Are you always searching for the best to-do app for organizing your life? After a decade of testing dozens of to-do apps, I have settled on the one that provides more features and flexibility than any other out there.
That to-do app is Remember The Milk.
Remember The Milk may be the one for you too if you’re looking for something better than one you use today. However, before jumping in head-first, it’s important to know whether the reasons we’ve used to make this claim are the same reasons that matter to you.
Let’s Compare the Best To-Do Apps
In this article, we’re going to cover the following factors that boost efficiency and productivity:
- Ease of organizing sublists within master projects
- Setting start and due dates, and recurring tasks
- A dashboard that helps you prioritize your work
- Integration with other online apps
Remember The Milk will go head-to-head with these popular to-do apps:
- Microsoft Todo
- Google Tasks
Google Tasks is a bit of a joke as a todo app, but it’s included on the list simply for a comparison and to show the many ways that both Google Tasks and Microsoft To-Do falls far short of all of the others.
Creating Sublists Easily (Organizing)
One of the most difficult to find features across nearly all to-do apps tested over the last few years has been sub-project organization. Nearly every single to-do list uses the same linear path when structuring multiple to-do lists.
Organizing Sublists in Remember The Milk
At first, Remember The Milk seems to fall short in this area because it uses the same linear approach: a single list item opens a single list. No option for sub-lists.
However, this is misleading. At Remember The Milk, you need to organize multiple lists under one “folder” using tags.
For example, some of my time is spent working on tasks that some clients randomly send me. I’d like to organize these sub-lists under the folder “Subclient Work”.
You do this by creating a tag to organize multiple lists.
Then you just tag individual tasks to organize them under the master sub-heading. You can even create a new tag on-the-fly if none of the existing ones apply.
Now let’s look at how other to-do apps accomplish this feature.
Sublists in Microsoft To-Do
I’m going to state a common theme you’ll read in this article: Microsoft To-Do can’t do it.
It’s one-dimensional, linear, and that’s it. You create individual lists, but there’s no way to group sub-tasks into sub-projects.
Sublists in Wrike
This is one area where Wrike is actually the best of all to-do apps. It lets you create a folder for top-level grouping of projects.
This is the way to-do lists should be done. It seems ridiculous that most todo apps out there don’t provide for folder organization of projects.
So, if this one feature is the biggest priority for you, then Wrike may be for you. However there are other areas where Wrike falls short, so reading through the rest of the features below will serve you well before you decide.
Sublists in Any.do
Of any to-do app out there, Any.do is probably one of the worst when it comes to organization. The concept here appears to be to transform to-do lists from traditional “lists” to more of a kanban (card-based) approach.
Each master “card” opens up to your list of tasks, which are organized in terms of when they’re due. Today, tomorrow, upcoming, and someday.
This is a GTD method that works for a lot of people, but it’s intended for a person who has one job or one role in life, and they need to organize things under that role.
If you hope to organize many areas of your life, and many different projects that serve many different life-goals, Any.do isn’t for you. There’s no way to organize sublists under major projects with Any.do.
Sublists in Todoist
Todoist was a favorite to-do app of mine for a long time, and this feature was one of the reasons why. With Todoist, you can indent subprojects to group them under master projects, or you can label tasks.
This means that not only can you create subprojects. But you can also create sub-subprojects to your heart’s content. If you’re an organizational freak who likes to consolidate tasks inside many subfolders, this works like a dream.
The one flaw that places it below Remember The Milk is that unlike the tagging approach, this indenting approach is manual and time-consuming. However, Todoist does let you label tasks, which puts it on the same level as Remember The Milk as far as sublist organization.
Sublists in Google Tasks
While I said Google Tasks is a joke as a to-do app, it does at least allow you to indent subtasks underneath primary tasks. However, Google Tasks does not have a feature to place sublists underneath individual projects.
As you can see there are a few to-do apps that offer this feature, but those that do are manual and difficult to manage. Wrike does it best, literally giving you the ability to put projects inside folders. Remember The Milk instead automates the organization into sub “folders” by letting you organize items with high-level tags.
Due Dates and Recurring Tasks
One of the main reasons I switched to Remember The Milk was because of how well it handles scheduling and due dates. This is a critical part of zen-like time management.
It’s one thing to manage one-off tasks that you can complete in one sitting, but when you manage several tasks that take days to complete, a due date alone isn’t good enough. You need a start date.
This helps you create slots large enough in your schedule to handle the true depth of the task.
Another feature that’s critical for an effective to-do app is the ability to create recurring tasks.
Remember The Milk’s recurring task feature is the most flexible that I’ve seen anywhere. Not only can you set up complex patterns daily, weekly, monthly or yearly, but you can even set up the task to recur again the moment you complete it.
Recurring Tasks in Microsoft ToDo
As simple and lacking in most features as it is, Microsoft at least got the recurring tasks right.
In Microsoft To-Do, you can set up tasks to recur every day, or several times a week, month, or year. There is no option to recur only when a task is completed.
Recurring Tasks in Wrike
As with most features, Wrike provides a little more flexibility than most of the other todo apps. Not only does it offer the standard daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly recurrence, but it also lets you stop the recurrence after a certain number of triggers, and you can delay the start date of the first recurrence.
Like with most other to-do apps, there’s no option to recur immediately upon completion, like Remember The Milk does.
Recurring Tasks in Any.do
Even though the project organization of Any.do leaves a lot to be desired, it at least does recurring tasks right.
Like Wrike, it does have the option to stop recurring after a set number of triggers, or after a specific date. Again, there is no option to recur immediately upon completing.
Recurring Tasks in Todoist
Todoist was my to-do app of choice for a number of years, and one of the reasons was its intelligent use of plain English commands to create recurring tasks.
You can type in something like “every 3rd Friday” and Todoist is smart enough to set the next due date on the third Friday of the current month, and every month thereafter. It understands many different variations of scheduling. I had difficulty trying to stump it.
The only problem I started having with Todoist is that at times when I completed a task it wouldn’t always properly reschedule to the next correct date. I ended up missing a few due dates because of this, and that’s what sparked my search for a new todo app.
Recurring Tasks Not Available
You can not create recurring tasks at all in Google Tasks, which seems silly. However, it is just another Google product that could use a lot of improvement.
A Dashboard for Prioritizing Work
The number one feature for me when using any to-do app is the ability to see my day or my week at a quick glance and understand what the top priorities are. Some to-do apps do this beautifully. Others struggle terribly.
Let’s take a look at Remember The Milk first.
Remember the Milk gives you a number of views that help you get a quick overview of your week or your day. My favorite view is the “This Week” view, which shows you every task you have due from Saturday through Sunday. This makes it so much easier to shift tasks around so that your week workload is better balanced.
Let’s look at how badly all the other todo apps fall short in this area.
Microsoft To-Do Dashboard
The Microsoft To-Do dashboard is non-existent. All it offers is a “My Day” view which shows you the items that are due today.
This isn’t very helpful at all when you’re trying to plan ahead for work so you don’t have to deal with a crisis of conflicting priorities on the same day.
The Wrike Dashboard
Wrike uses an interesting approach to dashboarding tasks. It groups tasks by today, this week, next week, and later.
Even though the display of all groupings is enforced — there’s no other view type to select — it’s still a useful way to organize tasks. You can see future, upcoming tasks which can help you shift priorities, and at the same time, you can see all of today’s tasks that require your immediate attention.
One problem I had with Wrike was that it’s built for a team collaboration. This means tasks have assignees. If you use Wrike as an individual and forget to add yourself as an assignee, it won’t show up under “My Work”, and you could end up missing tasks with important due dates. Team to-do apps have their place, but for personal project management, they don’t work well.
I also noticed that when moving a task between project folders, the task wouldn’t show up in today’s list. When I contacted Wrike customer support about this, they tried to say this was normal behavior. However, the due date was still listed as today but wasn’t showing up under “today”, so the explanation wasn’t acceptable. Since this bug caused me to miss tasks, this was the primary reason I eventually moved on from Wrike permanently.
The Any.do Dashboard
As mentioned earlier in this article, AnyDo uses a Kanban type system where cards can be shifted around between projects and between due dates.
So, you can easily shift a task from today to tomorrow by dragging the task card over to tomorrow.
The issue with this dashboard is that all tasks listed under tomorrow, upcoming, and someday don’t show when they’re due, so it’s very difficult to plan out your future work without opening up individual task cards and checking due dates. It’s a very clunky setup. It’s clear the attempt is to create a minimalist dashboard, but it’s possible to minimalize so much that you make a system overly simple and unusable.
The Todoist Dashboard
This is one area that Todoist gets bonus points. Todoist offers the ability to view tasks by Today and Next 7 days.
In the list view for each display, tasks show the due date and also the project that they’re a part of. This makes organizing both daily work and weekly work very easy.
Dashboard Not Available
No surprise, Google Tasks falls short in this area too. While you can sort tasks in individual projects by due date, you can’t organize your entire list of tasks across all projects in order of due date. You certainly can’t group them by today, week, or month.
Integration With Other Apps
The last thing you want is a to-do app that is isolated from the rest of the world. One of the most effective ways to become more productive is by automating things
For example, maybe when you complete a task in a certain project you’d like to automatically send an email to your manager with the details. Things like this are possible with to-do apps that are integrated with services like Zapier or IFTTT.
Here’s the breakdown on integrations for the todo apps reviewed in this article.
Integrated with IFTTT:
- Remember The Milk
Integrated with Zapier:
- Remember The Milk
Integrated with Slack:
Add Tasks via Email:
As you can see, even in the area of integrations with other services, Remember The Milk comes out on top.
What You Should Do Next
Now that you’ve reviewed all of the differences between the top todo apps out there, don’t stop now! It’s time to make your decision and sign up for one of these apps:
While I personally picked Remember The Milk as my to-do app of choice, it’s only the best choice for the things that are important to me. Hopefully, the overview above, drawn from many years of experience with these apps, will help you make a better decision without wasting all of your time doing it.