As those who know me know, I'm not exactly the world's most organized person. It's not uncommon for me to over-organize a few small things while large swaths of my life sit in disorder for way too long. Sometimes it bothers me, some times it doesn't. It tends to go in cycles of two or three years--the disorder will start to bother me for one reason or another, so I'll start some new way of organizing things, only to drop it after I've made enough of a dent in things so the disorder doesn't bother me anymore.

I'm currently in the middle of one of those cycles. I've had too many things piling up at home and at work recently, and I feel like I was losing track of most of the things that I needed to be doing. Every time something new added itself to my plate, something else fell off.

I started by trying to keep a simple to-do list in iCal and syncing it onto my phone, but that just doesn't cut it. I need to be able to break big tasks down into smaller pieces in order to manage them, but if I do that, then I end up with a huge long linear list that is too big to be manageable. So I avoid putting little things onto the list, so they don't obscure the big things, except now I'm losing track of things again.

I'm currently in the middle of phase two: I'm trying out better software for managing to-do lists. I'm kind of excited about Life Balance, which is kind of new-age sounding, but seems to do what I want. You lay out your life as a series of goals and projects in a big hierarchy. Leaf nodes in the tree are essentially to-do items. Each node has a priority and an effort metric associated with it, along with an optional to-do date, location, and some other settings. Life Balance then tries to produce a simple, linear to-do list of what you need to be working on right now. It's actually quite a bit more powerful then that sounds, because it can gauge the importance of different projects and sub-projects against each other, and then try to balance them using the feedback that you provide.

Life Balance runs on Macs, Windows PCs, and Palms. The Palm and desktop versions sync with each other, and the Palm version can sync its version of the to-do list with the system to-do list. I'm currently testing Life Balance out along with Agendus on a Clie that I've had sitting around for a couple years. I'm still tuning the way I use the two programs, but they seem to interact almost perfectly. I'll write up a longer review when I decide to buy them.