In this early part of the new year, many people are looking to improve their task management. A friend is looking to upgrade from the stock notes app and sent a request around to see what others were using. He also promised to send around the compiled results. If he keeps his promise, I’ll post those here (with his permission of course). What follows is not only what I’m using, currently, but how I got here.

How one organizes one’s tasks is largely matter of personal preference. Firstly, one of the most important things about choosing a task management method is not to get bogged down in analyzing different methods. The next thing to consider is any sort of methodology you’re using such as GTD. If you are, you’ll want to look for a system or application that supports that methodology.

When I started using GTD, I used Outlook Tasks. Not because I liked Outlook, but because it’s what I had and it synced to my Palm Pilot–and later, my Treo (did I mention that I’ve been doing this for a while?).

When I changed jobs and went back to using Macs exclusively, I started using Omnifocus. I like it a lot, and it checks off all the items on my needs list (see below), but it might be overkill for some people. It’s designed for doing things in a GTD style, if you’re not using GTD, it might even be a little cumbersome. It’s also a Mac/iOS app, so if you’re on another platform, Omnifocus isn’t for you.

When I was looking for something other than Outlook, this is the short list I was using to evaluate task applications. Perhaps this list will be helpful in your own search.

The most important features of a to-do application (for me):

  • Sync and/or availability on all devices, work computers included. I couldn’t do this at one of my jobs, which wasn’t great.
  • Ability to future date tasks. I us this a lot, especially for infrequently recurring tasks.
  • View by context. this is a GTD thing, I like being able to call up tasks by context sometimes, e.g. “Phone”.

Somewhat less important to me, but really handy:

  • Ability to see the day’s completed items This is sort of a motivational thing that is easily lost when one stops using a paper to-do list
  • File attachments
  • Task & Project notes