Switching to Things 3 has greatly simplified how I work. Whereas with OmniFocus, I worked out of a handful of custom perspectives, with Things I just work out of the built-in Today view. The Today view shows what’s on my calendar for the day followed by a list of everything with a start date or deadline of today or earlier. I’ve come to appreciate this much more than Omnifocus’s way of interleaving tasks and calendar appointments.
The Today View in Things is a big change from my carefully tailored (and fiddly) perspectives in OmniFocus, where I could also set times for both deadlines and defer dates. With OmniFocus, the only things on my list were things I could do at that very moment at that location. Things doesn’t account for start or due times, which means anything you have to do that day shows up, even if you can’t do it until later. In some ways, I appreciate having a clear picture of everything I need to do each day (something that actually made me leave Things 2 years ago). There’s no more forgetting to check the Forecast perspective, only to be blindsided by 5 tasks showing up right as I sit down to relax for the evening.
That being said, there are some things I really can’t do until later, and for that, Things has the This Evening section of the Today view. Unfortunately, there’s no way to set a task, like setting out the trash on Monday nights to appear in This Evening by default. However, I’ve found a clever workaround through the use of Keyboard Maestro and a handy Applescript. Each time Things activates on my Mac, Keyboard Maestro triggers the Applescript which scans for any tasks in Today tagged with Evening and moves them to This Evening. It’s so quick, I don’t even notice it running. The only downside is it only works on my Mac.
Note: When you create a recurring task Things creates the next instance of a recurring task and a separate template task, so if you want any changes to stick to the entire set of recurring tasks, make sure you’re applying them to the template task. Otherwise, your changes will only apply to the next instance.
With start dates, deadlines, and my evening script running automatically each time I open Things, my Today View is already in pretty good shape when I open the app each morning. From there, I tag my three most important tasks as “Top 3”. I find it’s a nice way to mentally set my priorities for the day. I also reevaluate whether any tasks should be removed from Today. I’ve been doing my best to move these tasks back to Anytime rather than setting arbitrary start dates in the future to keep my Today view from growing too unwieldy. Lastly, I take a few moments to rearrange my tasks into a rough order of when I plan to complete them throughout the day. This is something I couldn’t get from OmniFocus. From there, the rest of my day is spent completing tasks.
Interestingly enough, taking the complexity out of my task lists has led me to complete more, and I now regularly find myself browsing the Anytime view in search of additional tasks to fill out my day. It’s also led me to a tagging system that truly makes sense (something I struggled with with Omnifocus 3).
I use tags to filter my Today view down at various times of the day. For instance, I can easily filter my list to my Top 3 tasks for a quick priority check, or I can use tags to batch my tasks.
I have my tags broken up into 4 main groups, which Things display’s quite nicely at the top of the Today view:
- Area of Responsibility – I picked up this tip from Shawn Blanc’s All the Things course at The Sweet Setup. It seems a little redundant to recreate your Areas as tags, but it’s actually quite handy to be able to sort your Today view by Area of Responsibility. Each of my areas gets tagged with its respective area tag causing any task within an area to automatically inherit its area tag.
- Location – These are my traditional GTD contexts (e.g. Anywhere, Home, Work, Errands). Unfortunately filtering by multiple tags is additive in Things, so these don’t completely replace my custom perspectives in OmniFocus, but they come close enough.
- When – This is where my Evening tag mentioned above lives. I’ve also added Morning and Afternoon tags. This comes in handy on busier days when I want to break up my Today list into more than just Today and This Evening. I have my fingers crossed Cultured Code might consider allowing users to break up their Today view in the future, but for now this works.
- Action – This is where batching comes in. I have tags for various activities I do regularly (email, research, chores, etc.) As someone who tries to avoid keeping my email client open all day, being able to work through all my email related tasks at once is quite handy.
Lastly, I have 3 straggler tags that don’t fall within any group. This includes the Top 3 tag I mentioned earlier, a goal tag for tagging any tasks related to my yearly goals, and a Waiting tag.
With regards to tasks I’m waiting on, Things doesn’t offer stalled tags like OmniFocus, and I still haven’t quite worked out how best to handle waiting for tasks with Things. Setting a task to Someday with a deadline creates a really nice visual distinction by graying out the task’s checkbox while still reminding me to follow up on the task, but it goes against my rule of setting arbitrary deadlines. For now, I’ve gone with the lesser of two evils, and have been setting an arbitrary start date as a reminder to follow up on the task.
Again, Things 3 has made me once again realize how easy it is to overcomplicate things over time. Sometimes simpler is actually better.
6 thoughts on “Getting Things Done with Things 3”
Thanks! This was really helpful. I was missing certain things (like removing the grouping from Today so I could actually re-order my To Dos) and the Evening script. I was starting to reconsider OmniFocus. You saved me from overcomplexity!
Thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad you found the post helpful. I still have days where I reconsider Omnifocus, but because Things is such a joy to use and so simple, it’s my daily reminder that I just don’t need all the extra bells and whistles to complicate my life.
Hi Andrea, Great post. Do you recommend Shawn Blanc’s course on Things 3?
I’m generally a big fan of Shawn Blanc and the Sweet Setup. However, I, personally, didn’t get much out of the course. This of course could be due to the fact that I’ve been using GTD for years and started my digital task management journey many moons ago with Things 2. The biggest takeaway from the course I got was the tip I mentioned in the post about tagging your areas of responsibility with a corresponding tag.
Thanks for stopping by!
I used OF for 5 years and I find Things 3 so refreshing. As far as stalled tags and projects, I found this script to be really handy. It goes through your projects and tags them as “Requires Planning” if they don’t have at least 1 task. Works great during the Weekly Review to catch those projects missing a next action.
I find myself shying away from the waiting for tag and being in favor of creating a Follow Up: task. I wrote a quick text expander snippet that makes it for me and I quickly defer it to a day that makes sense for me. For example, if I asked a team mate to do something for me, I will defer it for 1 day or if I ordered something from Amazon I’d defer it for 2-3 days. It makes me feel more in control of my tasks.
Great post! Thank you for sharing your Things experience
Thanks for stopping by. I also find Things refreshing compared to my OF days.
As far as stalled projects, particularly those I’m waiting for, if a task needs to be followed up on a particular day I will add a defer date, but otherwise I just review any tasks I’m waiting for as part of my weekly review on Fridays using a link that takes me directly to tasks tagged with “Waiting”.