Maybe some people are using their extra time at home as people are urged to stay there to help combat the spread of COVID19 to take a mini vacation. But, for many of us, it’s business as usual (almost), except we are not going into the office right now, we are working from home.
For those who are now working remotely, one of the biggest keys to keeping you work on track – and staying sane – is organization. There’s no boss and no coworkers right now to help guide the structure of your day, just you, and if you are not used to this kind of set up getting that way is going to be tougher than you might imagine.
One (of the many) organizational tools you can use to help you get work done without burning yourself out is a to-do list. Ideally it should be a digital one, and one that can be utilized across several platforms. You may not be allowed into the office right now and you may be ‘social distancing’ but there is nothing to stop you from heading out to your patio or deck to work there and soak up some healthy sunshine. That means the best to-do list will be available on your main PC, laptop and your mobile.
Start a search for one however, and you will find there are lots to choose from. As a professional organizer, I use a lot of digital tools to organize my days, and have tried out more than a few to-do list apps and softwares in my time. Based on that experience, and other feedback from clients and fellow organizers, here is a look at my top choices for the best to do list for those who suddenly find themselves working from home for the first time.
What Makes For a Good to Do List Software?
While other people’s criteria may differ slightly I usually look for as many of the following as possible.
The best to do list apps:
- Make it fast to add and organize tasks. Ideally a task is added and categorized in a couple taps or keystrokes.
- Offer multiple ways to organize your tasks. Tags, lists, projects, and due dates are all helpful, and the best apps offer at least a few categories like this.
- Remind you about self-imposed deadlines. Notifications, widgets, emails—the best applications make it obvious when something needs to be completed.
- Offer clean user interfaces. Well-designed to-do apps fit into your workflow so you can get back to what you’re supposed to be doing.
- Sync between every platform you use. Which platforms is going to depend on what you personally use, but I don’t consider anything that doesn’t sync between desktop and mobile.
My Top To Do List Picks For Home Working Organization
Best General App
TickTick (Android, Windows, macOS, iPhone and iPad, Web)
TickTick is an up-and-coming to do list app that offers a wide array of features on just about every platform you can imagine. Adding tasks is quick thanks to natural language processing. There’s also a universal keyboard shortcut offered on the desktop versions and pinned notifications and widgets on mobile, which makes it quick to add a task before getting back to what you’re doing.
Tasks can be organized using lists, tags, and due dates, and there’s even the ability to add sub-tasks to any task.
TickTick also offers a few features that are above and beyond what other apps offer. First of all there’s a built-in Pomodoro timer, allowing you to start a 25-minute work session for any of your tasks. Second, there’s integration with various third-party calendars, allowing you to see your tasks and your appointments in one place. It’s a great collection of features and well worth considering, especially if you sync between various platforms.
Free version: Yes
Paid version: From $2.40/month
Best app for users with a very specific organizational system
Omnifocus (macOS, iPhone, iPad)
Omnifocus is nothing if not flexible. This Apple-exclusive application is built around the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy trademarked by David Allen, but an array of features means it can be used for just about any organizational system you can imagine.
There are three different kinds of projects you can set up, for example, depending on whether you need to do tasks in a specific order or not. There are six main views by default, allowing you to organize your tasks by things like due date, projects, and tags. You can even add more views, assuming you have the Pro version.
Omnifocus is a power user’s dream, with more features than anyone can hope to incorporate into a workflow, which is kind of the point: If there’s a feature you want, Omnifocus has it, so you can organize your tasks basically any way you can imagine.
Syncing is offered only between Apple devices. There is a web version, currently in testing, but it’s intended for occasional usage away from your Apple machines more than anything else. Non-Apple users should look elsewhere.
Free version: No
Paid version: From $99.99 per year for recurring plan. Also available as a one-time purchase from $39.99 (14-day free trial)
Best to-do list app for making doing things fun
Habitica (Android, iPhone and iPad, Web)
Games are fantastic at motivating mundane activity. Habitica, formerly known as HabitRPG, tries to use principles from game design to motivate you to get things done. And it’s remarkably effective. You can add tasks, daily activities, and habits to a list. You also have a character, who levels up when you get things done and takes damage when you put things off. Users can even earn in-game currency for buying offline rewards, such as a snack, or in-game items like weapons or even silly hats.
This is even better when you join a few friends and start a party. You can all fight bosses together, but be careful: Fail to finish some tasks on time and your friends will take damage. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.
What’s the downside? Habitica isn’t a great to-do list for managing long-term projects, so you might need something else for that. But if motivation is your problem, Habitica is well worth a spin.
Free version: Yes
Paid version: $5/month