When I wrote the one about the things the mobile might have replaced, but did not, for me, I inadvertently left one out.
I’m sure we’ve all been there, done that. Honestly – count how many you’ve tried since you’ve been on smartphones – at least 5 different ones? More? My count is more like a dozen, easily.
I have been through numerous to-do tools online and on the laptop as well, but with little success. However, I was pretty sure that this was a problem that would get solved much better on the smartphone. One never switched it off, carried it all the time, and we’re all used to using it as an alarm already! Alas, it has been a tough battle to get these apps to stick. Or perhaps more tellingly, for me to actually stick to any.
First came the simple, phone-only apps – quite appropriately named “To Do List” or suchlike, and since then I’ve been through the whole gamut of ToDo List Task Managers, To-Do Tasks, Task Lists, To Do Tasks and many other permutation combinations of those words, hyphenated or otherwise.
Nothing worked. I would start on one, enthusiastically add a lot of categories, tasks and due dates to it, go to the app for a couple of days and then find myself not-so-enthusiastic about it any more. It’s not nice at all to see a growing list, is it?
Then I tried analyzing the problem, and decided I needed more commitment. So I tried the apps which allowed for sharing tasks with others – mostly by sending them an email notification of the same. A lot of teamware – Tasks, Any.do, Astrid (which did well before Yahoo marked it “Done”) found their way on to the phone. The sharing factor worked for a while but I soon figured out that all the folks I had shared these tasks with hardly bothered reading the mails, forget installing the apps themselves. This stopped working very quickly too, obviously.
Task management services such as do.com, Asana – whose app never really worked on my Android – had a better chance. Once again there were hiccups as I learned that the usage of these was gated on the team adopting them first. And that happened more in planning meetings and ‘at work’ where using these on the laptop sufficed, and I rarely got down to using them on the phone.
As with many things, Google Calendar and the related email notifications worked better! There’s sharing, there’s alerts and Android syncs multiple calendars fairly reliably. Of course, only a few important to-do tasks make it there in my case – the inbox gets too flooded and easy to ignore otherwise.
Another tool which keeps working intermittently is Google Keep. It’s available on Chrome and on Android – and they sync up! That’s a huge win whenever I do have important things to remember that I remember to jot down in advance on the laptop, and look up on the phone.
But all this is within a context. So what really works on the phone?
I know I’m probably giving away how much of an unorganized lazy old procrastinator I am, but for me, it’s good old phone calls!
Yep, at home, it’s a list on the fridge, or/and my wife calling me to remind me what needs doing 🙂 At work, a mild ‘bump’ on an email, someone calling me to check on a meeting or anything that needs doing often end up as timely reminders of things that need doing. I know these are terrible habits, and I continue to use post-it notes, Keep, the Calendar and a lot of self berating to keep reminding myself to not forget things, but thus far, I have to admit I am very dependent on the good people around me keeping me aware of constantly changing plans and priorities!
And in this, the mobile phone – with the ability to reach me anywhere through a call or a message – really, really helps 🙂
[To all my business partners and customers – the author wrote this piece for wide public consumption and thus indulged in generous exaggeration. That last deliverable I forgot was genuinely a one-off owing to a sync issue on my handset. Honest! ]
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