World's Smartest To-Do List

March 30, 2021

That feeling when you’ve done a good days work is incredibly rewarding – and elusive. What does it take to get there? For me, it’s a combination of 1) limited distractions, 2) having the right tools for the job, and 3) breaking the work up into small pieces so that they can be knocked them off the list one by one. Airtable has given me a huge boost on that third point. It has a combination of very useful organizational features that make it ideal for tracking tasks in a to-do-list format.

What should a to-do list do?

Obviously, it shows a list of tasks that you need to complete. But a good to-do list (or project management system) also helps you prioritize/categorize tasks, rewards you for your accomplishments, keeps good records for you, and presents a manageable workload. Airtable is an excellent tool for this. Below, I’ll show you how to set up a to-do list in Airtable.

Prioritize and Categorize

I like to use one single-select field to categorize tasks into common buckets, “Category,” and one date field to prioritize by urgency, “Due Date.” One of the most useful categories I use is one which highlights everything that requires my business partner to make a decision. When we have a meeting, I reference that list.

I use a category called “Floating” if I want a tasks without a specific due date to stay at the top of my to do list, but a task from any category goes to the top if it’s got a due date. What buckets you use and how you prioritize is probably the most personal part of your system, so I won’t dwell on it – there are literally a million different ways to approach it, and you can achieve quite a lot of creative schemes in Airtable by using the sort, group, and filter features.

In Airtable, you can employ views to sort, group and filter your data in different ways without changing the underlying information. The example below isn’t sorted or grouped yet. Try sorting it by clicking the “Sort” button -> “Pick a field to sort by” -> and choose “Due Date” or “Category”. You can try grouping as well by clicking the “Group” button and following the same steps.

This is a real embedded Airtable base – you can sort and group it by clicking below.


Airtable allows you to create checkbox fields, which are obviously essential for a to-do list. Something deep down inside me cries with joy every time I check a task completed. We can take the checkbox a huge step further, though, by making the tasks automatically disappear when their box is checked. Try using the filter button in the example above to filter out completed tasks by clicking “Filter” -> “Add filter” -> Where “Completed” is not checked. That way, any checkbox with a check will automatically disappear. Satisfying! Since this example is my To Do List, you can’t check the boxes, but to try that out you can copy the whole base and make it your own by clicking “Copy Base” at the bottom right of the window.


We want completed tasks to disappear from the main view, but they're still useful as records of our accomplishments. To see the completed tasks, there is a second view called “Completed View” which shows all of the completed tasks. This is really useful if you need to bill clients for specific work or report to a supervisor at the end of the week.

Now you’ve filtered the “Main View” and I already set up the “Completed View.” Any task marked as “Completed” will automatically disappear from the “Main View” and appear in the “Completed View”.

A bonus pro-tip is to have Airtable log when you check each box. You can use the record of when tasks were completed to sort your accomplishments by day. This is done by setting up a field to watch only when the checkbox was filled, showing you when you completed each task. Then you can group tasks by date completed to see your accomplishments over time. I already set that up in the example but to do it from scratch, create a new field in the "Completed View" and choose “Last modified time” as the field type.

Name the field, then select “Specific Fields” in the setup dialogue and choose the “Completed” field. Now it will watch that field and display the last date it was checked or unchecked.

The manageable workload

It’s nice to be able to dump anything you think of into a to-do list, but I really don’t need to be bogged down by what I have to do next week or next month when I’m trying to be productive today. By using a dynamic filter in Airtable, you can add a year’s worth of tasks, but only show the ones that are due this week. This is a little more advanced, because it uses a formula. You can copy the formula below; just make sure that if you change the name of the “Due Date” field, you edit the text inside the curly brackets to match it. To add the formula, create a new field, and select the “Formula” field type. Name the field, and paste the formula in. I named the field “Due more than a week out.”

IF({Due Date},IF(DATEADD({Due Date},-7,'day')>=TODAY(),'yes','no'),'no')

This formula is written to output ‘yes’ if the due date is more than 7 days away, and to output ‘no’ if the due date is less than 7 days away or if the due date is blank. With that field created, you can now add a filter that shows only items where “Due more than a week out” is “no.” With that filter, only your immediate tasks are shown. In the example, I already created a view called "Completed" that does the opposite, so that you can see all of the tasks that are more than a week out. With this system in place, tasks will automatically disappear from the "Completed" view and pop up in your "Main View" view when they are less than a week away.

Voila - we've created the ultimate to-do list. To copy my example, you get download it from the Airtable Universe here.