How A Public To-do List Can Work For You If Nothing Else Does

Can sharing your to-do list with others give you the boost to actually tackle all the items on it? Complete, a new task list app, thinks that leveraging the power of the public is the best way to get things done.

The idea of declaring your resolutions publicly is nothing new. It can motivate you into avoiding a public failure. Complete leverages this fear and also introduces an encouraging community. It wants to be a social network of to-do lists, where your friends as well as strangers act as positive forces to keep you going.


“We found people typically need one of two things to accomplish each task: information, or motivation,” Complete’s founder Xander Schultz tells MakeUseOf. “You already write down the things you need to do somewhere. Usually it’s a list where the tasks stagnates and often becomes forgotten. Why not do it in a place where you can be pushed the information and support you need before you go search for it?”

What is Complete All About?

Complete is a bit like Facebook — in fact, you can even log in with your FB to add existing friends. Your dashboard is divided into three panes:

My Tasks, on the left, lists all your tasks. To add a task, click the “+”, name your task, add details and notes, and even a picture if you desire. You can set toggle it as a public or private task, and share it on Facebook and Twitter too. You’ll do wise to still prioritize your to-do list using popular productivity ideas.


Timeline, in the center, is an updating list of all the tasks shared by people you follow. Much like other social networks, you can Like a task or comment on it, and browse these likes and comments.

Explore, on the right, is a live stream of every task being created or finished across Complete. Since there aren’t a huge number of Complete users right now, it’s actually a fun way to see the community. If the number of users gets large, though, this could get annoying or unnecessary.

As a user, you are encouraged to post updates about your task. It might even be a small step, like a photo of you at the gym in your larger quest to lose weight. But it serves as a way to track your progress, and show the community that you are doing what you intended to. Not being able to track updates is a major problem with most to-do apps.


You will get notifications when someone interacts with your posts or comments.

Complete still has some features missing though, the biggest one being reminders. You can’t schedule a due-date for a task and get notifications about the impending deadline, which is a major miss.

Complete is available online and as an iPhone app.

What’s It Like to Use a Public To-Do List?

Initially, I was skeptical about the idea of making my to-do list public. It didn’t make sense why I would need that — and to be frank, it’s not something anyone “needs”. However, my experience showed that it does benefit.


I added a few tasks, went about my day, and checked Complete after a while. I found a few likes and comments. Surprise, surprise—I actually felt good! The acknowledgement by others that I’m doing something right did prove to be a motivator. It’s a little similar to gamifying your to-do list.

Complete also has a bot named Gini, currently in beta, which helps you out with suggestions for your tasks. It works sometimes, not always, but it’s a nice addition that doesn’t distract you.


It’s the community at Complete that makes the experience special, in a way. After all, you could even do this on Facebook or Twitter, so what do you need this app for? Schultz has a philosophical explanation for why the Complete community helps you feel good.

“I think that one of the big differentiators on our platform vs. others is vulnerability and honesty. On Facebook you post the best version of your past self. On Twitter you post your smartest thought. On Complete, you post who you want to be or what you want to do, beforehand. I think that creates a lot of empathy on the platform and that’s why you see this outpouring of positivity and support.”

Will You Actually Use a Public To-Do List for a Long Time?


While my initial experience with Complete was great, I found that I didn’t end up using it over a long time. That’s partly because I am less reliant on to-do lists now, but also partly because like most social networks, it doesn’t feel great unless you know a lot of people on it.

Maximilian Klein has previously experimented with the idea of a public to-do list for two years on his site He reckons that external stimulus is good, but in the end, productivity comes down to your inner will.

“External pressure can motivate you, but eventually the best motivator to transition to is intrinsic motivation,” Klein tells MakeUseOf. “However it may still have worth as for feedback on the quality of ideas, completely divorced from the notion of productivity.”

Klein updated his list less and less frequently. He thinks he failed because it was difficult to keep updating it easily as compared to a regular to-do app. He also had people complimenting and commenting on the idea of his to-do list as a whole, not individual items in the list, he says.


Even Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover, who was initially impressed with the idea of Complete, is updating his tasks less frequently now than he did at the beginning.

Schultz, naturally, is more optimistic about public task lists, especially when it comes to long-term goals with updates.

“I’m on month three of losing weight and I’ve really struggled to hit my goal. However, every time I update that task, I receive an outpouring support and advice on new strategies to tackle my challenge. I would push anyone who fears failure on a current public task to publish an update. There’s nothing to fear. We’ve all been there and, together, we’ll push each other to be better.”

Would You Use a Public To-Do List?

If I was still actively using to-do lists to manage my items, I could see myself using Complete more often. Especially for long-term habit goals, the app seems really useful as you can track progress and get the support you need — a few pats on the back go a long way in motivation for big targets.

But that’s just me. What about you? Would you use a public to-do list? Why or why not?

Image Credits: Melinda Fawver /, successtiming / Pixabay, bohed / Pixabay, Ivan Walsh / Flickr

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