The first official to-do list I ever made was in January of 2006 at age 12. I broke my day
into 15 minute increments and dutifully filled each minute with a task or activity. I know this because in addition to be a neurotic list-maker, I am also a neurotic archivist of my own life. The biographers will have plenty of material.
Sometime in college, I realized that scheduling out every minute of my day wasn’t healthy for me and I returned to the traditional to-do list. Problem was, I kept it on my computer’s sticky note application which liked to spontaneously self-destruct, destroying my beautiful lists.
I’ve spent the last 3 years experimenting with various alternatives for the best to-do list tools out there, here are my top 4 for list-making bliss!
Todoist is an app that integrates across all devices, has a super clean interface, and breaks projects down with sub-tasks. It’s meant for simple to complicated to-do lists and does allow for collaboration, but I wouldn’t suggest it for a major project management.
Pros: simple user interface, unlimited lists, gamifies the to-do list by giving you a productivity score and tracking your productivity streak, creates recurring tasks
Cons: have to purchase premium to access labels and filters, no visualization of a project moving through multiple phases, clunky integration with Gmail
Trello sets the golden standard for robust and fun project management. Yes, I said fun. Trello goes way beyond your basic to-do list with Kanban boards that let you drag tasks through a pipeline of progress, which is super satisfying.
Pros: free version is robust for all household/freelancing projects, 100s of templates from wedding planning to job searching available, great for collaboration, color-coding, and integrates with everything
Cons: bit of a learning curve, overkill for basic list needs, doesn’t integrate well with calendar apps
#2 Google Keep
I use Google Keep for temporarily tracking special expenses, planning upcoming trips, and reminding me to send invoices and reconcile my accounts. It’s a simple and clean as Todoist and integrates wonderfully with all things Google (of course). You can create reminders from e-mail and Google automatically adds them to Google Keep.
Pros: create recurring tasks easily, collaborate with others, color-coding and labeling for free, cross-device integration, simple to use, chrome extension to save things from the Internet, integrates well with Google Docs and Google Calendar
Cons: no desktop app, not a robust project management solution
#1 Pen and paper
While there’s a lot of great electronic to-do list options out there, I wanted to be able to check out where I was with tasks for the day without opening up my laptop and inevitably end up watching cooking videos for 4 hours on Facebook.
I used sticky note style lists for a while, which are great for daily to-do lists, but not great for longer term planning. Luke got me a Nomatic planner + journal last year for Christmas and I’m in love. It makes it easy to create daily repeating tasks and helps break down monthly and weekly goals into day-sized bites.
Pros: non-digital option, satisfaction of physically checking things off, handwritten goals are more likely to be accomplished
Cons: might spill coffee on it, no device compatibility, zero integrations
What are your favorite list-making tools?
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