TickTick vs ToDoIst

Hi all, it's Julian, here again.

If you've listened before, then welcome back.  If you're new to this podcast, then welcome - thanks for joining us.  The idea of this podcast is to give you hints and tips about being more productive, as well as talking about apps that will help to achieve this.

In a previous episode, I looked at Todoist, a terrific app for managing tasks, and today I’m going to look at that again, this time alongside another task management too, TickTick.  

Ready?  Let's do this...

I don't know about you, but I always find I have a bucketful of things to do, and on more than one occasion forget to do some of them.  

If you don’t currently use an app to manage your tasks you probably have some sort of system in place, even if it’s just a pen and paper. 

There are a number of task manager apps available, and I've tinkered with a few of them. However, about 4 months ago I discovered Todoist, which has been my go-to app for tasks; and recently I was pointed in the direction of TickTick - so I thought I'd do a comparison of the two.

For the purposes of this comparison, I am looking at the premium versions of both; and whilst they have a lot in common, there are some subtle differences.

First of all, I should tell you that both of them are cross-platform apps; which means you can use them on the web, iOS, macOS, Windows and Android.  So, whatever your system, you won’t have an issue using these.

At their most basic level, all you need to do is launch the app, enter a task and and that's it.  Over time, you'll build up a raft of tasks that you can manage through at your own pace.

Both apps have a default Inbox, where tasks will automatically go when you create them.

Of course, just adding tasks isn’t going to be of much use, unless you add some target dates to complete them.  You can add date and/or a time as you create the task, or you can revisit the list and manage them at a later time.

Both applications use date parsing, which means you can type using natural language; that is, as you would speak, rather than enter a date or time in a certain format.  This makes it easier to capture due dates.

The biggest bugbear for me is when I create a task with either a due date, or a recurring task.

In ToDoIst, when I enter "Create a task every day at 12pm" - the task title is "Create a task".  The schedule is updated with the time.

On TickTick, entering the same task creates a task title "Create a task every day at 12pm" - the schedule is set, but the recurrence is in the title - and that's just plain annoying.

It's the same with a date and time.  For example, “Make appointment at the dentist on 12th December at 6pm" will just render "Make appointment at the dentist" as the title on ToDoIst - but on TickTick, I see the whole phrase.

Maybe it's me. What do you think?

Now, you may be using task management, not just for work OR personal, but for both.  And you may have tasks relating to specific projects.  Both of these apps allow you to create projects and assign the task to them.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a default ‘Inbox’ which all tasks will automatically be assigned to.  However, with different projects, you can assign to them instead, and help to keep them separate.  

You may have recurring tasks, that happen either daily (like checking tomorrows’ tasks), weekly or monthly and these are easily created in both.  

Once you’ve created your tasks, then you need to remember to do them and both apps have the ability to set reminders and notifications that pop-up at the appointed time.

One aspect of TickTick which is quite good is the ability to set multiple reminders for the same task.  Now; this shouldn't really be necessary, but, you can have a reminder pop-up an hour before the due time, and then again 5 minutes before the due time, etc.

It's clever, and this isn't something that you can do with ToDoIst.   Personally, I can't think of a specific use case for this - as, once the reminder has popped up it will stay there until you either clear it, or mark as complete.  So, multiple reminders could be distracting.

Both apps allow you to forward emails, to create tasks.  I think ToDoIst does this slightly better; especially as you can email directly into a project.

When you email directly, then TickTick presents the mail inline; so you can read it.  ToDoIst presents it as an attachment.

However, I also use Spark for my mail, and there is a direct integration with ToDoIst which means I can save an email directly to a project, using either the link or the full email.  Once saved in ToDoIst, I can also launch the email directly from the task.

As far as I can tell, there are no integrations with TickTick.

If you are moving away from another task manager, then TickTick does have the upper hand, as it offers direct import from backups from the likes of ToDoIst, Wunderlist, Omnifocus, Toodledo and iCal.

ToDoIst doesn't support direct import, but they do provide information about how to do it.

Of course, you can set all the tasks you need, but if you don’t prioritise them, you could end up where you started; a list of things to do, but with no real direction.

Setting a priority is key, and each app has 4 levels, ranging from P4 (or No Priority), up to P1 (or High Priority). Each is colour-coded so you can see at a glance where the important tasks are.

You can add a comment to each task, and also create sub-tasks.  You can also add attachments, to help with the detail of the task.

If you’re using the apps in a business scenario; with teams, then you can assign tasks to other individuals.

Both apps also have the ability to add tags, and you can set up filters (in ToDoIst) or Smart Lists in TickTick.  They both give you the flexibility to report on specific tasks; such as ‘All outstanding tasks’ AND ‘over 4 days old’; or High Priority tasks due today.  You might want to see all tasks assigned to a person, or anything that is more that 365 days old!

Reporting on progress is quite important, and one thing I like about Todoist is the ease with which to see how many tasks have been completed each day or week.  This is because you can set targets for completion; e.g. 5 tasks per day, or 30 tasks per week.  You can then see how long you’ve kept a streak of maintaining the goals.

Todoist also tracks, what they call Karma.  Again, this is just for fun, and means you raise to different levels the more points you get.  I’m currently a Master; and once I reach 20000 points, I’ll be a Grand Master, leading to Enlightened, at 50000 points.

Depending on how you’re going, you can earn or lose points each day.  You can boost your Karma by adding and completing tasks on time, or by using features such as labels, recurring deadlines and reminders

Next to consider is usability.  Now, this comes down to personal preference, and whilst I’ve been using both, I find ToDoIst more intuitive to use, out of the box.  The look and feel of TickTick, for me, is a little cartoonish; and whilst this shouldn’t impact on my belief that it can do the job, for some reason, it just does.

I also don’t like that TickTick displays the date or time of the task in the title.  That’s a show-stopper for me.

I find ToDoIst is clearer and crisper in the layout.  I also note that TickTick doesn’t appear to have a vacation mode.  This is great for when you take time out, go away, and don’t want to miss any streaks.  OK; I know that’s also just a game, in reality, but it’s another subconscious way to help achieve all the tasks that are set.

I have found that since I started using a task manager, I have been much more focussed and it has helped to get things done; whether to complete a project, or just because I need to remember to make phone calls; or other things like change my contact lenses every 2 weeks, or renew my tram ticket each month.


So, what about the cost?

At the time or writing, ToDoIst is £36 per year, and TickTick is $28 (which is about £22) per year.  Remember that they both have a free services, so you can try out most of the functionality before you buy.  It would be nice if they gave access to all the functionality for a limited time, so that you can see a like-for-like comparison, and then decide if you want to buy it.  But they don’t - so you’ll have to decide based on the free service alone.


So, in conclusion, and to add a meaningful resolution to this episode.  I am firmly in the Todoist camp.  I know I’ve been using it for longer, but I have spent the last couple of months with TickTick, unfortunately it's not for me.  

That doesn't mean it's not for you - so give it a try.  Links to both apps are in the show notes.

If you have any questions about ToDoIst or TickTick, or indeed anything else productivity related, then please get in touch via the Contact Me button at the top of the page

If you’ve listened to the very end, then thank you.  Tweet me the phrase “Task managers help me stay on task” and I’ll give you a shout out in a future episode.

Don’t forget to subscribe where you normally listen to your podcasts and until next time, remember, Productivity Matters.

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