How a Simple Text File Helps Me Be More Productive

I love being productive. Having a million things on my todo list in the morning and seeing each of those items get checked off throughout the day is an awesome feeling. The sense of accomplishment I get is truly rewarding.

I’ve used dozens of different todo list managers, software and web-based project management software and everything in between to assist me in my quest for productivity excellence but nothing seems to stick. I’m always coming up with a new excuse to look for another tool.

  • “It’s too hard to see all of my tasks in a single project.”
  • “I can’t group these things correctly.”
  • “It’s too hard to make a note in this app quickly.”
  • “I’m just bored with this app. Time to try another!”

I’ve come up with countless other excuses to turn more knobs and push more buttons in my supposed pursuit of productivity. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t getting anything done! I was too busy moving tasks around, figuring out the best way to group projects that I was slowly losing track of the primary goal: actually to get things done.

I declared todo list manager bankruptcy. I threw them all away and got back to using a simple text file with no real order. It was freeing when I wasn’t tempted to play with a new setting or figure out a better way to view my tasks. Even though I still feel the OCD urge to keep things in a nice, tidy order in a text file my options are severely limited.

Nowadays, I simply have a text file on my desktop called todos.txt. This text file just contains lines of tasks, ideas and random notes that do not lay out exactly what I need to do but rather act as simple reminders. After all, I’m smart enough to know what to do. I just need a trigger to kickstart my brain. No need to spend forever laying out a project plan for something that takes 10 minutes.

Today’s techie todo list

By looking at the above “to do list” no one else has a clue what this stuff means but I do, and that’s all that’s important. Each of these lines represents a mental trigger for me where I can immediately call up the action to take without much thought at all. Also, because it’s so easy to put something in this text file, I will add and remove things dozens of times a day from it. This little file acts like my working brain throughout the day adding and removing thoughts as they come to my mind.

Productivity isn’t about being the most organized or having the most pristine system in the world. Your productivity system is meant to serve you; not for you to serve it.

A 20-year veteran of IT, online business professional, consultant, productivity geek, mental health advocate, career coach and applier of tech to life.