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The Three Best To-Do Apps Work Best Together

Photo: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For most of my life, I was a on-paper list-maker. For years, when I had to write a shopping list, note the time of a scheduled call, or make myself a reminder about some upcoming event or deadline, I used pen and paper. And for years, I lost my lists, notes, and reminders. But you know what I’ve never lost? My phone.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that using an app to help organize and manage my life simply made sense. In fact, I’m such a convert that I have a multiple-app strategy for remembering my tasks. I use apps like Trello multiple times a day for work, and I turn to Remember the Milk for grocery lists or when assembling a checklist of clothing for a business trip or gear for a hike or campout.

So sure, I miss the satisfying scratch of pen and paper sometimes, but I don’t miss getting to Whole Foods and realizing I left the list on the countertop. And between the three apps below, I feel totally covered.

The Best App for Basic Checklists - Remember the Milk

If you’re looking for a basic, easy-to-use app to replace the handwritten paper to-do checklists and shopping lists in your life, then Remember the Milk should be your go-to. It has fewer features than many organization apps — but that’s its strength. The interface is clean and crisp, and you can use the Remember the Milk app however it best suits you. From making a simple list of things to do, items to buy, or dates and appointments to remember – all of which are easily marked as completed as needed – to a series of tasks and subtasks featuring attached files, multiple reminders (think text, email, etc.), color-coded tags, and more, you can organize your to-dos simply or with more layers.

The app also makes sharing lists easy, which is a great help if you balance the responsibilities of the household (or small business) with someone else. It’s a lot easier to ask my wife to share a grocery list via app than to have her text a picture of a paper list I left behind, or for her to send me a list if I happen near a store we need to visit but don’t know what’s, y’know, on the list.

The Best App for Personal Organization -

If you need to go a step beyond making lists and want to achieve optimal organization of your calendar, your to-do checklists, your travel plans, your work deadlines, and beyond, then is the app for you. The app features five distinct categories: A task to-do list, a calendar, a “grocery” checklist, a daily planner, and reminders. I’m going to focus on the last one there, reminders, for a moment because it clearly illustrates the intelligent design of this app. You can customize your reminders in myriad ways, including one-time, repeat, or location-based settings, this latter option creating notifications when you are within a pre-set distance from a given place. Tell your app to remind you to get paint the next time you’re within a mile of a Home Depot, for example, and it will. Or it will tell you to fix that running toilet as soon as you reach your home.

The app synchs with your existing digital calendar, so it can start helping you remember important dates, scheduled calls or appointments, project deadlines, and anything else in your life that’s time sensitive as soon as you start to use it. And you can add to-do tasks, dates, reminders and more by typing on your screen or via voice using Siri or Alexa.

The Best To-Do App for Collaboration - Trello

I write for several different publications, and I do all my work remotely. So I know firsthand how hard it can be to manage projects involving multiple people spread out across various locations, especially when said projects involve deadlines. Trello works across multiple platforms (computer, smartphone, tablet) and makes managing projects easy by compartmentalizing them in what they call cards. Within each card is a space for notes, communication, checklists, file sharing, and more. I can leave notes for myself and for my colleagues, and as a given project moves forward, we all know current status thanks to a customized progress menu. (In my case, I often use terms such as “Assigned,” “In Progress,” Editing,” or “Ready to Publish,” for example.)

I love using Trello for work because it’s easy to get a close look at a project by opening its cards and it’s easy to manage the larger workflow by organizing and moving cards as needed. You can establish categories under which you file cards (“Outdoor Gear Articles” or “DIY Projects,” for example). Trello also makes it easy to manage different teams, larger projects or, in my case, work for different companies by further breaking things down across boards, the larger template on which the categories and cards are housed.

Don’t Use a To-do App. Use 3 of Them.