App of the Week: One Big Thing – the next generation of to-do lists

You probably remember One Big Thing from a few weeks ago when MobileSyrup covered it for the first time. The app was developed by Nick Burka, the co-founder of the Canadian design company silverorange.

Since the app’s launch last month, I haven’t stopped using it. It’s an incredibly simple concept that puts your most important task at the forefront of your phone screen, and therefore, your mind.

In the middle of the screen, users see what resembles a large sticky note with a prompt to type the most important task into that space. Flanking it are three smaller sticky-note-like squares for the user’s less important daily tasks.

Nick Burka is the brother of a rather famous influence in the tech world, Daniel Burka. Daniel is the former creative director for the website Digg and is currently a design partner at Google Ventures.

one big thing

This app initially caught my eye because I’m a list person. I wake up…and make a to-do list. I get to work…and I make a to-do list. I get home, and you guessed it, I make a to-do list. I live to check boxes and cross out sentences on a 6 cm by 4 cm notepad.

However, I eventually realized that I wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful by making lists. I was simply tricking my brain into thinking I was being productive, when in reality I’d fill my notebooks with miniature sub-tasks that felt good to cross off, but didn’t feel nearly as good when I realized how much more I still had to do.

Since using One Big Thing, I’ve trained my brain to stay focused on the most important thing I need to accomplish on any given day, instead of getting distracted by minor tasks. Since the team at MobileSyrup discovered the app last month I’ve been at my most productive. While it requires some discipline, it’s an exercise in human efficiency that’s worth taking on if you’re up to it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the One Big Thing I need to do today.

One Big Thing is available for free on iOS, but unfortunately the app hasn’t made its way to Android. Users can upgrade to a version that includes stickers and themes for $6.99.