Top Personal Management Programs

Top Personal Management Programs

I mentioned in an earlier post how one of my 2019 resolutions is to become more organized overall in life. Part of that goal will involve tracking tasks through digital resources. Over the years since graduating, I’ve used several different programs in an attempt to monitor progress.

The worst thing is preparing yourself mentally for a big project, then losing yourself in anxiety and never starting. I’ve been there. If you don’t write it down and focus on monitoring the project, you’re not going to progress. You have to discipline your mind and time to get things done.

Personal management programs help me keep my thoughts in one place. I forget things easily. Sorry if I don’t know your name and we’ve known each other some time. I am trying to do better in 2019. This post is part accountability.

Also, sharing is caring. So, here’s the top 5 personal management programs I’ve discovered across the web:

1: Airtable – The Smart Database

Airtable example base personal management writing

Taking my #1 spot by far is Airtable. It’s a spreadsheet cloud program. In addition to the typical number calculations of competitors, it uses text based fields, file attachments, and other unique preset categories.

The most innovative feature of Airtable is the “link record” field. Each database (nicknamed “base”) can pull information from related tables for more complex formulas or rollups. For example, if you had a business finance base, you could set one table to list transactions, then have a another table that links and rolls up all data associated with a certain project.  You could also link a table of applicants to another table of the job postings. Creativity in linking information really helps to see data flow and connect.

Users probably need to experiment some to learn what works for their needs. However, the great thing about Airtable is the simple design, tutorials, and support available. Formulas autocomplete, so you don’t need to memorize a sequence of operations. Most of the features have a video that overviews their functionality. If you’re ever stumped, you always have the opportunity to launch a community template base that’s close enough to what you need and tweak it as you go.

It’s also really simple to share and collaborate an Airtable workspace (grouping of bases). You just press the big green “share” button on the top right. You can invite someone with different restrictions, like a read only, commenter, or creator. Then, you can create shareable links of specific views in a base table.

I use Airtable to plan and track the progress of the Crow Writer, record and analyze my dreams, log D&D adventures, and lots of other stuff.

Airtable offers plenty storage for personal use on their free version with 1,200 records per base. You can choose to upgrade to a business or enterprise account and have unlimited storage and “blocks”, like freestanding apps within a base.

2: Wunderlist – Beautiful Lists

Wunderlist example personal management program

Wunderlist is checklist and reminder program that I find the most aesthetically pleasing. There are a few close competitors, like Any.do or Don’t Forget the Milk. The difference though is Wunderlist is free without any paywalls I can find.

I use Wunderlist for daily or weekly tasks reminders, like laundry, devotions, and meal preps.

While you could use Airtable for simple checklists, a whole base for chores is kinda overkill and it won’t utilize all of the record linking features. Plus, reminder notifications is a paid block feature of Airtable, while it’s included on Wunderlist.

Mostly I enjoy this personal management program because of the mobile interface and overall simplicity. It’s really easy to move tasks into different folders, share with your team, sort and search, and backup data. They even have a Chrome browser extension to instantly saves pages and create tasks out of them.

3: Trello – Flexible Kanbans

Trello example board personal management

Trello is a personal management tool designed around kanban organizations. What are kanbans? Think of them like “cans” that represents steps in a defined process and store projects. You might have a simple kanban setup for writing like (1) brainstorm, (2) drafting, (3) editing, (4) adding media, and (5) publishing and distributing.

In your Trello account you have “boards” that you can use for different clients, teams, or processes. Under each each kanban list, you can add as many “card” (projects) as needed. Then, within each card you can add checklists, due dates, label tags, comments, and attachments.

The paid functions of Trello are called Power Ups. For instance, you can link your Google Drive and Slack to your boards. The app connections are nice for convenience.

Keep in mind: Airtable has a view setting that automatically formats the table as a kanban. Thus, Trello is a little redundant unless you just love the design of it (which I do!).

4: Todoist – Rewarding Checklists

Todoist example writing personal management

Todoist is another reminder checklist program very similar to Wunderlist, except that it includes a goal tracking point system called Karma. When I worked for Direction, we used Todoist for task management.

If you need a lot motivation, this program is a good option.

In teams, you can all see each other’s Karma and have some friendly competition. You can set a personal goal for completing a certain number of tasks to earn a bonus Karma. Todoist even has a “streak” feature to encourage your teams complete tasks daily (missing one day breaks the streak counter).

It has great cross-platform compatibility with accounts linking between all devices and systems, including Windows, Mac IOS, Linux, and smart watches.

I like the 7 day calendar view to see things upcoming.

Todoist has similar tags and filters as other programs, but some of the key features are part of a paid subscription. Things like reminder notifications, data backups, project templates, and themes cost just $3/month.

Like Wunderlist, there’s also a Chrome extension for Todoist to quick add links as tasks.  

5: OneNote – Notebook for All

OneNote example notes personal management

As the name implies, OneNote is a note taking program that connects across all your devices.

It’s very similar to Evernote. Some people might prefer that program and that’s totally cool. Overall, I think OneNote has more features, while Evernote has a better design and mobile app.   

OneNote used to be a paid application of a Office 365 account, but, as of 2016, it’s now completely free if you have a OneDrive account (the only paid part of a premium subscription is the ability to download your notebooks and store them outside of OneDrive). So, yay for free stuff!

You can format text and page themes just like you would a Word document, but the program also lets you draw, record audio, and insert shapes. It even reads your text to you.

OneNote includes the ability to password protect a section of notes, while protected files are a paid option of Evernote. This is a nice tool for digital journals.

I use OneNote to record sermons and trainings from work. Airtable doesn’t yet have the ability to format their text fields, so OneNote has an advantage here.


You don’t have to use any of these resources. If you prefer the old fashioned pen and paper, go for it! You do you! I just like online tools to keep everything synced across my devices and secure.

These 5 program reviews are just from my experience. How do you organize yourself? What online management programs work for you? Share away!  

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About the Author: Jonathan Crow

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