The best app is the one you’ll actually use

If you have more than a couple or three things to get done each day, it’s a good idea to make a note of them.

If, like most professionals, you have a few dozen things to do each day, then perhaps it’s time to use a task management app.

There is such a variety of apps to help us note, prioritise and manage our tasks, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced than whatever came built in to your smartphone, the choice can be a bit daunting.

Which one is best?

As a productivity coach, I can say with some certainty that the best task management app is the one you’ll actually use. It seems really basic, but if you have an app to manage your tasks and projects, and you actively dislike it, or you find it clunky, or you don’t like the setup, you’re highly unlikely to use it.

It gathers digital dust. Managing your tasks and your reminders becomes a chore. You find yourself using post it notes and scraps of paper – or worst of all, your own memory – to keep on top of your workload. Aaaand you’re back to square one.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to choose the app you use (as in, it’s not decided for you by an overly-controlling IT department), then make sure you enjoy using it. So many of the apps available now have some delightful aspects to the user interface, and functionality. It might be the colour coding. It might be the animations. Maybe there’s some gamification involved. It might even be the sounds. But if you like it, you’ll make a connection with it, you’ll continue to use it, and you’ll look at it. Many times a day.

So what do you need in a task management app?

The essentials

My view is that the bare essentials for any task management app are the capacity to distinguish between tasks and projects, to assign a priority to each task, to set reminders and to have a primary ‘in-box’ where things can go before you decide what you’ll do with them. Really, that’s it.

(Sounds a lot like the Reminders app built into your iPhone, right?)

Taking things to a more advanced level, being able to share lists or projects with others is a bonus, as is accessing the tasks on more than one device. Is it simple and straightforward to get tasks into the app? Fantastic. Do you get reminded when it’s time to do something? Super! Every else, as they say, is gravy.

But there’s a lot of gravy out there…

The grass is always greener

Jumping from app to app to find ‘task management nirvana’ can be as disruptive and risky as trying to remember everything instead of using an app in the first place. Because it’s such a personal thing, people can hold some very strong opinions about what makes for a good app. Verging on the religious.

Just because someone you know swears by an app, just because they say it helps them get all the things done. Just because an app has won awards. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be the app for you. Think about your needs and preferences when choosing an app and don’t imagine that buying it is going to make you as slick and impressive as the people who’ve made all those YouTube videos about it.

Good enough in this case is definitely good enough. The speed at which apps in this space are updated can be dizzying and you could spend all your free time researching what these updates could possibly mean for your productivity. But really? If you task management app does what you need – and you actually use it – then why look elsewhere?

At most, limit your app window shopping the research to an occasional pastime, rather than a permanent state. Task management should take up more time than actually completing the tasks. Otherwise, that’s just a very ornate form of procrastination.

Look and feel counts for a lot

It’s as simple as this: the best app is the one you’re going to use. And the one you use will largely be the one you like using. So don’t discount personal liking for look and feel. And yes, the sheer joy of using an app. Don’t compare your preferences to other people’s and don’t be swayed by opinion.

Do what works for you.

It will go a long way to help you keep on top of your tasks, and save you countless hours of worrying about what you’ve forgotten to do.

1 comment on “The best app is the one you’ll actually use

  1. Pingback: My productivity toolkit – Richard MacKinnon dot blog

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