The iPhone App That Finally Got Me To Ditch My Pen & Paper To-Do Lists (At Least For This Week)

I have a confession to make. I’m a To-Do List junkie. Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up—before I make my coffee, brush my teeth or take my dog out for a walk—is grab a ratty notebook and pen that go everywhere with me and write down everything I need to do for, well, the rest of my life. That is, this was what I did every day before this week.

I have a confession to make.  I’m a To-Do List junkie.  Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up—before I make my coffee, brush my teeth or take my dog out for a walk—is grab a ratty notebook and pen that go everywhere with me and write down everything I need to do for, well, the rest of my life.

I copy and recopy down lists of blog posts that I have to write, meetings that are coming up, trip dates, random life goals…everything.  And as the day progresses I take great pride in crossing things off my list.  But just as often as I cross things off, I add new things.  I find myself highlighting, starring, double starring and triple-starring as the day goes on to keep track of which stuff takes priority and often by the end of the day my to-do List is basically illegible.  But that’s OK because I start out the next day in exactly the same way—turning the page of my notebook and copying down my list again, all neat and pristine, looking forward to drawing some serious check marks throughout the day.

That is, this was what I did every day before this week.  Towards the end of last month I got a PR email announcing that top Android to-do list app Astrid was coming to iPhone.  I was a little bit intrigued when I saw that it was a to-do list app (I do love my to-do lists!) so I downloaded it to my iPhone just to take a look and see what it was all about.  I didn’t have any expectations and wasn’t even considering actually writing a post about Astrid until I started inputting my things to do.  I was immediately hooked.

I should note that I have tried a few other alternatives to my pen and paper to-do lists—Remember The Milk, Evernote, and Google Tasks, among others.  For whatever reason, they just didn’t do it for me.  Something about Astrid, on the other hand, has gotten me to give up my ratty notebook and pen.  At least for this week.  What can I say?  Astrid’s got pizzazz.  Here’s why I like it:

Lists & Tasks Interface: Astrid makes it really easy to create separate lists of tasks (i.e. work, home, friends, etc.) and then view them all together in one list.  You can easily go in and change due dates and priorities when you add new tasks and (most importantly) it’s all neat and pristine and I can make some serious check marks all day without it turning into a big mess.  Not to mention the fact that I am saving myself at least half an hour every morning because I don’t have to re-write my entire list.

Speech To Text: You don’t have to type each individual task out—you can just tell Astrid and it writes it down for you.  Now I can just say “eat an apple” while I’m eating an apple and Astrid will automatically add it to my things to do list so I can check it off after I’ve taken a few more bites (yes, I must confess that from time to time I’m guilty of cheating by adding things like “eat and apple” to my list while I’m doing them, just for the pleasure of checking off an extra item).

Nudges: I was eating lunch when all of the sudden I got a push notification from Astrid—”Hey! Get back to work!  You have to write X blog post!”  I can see how some people may find this annoying, but I was like, “Wow! A to-do list that actually reminds you to do the tasks on it, awesome!”  And then I went straight to work on X blog post.

It’s Social: Astrid users can share their lists cross-platform on Android, iPhone, the Web, share lists with friends, collaborate with group project lists, ask for reminders from friends and colleagues and more.  While this isn’t something that I’ve had the chance to try out yet, it definitely seems like a useful feature.

I can’t promise that I won’t go back to my old pen and paper shenanigans in the future, but what I can say is that Astrid is the first tool that has kept me entirely off my paper lists for more than a few hours.  It may seem ridiculous that I’ve written so much about this, but it has truly been a life changing experience for me and wanted to share that.  Sufficed to say, I highly recommend it.

What tools do you use to keep track of all of your tasks, goals and things to do?  I’d love to hear about them!

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.