To-Do appCredit: Wayne Kirton

Many people try different things to improve their lives, wanting to be more organised, using their time more wisely, and trying to make life more enjoyable overall.  Time management is one of those things with which many people wrestle—trying to juggle career and home responsibilities, for the average person, means sometimes misplacing his or her priorities (spending too much time on a picayune task while something more important goes by the wayside). 

As recently as a decade ago many people carried day planners, small ring-binders with loose-leaf, calendar-based paper sheets in them to schedule minutiae such as business meetings, a doctor’s appointment, or vacation schedules.  Dutifully “penciled in” on the appropriate date page, the day planner’s user could then forget about that event until it was due to occur, knowing the information about it was handy for review at any time.

In today’s Information Age, and with smartphone technology putting almost any imaginable time-management application at anyone’s literal fingertips, the public is exposed to a myriad of digital apps to help schedule one’s day on a mobile phone.  Most apps perform the same function as the old-style day planner, just with more whistles and bells (audio reminders, for example, that a certain appointment is coming up, say, within 24 hours).

But while downloading a cell-phone friendly “to-do application”, with its built-in task management and event reminder features, is a great way to plan certain things in life, such an app’s better benefits are far from digital.  There are intangibles that can actually help a person in ways the app did not intend.

Visualising Goals

In order to add any event, task, or general reminder to any app, the user needs to first be able to foresee it and plan for it.  Use of the “to-do” app, by the simple action of entering its relevant information for the relevant date, helps fix that event (or “goal”) in the user’s mind. 

Every success story starts before the desired achievement; it is the culmination of hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller, intermediary goals. The ability to make something real in one’s mind (to visualise it) is the first step to becoming successful at anything in life.

Use of a digital planner helps by fixing the objective as something real, not abstract.

Committing to Goals

People have a tendency to perceive something “written down” as concrete.  Once done, a task then carries with it an unspoken commitment by its creator for completion.

This could be as inconsequential as making (and keeping) a dental appointment, but it could also be as critical as sticking to a commitment to call potential investors about a business idea.

A “to-do” app doesn’t care about what it reminds one to do—it will remind one regardless.  But, its presence helps form a commitment level in the user’s mind to see that event or task through.

Acting upon Goals

This is the area with which most people are familiar: “I was reminded to do this, so I’ll do it.”

Scheduling apps can help people take action on tasks when the use of the app becomes a routine part of their day.  Once the habit of structuring life around the never-bending, all-knowing “to-do” list—and completing those tasks without fail—is when time management becomes less of a struggle. 

Just as in MS Project (scheduling software that lets a user input dated objectives for intermediate goals as part of a bigger project), these phone apps can likewise do the same.  The user can envision a larger objective and, by scheduling smaller steps to complete as part of that goal, can add to the quality of his/her life, with each completed small step creating a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  And the peace of mind from letting the app “worry” about scheduling until the appropriate time is priceless. 

Most people can’t afford a personal assistant (like those assigned to any officer of a Fortune 500 company or a major celebrity).  And these days no one needs to be able to afford that.  All that is necessary on the front end is an idea, a series of achievable steps, and a free app on a mobile phone.  The rest—visualising, committing, and taking action—is up to the user.