Part of me thinks writing a post about choosing a to-do list app is pointless because everyone already has one. The other part of me knows that can’t be true – or, even worse, you just don’t love your to-do list. First thing’s first. What makes me an authority on choosing a to-do list app? Well, I’ve used all of them. This isn’t by choice. My main client is a CPA who has changed his mind about our entire workflow at least twenty times, so we’ve honestly used so many I’ve forgotten half of them. I’m also a sad former Wunderlist user. If you aren’t aware, that’s the list Microsoft bought and intends to phase out. It still works, but I started having too many problems with it, so I switched. If you want to take advice on the subject, take it from someone who’s used them all.
Now that you know I’m an authority, you’re probably wondering why choosing a to-do list app is an issue at all. Well, it’s pretty simple. If you’re going to get all the benefits of a to-do list, you need to actually use your to-do list. You probably won’t do that if it’s too complicated, if you hate the way it looks, or if it displeases you in any other way. Believe me, I use my to-do list for everything from cleaning to blogging to making sure I drink enough water, and there is nothing worse than having everything set up the way you like it and then having to move it all over to something new. So, this isn’t a list of the best to-do apps. It’s a list of how to choose the one that’s right for you.
Considerations in Choosing a To-Do List App
1. Set your budget (mine is $0).
There are so many wonderful to-do list apps out there, I don’t know why you would pay for one. But, I also don’t share mine with anyone. If you’re choosing a to-do list app that you want to integrate through your family or several employees, you might want all the extras and whatnot. In that case, most good to-do lists won’t cost you much for a personal premium. Todoist is around $3/month. They will go up per person if you’re choosing for work, but to-do lists designed for project management, like Asana, are worth it for the features they provide. Once you know your budget you’ll be able to zero in on what you like.
2. Decide if you need recurring tasks and/or sharing tasks.
This is a big one, so I would not take it lightly. For example, people swear by Trello, but free users have to pay for multiple “power ups,” and their card repeater function is one of them. A lot of the brand new to-do list apps are missing these functions, at least when they first hit the market. Think very carefully before deciding you DON’T need recurring tasks – I can almost guarantee if you become invested in your to-do list, you will want them. As for sharing, that depends on if it’s just for you or also for work. I put some things on my shared family apple calendar once and my husband deleted everything. He did not check with me first, so I don’t trust him with my to-do list, but I bet some spouses are helpful if you share.
3. Figure out what devices it needs to work on.
I work from home, but I like to do things on the run, so I need my to-do list on my computer and my phone. I also have it on my tablet. That way I can cross things off pretty much no matter where I am. To be honest, most of the to-do list apps you come across are going to sync up pretty well. But, there’s an issue my best friend runs in to that I want to point out. She works for the federal government, and most websites are blocked on her work computer. She certainly can’t download anything. If you work outside the home, and you want to use your to-do list at work, you should make sure you can use it there. Also, if you need it to integrate with Gmail or something, look into that.
4. See if you like the look.
I know, I know. Appearances are only skin-deep, right? Well, a to-do list won’t get offended if you think it’s ugly, so just don’t choose it if you hate looking at it. Mostly, this means you have to decide if you like a card-based form or a strict checklist style to-do list. There are backgrounds and fonts to consider, though, and that really does matter to some people. I tried out one called Zenkit before I moved over to Todoist just because it had both card and checklists. I didn’t like the look of it the whole time I used it, so when I realized it didn’t have the functionality I wanted, I was more than happy to chuck it. Weirdly, that one has multiple backgrounds, and I still didn’t like it.
5. Do a little research, but testing out is more important.
You can read 500 articles about to-do list apps, but they’re all the same. Choosing a to-do list app is ultimately based on your preferences. Read a couple best lists, then download the apps you like. All of them. Use them each for a couple days with only a few to-dos (make sure you use different categories and test recurring tasks) and see which one you like best. If reviews mention no potential future issues, load it up! This might seem like a lot of work, but trust me, I’ve used every single to-do list I mentioned here and then some. It is not fun to get all your projects in one place then have to change it. Once you have a functional to-do list, you are going to be super productive, and you don’t want to wreck that if you don’t have to! Happy choosing. 🙂