. I'm gonna look into a bit more today and see how it compares to ToodleDo.

  10. My wife has creative design veto rights one it comes to decorating the office and she won't go for a big giant dry erase board. I've got a small one, but I keep track of my debt on that one and there is no room for anything else right now. I want a Wall-O-WhiteBoard!

  11. I'm with Greg … the no to do list should be the biggest one … that way you know you're only focusing on the important stuff!!

    I use a good old fashioned daytimer with a pen, highlighter and jiffy marker that smells like blueberries. I've been using this system for a decade and that, combined with my super not so secret kitchen timer, is my super star productivity tool!! And it never crashes or doesn't work when my battery dies on my computer!! WOOHOO!!!

    Great post!

  12. What sort of things do you put on your Do not do list? Would it be those things that you tend to do to waste time like watch TV or browse the internet?

    PS – gotta love the Blueberry smelling marker, makes you look forward to using it.

    1. Post

      That is gross Shae! I’d take chocolate or sugar cookie scented markers though. My wife likes to buy candles with those scents. mmmmmmmm, be right back I ‘m going to go make some cookies

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