Paper Vs. Digital To-Do Lists? Influencers Give Their Opinions

May 31st, 2016 by Search Influence Alumni


If you take a moment to look around today’s workplace, you will probably notice two sets of distinct people: those that use technology for everything, including their to-do lists, and those “old schoolers,” who embrace technology but are quick to pull out a tablet and pen to write down everything they need to do. I wanted to find out more about this phenomenon here at Search Influence, so I interviewed four colleagues to get the scoop on how they complete their tasks. Here is what I found out.


  • Chris Roberts – Software Developer
  • Jensen Quadros – Account Associate
  • Presley Brouillette – Account Manager
  • Mary Silva – Internet Marketing Team Lead

How do you get your projects done on time? Do you prefer writing your to-do list down, or do you use an online reminder system?

CR: Dev Team uses two software programs, Trello and Pivotal, to keep track of projects. We check these routinely throughout the day and keep most project related information stored there.

JQ: I prefer writing down my task list on a notepad. All the work we do is on the internet and all of our systems are on the computer, so being able to write a to-do list down is something I like. I get all my work done on time by making sure I’m getting as much crossed off of my list as possible by the time Friday comes around. Sometimes, I put items with later due dates on my list just in case I have extra time to get ahead.

PB: I don’t have an online reminder system; however, I just use a Google Sheet and type everything in there. Each day, I highlight the things that I need to get done that day, whether it be client related, internal project related, or follow ups. That way, I know how I should manage my time. If for some reason I cannot get something done, I will re-date it for tomorrow and make it a first priority.

MS: HANDWRITTEN TO DO LISTS ARE THE BEST! I use a journaling bulleted list system—but I developed some of my own symbols outside of traditional bullet journaling—in my Search Influence Moleskin.

How does your organizational system help you or your team stay organized?

CR: It facilitates collaboration between team members and visibility to management, plus our team is familiar with these two systems.

JQ: I use this list system because I like having a physical copy of my list in front of me at all times. I frequently have lots of different tabs and windows open, so even if I did keep my to-do list in a Google Doc, I wouldn’t be looking at it as much as I look at my physical copy. I also like organizing my list by client because, when I check on each client’s campaign to create my to-do list, I get an idea of where the client is overall. Thus, I’m not blindly writing down tasks on my list; I have an understanding of where each task item is in the scope of the client’s campaign. This is especially helpful when you’re working in account management.

PB: The best thing about having something in a spreadsheet is that you can link directly to other things. Because we work in online marketing, most of the things we do are online. That being said, in my spreadsheet, I can directly link to client websites or our internal task management systems.

MS: I prefer a handwritten to-do list for two reasons. For one, I think actually writing what I have to do down helps me think through things more critically and also helps each thing on my to-do list stick and stay top of mind. The other reason I prefer writing my to-do lists is that in my role working on the technical production side of Search Influence, I often have at least 20 tabs or windows open in Chrome and ten applications open on my computer throughout the day. Having a digital to-do list would add to the clutter and also make it harder to navigate to quickly. I like being able to just look down at my bullet journal and get to my next to-do easily. Bullet journaling in particular is great because it works well for longer to-do lists—I often have 30 to-dos on my list a day. It allows me to get everything down as it comes up while still prioritizing along the way, not having to create a new list as new things come like you would for a chronological-type list where the first thing is highest priority.

How do you prioritize your to-do list: by importance or by due date?

CR: Currently, our managers meet weekly to prioritize software tasks.

JQ: I prioritize by order of importance and by due date. I have an understanding in my mind of what items will be most important to get done by each day of the week. It’s really common for other things to pop up in the middle of the day and divert my attention from my to-do list, but after I’m done with the one-off item that needs my attention, I go back to my list.

PB: A little of both. I highlight everything that has a due date of today. From there, I prioritize things by importance.

MS: The bullet journaling makes prioritization easy. Here’s a picture of my “key” for marking objects:

Bullet Journaling

I don’t usually color code my actual lists because the symbols themselves are great enough to easily differentiate to-do list entries. The symbols not only allow me to tell that obviously something that has a star next to it is really important but also indicate that something with an exclamation mark, which means to research or look into something, might take longer and be less time sensitive. So it might also be lower priority.

How often do you update your to-do list?

CR: Multiple times a day.

JQ: I update my to-do list once a week. Every Monday morning, I spend a good bit of time checking through each client’s campaign. After I figure out what items need to be completed for the week, I start working right away.

PB:  Literally all day, everyday! Nothing better than deleting something that you completed!

MS: Daily. When I create my new list for the day, new items are marked with a dot. For old items, the dot becomes a left facing angle bracket (“<“), indicating that I let it go a day and therefore increased its priority. I also just really enjoy the satisfaction throughout the day of physically crossing things off my list when they’re done.

What would happen if you lost your to-do list system?

CR: We would probably attempt to recover the data and switch to another system.

JQ: If I lost my to-do list, I would have to create another one. However, I wouldn’t want to do that because I spend a lot of time creating my to-do list!!

PB: I don’t even want to think about it. Die from a heart attack probably.

MS: I’d probably forget to do a few of the things, but generally since I hand write my lists, I think I have them pretty firmly etched in my brain.

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