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The Complete Guide to List and To-Do Apps

The Complete Guide to List and To-Do Apps

Are you a list-maker? Probably. Do you make to-do lists? If so, do you also make other types of lists such as reading lists, checklists, shopping lists, and reference lists? Undoubtedly. Do you find it difficult to find the list app that best suits your method of list creation? There are many different tools out there that help you to create lists: most of them are focused on “to-do” checklists, and each have their own specialties to match the different ways in which we create lists.

I’ve spoken with approximately 200 people so far, and  have discovered both a wide range of different techniques that people us to create and manage their lists, and a variety of tools that are used. This is a breakdown of some of the most popular tools, and how they are used, so you can determine which list-creation app is best suited to your needs.

Wunderlist

    Wunderlist is a straightforward, uncomplicated task management to-do list app that works on multiple platforms, and syncs seamlessly across them all. It’s ideal for people who make task lists and check lists, as you can create notes for each task if you need to add a more detailed description, prioritize, share the main task list, and even set deadlines. It’s one of the few tools out there that has a downloadable Mac and PC app as well as web, android, iphone, ipad and blackberry versions. This is a great tool for task management.

    Asana

      Asana is ideal for more complicated projects and collaborative task management. You can create different projects and assign many tasks to them, and each task can be assigned to an owner who will then see it under their list of responsibilities. Deadlines can be set, tags can be created for easier searching, files can be attached, and you can create sub-tasks for each responsibility. Tasks can even be set to be repeated as needed. Essentially, it’s a highly effective collaborative task management tool.

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      Remember the Milk

        Remember the Milk provides pre-built list categories such as inbox, personal, study, work, with options to sort your outstanding tasks by due date. You can add notes to each task, and can easily postpone an assignment with a tap of a button. Tasks can be prioritized, set to repeat, or moved to different lists. The main feature from the mobile app is its ability to see what tasks are due by day, whereas the website version is a lot more difficult to navigate, with many features that are hidden and difficult to find. This is another app that is highly focused on task management and to-do lists, and is available on Android, iPhone, and iPad, as well as the website.

        Any.do

          Any.do is set up to help you organize when your tasks need to be completed. You list tasks under headings such as today, tomorrow, this week or later, with different lists categorized in various folders, and then create sub-tasks using the notes feature that lives under each task. By default, any task created in a folder is set to today and you have to switch to the timeline view to change the date. It’s an aesthetically pleasing to-do task management app that’s available on Android, iPhone and a Chrome Extension.

          Todoist

            Todoist focuses on projects instead of lists: tasks are created under different projects and you can create reminders, tags, repeated tasks and all the usual to-do features. Tasks are prioritized using color coding, can be moved across projects with due dates, and adding notes to a task is a premium feature in this app. There are some preset views where you can see which tasks are due today, or see tasks arranged by their priority level. Todoist is also available across most platforms.

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            Evernote

              Evernote is not limited to to-do; it’s a note taking app that lets you create many types of lists. You can consider each list as a personal notebook: inside each notebook, you can create multiple notes/list items with the  WYSIWIG editor that helps you create different types of formatted notes for a wider variety of lists. On the free plan, you can attach up to 10 files to each note—up to 25MB in total. Available across most platforms, this is more flexible than a to-do list app and definitely a great one to help you remember and store details, but it’s not the simplest app available if you’re just looking for something to help you create lists.

              Listible

                Listible is still in beta: it’s a list-making app, and in its current form, is not only about creating to-do list apps, but also for a wide variety of different lists. This tool comes with a bookmarklet that lets you clip text, URLs and images into your lists. There are some to-do features available such as archiving (i.e. completing) a list item, but currently it does not have due dates, reminders or repeating tasks. Currently there is a web version available, with mobile apps in the pipeline.

                Workflowy

                  Workflowy takes list creation in a different direction: it’s aimed at people who like plain documents, nesting and bullet points. When opening the app, you are presented with a blank sheet, similar to a piece of paper. From here, you can start creating lists and indenting list items to create sub-lists, and when you complete tasks, they’re marked as finished by being struck through. It’s great for jotting things down quickly as well. This app is still under development, so some to-do related features are still being polished up. Currently it’s web only, with mobile apps in the works.

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                  Google Tasks

                  Google Tasks is a web app that’s built into Gmail. To see it, click on Mail in the top left corner of the Gmail screen, and a drop-down menu will appear from which you can select Tasks. It’s a simple task management tool in which you can create different tasks, check them off, and organize due dates for each assignment. It’s a basic task management tool—the main bonus being that it integrates with Google calendars quite easily to synchronize your tasks that have due dates assigned to them.

                  Reminders

                    Reminders is a default to-do app that comes with your Mac, iPhone, iPod or iPad. It’s a task management tool that integrates with the alarm system of your device. It’s easy to use and simple to create a list of tasks that need handling, with a default view for today, and the ability to create repeating tasks. This app is only available on Apple devices.

                    Toodledo

                      Toodledo is another one of the task management app specialists. Focused on productivity, it has 5 levels of priority for your tasks and has most of the same features as the other task management tools listed earlier. Like some of this others, this app uses folders for different lists, so you can move tasks into different folders to organize the assignments you have to complete. It provides multiple views that you can select to organize your tasks by due date, calendar, folders, or priority. This app also has a notebook feature in which you can create different types of notes, but unlike Evernote, it uses HTML markup for formatting the notes. It’s available on iOS and web, and there are a bunch of third party apps on Blackberry and Android that integrate with Toodledo.

                      Which App is Right for You?

                      If you only ever create task lists, there is a plethora of apps beyond those listed here that you can use. Most of them accomplish the job quite well, so your preference will depend a lot on your existing task-making habits and the aesthetic of the app itself. The features that most have in common are generally due dates, and task prioritization. There are some slight differences in them, however, as some apps will use numbering for prioritization (like Toodledo) whilst others will use color (Remember the Milk, Todoist, any.do). Due dates are also used as method of prioritization ( by Wunderlist, Reminders, Google Tasks, and Asana).

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                      Task sub-lists are another feature differentiation:  Workflowy is particularly optimized for nesting and creating sublists, as are Asana and any.do. In terms of collaboration and assigning tasks to team members, Asana is specficially designed with this in mind and is much more convenient for group projects.

                      If you want to create a wider variety of lists, then Listible and Evernote are your best bets. Evernote isn’t strictly a list-making, app so it’s not as easy to create lists, but its great for adding a lot more detail into your lists. Toodledo also has note-taking features, so if task management and note taking are your main needs, Toodledo would be your best choice. Listible is particularly useful and easy for creating a wide variety of lists clipped from around the web due to its bookmarklet, and also because it can display the images and links in your list.

                      Each of these list apps has its own group of fans, because we all create different types of lists in different ways. There are a bunch of different techniques you can try to optimize how you organize your lists… but that’s an article for another day. Feel free to share any list-organizing tricks that you use, and what you favorite list-making app is.

                      Featured photo credit:  Office desk via Shutterstock

                      More by this author

                      Hoi Wan

                      Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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                      Last Updated on November 2, 2020

                      50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                      50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                      If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

                      No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

                      Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

                      1. Set a Timer

                      Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

                      In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

                      Download Clockify here.

                        2. Eliminate All Distractions

                        Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. One consideration is trying out Freedom an app that allows you to block certain sites during periods of time. Try it out on your phone here.

                        You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                        3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

                        Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

                        Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

                        Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

                        4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

                        Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

                        If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

                        5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

                        By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

                        Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

                        6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

                        Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

                        Download Todoist here.

                          7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

                          Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

                          Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

                          Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

                          8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

                          To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

                          Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

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                          Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

                          9. Don’t Multitask

                          Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

                          For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

                          10. Step Away from the Computer

                          The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

                          I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

                          11. Use Focus Tools

                          Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

                          Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

                          12. Just Start

                          Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

                          Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

                          13. Find out Your Productive Hours

                          Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

                          Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

                          14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

                          This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

                          Download Evernote here.

                            15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

                            The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

                            When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

                            And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

                            Try WordPress out here.

                            16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

                            I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up.

                            Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

                            17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

                            The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

                            Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

                            18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

                            As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

                            “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

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                            This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

                            19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

                            I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

                            Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

                            20. Get Plenty of Sleep

                            When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

                            Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

                            21. Exercise

                            Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

                            Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

                            Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

                            22. Outsource as Much as Possible

                            If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

                            Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

                            23. Set Some Exciting Goals

                            Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

                            Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well.

                            For example, Strides is an app that takes the SMART goal framework and amplifies it through reports, charts, and other helpful information to help you achieve your goals faster and regularly.

                            You can download Strides here.

                              24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

                              When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

                              25. Listen to Podcasts

                              Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

                              Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

                              Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

                              26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

                              This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

                              Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

                              27. Learn to Speed Read

                              When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

                              You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

                              28. Learn to Skip When You Read

                              When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

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                              Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

                              29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

                              Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

                              We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

                              30. Take a Break

                              You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

                              31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

                              What is polyphasic sleep?

                              Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

                              While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

                              32. Learn to Say “No”.

                              We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

                              Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

                              33. Go on an Information Diet

                              Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

                              Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

                              The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

                              34. Organize Your Office

                              The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

                              Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done.

                              35. Find a Mentor

                              By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

                              A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

                              36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

                              With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

                              When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

                              Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

                              Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

                              37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

                              Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

                              You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

                              38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

                              If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

                              Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

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                              How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

                              39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

                              Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

                              Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

                              40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

                              Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

                              Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

                              Pick up Mealime here.

                                41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

                                When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

                                Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

                                42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

                                The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

                                Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

                                43. Take Shorter Showers

                                This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

                                44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

                                Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

                                45. Auto Pay Your Bills

                                How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

                                Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

                                46. Shop Online

                                Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

                                47. Speed up your Internet with a broadband connection.

                                Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

                                If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

                                48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

                                If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

                                Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

                                49. Turn off the TV.

                                The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

                                For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

                                Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

                                50. Use a Tivo or DVR.

                                This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

                                So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

                                More Time Management Tips

                                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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