Manage Your Tasks With an App
If you haven't gone paperless with your to-do list yet, you're missing out. These apps let you edit and rearrange your to-dos based on changing priorities, share lists with family members or other collaborators, and get reminders for your upcoming deadlines, no matter which device you have on you at the moment. Managing tasks in an app is more efficient, more powerful, and simply a better way to be more productive than doing it on paper.
Recently, Microsoft acquired one of the best to-do apps on the market, Wunderlist, and has decided to stop supporting it as of April 2017. The app is still available, but it will no longer receive updates or bug fixes. That's why it's not in the table above. Anyone still using Wunderlist should start thinking about migrating to another app sooner rather than later. The company's own offering, the free Microsoft To-Do, has basic to-do functionality, but it lacks so much that the best apps offer that it's not really a competitor yet. It's still in beta, so there's hope for yet; in the meanwhile, however, Wunderlist users and those new to to-do list apps should thoroughly explore all their options and find the task-management app that best meets their needs. Fortunately, there are some excellent choices for a variety of work styles.
For example, if your idea of digital task management ideally starts in your email, you should check out ActiveInbox, which turns your Gmail inbox into a fully functioning to-do list. I think that your inbox should not be your to-do list, but everyone has different ideas. If you need an app that you can use with a number of people for shared responsibilities, you'll want an app like Asana or Todoist that has strong collaboration features.
To-Do List Apps vs. Project Management Apps
A great to-do app for personal use, households, and even small teams doesn't need to be super complicated, the way project management software is, even though they both essentially serve the same function. They both keep track of what needs to get done, when, and by whom. They help us manage time more efficiently and regulate how many tasks are on our plate at once. But personal to-do apps are simpler and cheaper than project management software. They're a better choice for many use cases.
The difference between to-do list apps, sometimes also called task-management apps, and project management apps is that to-do apps track any kind of tasks whereas project management apps track tasks that are related to projects. Project management apps typically track a lot of metadata related to the project, too.
To-do apps keep track of tasks, assignees, deadlines, and even discussion points related to the tasks. Project management apps do all of that, but they also add a lot more functionality, such as tracking how many tasks various people have on their plate, how much time it takes them to complete tasks, billable hours that are associated with certain tasks or projects, and so forth. Project management apps help guide projects, which generally have a final due date and deliverable. With to-do apps, people are generally just keeping track of tasks that need to get done but that aren't necessarily part of something that will one day end, the way a project ends.
You don't need to keep track of billable hours when picking up milk on the way home from work, and you don't need Gantt charts to get your kids to do their chores. At least, I hope you don't.
What To Look for in a To-Do App
There are a few qualities I look for in a good to-do list. For starters, you have to like the way it looks. I'm serious. How are you going to get stuff done if you can't even stand to look at the list itself because it's ugly? A looked-at list is a useful list.
Second, I like to-do apps that give me a range of tools for organizing my tasks. For example, I want to be able to quickly sort my work tasks from my personal tasks, or view them all according to deadline, or which ones are overdue. I also want to be able to rearrange the order of my tasks quickly and easily. I should be able to schedule reminders so that I get a notification about what I need to do when it's time, or when I'm in the location where the task should get done.
Third, it's always nice to have the option to make lists collaborative. If you run a household, a collaborative to-do list gives you the ability to assign tasks to other people. You can open your app and assign your kid the task of walking the dog. You can assign your partner the task of calling back the accountant. Whether you want those same people to have the power to assign tasks to you is another question that I will now sidestep and refuse to answer by changing the subject.
The Best Collaborative To-Do App
PCMag has two Editors' Choice picks for best collaborative to-do app. One goes to Todoist Premium, which is ideal for a small group of people. The other is Asana, which is better for managing more in-depth teamwork.
Todoist is a powerful to-do app for shared responsibilities, and a bonus feature is that it has a tool that monitors your productivity. Todoist has apps for all major platforms so you can use it anywhere. It's reliable. It's efficient. New features are being added all the time. Todoist Premium costs $28.99 per year. A free limited version is also available. I recommend starting with the free account to try it out, but make sure to consider the Premium features, as they really do add a lot of functionality and efficiency.
Asana is excellent for teamwork. Some people classify Asana as a workflow management app, and it is, but it can also function as a team to-do list. Asana has a free version, good for up to 15 people. At $99 per person per year, Asana Premium costs more than Todoist Premium, but as I said, it has additional functionality for managing more the elaborate teamwork typical of businesses.
The Best Free To-Do App
Among free apps, stick with Asana if you need to collaborate, but choose a simpler app, such as Remember the Milk, if you plan to use your to-do app solo. The problem some people encounter with Asana is that it can be too flexible. You might have a hard time figuring out just what to do with an app that comes with so many possibilities but not a lot of rules. In fact, PCMag has written entire features on how to get the most out of Asana.
Remember the Milk is extremely easy to learn to use, and the free version has all the functionality a single user needs. You won't have any questions about what to do with it or why. Write down things you need to do. Assign deadlines. Check them off when done. It's that's simple.
Many of the other to-do apps on this list are excellent, but their free versions are a little limiting compared with the power of their paid versions.
Get Organized With a Great To-Do List App
Having a great to-do list app can help you get organized and get more done, whether you're managing only your own tasks or those for a family or small team. Below are the best ones worth exploring.
A to-do app is only as useful as the information you put into it, so in addition to picking the right app, you might also want to peruse these tips for creating better to-do lists.
Bottom Line: Asana helps teams manage tasks and workflows, and it's the preeminent tool for the job. Thoughtful design and highly capable features make it a compelling productivity app.
Bottom Line: With a clean and simple UI and support for plenty of platforms, Todoist is one of the most feature-rich task management apps on the market, and a clear Editors' Choice.
Bottom Line: Any.do is a useful and well designed to-do app, though the free version is a bit limited. Its standout feature is the Any.do Moment, which encourages you to review your daily task list befor…
Bottom Line: Remember the Milk is a capable to-do-list app with some sharing options included at no cost, making it good for household use. The Pro version unlocks extra features but is on the expensive …
Bottom Line: Do you use your Gmail inbox as your to-do list? ActiveInbox adds tools that can make this a better experience.
Bottom Line: Beautiful and fluid, the free Gneo to-do app for iPhone is a treat for the fingers. But it may have put form over function, and serious task masters will likely want something else, and the …
Bottom Line: Google Keep is a free note-taking and syncing app with a nifty OCR feature, but it lacks the features and mobile apps offered by the competition.