Start with a list of your most important tasks for the day. Line them up in the order of their importance. Finish them off one by one.
That’s the gist of the Ivy League Method for productivity. Sounds simple and effective, right? You can put it to work with the six no-nonsense list-making iPhone apps we’ve rounded up below.
Note: The Ivy League Method recommends listing your six most important tasks. It’s up to you if you want to keep your to-do list shorter than that or longer.
MinimaList mimics the feel of your pen-and-paper to-do list—you create a list and check tasks off it by putting a strike across each. Completed items move to the bottom of the list.
Thanks to swipe gestures, you can create, edit, and delete tasks, plus mark them as done, in no time. Not simple enough? Get MinimaList’s Today View widget to add tasks and check them off without opening the app.
Are you a fan of the popular Pomodoro technique, which involves working in 25-minute bursts? In that case, you’ll love MinimaList’s Pomodoro timer integration. You can also switch to a regular countdown timer or a stopwatch if you prefer that instead.
For multiple lists, list sharing, custom themes, device sync, and voice input, you’ll have to pay for a monthly subscription to MinimaList.
Download: MinimaList (Free, subscription available)
2. Google Tasks
Google Tasks has an easy-to-use interface. The big blue Add a new task button located at the bottom of the screen is all you need to focus on.
Tasks appear in a checklist format—you can mark them as complete by tapping on the empty circle next to them. Drag and drop tasks into place to rearrange them.
The ellipsis icon at the bottom-right gives you options to rename/delete the current list and sort tasks by date. If you want to switch lists or create new ones, you’ll find the relevant options behind the hamburger icon at the bottom-left.
Your life doesn’t have to revolve around Google for you to use this app, but you do need a Gmail account.
Download: Google Tasks (Free)
Listify has a clean, pleasant interface that doesn’t let much get in your way.
The apps starts you off with a sample to-do list pinned to the screen. To add a task to this checklist, use a pull-down gesture. The add task box has a tiny alarm clock tucked away in the right corner at the bottom. Tap on it and you can set a reminder to go with the task.
Checking an item off your list puts a strike through it, but keeps it visible. If you want to clear all completed items from sight, just shake your phone.
You can maintain multiple lists with Listify, and it’s easy to move items between them. Lists show up as cards on the main screen and you can collapse them if the screen feels too cluttered.
To start creating a new list, pinch the screen and tap the Manage Lists option that appears. In this section, you’ll find an Archive option that hides items you have either deleted or cleared off your list. You can recover them from here if you want to.
Along with the Manage Lists and Archive options, you can also access a tutorial that walks you through the main features and gestures of the app.
Download: Listify (Free)
4. Blink—Quick Memo
Blink makes adding tasks painless. Tap any blank space on the screen to get started.
If you want to mark a task as high priority, you can highlight it in red. Tap on the task to cycle through the three available colors: black (default), blue, and red.
Long-press on a task to reveal edit, delete, and archive options. Here, archiving a task is the equivalent of marking it done. To speed up archiving, you can also long-press on a task and pull it down.
Want to revisit completed tasks? Tap on the gray bar at the bottom of the app to bring up archived items.
Download: Blink ($1)
5. BBL—Bear Bucket List
Bear Bucket List or BBL is an aggregator for all the lists running through your head. It’s as basic as a list-making app can get.
You can create lists for everything from the movies you want to watch to the books you want to read and the places you want to visit. Why not use the app for creating your daily to-do list? It’s perfect for the simple approach we have in mind.
BBL lets you create, edit, delete items, and cross them off your list. That’s pretty much it. (Since you can’t rearrange items in BBL, we recommend starting off with the least important task while creating your to-do list.)
The app’s main screen comes with a cute bear illustration that hides a few more settings. Tap on the arrow icon above the bear’s head to reveal the cloud backup option.
See that bird sitting atop the bear’s head? Tap on the musical notes flowing out of the bird’s beak to trigger ambient sounds. That’s a pleasant touch to a pleasing app!
We were surprised to discover that BBL and Blink (mentioned above) are from the same developer. If you like these two apps, you might also want to take a look at BBL’s companion timer app, BFT—Bear Focus Timer.
Download: BBL—Bear Bucket List (Free)
As you might have guessed from the app’s name, Kanbana is based on the Japanese productivity method of Kanban. To begin with, you get a few pre-made blank lists that you can rename.
A pull-down gesture from any area of the app screen is all you need to start creating a card for a task. You can change card colors for visual organization and also drag cards around to rearrange them.
You’ll need a premium subscription if you want multiple boards and full offline support. The subscription will also allow you to use Kanbana’s web app.
Download: Kanbana (Free, subscription available)
Get a Simple App to Manage a Complex Day
Feature-rich project management tools like Trello are great for keeping an eye on the big picture. But when you need to drill down on tasks day to day, simple to-do list tools help you stay focused. And now you know which to-do apps to get for your iPhone!