Thursday, February 12, 2009

To-do lists in a green way

I've been running around getting things going for my research work. Its hard to be really patient and remember the thousand and one things that you have to do when you are getting 10 or more users to try out your software for a week's time. And its harder still when you have mounds of data to go through and not mix up last week's data with this one. For, after all, they look the same. Enter to-do lists!

But the problem with to-do list is that I keep remembering things one by one and I write it down on any piece of paper that I get. Finally I end up with 20 to-do lists of various sizes and 'combining all the to-do lists' becomes another task on my latest to-do list. This resulted in my forgetting half the tasks(despite writing them down) and getting myself in a fix. I recently forgot to attend a University Budget Board meeting and got some flak for this one for we are working hard on a budget for the coming academic year. Thankfully, I set up an alert to myself the next time round(Sigh!).

And the other problem is that I see my bag filled with so many pieces of paper all with some important(and some not-so-important) stuff written on it. One of my goals for 2009(yeah! letting one secret out!) is to live a much more greener life by using minimal amount of paper. I'm trying to reduce the amount of paper that I, as a person, use. I've changed all my statements to online ones, I've started taking notes with my laptop(with the exception of one course where there are too many graphs) and I've also opted out of all possible catalogs. So, last week, when cleaning the room, I found that this habit of mine seemed to take more paper than anything else. But I need a to-do list! Wham!! Enter the internet.

I scoured for a simple to-do list software that didn't need me to install a part of their software into my machine(my machine is already loaded with software!),something that didn't require me to pay money or just give trial versions, something that I can use on any computer that I use(this last one is important for I log onto four different machines every day - mine, my lab machine, my server machine, my research machine - and I don't want one more piece of software to float around in all of them) and something that lets me print the list to a paper if needed(I know! I just loving putting a tick against completed tasks! Gives me sooooo much pleasure! Guess its a case of having played too many teacher-student games when I was young. I still dream to be a teacher who only has to teach kids and put tick marks on their homeworks. Well...).

Finally, after an hour of searching and asking some friends(this set of friends' hobby is to try out new software. So, all I have to do is to tell them my requirements and they'd suggest me some really good software. Most of my firefox plugins are a result of such discussions. And they've made life infinitely easier!), I found printable checklists. I went to the site looking for some instructions. But it opened up with just a place for me to type my to-do list in and keep adding to it. It also has some cute boxes on the side for me to tick it off!(I know, my hands are already raring to go on a ticking spree!). Right now, I just keep it on the browser of my lab machine and whenever I remember something, I just remote log in there and put the task on it. By afternoon, I have a pretty good to-do list and all the stuff already on it. So, I just print it to a pdf(saving paper, you know :)) and take the pdf everywhere with me. Since I always have it with me and I'm rarely without computer access, I just highlight all the tasks I've done and the ones remaining. This shows what's still left out.

At the end of the day, I come back to the browser(I never switch off my lab machine and the browser in it - yet another reason to choose that machine) and delete all the tasks that I have done and do another brain storming to make a fresh to-do list. Two advantages: One, I don't have to remember all the tasks I completed each day (sometimes, even eating has been on my to-do list on some really busy days - otherwise, there are days when I've been feeling hungry at 11 am only to realize that I skipped breakfast :() and second, I don't have to rewrite all the tasks from my old to-do list to my new one(one of the main culprits when I used a paper to-do list - I'll have 10 tasks left in the old one and 10 new in the new one. I'd be too lazy to copy the 10 old ones into the new one. So, I'd decide to hold onto the old one too. But I usually don't go through it and would eventually forget it :P) Despite the fact that I always have something on my to-do list, now I know for sure that I can trust my to-do list to remind me of things to do. After all, when you have a busy and fun-filled grad life and want to do so many interesting things, to-do lists become all the more important to keep a sane life.

What do you do to keep your life together and remember all the small stuff "to be done"? Do you use hand-written list, keep it in your head or use technology's help? And how do you manage information overload? Do share your secrets to a sane and fun-filled life.


Madhan Sivakumar said...

There is one little thing called Microsoft Outlook -> Microsoft OneNote Integration. :P

alpine path said...

Madhan, oh oh! Didn't know that! Will try that out too. But this one fits my reqs to the T.

Karthikeyan....KK said...

Google calendar!!i Use it extensively..

alpine path said...

Karthikeyan, yup! I can't live without google products. I use google calendar but these are tasks that I need to get done before some time. They don't need a specific time to be scheduled. I'm trying to look for good plugins too.

Madhan Sivakumar said...

Where can I find loyalty these days???

Arun said...

Online todo lists are good, only if u care to keep checking, i find alarm feature to be the most important feature missing in most to-do lists ive checked, hence i moved to calendering application as a todo list. i use iCal, but I bet outlook shud have more bells and whistles.

better than one in comp, is one in phone(if u carry always).

Karthikeyan....KK said...

hmm.. i email myself TO DO's everyday!!! and i hate it when i have to copy the same ones next day! It works for me...

alpine path said...

Madhan, :) I'm a consumer too.

Arun, I still have a basic "free" phone from Verizon. So, mine doesn't have much features. And, having to pay for each sms cured me of the habit of texting. So, typing in stuff in my phone doesn't seem to work. But, yeah, I'll remember it when I get my iPhone.

Karthikeyan, that's a good idea!! And looks like you are playing your guilt to keep the list short. Smart :) I'll try it this week and let you know how it goes!