August 8th, 2018

Why The Best To-Do List App Will Never Work

Reading Time: 3 minutes

To-do lists can be one of the most powerful tools in our productivity arsenal. Not only are they good for keeping track of our daily tasks, having a written record of serves as both a reminder and a form of commitment. Plus, there are few things more satisfying than checking something off a to-do list!

The Fabulous app has a number of productivity tools embedded within it for you but you may have noticed there’s no to-do list. If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple: We don’t believe in to-do list apps. In our opinion, even the best to-do list app can’t beat good old pen and paper.

The Problem with To-Do List Apps

First, we want to apologize to all the to-do list app developers. It’s not you! To-do list apps abound for both Android and iOS and there is no shortage of apps that are powerful, beautiful, and function wonderfully. The problem isn’t with the apps themselves or the people who make and use them: It’s the device that app lives on.

We live in a world of constant interruptions in our work and personal lives. Almost all of these interruptions come from one source: Our smartphones. Email apps. Social media apps. News apps. Banking apps. The list goes on!

When you toss a to-do list app into the mix, it just becomes another interruption. Another thing to mindlessly check, swipe, and close.

Productivity requires focus. It requires deep work. To-do list apps, with all their bells and whistles, fuss, and notifications, don’t make us more productive. They’re just more smartphone white noise.

Why We Prefer Paper

Pen and paper might seem archaic in comparison, but hear us out! Hand-writing your daily tasks actually comes with some serious advantages. A 2014 study by Mueller and Oppenheimer found that, when college students took notes on their laptop, they remembered significantly less than those who took notes on paper. They believe a possible explanation to be that students who type notes simply transcribed verbatim. They didn’t connect to what they were writing.

People writing longhand, however, had to slow down and think about what they were writing. They processed the information and reframed it in their own words.

Writing our to-do lists by hand has a similar effect. When we physically write out our tasks, we connect with them and we remember them.

Making Your Own To-Do List

If you’re the kind of person who loses any and all scraps of paper, fear not! We recommend getting a notebook for to-do lists, for several reasons.

First, it’s way harder to lose a whole notebook than loose scraps of paper! Plus, if you take time and invest in a notebook you really care about, you won’t want to lose it. Find a notebook you’ll enjoy carrying around everywhere in a size and style that works for you.

Second, having a paper to-do list allows you to unleash your inner creativity. If you’ve ever seen bullet journals on Pinterest, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The benefit of a blank notebook is you can be as simple or ornate as you like. You can use bulleted lists or try Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix. You can take notes and doodle in the margins. Good luck doodling in the margins of a to-do list app!

Finally, keeping all of your daily to-dos in one central location allows you to look back at previous days and reflect on them. What got done and what didn’t? Which tasks align with your goals and which don’t? What changes can you make going forward to make your days more productive?

To make sure writing your daily to-do list sticks, do it every day at the same time. If you need a reminder, add it as a habit in one of your Fabulous rituals. Or, if you’re a Sphere user, try our Staying on the Road Journey to learn more about to-do lists and other ways to improve your concentration and get more done.