MinimaList Maximizes Productivity

Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Michael Zunenshine

“Less is more.”

The motto comes from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, modernist architect and final director of the Bauhaus school of art. Nearly a century later, its brief, blunt but powerful message still influences artists, designers, architects, and engineers.

Software engineers are no exception. MinimaList, by Davetech Co., Ltd. is solid proof that the brevity and bluntness of the “less is more” mentality is as powerful as ever.  

MinimaList is a to-do list making app, and not much more, but of course, that minimal description is fully intentional.

In today’s hyperactive society—where we’re constantly multitasking, where every chore must be navigated through thickets of distraction, where media and messaging bombard us from all sides, and where every event is saturated with data—having a to-do assistant like MinimaList is a breath of clean, undistracted and uncomplicated air.

Mies van der Rohe and his Bauhaus buddies understood that minimalism was both functional and beautiful—nay, that functionality was beauty. It helped guide people through the buildings they designed with minimal friction and near-zero wasted movements.

In other words, it got people to where they needed to go.

Likewise, MinimaList helps people do what they need to get done.

A MinimaList tour

MinimaList is an Apple app, designed for iPhones and iPads, although there are also versions for desktop as well as for Apple Watches.

Like a Bauhaus building, what better way to learn about an app than to do a walk through? Welcome to the MinimaList tour:

The app icon is a white square and a black tick. You open it to an off-white background and a clean, lean, sans-serif font displaying the app’s name and the “less is more” motto beneath it.

Right away you’re given instructions on how to begin: a series of swipes and taps with different actions.

Tasks and items

Pulling the screen down adds a new task. The name of a to-do item—like “clean yard”—can be as many characters or line breaks as you like, (which is helpful because one cannot add extra notes to tasks).

The ‘timer’ icon at the bottom right corner sets the day and time to receive alerts and choose a ‘repeat’ option like daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

When typing the name of a task, if you include any words related to a time or day, MinimaList intuitively detects this. For example, say you type in: “Call Grandma Friday,” the item will be listed with the coming Friday’s date. The app will automatically ask if you want a reminder and when.

At any point when viewing a list, you can swipe the item right to mark it as completed, or swipe it left to simply delete it. Double tapping the item brings up its details so you can make changes to the name or the scheduled alerts.

Staying focused

Tapping once on an item from a list brings up the focus mode. This is a clocking system that helps you keep distractions at bay to complete the task. There are three versions of clocking.

The Pomodoro timer—based on a time-management technique—counts 25-minute intervals for working, followed by a 5-minute break (you can change these durations in the settings).

The app also offers a stopwatch and a countdown timer option.


Swiping up from the main list page displays tasks that have been started—or focused as they call it—as well as completed tasks. From there, the ‘ellipsis’ icon at the bottom right corner brings up a Stats page. This page displays all the tasks completed as a bar graph by either week or year.


Designed for Apple devices, MinimaList works intuitively with Siri. Prompt Siri with a simple statement: “Add ‘buy dog food’ to [name of list] on MinimaList” and you’re prompted with a confirmation screen letting you know the item has been added.

Going premium

The freemium version of MinimaList is perfect for organizing personal day-to-day tasks. However, the app is tailored to be used as a work tool as well. Premium features let you sync lists across multiple devices, up to the cloud, or with the calendar app. For collaboration purposes, there is list sharing capabilities with other MinimaList users.

Regarding notifications, premium unlocks location-based reminders alongside the standard time-based ones. There’s also a feature called Today Widget, which is like a daily sum up of all to-do tasks for the day.

Other extras you get with premium include the TouchID functionality. There’s also Voice Input within the app to save your fingers the effort of typing (although it’s important to note that Voice Input works alongside Siri in the free version).

While the default colors, letters and sounds of MinimaList are quite perfect for most people who dig this app specifically for its minimalist aesthetic, premium also offers several customizable options including background themes, fonts, and ringtones.

What will it cost ya?

The cost of the premium tier is pretty reasonable at $0.49 per month, $5.99 per year starting with a 7-day trial, and a “lifetime VIP” price at $8.49. It seems well worth the small change especially if you’re using MinimaList for work purposes and/or for collaborating with colleagues.

It should be noted that while the app uses the word “premium” on the App Store it’s called “MinimaList Pro.”

Conclusion: Less does more

Clutter is an enemy of productivity as it can disturb one’s peace of mind—just look at the massive appeal of the KonMari “de-cluttering” phenomenon or popular science theories like Daniel J. Levitin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.

Likewise, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe understood that efficiency and productivity need not be built without a sense of artistry.

MinimaList combines the principles of calming aesthetics and simple functionality. A “to-do list” app may not seem like all that much to talk about. Maybe that’s the point: less to talk about, more getting things done, one task at a time.