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Using Online To Do Lists for Better Productivity

Wouldn’t it be great to sit in front of your computer in the morning and realize that you only have one thing to do? That one thing might take you all day, all week or even all year but from the moment you start the project until the moment you finish, that’s the only task you’re going to have to complete.

It’s never going to happen.

Any work day always seems to consist of half a dozen or more mini-projects all of which have to be done before you log off for the night. They could include research, emailing, marketing, blogging and yes, even some billable work too if you’re lucky.

And each of those projects requires sub-tasks too.

It’s the need to keep all of these projects and tasks in order — and ensure that they get done — that has led programmers to offer a string of online to-do lists. They all claim to do roughly the same thing: let people write lists that they can access from their computers so that no task gets forgotten.

In practice, they’re all a little different, so here are some of the most useful to-do lists to do some of the most useful of projects, including writing a blog.

Ta Da


Ta Da claims to be “the easiest Web-based to-do list maker.” Easy it is: Ta Da lets you create long lists of tasks complete with check-boxes that you can tick off when the tasks are done. At that point, the tasks move to the bottom of the page, where they appear in a fetching shade of gray indicating you don’t have to worry about them any more.

And that’s all you get… apart from a very long URL that you’ll want your browser to complete automatically rather than type in yourself.

Ta Da is fine for jotting down ideas for blog posts as they turn up but it won’t let you do any more than that.

Remember the Milk


Remember the Milk (RTM) is what you’d get if you pumped a to-do list with steroids… then strapped on an accessory pack. Lists can be created under tabs marked “personal,” “study” and “work,” keeping the different parts of your life separate and making the tasks easy to find.

That’s neat enough but each task can then come packed with information. While Ta Da only lets you add a title, RTM will also let you add the task’s — or blog post’s — deadline to your Google calendar, insert an estimate of how long you think it will take, prioritize it, add tags and mark it as postponed.

You can even send new tasks to your RTM page by email.

Best of all though, each task comes with space for notes. So if you’ve spotted a blog post that you want to respond to, you can add the URL to the notes so that you know what you were thinking when you read the list a week later.

If you want simple, then Ta Da is probably better. But if you want flexibility, then RTM offers a ton of useful tools.



And if you want rewards, then you might want to try RoughUnderBelly. This is based on David Seah’s Printable CEO and the fun is in the prizes. The list itself is pretty basic but you get to assign a score to each task. That score is tallied as you check off each item, giving you a daily graph showing how well you did.

It’s fun and colorful but it might take a little creativity — and perhaps a touch of cheating — to make it work for blogging. Unless you’ve got multiple sites on the go, you’re only going to be writing one post a day. While the tasks to create those posts might involve reading, emailing and writing, can you really justify giving yourself a score for each of those? Just write the post and give yourself a cookie.



The advantage of RoughUnderbelly is that it looks nice and playing with it is fun. That’s true too of OrchestrateHQ.

This is another very simple list program. You don’t get notes, email additions, priorities or other cool add-ons like you do with RTM but you do get multiple task lists that you can drag onto the page from a central box.

That sounds pretty basic but for blogging it can be pretty useful. Each task list can become one blog post idea and each task an item that you have to do to write the post. A glance at the page then would show you the week’s posts planned out, complete with the state of the work. Simple but handy.



And finally, ToodleDo is a bit like RTM but without the cow. It also lets you prioritize, estimate and note but its interface isn’t as slick as RTM’s. The whole thing looks very serious — like a real productivity tool rather than a way of putting off the things you should be doing.

And that’s really the point of an online to-do list.


  1. Luke Hoersten Says:

    Don't forget Todoist which has been doing the "delegate email to todo list" long before RTM. It also has the clearest interface and really nice ajax. The developer is top notch.

  2. Nate Moller Says:

    I agree that to-do lists are really important and that no matter how disciplined I try to be, some little details always get in the way and mess up the momentum. I haven't looked at any of the tools you recommended yet but I use Outlook and the Tasks tool. I like how it sends me updates or pop-ups. I also us the Google Calendar, which sends email reminders. Look forward to looking in to these other tools as well to see if there are better options out there.

  3. Ryan Says:

    Another good one is My Lists (http://mylists.creativitygames.net). It is dead simple but has some good features such as templates and no need to log in or create an account.

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