How to remember everything with a todo-list

Getting a little overwhelmed sometimes when there’s so much information to be found and so much to be done? Here is some valuable advice on how to set up a really good todo-list and how to use it as a startup.

todo-list at table with 3 tasks

Too busy to remember

It’s Tuesday 11 am and you just finished your third team meeting of the day. You look down on your notebook, legal pad or iPad or whatever you’re using and try to make sense of the notes you just wrote down. Your team members came up with some really great ideas and important questions, so you scribbled away. What was that thing your CFO mentioned?

Or maybe it’s worse.
There’s no CFO, no team. It’s just you. And your head is bursting with ideas on how to build your business and to improve your product.

Whatever your situation is, the one thing you need is a complete list that keeps track of all that.

How to make a todo-list

There are literally thousands of todo-lists in the world, both in digital and in physical form. They all have different qualities, and boast about features that will help you be more productive and work smarter. But when it comes to remembering what you need to do, there are 3 things that really matter:

  1. What action do you have to undertake?
  2. What project and/or person is it related to?
  3. When do you need to do it.

Well, actually, there is a fourth: you really need to do it!!! But we’ll save that for a later post. For now, we’ll just focus on these 3 aspects. And this actually means your todo-list only needs two separate things: room for a short description (#1 and #2) and room for a date (#3).

Keep it simple

Any todo-list which has these possibilities will do. And while most apps (and even todo-lists on paper) will provide a lot more, in this case more does not necessarily mean better. When it comes to remembering what to do, simplicity is king.

Actually, how you maintain your list is way more important than any extra feature the app itself has. If you don’t make a habit out of cleaning your list, combining separate lists into one or reordering (prioritizing) your list, you won’t succeed in staying on top of stuff. So it’s not about the list itself, it’s about what you do with it. Okay?

And the first thing that you need to do, is making it. Write down any action you need to undertake in the simplest form you can think of.

Because the easier it is for you to do this, the faster you will use your list. There might be extra’s that you appreciate and make prioritizing easier, but they will make also the process of writing down that todo more complicated and time consuming. And the one thing that will help you the most is really fast ‘todo-listing’ (for the lack of a better word).

Keep your list complete

The only way to really prioritize is when you have the most important things listed. So keep your list up to date and make sure it’s complete. Simply write everything down that comes to mind, you can sift through it later and clean it up.

Make your todo-list accessible

Of course that also means that you want to access your todo-list anywhere, anytime, whatever medium you using, being it your smartphone, desktop or a paper. Nowadays that is no longer a problem, even the youngest apps have the possibility to sync all your devices automatically. But if you are using a paper system (we really like the Atoma system), that might mean you have to think things through.

todo-list with computer and ruler on white table

Of course, making your list accessible might mean that you need more than the three features mentioned above. Adding a category for instance might be useful. Of make a separate lists for different subjects or projects, which would also work using a paper list. However, keep in mind that in this case less really is more.

Check in daily

For a startup, when it comes to prioritizing, you’ll need to keep an eye on long term and short term goals, while making it very specific what you need to work on today. In order to do that, you need to check your todo-list every day.

Combined with a weekly and monthly schedule, those daily updates will not only keep you focused but also will make it possible for you to respond quickly when things change. And in startup business things tend to change quite often.