I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but there’s been one goal that I’ve probably spent more time, over the last three years or so, pursuing. During that time I was in college, and starting a career, and ten or twelve thousand other things. But I devoted more time to finding and fine-tuning the perfect task-management system.
The worst part? I failed. I got close a few times, but never found exactly the right task manager for me.
Then, a couple of months ago, I got wind of a product called Wunderlist. It’s a super-simple task management application, but it ticked all the boxes I had never gotten anything else to check. These are those boxes:
- Available on Android, iPod touch, iPad, and computer
- A nice interface on all devices
- Automatic, fast syncing
- Simple and fast note creation
- Offline usability for mobile devices
- Create tasks with or without: due dates, organized lists, tags, contexts, and recurrences
Each and every one of those is a dealbreaker for me. And every app I’ve tried (Remember the Milk, Things, Toodledo, OmniFocus, TadaList, Todoist, Producteev, and pretty much every other possible option) missed the boat on at least one. Wunderlist, my hopeful savior, ticked them all.
Wunderlist is, more than anything, a list-maker. You can add due dates, organize them, and send them to others, but fundamentally what you’re doing is making lists. I like that, and I love the list of platforms it supports: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mac OS, and the Web. I use all six of those on a very regular basis, and this would be the second app I’ve ever tried that is everywhere I need to be (the first is Evernote, and it’s no secret how I feel about Evernote).
So I downloaded Wunderlist on every platform I could find, moved all my tasks into it, and got working. Honestly, it’s fantastic. Adding tasks is simple, syncing was totally effortless, and the whole system works perfectly together. Plus, the app is gorgeous. It ticked every box, and I was sure my problem was solved.
But in only a couple of days of using Wunderlist, I came to notice a few things about how I handle my tasks. First, I realized I have a lot of recurring tasks. It’s been hugely helpful for me to say something like “Pay Credit Bills” and have it repeat every month, so I can complete the task each time, and not think about it, but know that it’ll pop back into my face at the appropriate time. Wunderlist doesn’t support recurring tasks—things get one due date, and when they’re done they’re gone. That one, by itself, made Wunderlist just not feel right to me. There’s a fairly simple solution to the problem, which is to just change the due date of the task rather than marking it complete, but it added an odd level of friction that I didn’t like.
The second thing I missed (I had switched from Remember the Milk) was the syntax of adding tasks. In Remember the Milk, if I add a task that says something like “Take out Trash due Monday @home #personal” the application knows immediately that I’m adding a task to my Personal list, that I’ll do at Home on Monday, called Take out Trash. In Wunderlist, that same process is made of a bunch of separate steps.
What I realized is that I have one huge requirement for task managers, and a bunch of small ones. The big one is that you have to be everywhere that I am—that’s what drew me to Wunderlist in the first place. But there’s more, too: as unfair as it is, I’ll only get behind an app that works the way I do. For right now, Remember the Milk is the closest, though I hate the Web app and get increasingly annoyed that there’s no iPad version.
Wunderlist has definitely taken the crown of “Task Manager I’ll Recommend to Anyone Who Asks,” and it’s darn near the perfect thing, but it’s not there yet. My hopes are high, because the features left to add are relatively minor (I would think it’s easier to add recurring tasks than to build a Web app), so I’ll be waiting with baited breath. Unfortunately, though, for now I remain a reluctant Remember the Milk user.