I am a bit of a tech junkie. When the first PDA (personal data assistant) devices came out I jumped right on the bandwagon. I had a smartphone before Apple even made one. However, when it comes to my To-Do list, there is a simple, low tech method I’ve used for almost 30 years and have even passed on to others, because it works so well. And, it’s “green,” too!

I keep a single notebook with me at all times when I attend a meeting. I use it until it’s full, and never (ever) take a legal type pad with me. The style of notebook I use has varied over the years, including spiral bound, composition books (with or without fancy leather covers) and so on. But it’s important that it be bound, intended for all the pages to be together.

The pages are arranged as follows:

Starting at the beginning of the book, I keep my notes.  Every time I go into a meeting, I write down the meeting name and the date and usually record the attendees. Seems simple enough, right? But, I never take down my own action items on those notes pages. If I did, I’d have to go back through all my notes every day to see what I should be doing!

Instead, starting with the last page of the notebook, and working forward into the book, I create my To-Do list.  I make a little box in the left margin that I check off whenever the task is finished or delegated. Working from the back means that I don’t waste any paper, because eventually the notes pages that are coming front to back meet up with the To-Do list pages which are working from back to front.  Then, it’s time to start a new notebook! I just rewrite any remaining To-Do items into the new book, again starting on the last page and working forward, and away we go.

I also put the first and last dates the book was used on the cover of the book, so I can keep them and find what I need again later. Usually, a notebook lasts the better part of a year, but it depends on how many sheets it holds, of course, and how detailed of a note-taker you are.

These days, most of us are using electronic filing systems, so you don’t have to worry about having a folder in a file drawer that is missing notes because you put them in your notebook. But if you do, and it’s critical, make a photo copy of your page in your notebook and file it. Or, take a picture for your electronic file. Or, type them up and file them.

I did try “tasks” and calendaring and several electronic methods to keep the To-Do action items for myself. But this just works best, and I don’t always have my laptop or a charger with me. The book is easy to carry. I use one just small enough to fit in my handbag, so if I’m traveling it can go too when needed. Sometimes when traveling, all I have is my phone, so I take notes on the “pad” in the phone and then email it to myself! But I still transfer all To-Do items into my notebook when I get home, starting from the back.

And I have to say one more thing: when an entire page of To-Do items is finished, and all the little boxes are checked, there is nothing more satisfying than marking a diagonal line all the way down the page to show that that whole page is DONE!

Ahhh! It’s the little things, isn’t it?

The Low Tech “To-Do” List


Lisa Harrington is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of International Risk Management Institute (IRMI), and is responsible for all aspects of marketing, conference management, client services, and sales. Previous engagements include COO and acting CEO of the Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU), and over 10 years as vice president of education for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents. She has more than 30 years of experience in the American Agency System as a leader, author, and trainer. Ms. Harrington resides in Southlake, Texas with her husband and many four-legged loved ones.

For more information about Lisa’s book, Taking In Strays: Leadership Lessons from Unexpected Places, please visit www.TakingInStrays.com

Photo Credit:  https://samedaypapers.com/