Some More Thoughts on To Do Lists vs Calendars

To Do Lists vs Calendars - More Thoughts

To Do lists can be a useful part of your workflow and productivity processes. But if overused and abused, To Do lists can become sources of stress and frustration.  In fact, they can actually reduce, not improve, your productivity.  

In a prior post, “To Do, or Not To Do - that is the question”, I presented a debate between Kevin Kruse and Sir Richard Branson around "To Do" Lists.  

Kevin Kruse, author of "15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management", had written an article about To Do lists. In it, he proposed that you end the use of "To Do" lists and instead “time schedule” all your key activities. Sir Richard Branson, who Kevin had referenced in his article, disagreed with this approach. He had written a response in which he outlined why To Do lists were a critical part of his, and his firm’s success.

I agree with Kevin that Calendars are powerful applications and  that scheduling tasks can be an alternative to using To Do lists.

However, I don't think this is an "either" / "or" decision.

  • There are many situations where Calendars make sense.  

  • And there are also many situations where a To Do list makes sense.

My experience and research supports that you can use BOTH Calendars and To Do lists in your productivity workflow and be successful! In fact, I consider them very different tools that help to solve related, but different problems.
— Michael Einstein

In addition, research and personal experience has found that different personality types require the use of different tools, systems, or what I like to call "ways of working".

What works well for one person may not be the “right” solution for another person with different needs, habits, and temperament.

To Do List Only Systems:

Some people work well using comprehensive "To Do" lists. They use them to inventory, prioritize, and organize their tasks and activities. I have found this especially true of “analytical” types. They seem thrive with detail, organization, structure, and lists.  

If you love Excel sheets, you are likely to gravitate towards To Do lists!

Calendar Only Systems:

Others people work better when they schedule almost all their activities using “calendars”. I have found this especially for "creatives". And even if they did put something on a list, they may not have the discipline to review, prioritize, and update their lists. But they still have enough discipline to adhere to their schedules.

These are often the type of people that if it isn't scheduled, it won't happen. 

The Hybrid Approach - To Do lists and Calendars:

And still others seem to work well with a combination of both “To Do” lists and Calendars. They will list all their activities on a To Do list. But at some point, they will make a decision to "schedule" some items. They remove them from their "To Do" list and add them to their calendars. I actually find this approach seems to resonate well for the majority of people I work with.

For this "hybrid" approach, only "schedule" tasks that are critical, time sensitive, or require a “block of time” to complete.  For the rest, work off your To Do list.


One Tool or Several Tools?

Again, no simple answers here.

I have seen some people work well with different tools for different needs. For example, they may use Google Calendar for their scheduling.  But they may use “Todoist” for their Task Lists.

Other people like to use a single “integrated suite”. Examples would be "Outlook" or "OmniFocus”, which combines both Calendars and Tasks (as well as other features) into a single, connected application.


What are your experiences?

Do you use To Do Lists?  Calendars?

If so, do you use a single system or different systems for them?