I am a huge proponent of “use what you have” with regards to electronic time and task management.
There are several reasons for this:
- The whistles and bells of task management tools aren’t nearly as important as habitual use of the thing
- The basic needs of a task management tool (subject, date, etc.) are pretty…well…basic
- People are more comfortable with electronic tools with which they already have some experience
Additionally, when it comes to task management, the biggest concern is typically…
What do I do with all the emails that I don’t have time to reply to/work on/take action on RIGHT NOW???
So, a key feature of a task management tool is how well it integrates with email.
The vast majority of my clients use Microsoft Outlook for Windows. And, readily available in Outlook is the Tasks feature. With its cool drag-and-drop functionality, it can be a wonderful to-do list. I have to teach people to use some of the fields a bit differently than Bill Gates envisioned, but it works.
However, what about Gmail users? What about MacHeads?
Two clients inspired this article. One client uses Outlook for PC, Outlook for Mac, and iPhone. The other uses Gmail and iPhone.
Because Outlook for Mac took away scripts after 2011 (sob!), I have not found an automated way to convert emails to tasks in that environment.
So, Outlook Tasks is not the best solution for either of these two clients, but I still want them to have email integration with their task list.
It has been a while since I wrote a review of electronic task management apps, so I decided to remedy that situation while deciding what solution to recommend to my clients.
For each tool, I answered the same four questions. If you have thoughts to offer, please use the comments section below or email me directly.
Task Management Apps that Integrate with Email
- What makes it different? It seems to have the best email-to-task platform outside of the Windows version of Outlook.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Mac – No. Windows – yes.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Yes. There is a nifty plugin.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? For premium subscribers, you can send emails to your Todoist projects. Each project will have its own email address. However, it seems easier to download the plugins for Outlook or Gmail so that you can just highlight a message and click a button to add the email to your list.
- What makes it different? It is available as a standard, no fee, app on your iPhone and iPad. You can use Siri to add tasks to your list.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? I’ve been able to easily create bidirectional synchronization between Outlook and mobile devices for my clients by adjusting a couple of settings on the iPhone/iPad. If you are not on Exchange, Reminders can synchronize with Outlook Tasks via iCloud, but you may have to buy a 3rd party tool called Code Two Sync for iCloud.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Not as far as I can determine.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? Not directly, but if it synchronizes with Outlook, you’d drag and drop emails to Tasks there.
- What makes it different? It specifically mentions its ability to synchronize iPhone/iPad with Exchange. It also purports to work with Office 365 and Google Tasks.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Mac – No. Windows – Yes. I think you’d only want to use this app if syncing Outlook using the iPhone reminders app wasn’t working for some reason.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Yes. This gives this app an advantage over the iPhone Reminders app for Google users.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? I cannot locate a way to directly do this, but the app’s primary purpose is synchronization.
- What makes it different? Very visual and pretty…reminds me of mind mapping.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Mac – No. Windows – Yes.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Yes.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? Yes. There is a plugin that allows you to add an email to your list by clicking a button. However, Outlook Tasks is still a more elegant way to convert emails to tasks. You’d have to love the additional features of DropTask to justify it.
- What makes it different? Trello is a very visual to-do system with boards and cards and such. I often recommend it to clients who have been using sticky-notes-on-a-wall to manage their action items. It is especially helpful when managing a remote team. I use Trello to assign tasks to my marketing assistant.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Nope. Just Calendar.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Just the calendar.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? Each Trello board and Trello card has its own unique email address. You can find it in the settings. The subject of your email becomes the task name, and you can assign the task to team members by mentioning their Trello handles. The different email addresses for each board (and each card) may be confusing but is doable if you add the addresses to your contacts. There are no plugins, though.
- What makes it different? Super simple app with the basic features you need. Nothing too fancy or complicated.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Only “on the new Outlook.com.” This plugin has been harshly criticized for not working with the Outlook client or 365.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Maybe. Looks like there is a browser extension.
- Can you easily add emails to your list? Once you enable this feature, you can send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will end up in your Wunderlist inbox as long as you send them from the email address associated with your account. Not a bad feature, but it is the only email integration you get with this app.
Remember the Milk (RTM)
- What makes it different? You can add tasks to your list using Siri – which is a feature I’ve only seen with the native iPhone Reminders app.
- Does it sync with Outlook Tasks? Windows only with a Pro account after you download MilkSync.
- Does it sync with Gmail? Yes
- Can you easily add emails to your list? Like Wunderlist, you’ll need to enable the Email Tasks feature and set up a special email address. There are some features that allow you to get fancy as long as you remember the syntax (RTS?).
This is not an exhaustive review but rather an investigation I did for some clients that I wanted to share with you. Your personal experiences with these and other tools are most welcome in the comments section.
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Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at email@example.com or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.