My Favourite Apps: Microsoft To-Do

June 2019

Meredith Evans smiles close mouthed at the camera

By Meredith Evans

Those of you who’ve been following TechCommWire for a few years might have read about my journey into bullet journaling, shortly followed by my giving up of bullet journaling. I really enjoy writing notes, planning, check-lists, and To-Do lists, and for many years have tried all sorts of paper and electronic systems for doing this. I actually love the Bullet Journal idea, but after finishing my favourite blue journal book I couldn’t seem to find the same love for any subsequent book, and so I gave up on this technique. Shortly after, I discovered the To-Do app from Microsoft, and have been consistently using it now for over a year. Don’t hold your breath but I think it might be here to stay for me!

What’s To-Do?

To-Do is web-based To Do list tool from Microsoft. There’s also an app version. Read more here.

Why I like it?

  • It’s really simple, with no setup required.
  • It’s in the cloud, you can link it to your Office365 account and even sync Outlook tasks if you want to get complicated.
  • It allows me to have a master list of To Do items, and then pick the ones I want to work on for the day. At the end of the day, the app automatically clears my “Today” list but it doesn't delete the tasks - it just moves them back to the master list.
  • You can have one master list, or multiple lists for different areas of your life.

How I use To-Do

1. Maintain the Master Lists

I maintain three master lists: Work, Home, and TechCommNZ. As something comes up, I go to the applicable list and write my To Do item. I try to keep each item quite detailed and achievable, for example, instead of “Organise school holiday childcare” I might have an item for “Check annual leave balance” another one for “Ask Mum to look after the kids”...

To-Do has functionality to have steps within lists (for breaking a big task into smaller ones), set reminders, add due dates, repeat tasks, and add notes and files. But I rarely use any of these. I like to keep things simple.

I also don’t bother to sync with Outlook tasks or flagged items, but I can see how this would be useful.

So now I have my master lists. Depending on my workload and the time of year, each list might have up to 20 items on it.

2. Choose Daily Tasks

Generally, at the start of each work day, To-Do is the first thing I look at. My “My Day” list will be blank (because To-Do automatically resets it overnight) but I might use the “Recap” feature to check what I wanted to get done yesterday but didn’t mark as complete. Maybe I’ll even add something to “My Day” that I did do just for the thrill of checking it off (what a nerd!). That’s another feature I like - I can add something to “My Day” on the fly, and To-Do will just add it to a generic list. If I want to, I can then transfer it to one of my master lists .

Next I go through each master list and look for items to achieve today. For each item I want to do today, I “add it to My Day” and it then appears on the “My Day” list.

During the work day I keep To-Do open and refer to it now and then, especially if I have 30 min or so to spare and there’s a smaller task I can achieve in that time. As I complete a task I tick it off (of course) and I normally add a few things to the master lists as I think of them.

After work, I’ll check To-Do for home and TechCommNZ related activities, normally on my laptop but sometimes my phone too.

In Summary

As a life management and productivity tool, To-Do ticks all the boxes (ha ha!) for me. I’ve noticed a lot of people in our office using it too. It might not be the most sophisticated or attractive tool, but I think it does a good job and is worth checking out if you’re in the market for a new productivity app.