Use A To-Do App To Take Notes

When out and about, I used to put all my ideas into a pocket notebook. Then I switched to emailing myself from my phone. Then I tried the Notes app. Now I put them in Wunderlist, a to-do app. It's not my favourite to-do app — Microsoft even released another app to replace it — because I use my favourite to-do app for my actual to-dos. No, this is my sidecar and it's a much better way to jot down random notes than using a text app.

Photo: Gerrie van der Walt

If you have creative projects, especially writing projects, you might end up with a lot of ideas that aren't really tasks. They don't have deadlines or action items, they're just scraps and inspirations and concepts. Like me, you might keep a few text files full of ideas.

What I realised is that the vast majority of the time, I format all my "ideas" docs as bulleted lists. When I elaborate on an idea, I tend to turn it into a new list. I'm writing down single lines, not paragraphs or pages. (I can only turn out pages if I intentionally sit down with a physical notebook.)

I got tired of scrolling through all my existing ideas every time I wanted to add a new one to the bottom. I find it easier to work in an app that already assumes each addition will be a new, discrete item.

It works in brainstorm sessions, but mostly just when I'm out and about and want to get the idea down and move on with my life. It's how I store all my Lifehacker post ideas. Even this idea, because I never pass up a chance at recursive content.

Get whatever to-do app you want, but I suggest you keep it separate from your actual to-do app. You don't need many features, just the ability to add notes or tags, and maybe support for nested lists. And syncing. You definitely want your ideas list to sync between all your devices.

You might not get to all your ideas, but you definitely don't want them trapped on your phone.


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