If you want to reach your goals and be productive, it is essential to have a good system in place and a list of tasks in an app that will tell you precisely what you need to accomplish during the day, the week, or the months to come.
I regularly change my to-do lists apps to manage my tasks. There are several reasons why I change so often, but one of the main reasons is that there is always at least one essential feature that is missing. In this blog post, I will summarize of all my favorite apps to plan your tasks. All of them have their benefits and disadvantages, so I will share them with you and explain how I use each tool.
This blog post is sponsored by Taskade. However, all the opinions expressed are my own!
Video version of this blog post
My dream features in a to-do list app
When looking for a tool to manage tasks, I find that a good and exciting exercise is sitting down and taking the time to think and assess which features are essential to you. We all need different things in a to-do app. That’s why there are so many of them out there on the market. By taking the time to write down what features are important to you, you can save time and before settling on a tool, make sure it checks most of your boxes.
Here is my list of requirements that would make a to-do list app my dream tool:
- Clean user interface
- Available on desktop, iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch, a plus
- Checkboxes are mandatory
- Ability to change views to see the tasks in different modes
- Calendar view (monthly view)
- List view
- Weekly view
- Recurrent tasks
- High loading speed, easy to log new tasks
- Ability to separate tasks into projects (personal, work, school, etc.)
It seems to me that these features are simple, right? However, despite my best efforts, no tool fully meets my criteria!
9 best online to-do lists apps & paper planners
- Many views available for the tasks (list, board, action, mind map and org chart)
- The free plan has enough features
- Filter tasks by using #hashtags or @mentions
- User interface is nice and clean
- Many templates available
- Quick loading speed
- New features quickly delivered
- 2-way sync with Google Calendar
- I don’t like the UI for recurrent tasks or due dates
Taskade is an excellent minimalist tool, simple to use, but still offers several exciting features. It’s a great mix of note-taking, and managing tasks at the same place.
I use Taskade from time to time to schedule my tasks for the week. I also have a free template if you want to try it out! I like the simple list view divided by the days of the week. Many other views are available, and that is a feature that is essential for me in to-do lists apps! You can view your tasks in a list format, board, action view, mind map, and even in an organizational chart view. Therefore, if you have tasks that you need to complete before moving forward to another task, the mind map could be handy for you.
One aspect that I like less is the management of recurring tasks. Of course, it is possible to create them, but recurring tasks will be re-created on the same “list” from one week to the next. On the other hand, I prefer to have a list per week as I like to keep the historical aspect of when I completed which tasks.
On the other hand, Taskade is a startup that I have been developing since the beginning. They implement new features very regularly and quickly, so it’s a pleasure to see the evolution of Taskade every time!
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- Create an account or login
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My own free + digital daily planner
- Handwritten tasks
- Possible to copy/paste tasks for the next day unlike a paper to-do list
- Accessible on multiple devices
- No automation possible
I created a digital daily planner and I shared it publicly in this blog post. I love using it to plan my days on my iPad, but one can also print it and use dry erase pens to plan their days. More information in the blog post!
- Calendar view
- Checklist available for subtasks directly in tasks
- No checkboxes directly on the cards
- Impossible to change multiple dates at the same time (so make sure you’re never late otherwise, it’ll take forever to reschedule)
I rarely use Trello anymore. In the past, I’ve used it for managing my Instagram posts and for the editorial calendar of my blog. I wouldn’t say I like to move tasks (called Cards on Trello) from one list to another to mark them as done. I prefer using checkboxes. But, on the other hand, it can be a good tool for more visual people and don’t make endless to-do lists like me!
- VERY customizable interface to everyone’s needs, adding properties according to our needs
- Possibility to change from one view to another as needed (list, table, calendar, kanban)
- Possibility of concentrating all your planning in a single tool (work, life, tasks, projects, shopping list, EVERYTHING in a single adapted tool)
- Steep learning curve
- No recurrent tasks feature (workarounds are possible, but it’s annoying)
- Slow to load and to create new tasks
- Not easy to add tasks from the mobile app
- No offline access
- Downtime often
Notion is almost the ultimate planning tool to do just about anything you want it to do for you. This app is THE most customizable one on the market. But, on the other hand, it comes with the disadvantage of being more challenging to learn when you start to use it.
Notion is suitable for taking notes, managing tasks, but also for creating various databases. For example, I used Notion to review the scientific literature for my thesis as part of my master’s degree.
A victim of its popularity lately, Notion has had a few hiccups and was sometimes out of service for a few hours. In addition, the big negative point for me, who is a “dealbreaker,” is the slowness of the site. I loved using Notion for a few weeks to manage my tasks. However, at one point, waiting 5-10 seconds to create a single task became way too much, and I had to move away from Notion.
I can’t wait to see Notion evolve in the next few years. Its flaws will be corrected with a little time, and I can clearly see Notion becoming the planning tool par excellence.
- The free version offers a lot of features.
- Available on iPhone, iPad, Desktop, Android, etc. for free
- We can assign different priorities to the tasks
- Very quick to add tasks via a shortcut and natural language to assign a date example writing “for next Tuesday” in the title of the task will directly assign the correct date
- History of completed tasks on the free plan limited to 1 week
- It does not offer a horizontal view for tasks due during the week
I used Todoist for 1 year in 2017 with great success. Recently I started using the tool again after refusing to pay for Things 3, which is very similar to Todoist but rather expensive. Surprisingly, even after several months, I didn’t feel like leaving Todoist, and it fulfills my needs well. I overuse the recurring task feature, so I don’t forget anything!
I love the ability to have a shortcut to add tasks quickly. For example, with Shift + CMD + t, a text field appears, and I directly enter a task title. In addition, natural language can be used to enter the due date quickly, for example, “tomorrow”, or “in 3 days”, and it will assign the correct due date.
A difference between Todoist and Things 3 is that when a task is overdue on Todoist, it will be displayed in red with “overdue.” On the other hand, with Things 3, the overdue tasks stay on the “Today” page, and we don’t have the stress of “oh my god, I have 30 overdue tasks! “. For a long time, I was not too fond of this feature of Todoist because I’m the type with 35 tasks a day, and it’s not the end of the world if some are completed a few days late. On the other hand, the foraminous cost of Things 3 does not justify investing so much for this small functionality. When tasks are overdue on Todoist, there is a “Reschedule” button that appears, and I have all overdue tasks assigned the date “today.”
- One time payment required, not subscription-based
- We can enter 2 due dates, the “deadline” and the date on which we want to do the task
- Integration of the iCalendar or Google event directly in the tasks view
- Amazing and clean user interface
- Ability to separate day tasks from evening tasks, which is great when you have personal projects that you work on at night (like me!)
- Recurrent tasks
- Logbook to see the tasks you have completed
- Paid (and expensive!)
- No free plan
- No calendar or horizontal view
- Only available for Apple products
The strong point of Things 3 is in the beauty of the user interface. This is really what sets the tool apart from other apps. Unfortunately, even though the app only requires a one-time payment, it is expensive and definitely an investment to consider carefully.
If you are looking for an app where you can group all your tasks in a simple and clean user interface, and you don’t mind spending a little money, Things 3 is surely a good solution for you!
Pad Bloom Daily Planner
When I feel overwhelmed on Sunday, I like to use this weekly paper planner and plan tasks for the week ahead. Also, writing on paper has a really different effect than using an app. Maybe the planning is more “permanent,” so more pressure to follow the schedule and complete tasks on time. I can’t explain it!
Pad Knock Knock
Finally, I use this Knock Knock daily planner when I want to prioritize my tasks for the day. There are enough checkboxes to have detailed tasks, and it offers three priority levels “Critical,” “Nice to have,” “No chance,” perfect when you’re feeling overwhelmed!
I hope this article has helped you to see all the ways I use to plan my days. Although I often change the system according to my desires, I still always return to the same methods!