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In my household, my husband’s the planner and I’m the procrastinator. And while that combination hasn’t been too tricky to navigate for most of our marriage, it can only go downhill when you throw a hunt for a new home and a baby-on-the way into the mix.
Until now, we’ve each had our own approach to keeping our to-dos straight – my husband is a strict “inbox zero” kind of guy and uses his email to manage tasks, while I tend to waffle between simple notes on my iPhone and the latest productivity app Apple tells me I should try. But now that our to-do lists seem to be mushrooming with every month, I’ve been searching for an actual solution for sharing and assigning each other tasks and projects.
Some couples are perfectly happy with chalkboards and post-it notes or shared Google Docs, but if you’re looking for an easy way to manage joint tasks on the go, here are a few apps worth checking out.
This was the last to-do app I used on my own and I loved its stripped-down, no-clutter design. When you first open up the app, it looks very basic — almost too basic — but it’s actually as full-featured as they come (and its free). For each task, you can add notes, set a reminder alarm by time and/or location, designate a folder and, importantly, share it with someone else.
Once you add a contact to a task, that person gets a push notification if they’ve downloaded the app (or an email if they haven’t). It then allows both people to share notes within the app, as well as receive notifications when the other completes the task (although this last feature felt a bit delayed for me).
When I first heard about this startup, I thought it offered more of a cutesy app for newly-in-love couples than something people could actually use to be productive. But, surprisingly, it does have some useful features.
If you can get over the silly-sounding name, the free app offers some great to-do-tracking features. Every time you add an item to a list, your partner gets a push notification and/or email. And when one of you deletes it (maybe signaling that it’s complete), the other gets an alert.
You can’t set a deadline or reminder alarm for to-dos, which is a drawback. But you could use the calendar feature if you want to make sure your partner doesn’t forget an important event.
This was another one of those apps for twosomes I pretty much disregarded when it first came out, but it’s actually not bad. Couples can create shared lists and receive updates every time one of them adds or modifies an item. However, the app’s notifications aren’t as detailed as the ones in other apps. For example, it could only let me know that my husband had “updated [our] shared lists,” it wouldn’t tell me what exactly had been added or removed.
Also, like Avocado, it doesn’t allow users to attach reminders to to-do items, but includes a calendar for designating important dates. Both Couple and Avocado let couples message each other within the app, but, for productivity purposes, I don’t really see how that’s any better than using texting features already built into the phone.
If you’re one of the many millions of people who are already addicted to Evernote for taking notes and digitizing information, this could be the winner for you — as long as you or your partner is willing to upgrade to a $4.99 per month premium account.
It wasn’t explicitly built for collaborative task management, but as long as one person in the couple can create shared notebooks, both people can create and edit notes. For example, if I upgrade to premium, create a “Family to do” notebook and share it with my husband, both of us can add separate notes for each task and set notification alarms to remind us of deadlines. (With the free accounts, users can only view shared notebooks.)
Unlike other apps, Evernote won’t send push notifications each time one of us adds or edits content (I wish it would, hint hint). But its big upside is that it’s something we both already use, so it’s a solution that could actually stick.
For a time, this clean-looking app was my to-do tool of choice. And I wasn’t surprised to see that its collaboration features are as smooth as the rest of its software. Using Wunderlist’s free version, users can invite contacts to share a list and then receive notifications each time someone adds or completes an item. They can also add a due date and set a reminder that both people can see.
If you want to add people to the shared lists (like grandparents, nannies or other caregivers), you can upgrade to the $4.99 per month Pro version (which is really meant for small businesses) and get the option to explicitly assign tasks to different people.
For us, Evernote ultimately makes the most sense because both my husband and I already use it. We’ll have to pay $5 a month to share lists (and to get other premium services) but it’s just easier to keep our shared to-do lists with other personal and joint notebooks we’ll need to reference.
If we weren’t already Evernote people, however, Wunderlist would be our winner (with Any.do in a very close second). It’s intuitive, easy to use and, I think, it offers the best notification options (it’s the only app of the bunch that lets users set a deadline and other reminders).
Image by Fotoluminate LLC via Shutterstock.