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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

One Big Thing: The Free To-Do List App That Organized My Life

As a big proponent of the 1-3-5 method of prioritizing my tasks, I’ve tried multiple mediums to record and track my daily “to-dos.” While I’ll always have a spot spot for good ol’ pen and paper, and while I value digital systems such as Excel and Google Docs, I recently concluded that the app One Big Thing is the best tool for tracking my goals and accomplishments. (At the moment, One Big Thing is only available for the iPhone, so in the meantime, Android users can try this similar browser-based tool.)

A Medium post praising the to-do list app turned me on to it, and I’ve been hooked now for three months. Instead of stressing over where I last left my planner or hurrying to pull up the correct spreadsheet when I need to organize my tasks, I just open the app on my phone.

It's got a clean look, is simple to use, and makes you feel accomplished when you click “DONE.” And because I always have my phone nearby, whether at breakfast (when I tend to start planning my day), or next to my bed (when I start thinking about what I’ll need to do tomorrow), it makes it a convenient, obvious choice.

With the free version of this program (which is what I use), you can input tasks for “today” and “tomorrow,” but—here’s the catch—you can’t go back to yesterday’s list because each morning you start with a clean slate (literally, a clear screen).

This disappearing act, while somewhat nerve-wracking at first, has helped keep me honest and strengthen my time management skills. Since I can’t copy and paste yesterday’s (unfinished) tasks, I’ve gotten really good at only including what I know I can accomplish in a given day. (Of course, the big stuff also lives in my memory, so if I have an ongoing project, I can just re-add it to the new day’s list.)

So, rather than building upon a never-ending document or wishing you’d emailed yourself your latest Excel spreadsheet, try this instead.

What’s your favorite to-do list format? How do you keep track of everything? Tweet me @ninadawdles. I might be sold on One Big Thing for now, but I’m always looking for the next big thing.

Photo of person using app on phone courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.