ToDo Lists: Why Can’t We Find A Good Solution

markhurst.jpgI have two ways I keep track of my to-do lists. I use Microsoft Outlook’s to-do list and I use index cards to jot down quite notes. A new tool, lets users email todo lists to Gootodo and have an ever present (online) to do list generated via email.

Maybe you’re in a meeting, or online and you want to create a todo list – simply email and the subject line becomes the task heading and the body of the email becomes the detail of the task list. Pretty neat.
Many of us receive regular streams of emails and a good number of those emails are ‘action items’ – or to do lists. Being able to easily create todo lists via email is a very good benefit.
Mark Hurst, pictured here, and creator of Gootodo helps us better understand this different way of creating todo lists in the following interview.

All professionals have “to do” lists some use paper some use some digital/electronic device – which one is most effective.
The most effective todo list in *today’s* work environment is the one that can accommodate lots of incoming digital information. For example, many todos arrive in e-mail, with lots of details – and so writing, or rather transcribing, all that info onto paper isn’t always a good option. A digital todo list, however, can handle all that info very naturally.
But *which* digital todo list to choose? There are dozens applications available in software and on websites. I built one todo list myself, available at, which allows people to forward todos, via e-mail, to future days on the todo list. Personally I think is by far the best todo list available today, but people need to draw their own conclusions.
Many of us use Microsoft Outlook’s built in scheduling/task system, is this effective.
The newest version, in Outlook 2007, has some improvements that make it easier to manage todos. For example, you can drag an e-mail onto a future day in the calendar, when you want to deal with it. I think that’s a nice feature. However, there are two major drawbacks with Outlook:
1. In all the versions before Outlook 2007, it’s difficult or impossible to separate today’s todos from those you want to “hibernate” – and keep out of view – until a future day. In other words, your task list is filled with every todo you ever need to accomplish, from today until eternity. I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who finds the (pre-2007) Outlook task list to be a useful tool.
2. Even if one upgrades to Outlook 2007, the overall complexity of Outlook – with all the features, menus, panes, toolbars, icons, popups, and other elements – can be distracting. I prefer a simple todo list that just shows me what I need to do – and then lets me get back to work. That’s how I designed to operate.
I find that I also use 3×5 index cards, which at times is very effective.
Paper is very helpful in certain instances – to jot down a quick note, for example, or carry some notes into a meeting or presentation. I just don’t think it’s a good choice to hold someone’s todo list, for the reasons I state above.
With so many CRM & Sales tools, how do tasks list integrate into these tools as well
Every user’s needs are different, and some salespeople certainly need to use ACT, or some other sales tool, throughout the day. But there’s still a need for a general todo list to hold everything else. Most users keep a cluttered inbox as their todo list.
A task list is something you want with you as a constant reminder, it appears that a tool like Gootodo would not be a great ideas as it forces a user to always go online to yet another site.
Why does anyone use Gmail, then? The fact is that users are happy to use an online tool, if it’s better than the (software) competition.
Personally, I keep a browser window open all day with my list displayed, so accessing my todo list is just as easy as going to my calendar or e-mail.
Here’s a neat way you can use Gootodo.
If you e-mail someone a question, just BCC the Gootodo address (for today or in the future), which will create a todo item, on the correct day, reminding you to follow up with that person to make sure you got a response. I personally use this feature many times every day.
By forwarding your todos *out* of e-mail and into your todo list, you can easily clear the inbox and to get it to a zero message count, at least once a day – one of the basic skills of bit literacy, as I write about in my book (called, yes, “Bit Literacy” – see