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3 to-do list apps that actually work with ADHD

By Jamie Irish · March 20, 2023
Hero image with the logos of the best ADHD to-do list apps

The sky is blue, water is wet, and folks with ADHD struggle to manage their life. While the common wisdom is to just use a to-do list or calendar, most task management apps aren't very neurodivergent-friendly. Either they're too simple, which makes them more difficult to adapt to our thought patterns, or they're so complex we get overwhelmed and distracted.

To make matters worse, most "ADHD to-do list apps" articles are long and pretty generic in their reviews. So I took it upon myself to go through all those long app roundups and test their recommendations, so you don't have to.

The result? Three apps and an explanation of how each one can help you manage your ADHD—from one neurodivergent brain to another.

What makes the best to-do list app for ADHD?

It's so easy to get shiny object syndrome, download a new to-do list app, then get so overwhelmed by it that you never pick it up again. With that in mind, I reviewed almost two dozen apps against four criteria in order to find the best ADHD task management apps. Here are the criteria:

  1. Is it simple to use? I need an app that directs my focus to what matters, helps me filter out the clutter, and keeps me on track.

  2. Is it adaptable to the way I work? We're called neurodivergent for a reason—my to-do list should provide enough flexibility that I can work in a way that feels natural.

  3. Does it help me manage time as well as tasks? It's not enough to have a list of tasks—I need an app that helps me schedule time to do those tasks (think: time-blocking).

  4. Does it celebrate accomplishment? Given the ADHD brain's relationship with dopamine, I need an app that helps me feel a sense of progress and accomplishment, or I won't stick with it.

The best to-do list apps for ADHD

Without further ado, here are my picks:

Amazing Marvin 

Best ADHD to-do list app for customizing productivity workflows

Amazing Marvin, our pick for the best ADHD to-do list app for customizing productivity workflows

Amazing Marvin isn't an app you'll find in the usual roundups, and that's a crying shame—because this is hands down the best to-do app for ADHD that I have ever used. An intuitive structure and powerful features combine to create an app that lets you organize life the way you want to.

Amazing Marvin is very simple on the surface level, which makes for a low barrier to entry. Its standout feature, however, is Strategies, a suite of optional features that allow you to completely customize your experience. You can add dozens of functions, many of which are tailor-made for ADHD, such as:

(If this sounds overwhelming, you can always get started with one of its Workflows, which will automatically enable certain strategies based on a template.)

For time management, Amazing Marvin includes a calendar function that syncs with multiple calendars to import all your work, family, and personal events. You can also add tasks directly to your calendar in Amazing Marvin, although unfortunately, you can't drag existing tasks to your calendar. And you can integrate Amazing Marvin with Zapier to automate your task management.

Unlike a lot of other to-do list apps, Amazing Marvin lets you view today's completed tasks from the daily view. This, combined with the little dance the marshmallow mascot does every time you finish a task, really creates a sense of accomplishment and progress that I didn't experience in other apps.

Short version: Amazing Marvin hits the sweet spot of simplicity and adaptability. While it lacks a little in the time management department, the ability to tailor the app to different productivity methodologies is worth its weight in gold.

Amazing Marvin price: $8/month

Available platforms: Web, desktop (Windows, Linux, Mac), mobile (Android, iOS)


Best ADHD to-do list app for focusing on tasks

TickTick, our pick for the best ADHD to-do list app for focusing on tasks

On the surface, TickTick looks a lot like Remember The Milk or Todoist, two popular apps that I also tested for this article. It gives you a solid, simple to-do list app organized around lists, tasks, and tags—but some additional features make it much more ADHD-friendly than others in its category.

TickTick is built to help you focus on your tasks, not just keep track of them. Its Eisenhower Matrix allows you to view and assign tasks based on importance and urgency—something I found very helpful in combating executive dysfunction.

Once you've got your day and/or week planned, the built-in Pomodoro function lets you estimate how much time a task will take, then tracks that time via Pomodoro sprints. (As someone who tracks their Pomodoros in a spreadsheet, I was very excited to find this feature.)

TickTick not only helps you focus—it rewards focus with a fun little achievements system. The statistics dashboard also gives you a lot of data on your task patterns that you can use to optimize the way you work. My favorite progress-tracking feature, though, is the summary that TickTick generates at the end of every day. This text file is perfect for copy/pasting into a report for your boss or just for your own reflection.

And all these features—plus habit tracking, Kanban views, and app integrations via Zapier—are just the free version, mind you. The main reason to upgrade to Premium is the calendar feature, which allows you to sync calendars and timebox your tasks.

Short version: TickTick is a remarkably robust to-do list app that avoids distracting bells and whistles while also giving you an ideal feature set to focus on your work.

TickTick price: Free; $27.99/year for Premium

Available platforms: Web, desktop (Windows, Linux, Mac), mobile (Android, iOS), Apple Watch


Best ADHD to-do list app for time management

Sunsama, our pick for the best ADHD to-do list app for time management

If you're someone who lives in their calendar, Sunsama is for you. This minimalist to-do list app is all about centralizing time management—from daily planning to automated time-blocking to integrations that turn Sunsama into a hub for all your tasks and events.

When it comes to managing ADHD, Sunsama's standout feature is its daily planning flow. Every day, you'll go through a brief process that reflects on yesterday's progress and sets up today's tasks. As part of this, you'll sort through overdue tasks, tasks earmarked for today, and backlogged tasks in order to build your agenda.

Sunsama prompts you to add time estimates to every task, then uses that information to help you build a realistic plan for your day. Once you've finalized your list, Sunsama helps you schedule each task—you can either drag and drop tasks, or let Sunsama automatically assign time slots based on availability and priority.

This mindful process is a game-changer for someone like me, who usually just dives into a long and overwhelming task list without taking a moment to set reasonable intentions and expectations.

Short version: Sunsama is very simple to use—sometimes a little too simple, as your only ability to organize tasks comes in the form of "channels," versus the folder structure a lot of us are used to. But if you're ok with a little less organization, the mindfulness element of Sunsama really goes a long way in managing ADHD.

Sunsama price: $16/month (when billed annually)

Available platforms: Web, desktop (Windows, Linux, Mac), mobile (Android, iOS)

Which ADHD to-do list app should you pick?

Honestly, only you can answer that question, so go with your gut! It never hurts to experiment, but make sure you set yourself some boundaries, so you don't get stuck in analysis paralysis. Commit to one of these ADHD to-do list apps for two weeks, then see what happens—I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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