The 10 Best Productivity Apps for Really Busy People Like You

I have three kids, a business, and a few blogs, and I just signed up to become a Girl Scout leader. When people ask me, "How do you do it all?" my usual reply is, "I give up, how?" (See also: What Is Your Best Productivity Advice?)

Turns out, "How do you do it all?" is not a joke, or if it is, I'm still waiting to hear the punch line. In reality, I'm supposed to figure out how to get it all done in a day, on my own. Well, not completely on my own. I have a smartphone, and therefore I have a choice of to-do list apps to help me.

Here are the 10 apps that most experts consider to be the best at helping people like me get it all done.

1. Todoist

Works on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web

Cost: Free or $29/year for Premium

A recent Mashable post commended this uncluttered app because it "has enough power to take on a nearly infinite task list, meaning that there's no data ceiling to hit." You can create any number of projects with deadlines for each, break each one down into the steps you must take to accomplish it, and color code everything to keep it straight.

If your to-do list isn't only for you, try their free online collaboration product, Wedoist.

2. Awesome Note

Works on: iOS or Galaxy Note

Cost: $3.99's iPhone/iPod expert gave this app 5 out of 5 stars because you can easily sync your to-do list with Evernote or Google Docs.

"I also love the monthly calendar view for getting an overview of your tasks for the coming weeks," wrote iPhone expert Tanya Menoni.

Awesome Note isn't just a to-do list, either — it's a full-function note-taking and organizational app. That means it has a bit of a learning curve, but the time invested is reportedly worth it.

3. Wunderlist 2

Works on: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows

Cost: Free

Simple and good-looking, Wunderlist 2 was flagged as one of the best by TechRadar, which raved about its ease of use and flexibility. You can view your to-do items as a simple list, or you can have alerts or emails pop up to remind you when things come due.

Your lists are stored in the cloud, and you can share them, turning this into a group productivity app.

4. Remember the Milk

Works on: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Web

Cost: Free or $25/year for Pro

Remember the Milk plays well with others, interacting with Siri on iPhone, or with Gmail and Google Tasks. The Pro version syncs with Outlook. LifeHacker raves about the recent iOS and Android overhauls that make the app "even easier to use."

5. Do It (Tomorrow) HD

Works on: Android, iOS

Cost: Free for phones, $4.99 for iPad

Do It (Tomorrow) HD tops Fast Company's list of "alternative" to-do apps because it helps users "efficiently procrastinate" by moving items from today's list to tomorrow's with one little swipe. I like this idea, because there's nothing more disheartening than looking at a to-do list full of unchecked tasks at the end of the day. I'm not sure if this app would actually help me get things done, but it could help me sleep better at night.


Works on: Android, iOS

Cost: Free

The San Francisco Chronicle recently named the App of the Week because it doesn't wait for you to tell it what you need to do — the app tells you. It integrates with Gmail and other email, and it guesses based on your messages what you need to do to follow up. If it guesses right, you don't have to type the to-do item, just accept it.

7. Conqu

Works on: iOS

Cost: $4.99

There's nothing more maddening than driving right past the library without remembering that you've got a trunk full of overdue books to return. So I love the idea of Conqu in its best apps list because it doesn't merely let you list tasks, but helps you prioritize them. "You can set up the app to organize tasks automatically by context, energy level, time required, and so on," the magazine enthuses. And look at all the devices it works on!

9. Toodledo

Works on: iOS, Web

Cost: $2.99 for iOS, free for Web

You may already be familiar with, the popular online task manager. The app takes your Toodledo to-do items on the road, and MacWorld praises its powerful sorting and filtering functions.

10. Yahoo To-Do?

Works on: ?

Cost: ?

Astrid deserved a spot on this list, but it was acquired by Yahoo, which shut the service down. Keep an eye out for new improved to-do functionality from Yahoo.

As if this isn't choice enough, stand-alone to-do lists aren't your only option. You could turn to overall productivity apps such as EverNote or OneNote, or just use the Google Tasks built into the Gmail you probably already use.

Me? I chose Remember the Milk because I've been meaning to increase my use of Google Calendar, with which it interacts, and also because I liked the cute line drawing of a cow's face that represented the app in the Android store. I would have chosen Checkmark if I had an iPhone.

So far, I've found Remember the Milk easy to use for setting up and checking off to-do items. Setting up reminders and figuring out how to get it to play with Google Calendar have proved more challenging. But I like having a handy way to keep myself focused without having to search my purse for that dog-eared list that I probably forgot at home anyway.

What's your favortie to-do app or tool?

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Guest's picture

Very useful! The problem with me though is the “getting used to” the app part. Because using app requires me to annotate everything in it, often times what happens to me is that I use it for about a week and grow tired of it. Since some apps are complicated and cannot be synced to your computer’s calendar, I tend to stick to Google calendar. It’s very simple and I can plan out my activities from my computer. I think using productivity apps can definitely maximize your day; but, if you happen to be someone who likes simplicity and doesn’t need much features, using Google calendar is really convenient.