Given all the minuscule tasks I need to get done each day, things always fall through the cracks. It’s usually the smallest tasks I end up forgetting—errands, two-minute chores, personal hygiene stuff. Things that should be good habits, but aren’t. So I decided to put my phone to work, letting my mobile micromanage me into remembering to do all the little things.
Standard calendar and reminder apps, which are time-based and rely specifically on timed events like meetings or appointments, don’t suffice. What I need is something smarter than a calendar, something that will nag me during my downtime—gently of course.
The first app I tried is Timeful, a free download for iOS. It looks at your calendar, then helps you find time in your schedule for the less-critical items. Once you download the app, you give it access to your calendars, then select a few things you’d like to regularly be reminded to do, like buy stamps or floss your teeth. You choose how often you’d like to do these tasks—once a week, three times a week, once a day, whatever. You then choose a preferred time of day (morning, afternoon, or evening) for the app to squeeze it in. The app then looks for appropriate gaps in your calendar and slots your B-list to-dos into the blank spots in your schedule. When those times arrive, you get a push notification. You can also choose a specific time to be reminded, but I find Timeful’s automatic time-gap-finder actually ends up being more helpful.
The Timeful interface is crisp. At the bottom you can tap to create a new event, to-do, or regularly scheduled habit. You can also see a list of all of your to-dos and habits that you have yet to accomplish, or have already completed. In the app’s settings, you can set how often you’d like the app to remind you to do tasks, and you can input your normal sleep and work hours, so it knows to schedule things during your actual free time.
Some folks may prefer something a more structured like Due ($5, iOS), a super robust to-do app. Rather than putting in a title and then selecting a reminder time for a task, you can input an item like “Pick up the dry cleaning in two hours” and it can naturally parse that to remind you at the appropriate time. You can auto snooze reminders if you can’t deal with them at that moment, and the app will continue reminding you about them until you select that it’s been done, or rescheduled. It’s perfect if you really need to be nagged to finish a chore.
Due also has a handy reusable timer function. Whether you regularly need a timer for sets at the gym, or for cooking times for favorite dishes, you can save separate timers and use them over and over again.
Any.do (free for both iOS and Android) is a third option. The app has some clever interactions. You pull down at the top of the app to type or dictate a new task, then you swipe an item once it’s complete. Shake your phone to clear the item from your to-do list. Items are listed under Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday headers, making it easy to glance and see what’s going on in the future.
With web apps on top of its mobile offerings, you can sync and be notified of reminders no matter what device you’re on. Any.do will remind you to do things based on your location—like if you need to make a phone call once you get into the office—and it can also regularly remind you of things daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly, on top of just at a preset time.
If you thrive on structure and organization, the Android app Tasks is a good option. After Yahoo shut down the Android app Astrid Tasks last August, this app, an Astrid clone, launched in its place. While Tasks lacks some of the features of the original (like integration with a web app and the ability to share or assign tasks), it still offers a straightforward platform for adding and prioritizing various tasks into different subject folders. You can set due dates and descriptions for an item, get reminders for when it’s due and when it’s past due, or set a timer for it. The app’s folder-based UI is particularly useful if you’ve been tasked with doing a bunch of little things for a particular event.
But there are a plethora of other time management and reminder apps out there, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Feel free to nag us about them in the comments.
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