Productivity Secrets

My Top 5 Free Goal Setting Tools

I learned the hard way to use goal setting tools to set and achieve personal and organizational goals. I jumped into the fire as a young lieutenant in the Air Force with no prior management experience. I was in charge of a section with 31 people. I managed to do okay. Later, I was promoted and took on bigger and bigger assignments with more responsibilities.

Based on my experience and a survey of users, these are the tools I think are best for setting and managing goals. 

  1. Google Keep
  2. Microsoft To Do
  3. Trello
  4. Evernote
  5. Todoist

They are: 

  • easy to learn, 
  • simple to use,  
  • versatile, 
  • and effortless to organize and track goal activities.

They are also synchronized across multiple devices and work with IOS, Android, and Windows.

Here is a table comparing features. For the tools with paid versions, the free version has more than enough features as a goal-setting tool.

FeaturesKeepTo DoTrelloEvernoteTodoist
PriceFREEFREEFree & PaidFree & PaidFree & Paid
CollaborationYESYESYESYESYES
SynchronizeYESYESYESYESYES
Ease of UseEasyEasyModerateModerateModerate
Cloud VersionYESYESYESYESYES
Desktop VersionNOYESNOYESNO

Google Keep

My personal choice is Google Keep because it is simple, easy to set up, and integrates with Google Drive features like calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and slides. It also has reminders that notify you on desktop and mobile devices.

I made a video showing how I use Google Keep as a goal planning tool. My goal planning and managing methods include a spreadsheet template for laying out the action steps to complete goals over 12 weeks. 

Links From the Video

Blank 12-week Goal Action Plan

Example 12-week Goal Action Plan

Google Keep Tutorial Videos

I was inspired to use 12-week planning chunks by the book “12-Week Year”. You don’t need to read the book to use it, though. 

Twelve weeks is a doable period to focus intently on a project without getting discouraged or impatient. Plus, you can accomplish a lot in 12 weeks, and you can see good progress.

Keep is set up with a panel on the left-hand side for organizing notes. You can access the “Labels” function to make new tabs that contain notes with a matching Label. 

When you create a new note, you can set it up with a title, items below the title with checkboxes, and images above the title. You can also add a link by copying a URL and pasting it in the note. 

After you add a link, a button panel appears below the note. You can click on the button to open the URL. You can also clean up your note by deleting the URL, and the button remains.

Google Keep integrates with the other tools, and it is available as an app for Apple and Android devices. Google provides three times more free storage and charges less than half what Microsoft charges for extra storage.

Microsoft To Do

This tool is more useful if you already use Microsoft 365 productivity tools like One Drive, Excel, Word, OneNote, Powerpoint, and calendar. If you use these Microsoft tools, then I recommend this over the Google Keep option.

Links From the Video

To Do Tutorial 1

To Do Tutorial 2

How to Write an Action Plan for Your Goals

Contact Me

To Do is more flexible than Keep and has more features. It does everything Keep does and a little more. 

Microsoft To Do has a side panel for navigating. You can add folders for your goal list and goal actions. The folders can have tasks, and each task can have subtasks.

A “My Day” folder presents tasks from your folders to choose from for your daily actions. You can “star” essential items, and they show up on an “Important” list.

Precisely like Google Keep, the Microsoft To Do integrates with the other tools, has reminders, and synchronizes across devices with Apple and Android apps.

Microsoft To Do beats Keep in one thing — a desktop app you can install on Windows and Mac computers. Google has no desktop app. 

Microsoft To Do Link

Trello

If you will be collaborating with others and don’t mind a longer learning curve, Trello is your best bet. They also have a Goal Template with instructions that you can use.

Trello Board
Kanban Style Template

This tool is potent if you are pursuing objectives as a team. In that case, I recommend Trello over Google Keep and Microsoft To Do because Trello specializes in team features. However, the free version has some limitations for teams, and the Business version is $9.99 per month per user to remove the restrictions.

The real tradeoff with using Trello is that it’s much more complicated than Keep or To Do.

Trello works by setting up boards and then filling them with cards containing all the information you need to plan and execute goal actions. It’s a supersized souped-up version of Keep.

Related: How to Set Up a Kanban Board in 3 Easy Steps

Evernote

Evernote is another tool that is good for your individual goals and also good for collaborating with team members to achieve goals. 

Evernote is available on the web, and there are desktop and mobile device apps you can download and install.

You organize your goals by making notebooks and adding notes. Evernote has some templates that you might use like an Eisenhower Matrix (to prioritize tasks), calendars, schedules, and goal tracking.

You can also design your tables, add colors, and make them suit your needs. 

Here is a video that gives the basics of Evernote. It begins at 2:11.

Todoist

This video shows how to use the board format. You can use that or you can use a list format.

The setup is brief. Create projects in folders that you can color-code to help you distinguish among them. Add tasks to your projects with as much detail as necessary. You can add remarks, deadlines, priority hierarchies, and other facts.

You can break tasks down into subtasks. Make subtasks, the same as any other task. Then you drag and drop it below the parent task. You can also easily separate subtasks from parent tasks.

The Final Word About Goal Setting Tools

It’s best to keep your goal setting and the way you organize your work simple. That way, you spend more time being productive. Try these out and use the one you like best.

I hope you have much success in your goal-setting and your life.