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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 July 13, 2020

                      How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                      How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                      Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

                      If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

                      1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

                      The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

                      Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

                      For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

                      The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

                      2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

                      Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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                      As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

                      Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

                      3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

                      Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

                        This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

                        We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

                        Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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                        When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

                        Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

                        4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

                        Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

                        For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

                        Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

                        5. Make Decisions

                        For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

                        If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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                        If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

                        Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

                        I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

                        This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

                        The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

                        6. Take Some Form of Action

                        Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

                        The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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                        It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

                        Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

                        The Bottom Line

                        Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

                        When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

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                        Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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