Need Advice for To-Do Apps, Life Management Tools for Couples
November 5, 2016 10:05 PM   Subscribe

My husband has a new, demanding job, and is forgetting a lot of stuff and not communicating well with me. We at least need a shared calendar and to-do list for Android, but other ideas are welcome, too.

Ok, my husband has recently started working as a kitchen manager at a restaurant. This is his first management position and he was accelerated into the job, so he's still learning/getting used to a lot. He's also working 10-12 hour days 5-6 days a week. And if you have no idea what a kitchen manager does, in addition to managing the restaurant and staff he has inventory and making sure all the right stuff gets ordered so there is food to cook.

Meanwhile I'm disabled/self-employed and stuck at home with no transportation so I can't run errands or manage a lot of stuff. He's been forgetting things a lot (like forgetting to fill the car with gas and running out while driving to work!) and not communicating things to me. And it's difficult for me to try to communicate to him things he needs to do or we need to discuss when we only see each other a brief time every day.

So I'm trying to find some kind of solution, which I feel is going to involve a shared app where I can make lists for him of things to do, and we can send each other notes and schedule events. We both need to see his constantly changing work schedule. He needs to be able to make a note of something for me like "car needs new tire" so I can take that into consideration when paying bills/budgeting.

Speaking of budgets, we have used You Need a Budget in the past, but stopped when our finances got ALL screwed up, so I intend to start using it again. But he's expressed some reluctance to use it on his end, because it's one more thing to manage, since you have to enter transactions manually. Thoughts on that welcome, although I suspect it will end with me managing and entering everything.

As for the to-do app, what I really need is something user friendly. While I could come up with a system that would work in Google Calendar, it would probably be a little intimidating for him to use as well. So simple is better. He isn't great at tech and really reaches for pen and paper most naturally. Some googling around has led me to Wunderlist and Remember the Milk, so if anyone has tried those, I'd appreciate feedback. It looks like both of them may need the Paid version to get full functionality and sharing? I know Evernote is popular, but seems potentially way more confusing? Bonus would be an all-in-one app that includes a Calendar instead of having to import/export to Google Calendar.

I guess lastly I'm open to suggestions for managing a brain that is just too full of crap or ways I could help him feel less overwhelmed? One of the things I want to avoid with this is just him feeling like I'm constantly bugging him with things to do or placing more demands on him, but at the same time someone needs to be tracking crap and there are some things I can't do, either through lack of leaving the house or because I physically can't. And maybe if there's an app it will less like "oh good, you're home, now we need to address all these things, and can you do xyz."
posted by threeturtles to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried using google keep? You can make lists and share and also set reiminders.
posted by oneear at 10:12 PM on November 5, 2016

One thing about sharing features - you can just have both of you logged into the same account on your phone. At least that's what me and my hubby do. We use ToDoist and at first I tried to use the sharing/assigning features but it was too complicated so I just logged his phone into my account. Now if I add something to the shopping list, it automatically shows up on his phone and there's nothing else he or I need to do. We also have a shared Google account for any online accounts, correspondence & calendar items that we both need access to.

If this were me (and I am actually kind of in a double-reverse situation: I'm the one with the job that keeps me busy but I'm also the one managing the finances & such), I would try to keep things simple and use each others' strengths. Since you're at home and you can easily make these updates, don't expect him to mess around too much with these apps or find just the right one - just have him text you. As soon as he finds something out, just text it. "I'm working 10-6 tomorrow" - ok I will update the calendar (that will automatically show up on his phone cause you're both logged into the same account). "Car needs new tire/gas/whatever" - ok, I will budget for it and give you a to-do item in your app. Taking the burden of updating the apps himself, so he can concentrate on doing the tasks as assigned, to leverage what he can bring to the table - he has to get into the habit of checking his to-do's at set times during the day - before heading out in the morning, on lunch break, before heading home, to make sure stuff is getting done. Getting into the habit of using a to-do app might also help him manage his work stuff.

On the topic of automating/managing financial stuff-
I also really like ToDoist for managing our bills - I have each of our bills with their recurring due dates along with pay days, and then I check them off as I pay them or as they get automatically withdrawn. This way I know exactly what's coming out between now and next payday and how much money we will need til then. I also set up direct deposit to automatically divide up & put away rent money, bills, saving, and spending amounts. I give each of us a set amount of spending money into our accounts every Friday and then I text hubby to let him know how much he has for the week (because he's not one to look at an app either).

I know YNAB is a fav around here, but I really like Mint because it's flexible and everything is automated.
posted by bleep at 10:52 PM on November 5, 2016

Oh and you can use ToDoist like a calendar too - it just doesn't display in a grid.
posted by bleep at 11:03 PM on November 5, 2016

Ok, gonna have to check out ToDoist too then. I did use Mint before YNAB but I dunno, at the time it wasn't working well, but I think that's when we had two bank accounts and it was confusing. I think I need YNAB for discipline.

Found this article which has been among the most informative in case anyone else is looking for info. I'm leaning towards going ahead with Wunderlist, since it seems to give the most for free so I can see if it works.
posted by threeturtles at 11:16 PM on November 5, 2016

Try Trello - it's a great simple to do app, and has an add-on that lets you put a date on tasks and have them show up on your Google Calendar.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:56 AM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Speaking of budgets, we have used You Need a Budget in the past, but stopped when our finances got ALL screwed up, so I intend to start using it again. But he's expressed some reluctance to use it on his end, because it's one more thing to manage, since you have to enter transactions manually. Thoughts on that welcome, although I suspect it will end with me managing and entering everything.
If you really liked YNAB for how it helped you discipline your finances but manual transactions are a real bear, have you heard about their latest version, which is web based? They haven't done the best job at transitioning but I can attest that it is overall functional and improving; I've been using it for almost a year now. It's a subscription at $5 a month or $50 a year (but since you probably have YNAB4 you can get a 10% discount), which may turn you off. However, one thing the subscription allows them to do is support direct imports for most banks and credit cards. My husband, who didn't want to use YNAB4 because of manual entry, has taken to using the web based version solely because of the direct imports. Their free trial is 34 days long so you'd be able to give it a fair evaluation to see if the price is worth it; since you're familiar with the old YNAB, it would be pretty easy to evaluate the new version in that time.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:46 AM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooo, no, I haven't seen anything about the new YNAB. I have the desktop version through steam. I will definitely have to consider it.
posted by threeturtles at 1:22 AM on November 6, 2016

Yep, nYNAB (new YNAB) has direct import.

I came here to suggest Workflowy, my favorite list-making/to do app. The reason I love it is because it is so dead simple. It allows you to make outline-style infinitely-expanding lists. You can also hashtag lists (so, taks that are Hubby's responsibility can be tagged with his name), search, hotline, make notes, drill down on each individual list or item and even share and collaborate on lists. I keep EVERYTHING in Workflowy from my grocery list to long-term project goals. I like it because large projects can be broken down into their individual componants.
posted by Brittanie at 2:28 AM on November 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

What about old-fashioned receipt logging? Taking the time to log every purchase into an app is very annoying, and your husband already sounds incredibly busy. Can you ask him save receipts and then give them to you to log into whatever app you want?
posted by pintapicasso at 3:55 AM on November 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've tried a lot of the popular to-do lists, and settled on TickTick. It's not shiny and full of whiz-bang magic features meant to amaze you, but that has turned out to be a good thing. It does everything I need it to do, and doesn't constantly ask me to embrace its new capabilities and figure out how to integrate them into my routines. The interface is clean and stable. It just works.
posted by jon1270 at 4:25 AM on November 6, 2016

My husband and I use Wunderlist for our to do list and you can definitely use the sharing features in the free version. We share lists, assign tasks to each other and set deadlines. It's pretty simple but that's what I like about it.

We also have a shared Google calendar, also pretty simple. No integration between the two but I don't mind - we use the calendar for events and Wunderlist for deadlines.
posted by cpatterson at 4:32 AM on November 6, 2016

I was one of the worst critics of the new YNAB, but, they've really cleaned it up in the last year and it's awesome now. The direct import feature is fantastic and I've never had any problems with it. Recently they've added a Reports feature as well, which they used to have in YNAB 4 but needed time to get it working in the new YNAB. There is also a Chrome extension where you can add some add-ons if you want that. It slows the web app up a bit, but it gives you more options. One of the best features of the new YNAB is how it handles credit cards (see Jesse's tutorial on that at their website). No more red arrows. You just start fresh each month if you end up in the red in any given category. You can check out some of their videos on YouTube.

I also came in to suggest Any.Do, which has a feature where you can review everything you have to do for the day, and you can choose to do it, or put it off for X amount of time and the app will remind you again at the time you specify. It also offers shared lists and allows you to break up the lists into "Household" or "Work" or whatever you want. Any.Do is $24/year, but to me it's worth it. I like it better than Wunderlist, which I've tried using on and off for years. Any.Do has a really user-friendly interface that makes your list seem doable. I think Wunderlist isn't automated enough for me. If it's not in my face, I won't do it. I have much more success with this than Any.Do. I also love its snooze feature.

Edited to add: Any.Do also has Any.Do Cal, which (I believe) syncs with Google Calendar.
posted by onecircleaday at 7:51 AM on November 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just an organizational comment about Remember the Milk, from a long-time (former) user, since you've asked. They recently rolled out a massive overhaul, but this followed about five years (no kidding) of feature freeze, and the rate they're charging customers for this new version is (IMO) a really egregious (and also uncompetitively high) increase.
posted by WCityMike at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2016

You might check out Cozi, which is designed to coordinate calendars and lists for couples and families. No budgeting functionality, but easy to use and fairly robust, plus you can use it both as an app and on the web.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 9:53 AM on November 6, 2016

We just use google calendars and gmail. We've shared our calendars so everything I put into mine appears on his and vice versa, and we intermittently share to do lists when we need to.

The shared calendar works really well - we've used that method for years, and we both have a lot of commitments to keep track of. Because it's a google calendar, everything appears on our main phone calendars, so there's no need to log into different apps to see things. It's all just there.
posted by tinkletown at 1:13 PM on November 6, 2016

Asana is an online tool that includes both a to-do list and a calendar.
posted by ramenopres at 2:50 PM on November 6, 2016

Now I'm looking at Cozi, which does do kinda what I want, which is a combo calendar to-do list app for sharing. But it's not as slick as Wunderlist and harder to organize. So....yeah dunno. I may try both for a while and see how it goes.
posted by threeturtles at 3:25 PM on November 6, 2016

So, ok, Cozi is actually exactly what I want. It's primarily a calendar, where I can input different people's schedules. Some for one person, some for another person, some for both. And then what you put on the To-do list shows up on the calendar as well. And the app has ways to comment back and forth on items and send messages to each other, which would be useful. I like that it's all contained in one app instead of multiples because again, I have to convince my husband to use it.

But the interface kinda sucks. And the To-do list items have very little way to modify them, especially compared to Wunderlist. One they are entered if you want to move them to a different list, for example, you have to just delete it and recreate it in the new place as far as I can tell.

So now I'm looking at integrating Wunderlist, which I really like, into various calendar apps. And Wunderlist itself doesn't lend itself to adding a work schedule, unless you enter each day individually.
posted by threeturtles at 5:19 PM on November 6, 2016

We started out with a shared Google Calendar, but weren't updating it consistently. For a few years now, we've been using a system that works really well for us. It's a huge paper calendar that we keep mounted on the fridge. We check and update it every morning and night, and I sometimes take a photo of it with my phone. Since you said your husband is a paper and pen kind of guy, consider a low-tech system. You can always high-tech it on your end by entering the calendar info into the app of your choice.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:32 PM on November 6, 2016

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