The Best Apps For Self-Management: Pt. 3 — Task Management

Ludo De Angelis
7 min readJul 16, 2021

Here we are at task management, where the management of our attention and time meet to actually start doing things. It took a couple of articles to get here but just like becoming a great leader, there’s a lot of self-work to do before you get started. Good work.

The concept of jotting down lists of tasks and ticking them off is a totally subjective experience.

Many people will simply use a notepad & pencil or any shred of paper within reach to keep them focused on their task at hand. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this: if it works for you, then keep doing it. When it comes to tasks, getting them done is the objective after all.

The act of thinking about what needs to be done, breaking that objective down into manageable chunks and creating a list of those tasks will almost always result in project completion. Or at the very least, a decreased sense of anxiety from knowing where you are in the timeline.

But if you have different tasks in different projects, need to review the completed work or simply need more functionality than a list, software is here to save the day. yey. (native Reminders app)

For 90% of people and their tasks, the native Reminders app is actually far more capable than we all think.

In classic Apple style, Reminders is simple, fast and intuitive — almost appearing as underpowered (but certainly not made for the busy professional.) Although that may be the case, you can certainly get a lot out of reminders before looking at more dedicated apps.

The knockout feature exclusive to Reminders is persistent notifications. I know, what a sexy sentance. No other apps use this API as Apple decided to keep this one to themselves (side-stepping the anti-trust on this one) which therefore gives Reminders an edge.

Essentially it means your reminder will pop-up and stay on the Lock Screen until you actively complete/dismiss it. You will see your task every single time you glance at your iPhone making it much more likely you’ll action it. Cool, right? All other notifications, including from your other third-party task management apps, will be dismissed automatically once you unlock your iPhone (and therefore potentially become forgotten).

“Say the line, Siri!”

The other amazing feature of Reminders is the tight integration with Siri. Simply summon Siri wherever you speak to them and you’ll have quick and easy tasks added while you think of them.

Pro tip: input your work address, gym address, other places important to you into your personal contact sheet. That way you can do things like, “Hey Siri, remind to speak to Maryam about analytics when I get to work” and Reminders will ping you when you get to work. Neato.

Personally I use Reminders for daily life admin tasks such as when bills are due (taking advantage of those persistent notifications) and my grocery list. I keep the grocery list the same but ‘Flag/Unflag’ whatever is needed that week and keep a Widget on my first Home Screen for quick glances at what’s needed.

Omnifocus — Task Management Software Built For Pros

App Store link // Developer website

For the vast majority of people, the main use for their iPhone is to access social media via Facebook or Google products. Debating with people to delete these off their iPhone for the benefit of their mental health and privacy leaves them with a feeling that their iPhone becomes almost redundant and I get that. We’ve been really hammered with this stuff over the past decade.

For myself, Omnifocus is why my iPhone exists. I’ve been using it for over 5 years and has been running all aspects of my life so it’s hard to summarise how much impact it’s had on me.

Omnifocus can come across as pretty hardcore and it is. It’s almost like the Microsoft Word of word processors but with a more managed approach to features versus sheer bloat.

Rather than giving you the low-down on every feature and technical aspect of the Omnifocus, I’d rather link you Ryan Christoffel’s in-depth review over on MacStories.

What makes Omnifocus so great?

Thanks for asking. Believe it or not, there are many schools of thought and systemised approaches to productivity and how to be productive (and what it means to be productive).

One of the biggest coined by David Allen is called Getting Things Done which is classed as a “personal productivity system”. What that means is GTD and Omnifocus right off the bat is not very applicable for teams and probably why you may not have come across it before.

To quickly summarise the key aspects of the Getting Things Done method:

  • Inbox: quickly get tasks out of your head. Doesn’t matter where they’re filed for now, dump them in the Inbox.
  • Quick filing: Follow a brief method to class tasks as actionable/inactionable
  • Action: Actually do the work now that you’ve sifted through
  • Review: Start at the top and review progress

At it’s core, Omnifocus follows the the GTD system of productivity and is what differentiates itself properly in a market of lists-within-lists apps. It has features built fully alongside of the Inbox-Acton-Review methodology making it a super-powerful, beautiful and wonderfully capable companion to your ambition.

Key Features: The Inbox 📥

Most task-management apps will have a method for inputting new tasks which if you don’t immediately file them into an application list/project, will sit somewhere ‘undefined’ and collect dust.

As mentioned, with GTD and Omnifocus this is a core aspect of well.. getting shit done. Capturing your thoughts and to-do’s are almost more important than completing them and the Inbox is where you dump these thoughts as they come up. As you build a mental association with the Inbox as your “to-do-messy-drawer”, you lower your risk of forgetting something and decrease the anxiety of having multiple tasks in multiple locations. Everything is in the Inbox.

Key Features: The Review ☕️

This feature alone is what makes Omnifocus shine.

The Review section is where you will sift through all open projects, lists and undefined tasks. Basically it hand-holds you and brings you through all the stuff that you have going on, one by one. It presents you with options to Pause or Drop projects, move Due Dates or Defer until a later date.

Moving through your projects in a systemised manner like this allows you to ponder what is important and what isn’t. Some tasks may have appeared as priority during the heat of the week but upon reflection, aren’t actually that necessary. And so, you can drop them, streamline your thoughts and have a clean slate going into the next week.

When you have so many balls in the air, reviewing your projects becomes indispensable. Coupled with a weekly reflection period, sitting down to review your past weeks performance over a cup of coffee becomes a weekly ritual. It even has a little coffee cup icon you check off when you have reviewed something. Kawaii.

You’ll then move into the next week with a sense of calm and control having done your task-management due-diligence and setting yourself up for success.

Things 3 — Organise your life

App Store link // Developer website

If you need something that sits between the native Reminders app and at the space station that is Omnifocus, Things 3 is definitely worth your attention. Encompassing the Getting Things Done methodology and ranked #5 in the App Store’s revered Productivity category, the developers have fought tooth and nail in the sea of basic to-do apps to build Things 3 up and keep it sitting as one of the best.

Straddling simplicity in design, powerful features for the average user and providing a delightful experience, Things is one of those apps that’s almost easier to recommend than Omnifocus.

While nothing compares to Omnifocus, Things is in battle with many similar apps with many similar features. What differentiates Things is in the small subtle design tweaks and iterations the Culture Code have built-in. For example, the way the animation moves when you add a task into a list or how you can adjust the font size in the widget on your Home Screen.

Coupled with a rock-solid cloud sync, Things ensures all your tasks are up to date from your Watch to your Mac.

Truth be told, I personally bought Things for the sole purpose of keeping a very specific project I was working on separate from everything else in my life. Since then, I haven’t used it but continue to recommend it.

✨📅 Next week on The Best Apps For Self-Management: Energy Management✨

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Ludo De Angelis

I write about creative fulfilment, our relationship with technology and living a good life.