- Easily organize your projects and actions - Includes default lists like "Someday" and "Today"
- Interface can feel bulky sometimes
- The price can be a tad expensive
The Mac platform is no stranger to applications that handle your To-Do lists. Apps like iCal and Mail “which ship with every Mac” come with built in To-Do list features. A common misconception is that using these types of To-Do lists are the easiest way to go, however there is a much more useful way to organize your life and Get Things Done. Introducing Things: A way of getting your stuff done with style.
Getting Things Done
Let’s start off with a quick overview of David Allen’s system of Getting Things Done. It all starts with the idea of getting everything out of your head, and onto paper. This way, you don’t have to worry about holding every little detail in your head, which in turn will give you less stress. Once you’ve downloaded the information into one easily accessible source, you now can organize your information into projects and assign contexts.
What are projects and contexts? Projects are tasks that require multiple steps. For instance: The task of Painting the garage requires you to get paint, then Organize the garage for painting, then after that - Start painting the first coat. The project is called “Paint the garage” while the actions (the steps or to-dos associated with this project) are “get paint” and such.
Contexts are the tactile and physical aspects of your projects and actions. Every project and action should have a context. Organizing your projects by context is one of Getting Things Done or GTD‘s greatest features. Using the same example, a couple of contexts for this project might be Home or Errands.
The developers of Things certainly made a huge effort on making the app’s interface as streamlined and as beautiful as possible. Using the iTunes-like sidebar along with the iPhoto-like toolbar at the bottom makes Things blend right in with your iLife apps. The interface is divided into 2 parts. The first part “on the left” is used for navigation, while the second part “on the right” is where you view and edit all of your actions.
At the very top of the sidebar you’ll notice it says collect, followed by an item called the Inbox. The inbox is where you download all of the information from your head and into Things. Don’t worry about projects or contexts just yet. You just get it out and into the Inbox. Clicking the “New” toolbar item or pressing Command + N makes a new action.
Once you’ve done that, double click on an action to see its details. At the top, next to the check box is where the title of the action is located. Below that is a section for your contexts “in the form of tags” and under that is where you can add any notes that are associated with this action. At the bottom of the action is where you can assign a due date as well as a spot where you can tell Things when to move this action into the “Today” section (more on that later).
Below the Inbox in the sidebar is the section entitled “Focus”. This is where Things really shines. The “Focus” section is divided into 5 parts:
The first part is called “Today”. In “Today”, Things allows you to create your own “agenda” for the day by devoting a special list for just the items that you want or need to do today.
Below that is the “Next” part. Here is where Things lets you review your up-coming projects and actions. (The screenshot above is of the “Next” part.) Please note that items in either the “Scheduled” or “Someday” lists will not be shown in the “Next” list.
Under that is the “Scheduled” part. If you ever want Things to remind you about a certain project or action in the future, this is the place to go. Drag an item into the Scheduled list to assign a day when you want Things to remind you to review a certain project or action.
Beneath the “Scheduled” list is the “Someday” list. If you ever have an action or project that you want to do someday, but can’t really decide on a certain time to review or actually do it, put it in the “Someday” list.
Finally, in the Focus section we have the “Projects” list. Simply put – it displays all of your projects including the non-active ones. Non-active in this case means a project that has been moved into the “Someday” list or is at least not pressed to be completed. Below this, Things automatically displays your active projects for easy navigation.
The next section is called “Areas” or Areas of Responsibility. Think of these as folders for your projects. Using the example above, one might create an area called “Garage” and put the “Paint the Garage” project inside it. It’s just another way of organizing your projects and actions.
The bottom of the sidebar is home to two items:
The “Logbook” is where Things puts all of your completed items. You can tell things to log completed items automatically, or manually do it by hitting the proper toolbar item.
The Trash should be the most recognizable and understandable element of the sidebar. Think of it as the trash in your dock. If you delete an item, it will go inside the trash. When you want to free up space, control click it and choose empty trash.
The Action Toolbar
This toolbar is found in the main content view at the bottom. The “New” and “Edit” toolbar items should be self explanatory.
The “Today” toolbar item adds the currently selected action or project to your “Today” list.
The “File” toolbar item brings down a sheet that allows you to move the currently selected action(s) into one of your projects, schedule it for later review, add it to the “Someday” list, or add it to one of your “Areas of Responsibility”. It pretty much allows you to do everything without dragging and dropping an item.
The “Quick Entry” toolbar item brings up the quick entry box (talked about later on).
The “Tags” toolbar item brings up a dashboard that allows you to organize your tags aka “Contexts”. Here you can nest contexts for instance: Mac > Online > Blog.
The Quick Entry Box
Assigned to a shortcut key value that you can customize in Things’s preferences, you can bring up this box to quickly add an action into your inbox from any application “as long as Things is already open”. Simply fill it out and hit save.
A Quick Walkthrough Tutorial
Let’s walk through an example of how to use Things starting from when you first download the app to using it in your daily life.
You’ve downloaded Things, and you’re ready to embark on your journey through stress-free productivity! You are now ready to pour all of your current projects and ideas into Things to fill up your empty inbox.
Choose Inbox at the top of the sidebar and press Command + N to create a new item. Once you’ve filled out the title, hit tab to move on to adding tags aka contexts. Already created contexts autocomplete for quicker item creation. If the default contexts don’t suffice, just enter a new one and hit return. Feel free to add a due date, however the best thing to do right now, is to get everything out of your head and onto “paper” as it were.
When you’re finished putting everything in the Inbox, think about which actions are related. If there is more than one step to an action, it’s now time to turn it into a project. Choose the New Project button in the bottom toolbar. It’s the second one in from the left that looks like a book in case you get confused with the New Action button to the left of it. Creating a new project is just like creating a new action. The only differences is that you can drag, add or create your your actions inside of them.
Now that Things has all of your information organized into projects, it’s time to use Things’s Focus lists to help you get these items done.
Click on any action or project and choose the Today toolbar item at the bottom. That item has now been added to your agenda for today. Another way to have Things automatically do this for you is to schedule an event to be reviewed. To do this, drag an item onto the Scheduled list in the sidebar. Choose a date or a length of time and Things will move that event into Today when it is time to do so.
There are always those tasks that you would like to do, but don’t really need to finish them at a certain time or feel like doing them now. Things has a list for this too called Someday. Just drag your actions and projects into this list, and you will never be bothered about them unless you decide to view this list.
What happens every day
Everything is added and organized, so what do you have to do now? Click on the Next list in the sidebar. This is where you’ll usually spend most of your time. Organized by project, Things automatically puts your up-and-coming items in this list for you. All you have to do is check it, and check off your tasks.
Once you’ve completed a task, click the check box to the left of completed task or project causing Things to gray it out. When you want to clear out all of your competed items, click the Log Completed toolbar item at the bottom to clean them out and put them in the Log Book located in the bottom left-hand corner of Things’s main window.
Performance and Other Information
Things is required to be run on a system with Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later. Although speed will vary depending on your processing power and memory storage capacity, Things runs extremely quickly even with a very large and extensive library. Things has just reached the magic 1.0 mark releasing it from beta just recently at MacWorld `09. I’ve barely run into any bugs or hitches when using Things, and if there were any, they weren’t huge – a few view refreshing problems, but none that could be fixed by clicking again.
I’ve found Things to be very good at what it does. There isn’t any extra features or fluff that doesn’t really need to be there.
One might compare Things to an app like OmniFocus. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both apps are based on the GTD system, but go about them in different ways. Things is more visual, while OmniFocus is more list-oriented.
Price and Availability
Things is available at http://culturedcode.com/things/ for the price of $49.95 (USD). Be sure to check out Things’s product page for more details.