To-do lists: Paper vs. digital

OK, so you want to implement a to-do list system. What kind of system should you use? Should you go with paper, or a digital system? Of course this is entirely up to you – neither is inherently better. Whether you’re a devoted Bullet Journaller, a Todist aficionado, someone who uses a whole digital project management system for your to-dos (*raises hand*), or someone who uses scraps of paper torn from notebooks, you do you.

If you don’t have a system that you’re devoted to, though, and you’re still trying to decide, here are a few factors to consider:


  • Paper is infinitely customisable. (Do you want a separate section for “want to do but may not get around to”? It’s just a matter of marking out a section of the page!) Digital systems vary a lot in their comprehensiveness and features, but whatever digital system you go with, you’re stuck with the features and limitations built into the software. Not so with paper.
  • You can take it anywhere, even if you don’t have wifi/battery, and glancing at it will not tempt you to check social media/your email/whatever your personal digital-time-sinkhole happens to be.
  • You don’t have to do a bunch of product research to work out what system will work best for you. (You still need to do some, but you’ve been using paper all your life, right? You already know what your preferences are.)


  • You can set recurring tasks. The whole point of getting organised is that you don’t need to remember everything that needs to be done – your system remembers it for you. Being able to set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly recurring tasks takes a big load off your memory. Even if you prefer paper to-do lists, I would recommend using a digital system to track your recurring tasks.
  • You can change to order of your tasks with drag and drop. As I discussed recently, putting your tasks into the order you want to do them in is important. But it’s also important to be comfortable adjusting your plans with new information. Digital to-do lists give you the flexibility to rearrange your tasks as needed throughout the day.
  • You can view your tasks in multiple different views. This isn’t true of all digital to-do systems, but it’s a significant advantage in those that have it. You can choose to view your to-dos on a calendar that shows an at-a-glance view of your upcoming week, or to view the tasks associated with a specific project, or to just focus on the stuff you want to get done today.
  • You can share projects with your teammates, in real time. If one of your goals is to share mental labour more equally among your household, then shared digital to-do lists might be the tool for the job. Since each teammate has equal oversight of the to-do list, nobody needs to feel solely responsible for thinking of all the things that need to be done.

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