Jan 14, 2011

To Doing: To Do Lists on the iPhone and iPad

I'm slammed with stuff to do, both at home and at work.  You have been there before, if you aren't there right now.  I can't keep track of everything I need to do without a list.  My memory just isn't good enough.

One of the reasons I got an electronic organizer years ago (a Palm PDA back then) was because keeping up with what I had to do was superior with it than with paper.  There are several reasons for this:
  1. Paper cannot alert you when you have something time-sensitive to do.  If you forget to look at your list at the right time, you can miss doing something very important.
  2. It is difficult to keep up with recurring to-dos on paper.  You have to rewrite them on your to-do list every time they come up.
  3. It is sometimes helpful to put something on your list for the distant future.  With paper, it is difficult to know where to put these items so that they appear on your radar whenever you get to that distant date.
The iPhone and iPad don't come with a built-in to-do list app.  Fortunately, however, there are a number of really good ones in the app store.  Which one you chose is largely a matter of personal preference but there are some things that are good to look for in any of these apps:
  1. Schedulable to-dos are essential if you want to keep up with when you need to have a to-do completed.
  2. Recurring to-dos are helpful when you have to some things over and over at regular intervals.  Having fairly flexible recurrence options ("every 2 weeks", "every Tuesday and Thursday", "the last Thursday of each month", etc.) is not something to be taken for granted though not every app has these.
  3. Prioritization is key to remembering what things are most important to do first.
  4. Multiple lists allow you to separate personal to-dos from work to-dos.
  5. Alarms for to-dos are life-savers for the absolutely-must-do-by-some-deadline tasks.  Alarms often accompany a "due time".
  6. Projects allow you to have a number of granular tasks under one bigger, longer-running project.  For example, "Remodel kitchen" might be a project, while "Replace cabinets", "Paint kitchen walls", and "Tile kitchen floor" might be individual to-dos.
  7. If you are a Getting Things Done (GTD) fan, then contexts (home, office, online, phone, in person, etc.) may be important to you. A number of apps are GTD-friendly.
  8. A web site you can add to-dos to your list makes entry much faster when you are already sitting in front of a computer.  See my Apps with Web Components post for other reasons this is extremely helpful.
There are a number of apps that meet some of the above criteria and some that meet all of the criteria.  As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I use Appigo Todo for iPhone.  There is also an Appigo Todo for iPad that has a really nice, paper planner look with multiple themes.  It syncs with both Toodledo and Appigo's own Todo Online.

Other well-liked and feature-rich apps in this space are the Toodledo app itself, Things, and the feature-rich but very expensive Omnifocus.  There's even a "laid back" to-do list app called Put Things Off.  As I said, it's all based on what features you need and what your personal preference is.  So, if you want to get a little more organized and get things done, add a to-do to check one or more of these out.

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