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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

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                      Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                      11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                      11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                      Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                      You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                      But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                      To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                      It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                      “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                      The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                      In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                      Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                      1. Start Small

                      The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                      Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                      Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                      Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                      Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                      Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                      It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                      Do less today to do more in a year.

                      2. Stay Small

                      There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                      But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                      If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                      When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                      I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                      Why?

                      Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                      The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                      Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                      3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                      No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                      There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                      What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                      Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                      This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                      This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                      4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                      When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                      There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                      Peter Drucker said,

                      “What you track is what you do.”

                      So track it to do it — it really helps.

                      But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                      5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                      Peter Drucker also said,

                      “What you measure is what you improve.”

                      So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                      For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                      For writing, it’s 500 words.
                      For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                      For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                      Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                      6. All Days Make a Difference

                      Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                      Will two? They won’t.

                      Will three? They won’t.

                      Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                      What happened? Which one made you fit?

                      The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                      No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                      7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                      Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                      But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                      What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                      It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                      The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                      It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                      It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                      8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                      Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                      Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                      When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                      The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                      Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                      9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                      The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                      Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                      You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                      But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                      So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                      If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                      This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                      The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                      Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                      10. Punish Yourself

                      Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                      I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                      It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                      You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                      No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                      The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                      But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                      11. Reward Yourself

                      When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                      Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                      The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                      After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                      If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                      Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                      If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                      In the End, It Matters

                      What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                      When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                      And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                      “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                      Keep going.

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                      More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                      Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                      [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                      [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                      [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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