I’ve been obsessed with task management, or to-do type apps for years in an effort to keep my life running as organized and as smoothly as possible. Like most folks, I have many things going on in both my personal and professional lives, all requiring some degree of my attention and focus. Unfortunately, if left to my own devices, I frequently lose track of tasks I need to do, especially if my mind has jumped to something else. I used to consider this a personal failing of mine, but I’ve long made peace with the fact that where task management is concerned, relying on technology is going to work far better than relying on my brain. And so I started down the rabbit hole of trying to find the perfect task management app because surely that must exist.
Initially I discovered — and fell in love with — OmniFocus, a task management app that has just about every feature one could ask for in such an app. The thing I really loved about OmniFocus is that it is very context-oriented. So, for example, let’s say I have some time and I want to return phone calls, I can easily pull up those tasks, and only those tasks, that require me to use a phone to get them done. Late at night and I have time to get things done? I could pull up tasks that require Email or writing, while ignoring those tasks that require me to return phone calls. If I’m at work, I wouldn’t get a reminder to take out the trash, because taking out the trash requires that I be home. And vice versa, that task to complete my time sheet wouldn’t show up when I’m at home because that one requires that I be at work. I absolutely love OmniFocus for its incredibly rich features. Unfortunately for me, OmniFocus has so many powerful features that I found myself often getting lost in it. What with all the customizations and tweaks I could make to my task management workflow, I hardly had any time to actually get anything done. Certainly this isn’t their fault, I just get distracted whenever there’s something I can tweak or configure. The other problem that I ran into is that while OmniFocus is a wonderful solution on iOS, I’m not exclusively on iOS and so I sometimes found myself needing to work between two devices. Full disclosure, OmniFocus does have a web-based service now, but I encountered accessibility issues significant enough to impact my productivity.
Eventually, I got around to trying Microsoft To Do, the solution that is my current favorite. While I initially dismissed To Do because it does not have all the granular context functionality of OmniFocus, I’ve found that the lack of some of that functionality has made it much easier for me to remain focused since there’s fewer things to distract me. To Do is essentially based around task lists and if further grouping is needed, those lists can be grouped into folders. For example, I have folders for home and work. Within those folders, I have lists representing various contexts such as phone, Email, research, and other lists for specific projects. Adding a task is super simple, there’s an “add a task” button toward the bottom of each list, I tap that and can just add my task. While entering the task, I also have options to set due date and to add reminders. To Do also has a list called “My Day” which is designed to show just those tasks that need to get done, well, today. To help support that, To Do can suggest tasks that should be added to this list, tasks such as any that are past due, tasks that have a due date of today, or tasks that are coming up soon. This suggestions feature is very handy because it saves me from having to go through each list individually just to find the tasks I want or need to do today. Oh, one more very small but kind of cool thing, To Do can play a ding sound when tasks are marked as complete, yay for positive reinforcement, am I right?
I’ve tried To Do on multiple platforms including iOS, Mac, Windows, Android, and the web, and have found it to be a wonderful and accessible experience. While To Do doesn’t have all the granular context stuff I had come to love in OmniFocus, I love that I can use it regardless of whether I’m on iOS, Windows, Android, the Mac, or even just the web. As an extra bonus, my workplace uses Microsoft OutLook and Microsoft Planner and I can manage those tasks as well in To Do. Oh, one more thing: To Do is free, totally and completely free.
In this post I’ve highlighted only two of my favorite task management apps, but there are many many more out there. If you have a favorite, definitely let me know in the comments and if I haven’t tried it out yet, I’d be glad to do so. For those who are thinking that a task management app might be useful, Microsoft’s To Do is a great app to get you started. Microsoft To Do can be found on the iOS, Mac, Google Play, and Windows app stores, or can be accessed via the web at https://todo.microsoft.com