A Productive Mindset’s List Of Best To Do List Apps for 2021

No matter the endeavor, achieving your goals requires a high level of organization. As our reliance on our smartphones and other mobile devices continues to grow, many people are turning to apps to help them manage their time and tackle their to-do lists. Given their popularity, developers are constantly churning out new apps promising users higher productivity and personal and professional success. But which of the dozens of apps available actually deliver on their promises? Instead of relying on the tedious, costly process of trial and error, read on: we’ve reviewed some of the most popular to-do list apps on the marketplace to find the best of the best.  

Features to Look For

Individual needs and preferences vary based on the demands of your work and home life, but there are a few key characteristics that the best to-do list apps have in common:

  • Be fast and easy to use: You should be able to add and organize tasks with a few taps; if the app is clunky or time-consuming, you won’t use it over the long term.
  • Include multiple options for organization: You may prefer to organize your tasks by project, deadline, lists or tags, and your app should be able to accommodate various methods for doing so.
  • Provide reminders about upcoming due dates: An effective to-do-list app allows you to set reminders about pending deadlines and receive them through your preferred channel (smartphone notification, pop-up, calendar reminder, email, text).
  • Feature simple design and an intuitive interface: The best apps fit seamlessly into your daily routine and keep your time and energy focused on completing the tasks at hand.
  • Sync with multiple platforms: At the very least, you should be able to access the application from both mobile and desktop devices.

With those criteria in mind, the following productivity apps are tops for keeping you on task and on schedule.

Todoist

Striking an attractive balance between power and simplicity, Todoist boasts more than 10 million users worldwide, ranking it as one of the most popular productivity apps on the market. Its broad availability across platforms—including Apple, Android and the web—make it accessible to virtually anyone, and its clean, easy-to-use interface adds to its appeal.

The app’s natural language processing capabilities allow users to add tasks quickly; for example, typing “change oil Wednesday” will create the task “change oil” with the upcoming Wednesday as its due date. You can also add new tasks to your inbox and organize them later by adding project and deadline information. If you decide to spring for the premium version, you can develop custom labels and filters and collaborate with other users on specific tasks.

With its minimal learning curve and clean design, Todoist is an excellent gateway to the world of organizing apps.

Price: The basic app is free; the premium version is $36 per year and lets users customize themes, templates, labels and more.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

TickTick

Like its competitor Todoist, relative newcomer TickTick offers a wide range of features on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android and the web. A high-functioning natural language processing system makes adding tasks a snap, and you can also customize the desktop version with keyboard shortcuts. Task-organizing categories include tags, lists and due dates, and sub-tasks can be added to primary tasks to further drill down your to-do list.

TickTick also includes several features not found on many similar apps. You can the integrated Pomodoro timer to improve your efficiency by tackling tasks in 25-minute chunks. The app syncs with most third-party calendar systems to keep all of your tasks, meetings and events in one central location. Productivity tracking features keep you motivated by awarding achievement scores for completing tasks on time and monitoring your efficiency stats to identify opportunities to improve.

Price: TickTick offers a free version and a premium version for $28 per year, which includes additional features, functionality and customization options.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad, Web

Microsoft To-Do

Developed as the next evolution for popular to-do list app Wunderlist, which Microsoft acquired in 2015 and is gradually phasing out, Microsoft To-Do incorporates many of the best features of its predecessor in a clean, user-friendly interface.

Its most important selling point may be the seamless integration with the Microsoft environment, which is the primary operating system for millions of users around the globe. If you use Outlook at work, you can automatically sync tasks from that application to your To-Do mobile app. If you’re using a Microsoft-based laptop computer, simply type a task like “put butter on my grocery list” into Cortana or the Start menu and it will be added to a task called “grocery” in To-Do.

Die-hard Wunderlist fans still bemoan a few features that haven’t yet been incorporated into To-Do, such as collaboration, and a Mac version is still in the works. Even so, Microsoft has created a worthy alternative that’s worth checking out.

Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

Things

This award-winning task managing platform was recently re-launched with an elegant new design, enhanced features and reinvented workflows—all of which somehow made an already outstanding app even better.

In keeping with Apple’s minimalist design philosophy, Things manages to pack a ton of functionality into a clean interface that never feels overwhelming or cluttered. Innovative features include the Magic Plus button, which can be used not only to create new tasks, but also to drag and drop them right where you want them to go. Design elements like Progress Pies—which neatly illustrate your efforts toward a goal—and Touch Bar Support—which allows you to set convenient shortcuts to your most-used commands—create an enjoyable, intuitive user experience.

Unfortunately, Things isn’t available to Android or Windows users, but Apple aficionados should jump on their exclusive access to this top-notch to-do list app.

Price: $50 for Mac, $20 for iPad, $10 for iPhone and Apple Watch

Platforms: Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch

OmniFocus

Like Things, OmniFocus is a task management app available solely for Apple platforms. Based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) approach to productivity, it encourages users to record tasks in an Inbox as soon as they come to mind and return later to organize them. Tags provide context for tasks—for example, you could group together all tasks requiring you to make a phone call, or you could tag “low energy” tasks for completion when an opportunity arises to complete relatively mindless work.  

Other features unique to OmniFocus include:

  • Custom Perspectives, which organizes tasks according to parameters you choose—for example, you might create a list of tasks that only take 10 minutes to complete, so the next time you have a brief window of time but want to knock something off your to-do list, you can refer to it.
  • Focus Tabs, which direct your attention only to the tasks you need to complete in a given day or other time period; these temporary windows vanish once you close the tab.
  • The Forecast tab brings time-sensitive tasks to the forefront, allows you to scroll through pending deadlines and displays a count of soon-to-be-due tasks on a mini calendar.

Price: $50 for iPhone and iPad version, $100 for Pro version

Platforms: Mac, iPhone, iPad

Habitica

Habitica turns task management into a game, transforming you into a character that levels up when you fulfill tasks, complete daily activities and maintain good habits. Additionally, you can earn rewards in the game that can be traded for inexpensive real-world treats or virtual accessories such as weapons or clothing for your character. Habitica also allows you to compete against friends, which can be a powerful motivator for crossing items off your to-do list.

While it may not be the most feature-rich task management app, Habitica’s unique and playful approach to productivity may be the catalyst you need to break a bad habit or overcome your procrastination around unpleasant or mundane tasks.

Price: Free, with a $5 monthly premium version with access to additional features

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

Google Tasks

If you’re already using Google platforms in other areas and you don’t mind a relatively spartan interface, Google Tasks may be a good choice for your to-do list needs. The app works seamlessly alongside other Google offerings like Gmail and Google Calendar, and it provides basic functionality for task management. It allows you to create, view, edit and manage tasks from your web or mobile device; add details and subtasks; and create due dates and notifications.

While it lacks the bells and whistles of many of its counterparts, Google Tasks covers simple task management in an ecosystem that will feel comfortable and familiar to heavy users of other Google applications.

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

todo.txt

Without question, todo.txt is the most basic to-do list management system available. The name tells you almost everything you need to know about the app: it allows you to manage a computer-based plain-text to-do list document from a mobile platform.

Its creators pride themselves on the spartan nature of the platform, lauding its lack of drop-down menus, notifications and fancy graphics and instead focusing on allowing users to manage tasks with as few frills as possible. The app does allow you to sort your tasks based on three main categories—priority, project and context—but doesn’t offer much functionality beyond that. However, the beauty of a plain-text file is that you have complete control over your data, and you don’t have to depend on the stability of someone else’s platform to have access to it.

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad

Nozbe

This multifaceted task management system aligns with the Getting Things Done philosophy and is available on virtually every imaginable platform. Work with the intuitive app on your mobile device and then transfer seamlessly to your desktop with automatic syncing. In addition to creating tasks and projects, you can also create templates for future use on similar projects. Nozbe also allows for comprehensive collaboration—use it to share projects with team members, delegate tasks and provide feedback on files. As an added bonus, the app includes “coaching” (really just a series of productivity tips and other advice) from productivity expert and company founder Michael Sliwinski.

Price: A very basic version with limited projects is free; individual subscriptions start at $8 monthly, while business subscriptions run from $18 to $78 per month. A 30-day free trial is also available.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

Remember the Milk

This tried-and-true list-making app has received some upgrades in recent years, meriting a second look from techies who might have dismissed it as too old-school (or forgotten it even existed). In addition to standard functionality like adding and organizing tasks via due date, tag or location, Remember the Milk can also connect to several other productivity apps, including Outlook, Gmail, Google Calendar, Evernote and Twitter. Choose from more than 100 design themes to make your user experience more personalized.

A basic account is free, but it’s worth shelling out the extra $40 per year to access the Pro version, which includes expanded features like subtasks, push notifications, advanced sharing permissions and unlimited archives of completed tasks.

Price: Free for basic access, $40 per year for Pro version

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Fire, Web

ActiveInbox

ActiveInbox is an app and browser extension that transforms your Gmail account into a powerful task management tool. From ActiveInbox, you can convert emails into tasks, create separate tasks and add sub-tasks, as well as schedule emails in the future and tag messages for follow-up.

One shortcoming of ActiveInbox is that you’ll need to enable it on all the computers from which you regularly access Gmail, so it won’t work if you’re logging in from a public or other shared computer. However, the mobile app is easy to use and can keep you connected in a pinch. You’ll also notice that ActiveInbox changes the appearance of your Gmail dashboard, shifting the inbox downward to make room for the task management panel.

If you’re already spending significant time interacting with Gmail, ActiveInbox is a useful add-on to help you manage your productivity. However, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive task management solution, it may not hit every item on your wish list of features.

Price: $50 per year for individuals, $70 per year for professionals (individual users with up to three Gmail accounts) and team plans starting at $150 per year for three users.

Platforms: Chrome, iPhone, iPad, Android

Toodledo

While its learning curve is initially a bit steep, Toodledo is a powerful, feature-rich tool for people who are serious about productivity. It incorporates a few elements from Getting Things Done, but is primarily organized around four main sections:

  • In the Tasks component, users record items for completions and associated deadlines.
  • The Outline section is designed largely for organizing and exploring ideas using bulleted lists.
  • Notes is a free-form text component that can be adapted for multiple uses.
  • The Habits section helps users adopt new habits by tracking how successfully they’re implementing their goal activities.

Within the Tasks module, users can activate geolocation reminders, create recurring tasks, rank tasks by priority and add due dates with natural language capabilities. You can also tweak the platform’s settings to count down to the end of a work session or suggest potential tasks for completion in a given period of time.

Toodledo offers three different pricing structures, each of which includes different features and perks.

At $20 a year, the Silver version includes collaboration options (although collaborators must have their own Toodledo account), the ability to add subtasks, customizable alarms and productivity-tracking graphs. For just $10 more, the Gold account includes unlimited versions of Silver’s features as well as the ability to add up to 10GB in attachments. For $90 per year, the Platinum subscription increases file storage to 50 GB (but not much else), making the Gold level the best value for the money.

Price: The basic program is free, but lacks many features. Progressively feature-rich pricing tiers include Silver ($20 per year), Gold ($30 per year) and Platinum ($90 per year).

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Web

Workflowy

For functional, elegantly-designed list-making and nothing more, Workflowy ranks at the top of the pack. However, it lacks much of the task management functionality of similar apps, giving it a much narrower appeal.

In essence, Workflowy is a digital bullet journal, allowing users to make lists of tasks and ideas and share them with family members and colleagues. Its interface is simply a blank page, with each new list you create nested into that single page (similar to the folder/subfolder structure of most computer file systems). You can mark tasks as completed, share a link, duplicate, delete and export items by clicking on a bullet or using keyboard shortcuts.

Price: Free (with a monthly 250-item limit); the Pro version is $5 per month or $50 per year and includes unlimited list items and password protection for lists.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, Web

Any.do

At its heart, Any.do is a sleek organizational tool that empowers users to create and organize tasks and create a calendar-based plan for accomplishing them. Its motivating “Plan My Day” feature requires users to carve out time for completing existing tasks, making them more likely to actually get done. It also incorporates existing Google and Outlook calendars so all tasks, appointments and events are neatly organized on a single platform.

Price: Free. The premium version is $3 per month and includes location-based reminders, recurring tasks and other features.

Platforms: Android, iPhone, iPad, Web

Additional Considerations

If none of these apps appeal to you, you can look to other platforms to accomplish your task management goals:

  • Project management programs such as Asana and Zoho can be used to create to-do lists along with other organizational functions.
  • Note-taking apps such as Notes, Evernote, Google Keep and OneNote can work for basic list-making, albeit without the functionality of dedicated to-do list apps.
  • If you don’t mind toting a physical planner with you, you can always make lists and schedule tasks the old-fashioned way.

With hundreds of to-do list apps, productivity software and other time management solutions available by clicking a mouse or tapping a screen, you’re certain to find one with the right form and function to meet your needs.

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