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MIT blogger Ankita D. '23

My History of Task-Management by Ankita D. '23

boy, is it a long one

Being organized is fucking incredible. I like limiting stress in my life, especially from academics, so I’ve relied on tools that help me navigate my to-do lists ever since middle school.

My first means of task-management were the standard, pre-planned journals that my school would give me every fall. They kind of slapped, not gonna lie, but since I had no control over their organization and also don’t have any pictures of them (rip), I’m just going to skip over them…

Next, we have bullet journaling, which I took up in my junior year of high school because I was going through a “jesus I do NOT have my life together and really need to feel like I’m being organized, at least for my sanity” phase.01 relatable? The good thing about bullet journaling is that you have infinite customizability, but the bad thing is that, uh, you have infinite customizability. Meaning, unless you’re wiling to spend hours pouring every ounce of your aesthetic being into planning and structuring pages and sections, it’s not worthwhile.02 overstatement lol

Due to this, I gave up on bullet journaling within a few weeks. My effort level had gone to shit; in the beginning, I’d created a beautiful cherry blossom theme that I’d intended to carry through the journal, but by the end, my pages were chicken scratch. Oop

So…if you’re like me and can’t see yourself maintaining a journal without it feeling like a chore, it’s best to just let your computer do it for you.

Starting from the app I picked up right after abandoning my physical bullet journal…

Todoist

todoist screen

oh, BABY. this is a blast from the past

Todoist is…meh. It got the job done when I had a lot of random shit to keep track of, but honestly, I had so much going on in high school that I didn’t take advantage of its task categorization, as you can see from the two measly tags (Colleges and Scholarships).

Pros

  • Easy categorization. Due dates and tags are super simple to add to tasks.
  • Intuitive. It doesn’t take any guides or YouTube videos to start figuring stuff out…
  • Dark mode goes off. Ugh yesssss

Cons

  • Limited with the free plan. As many things are. Not that I ever used the projects feature, but…
  • Customization is annoying. Bro, what if I want to indicate progress on something? Checking boxes only applies to things that are binary—yes, I sent an email, yes, I finished this logistical task that took 30 seconds. But what about the essay I didn’t finish but still want validation on? Also, making tasks disappear when they’re part of a bigger project stresses me TF out.

I don’t really have much else to say about it. If I had used it properly, that wouldn’t be the case, but!!

Digital Bullet Journal

isn't it ghastly

overview page

In an actual bruh moment, I decided to switch back to “bullet journaling” right after college apps were over since I wanted to track things like working out, eating healthy, and sleeping. I stalked the internet for a good Google Sheets template that I customized until it was so grotesque I could no longer use it.

Don’t be me.

Here’s the template I used, and here are two more examples. But there are better ones out there, if you’re considering this.

If you look at my journal, you can see that I didn’t bother using sections like the gratitude log, but did in fact track my tasks, mood, and the media I consumed. That’s pretty cool; it’s nice to have a record of things so you can look back on it.

Also…can we talk about the “got into MIT” on 12/15? boiiiiii

bullet

Here’s how I kept track of smaller tasks. It worked pretty well, tbh.

Pros

  • Customization. Dude, the opportunities are endless. Add sheets for whatever you want! You can make it pretty without hurting your wrist :)
    • Note: habit tracking is easy af through Sheets since you can just click and drag boxes to fill out the days you did X. It’s pretty sweet.

      habit tracker

      a bitch got hella sleep but didn’t meditate at all lmao

  • It’s easy. If you find a template you like, you barely have to do any work. Most people know how to use Sheets, anyway. Plus, it’s in your Drive, so you can access it easily from anywhere.

Cons

  • Sheets is not the most aesthetic of platforms. Sigh.
  • Combining multiple facets into one sucks. If you have complicated elements, like projects with many details/tags, that you want to keep track of, you’re going to have to get real creative.

Google Keep + Calendar

I came to MIT with a planner but abandoned it in favor of Google Keep as soon as I realized how many things I had to stay on top of. Also, in middle & high school, teachers don’t appreciate if you whip out your laptop or phone to write something down, but in college, no one gives a fuck. Managing your tasks digitally saves so much time.

the holy duo

I made color-coded Google Keep notes for each of my classes, as well as a general note for tracking miscellaneous tasks. It came in handy when I was rushing down the Infinite and needed to get something down quickly; all I needed to do was open the Keep app and write it down there.

Pros

  • It’s right next to your Gcal. I have my calendar open ALWAYS, so having my task management system right next to it is lit. If you’re into Calendar reminders, that’s nice too.
  • It’s accessible and easy. To think that I used to use Notes as a quick to-do list…

Cons

  • Managing more than a few tasks at a time is messy. Unless you want to add every assignment and test into your Google Calendar, which takes FOREVER, Keep doesn’t quite cut it. Also, once you finish a task, it gets marked as a complete, which is nice as a reference but sometimes annoying since it clutters your screen.
  • It’s easy to forget to mark things as complete. The general note at the top was super useful, but man, I barely used the individual class notes. They didn’t really serve a purpose for me…

Verdict: decent, but not good enough. I still use GCal, but Keep isn’t the right fit for me in terms of managing tasks.

Notion

mamma mia. Notion is dope as hell. Shoutout to Kathleen for showing me the way!! Read about her use of it here.

Infinite customization stresses me out, honestly. I just want something functional, that will motivate me to use it instead of seeming daunting.

Thankfully, Notion is whatever you make of it! I’m using it to manage work tasks, blogging, the media I consume, appointments, etc. I also started organizing my classes using the template found in this video.

My favorite thing about Notion is the Board View. Dragging things through the process of completion is the most satisfying way for me to feel like I’m getting shit done.

notion board

Pros

  • Visualize data however you want. Make task management your bitch. Do you want a list, a board, or a calendar? Or all three? You can have that!
  • There are so many templates out there. Resources are endless…
  • Your friends are already using this. Probably. You can share templates with them!

Cons

  • Set-up is daunting. I recommend starting small, testing how it works for you, and then creating other things. If you want your Notion to be aesthetic but are lazy, like me, customize it in small chunks.

I’m aiming to use Notion for the fall semester. Let’s see if I manage to stick with it for the entire year…

What are you currently using for task management? Are you switching to Notion, or are you a loyalist? Let me know! :)

  1. relatable? back to text
  2. overstatement lol back to text