The path to productivity is paved with good intentions – and half-used apps taking up space on smartphones and desktops. A digital planner app aims to cut through the noise of other productivity apps by finding its foundation in a long-standing tool to stay on top of your schedule: the analog day planner. Before there was a planner app, or even a Palm Pilot, there was the day planner. A cross between a calendar, to-do list, and project organizer, day planners kept everyone from college students to top executives organized. In this article, you’ll find a breakdown of the best modern planners – apps that work the best for you and your operating system. If you’re finally saying “Yes!” to getting your work off sticky notes and into a planner app or you want to find a new app to take your planning to the next level, you can find established apps with new features or replacements for apps that no longer work for you – or anyone.
You may not think of yourself as an expert planner, but in a small study of 88 college students, one of the biggest findings was that self-reported poor or good planners showed no difference in the proportion of goals they achieved. The bottom line? You’re already better than you think.
What does it mean to plan in work and in life? To paraphrase the definition laid out in the study, planning involves recognizing a goal, brainstorming the ways in which to achieve it, identifying potential roadblocks, revising your plan for achievement based on these roadblocks, and executing to reach your goal. Making the most of a digital planner means finding a planner with features that help support efforts to achieve your goals.
Choosing a daily planner
To help you choose the best planning tool for you and your daily routine, keep in mind three important elements.
Ease of use: Building the habit of putting every task into a planner app relies exclusively on you using the app. Look at the features and design of the app to gauge how easy it might be for you to hit the ground running. If you’re a seasoned pro, you might not be intimidated by a dozen different views of your projects. If you’re new to planning apps – or migrating from an analog planner – an interface with a simple menu and only a few views might be more motivating.
Cost: There’s the upfront cost and then the future cost. An app might be $4.99 a month, but that’s $4.99 for as long as you use the app. Others may be free, but cap the storage space and thus how long you can use it at that price. Decide how you want to budget for this productivity tool before jumping into building your calendar into an app. Free trials are incredibly useful to see how a planner app fits, but make sure you’re thinking long-term and how you want the cost structure set up – in a one-time fee or as a subscription model.
Compatibility with other tools: Chances are this isn’t your first productivity app rodeo, which means a new app needs to integrate with the old ones. Assess what you use now and even make time to discard apps that don’t bring as much utility or can be replaced by a planner app before choosing the planner that works best for you.
Our top ten list was created with these elements in mind. You’ll find pricing info (free, tiered, paid), available integrations, and usability features in all the app descriptions.
Top planner apps for Android
1. Memorigi - Tiered
Memorigi has a greater suite of features in its free version than you would expect and gives you the option to upgrade ($50, billed annually) to a tier with even more capabilities like better productivity stats to track progress, Memorigi cloud access, and the “Nag Me” feature that gently nudges you to keep you on track.
With the free version, you can see tasks at a glance with the calendar view and can choose how to organize them with tools like groups, projects, and lists. Groups are useful for keeping your personal tasks separate from your work tasks. Within groups, you can track projects and organize each project with headings to keep tasks tidy. We would have liked to see the Google Calendar integration available on the free plan given this app is only available on Android, but we’re willing to look past that for the ease of use and solid design of Memorigi.
2. My Daily Planner - Free
My Daily Planner offers a standard suite of features presented in a simple, unfussy interface that works online and off. The app uses folders to help you organize projects with tasks and subtasks. You can set recurring tasks and create new ones without due dates while you’re still building out a project.
We love that zooming out to calendar view and selecting a specific day shows you a summary of tasks tied to the day selected. It makes it easy to look ahead at your week or even month to see how the work is distributed. There’s a dark mode feature and the option to change the interface colors. Google Calendar or Microsoft calendar users won’t find integrations or syncing capabilities, but if you’re looking for an app to start your planning journey, this straightforward planner packs a lot in for its free price tag.
3. Evernote - Tiered
Evernote blends together note-taking with project task organization in a way that’s clear and concise. The home screen keeps everything relevant front and center before you select the task – with its own subtasks and notes attached – to dive into.
A project like “order laptops for team” can start out as just a thought before you convert it into an organized note with tasks dedicated to research, pricing information, and hardware needs from team members. If you’re seasoned in making the most of your current planning app and want to explore an option where you can expand the tool across the team, Evernote is for you. The free version lets you sync up to two devices and limits your storage space. The next two tiers – personal and professional – expand on the storage access and allow you to connect to your Google Calendar account. The professional ($9.99 billed monthly) tier also allows integrations with other tools like Slack, Salesforce, and Microsoft Teams. There is also a team tier with subscriptions for individual members.
4. nTask - Paid
nTask combines your daily planner with project management to deliver an all-in-one space for collaboration with your team. Plan out different projects – and note their roadblocks or barriers – before inviting team members to collaborate on specific projects and tasks. To keep you extra motivated, a progress bar gets a little closer to full after every subtask you complete. nTask can be used across multiple devices, so you can mark tasks complete or start new workspaces from wherever.
For teams just getting started with project management, the lowest tier plan is billed annually ($36) while more established teams may want the business tier ($96), which comes with more features like enhanced views (think Kanban), dependencies, and subtasks functionality, and more.
5. Dreamie Planner - Free
Dreamie planner makes the list not only for its price, but for its breadth of themes. A number of them are free, but you can also purchase others in-app to support the ongoing maintenance of the planner app.
You can sync what you build in your Dreamie calendar with other calendar apps, but editing in other calendar apps will not sync in Dreamie. A standout feature to us was the yearly view that even on mobile, showed off all 12 months so you can see bigger milestones/plans all at a glance. Other standard features include to-do lists, and weekly, daily, monthly, or yearly calendar views. Try Dreamie if you’re new to planner apps and want some novel graphic design to help motivate you into making planning a habit.
Top planner apps for iOS
1. Things 3 - Paid
Things is exclusive to iOS and Mac. We saw why when we started testing out the functionality. To say Things is a fine-tuned visually pleasing planning app is an understatement. The logic behind everything from the design to the organization of tasks is brilliant – and a few levels deep. Take, for example, the simple job of moving one or more tasks to a different project. A swipe left on any task reveals check bubbles to select the tasks to move before dragging the group and dropping it into the new project. Use shortcuts to have Siri add a task and look ahead at the upcoming days with the “What’s Next” view. Track progress with the pie chart tracker – a dynamic icon that sits next to every project list and becomes a fully block out pie when the tasks on the list are fully complete.
The thoughtful integration with the Apple operating systems comes at a price, however. The desktop app is currently $50 and the iOS app can be purchased for an additional $10. There is a 14-day free trial, but with the depth of capabilities, you’ll still want to make sure this app is right for you. Unlike other apps, this is a one-time cost that keeps you from entangling yourself in yet another subscription.
2. Fantastical - Paid
Like Things, Fantastical is only for iOS and Mac, meaning its developers can spend their time molding features to work seamlessly across Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The only free version is a 14-day trial, after which a monthly subscription for an individual costs $4.99. One of the standout observations when testing Fantastical is how easy it is to work in the app without having to constantly switch to other tools. For example, the conference call integration allows you to add a Zoom link to an event you create – without leaving the app.
Your tasks are organized under the umbrella of calendar sets. Toggle different calendars on or off to see the related tasks to work on next. You can even integrate ToDoist tasks to bring everything together in one place. The scheduling feature also helps cut out extra apps like Doodle and Calendly by allowing others to see your availability and request meetings accordingly. While the subscription model – which can be billed annually for a discount – does push commitment to continue using Fantastical, the app seeks to offer enough features to keep you satisfied – and organized.
3. TickTick - Tiered
TickTick found its way onto the best iOS list for a few reasons, including its availability on not only iPhone and iPad, but Mac and Apple Watch. TickTick has many of the features highlighted in other apps on this list, but its usability and unique features like a separate habits tracker make it deserving of a place on this list.
You could use features on other apps to create habits and even set them to recurring, but in TickTick, the separate designation comes with some useful tools. In particular, when you’re trying to establish cumulative habits like “drink 100 ounces of water a day” or “walk 10,000 steps,” you’re typically not spending a few hours getting all your steps in or drinking all your water in one sitting. With TickTick, you can swipe left on a habit to complete a one-time check-in with your current progress to keep you motivated until you’ve reached your habit goal.
Your tasks in TickTick are organized through folders and lists with multiple views to see what’s coming up for your day – and week. You can utilize links in tasks to jump to related lists, projects, or tasks and save time on navigating the views. The premium version is $27.99 billed annually and unlocks more features, like third-party calendar subscriptions to help you keep up with company calendars or friends’ calendars.
4. ClickUp - Tiered
ClickUp has been around since 2017, building new features into the app ever since. It offers useful calendar and planning tools, but also features several other useful tools – like document creation to hold relevant info related to projects.
Tasks are organized within spaces – which can be designated as different teams or as projects – with folders nested within to list tasks and subtasks. Some other standout features worth highlighting include the 15+ views, ranging from a basic calendar view to a mind map view.
You can also collaborate with team members in the app with the whiteboard to brainstorm before turning thoughts into projects and tasks. The free forever tier comes with useful features like time tracking, collaborative docs, and unlimited tasks/members. If you want more storage space or to dive deeper into your productivity with analytics, you’ll need to go to at least the next tier, which is $5 per month per team member.
5. Clockwise - Tiered
We’re including Clockwise in the iOS section, but it can work on an Android operating system, too. Several of the apps reviewed in this article offer multiple layers of features so you can make the most of the tool, but few offer intelligent tools to help you get the most out of your calendar. Clockwise uses your preferences to find the best times for meetings, deliver updates on team bandwidth, and block off periods you can dedicate to getting real work done.
Clockwise shines as a team tool, but individual users shouldn’t discount it. Even without the whole team on board, your focus time and meetings with others can be organized to keep you on track to meet your goals. There are integrations with Slack, Zoom, and Asana, along with features like lunch holds, travel time, and personal calendar syncing to ease friction in your day-to-day.
There’s a free version to help you and your team transition into the platform before jumping into the next plan tier, which starts at $6.75 a month and is billed annually.
There is a planner app for everyone, whether you feel like a novice or a black-diamond-Mount-Everest expert. While there’s willpower involved to coax out your inner planner, this list of apps offers a wide range of features to meet your preferred working style, fit in your budget, and work with your operating system of choice. Your new planner app – or the feedback request for a new feature on your current app – is just a click away.
Next up, read about some excellent time blocking apps!