Wunderlist: The (False) History & (True) Philosophy Of Lists

Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group

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Anyone who knows me knows that I love history and how we came to be where we are today. That is why I like to imagine that the invention of the To-Do List (“TDL”) followed hot on the heels of the advent of the written word itself. In my wildest nerd TDL fantasy there is a stone TDL tablet buried deep in some ancient ruin somewhere just awaiting discovery and its Rosetta Stone moment.

Why are TDL’s so important? Just ask Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco. According to Umberto Eco during an interview with German online new website – Spiegel Online:

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.”

Umberto Eco said that lists have an “irresistible magic” and I cannot help but agree. As a lawyer and a dad (to 3 young, active and somewhat feral boys) and as a husband and as a son among various other titles, roles and honorifics, lists serve to reduce my stress levels and provide some semblance of order in the face of daily chaos and existential angst. From client meetings, to hockey practices, to trial preparation, to school activities, to office management, to Christmas concerts, to the very occasional date night, to soccer games, to conferences, to swimming and skating, to a constantly fluctuating level of exercise and to much more – the use of lists essentially keeps me from going insane.

All of this is a very long winded introduction to the everlasting glory and praise of my electronic messiah – Wunderlist.

All Hail Wunderlist
I have tried a number of TDL apps and Wunderlist tops them all when it comes to delivering peace of mind in a neat, tidy and user friendly package for both law and life. Move over Evernote, Any.Do and Asana – Wunderlist is my personal undisputed, unified TDL champion.

Wunderlist – Mitigating Factors
First of all, Wunderlist is free and I love free. There is a Pro version you can pay for that offers uploads of unlimited size (as opposed to 5MB), unlimited subtasks (as opposed to 25), and assigning of an unlimited number of tasks on shared lists (as opposed to 25) but these are features that only the most aggressive user would ever desire. So go with free.

Wunderlist is available in mobile and desktop versions for both iPhone and Android that you can sync and share with others. Wunderlist allows you to make folders to neatly categorize all aspects of your professional and/or personal life (if you have one). Each folder contains a sub-folder and within each sub-folder is a beautiful list in all of its glorious simplicity.

By way of example in the personal sphere, I have a separate folder for my each of my children. In each folder there are sub-folders such as Activities, Health or School. Open the sub-folder and you have a fantabulous list specific to it. To transition from the personal to the professional, simply create a folder for each of your clients and voila – you can create sub-folders specific to each file such as Disclosure, Retainer or Issues and an exhaustive list related to each sub-folder right in the palm of your hand.

Another great feature is the ability to invite users to share your TDL’s and the ability to assign each specific To-Do to a user. Is your better half supposed to review and sign your child’s field trip form? Assign the task to him or her. Is your assistant responsible for drafting that disclosure letter to Crown? Simply assign the task. Each task can also be given a deadline for completion, be starred for priority and be given subtasks. Wunderlist also notifies you via e-mail and pop-up of upcoming To-Dos.

The interface for Wunderlist is also second to none. It is easy to organize each folder, associated sub-folders and tasks by simply touching and dragging them on your screen to wherever your little heart desires to position them. You also have the immeasurable joy of checking a little box right next to your To-Do once it is complete and hearing a resounding ding. It is almost Pavlovian in effect and may cause involuntary drooling as one To-Do is accomplished after another. In fact, I have been guilty of accomplishing something that was not on my list and then retroactively adding it to my list just so I could tick it off and hear that magical sound of sweet TDL victory.

Wunderlist – Aggravating Factors
I try to keep a mental separation between my work and non-work lives but, unfortunately, Wunderlist does not allow for this currently. I would love to have the ability to have 2 separate Wunderlist’s on my phone – one for personal TDL’s and one for work TDL’s. However, all your lists will be contained within the one Wunderlist app on your phone. Definitely not a deal breaker, just a case of somewhat unwanted mental overlap.

In terms of security, data inputted on Wunderlist is encrypted in transit by 256 bit SSL encryption. Data is stored on servers in Ireland which must abide by European Union security and privacy standards. These standards are generally considered more robust than those in the United States. All that being said, care must still be taken to not input any information in a way that would lead to a client being identifiable and to not upload confidential materials. Although, to put this in perspective, most lawyers likely take far greater e-security risks via e-mail every single day.

Lastly for aggravating factors, Microsoft’s purchase of Wunderlist back in 2015 leads to a possibly fatal problem down the road. That is because the evil empire has indicated that they intend to eventually shut Wunderlist down as they phase in their own TDL called To-Do. However, these nefarious schemes have been foiled thus far by the rebel alliance and To-Do’s less than stellar performance which hopefully gives Wunderlist a continuing lease on life for now.

Final Thoughts

Wunderlist, or any TDL, work best if you make it a part of your daily routine. In the morning or, even better, the evening before, take a look at what Wunderlist tells you needs to be accomplished for any particular day and suddenly you have direction and goals where before there was only a directionless blank slate. Yeah, it’s anal and not for everyone. But for those who geek-out on TDL’s, it is an effective stress relief and life management tool.
To bring this full circle and back to my favourite subject, history, apparently Benjamin Franklin was a big TDL guy. As an author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat (thanks Wikipedia) – old Ben probably needed a TDL just to keep track of all the things he was. If it worked for a polymath (a guy who is expert in many different areas – I had to look it up) founding father, it can probably work for you too. So, take the plunge and bring enlightened organization to your chaotic world with Wunderlist.

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