Prioritizing Things in Things 3

emma-matthews-1296167-unsplash.jpgIn recent weeks, I’ve developed a new appreciation for Cultured Code’s reluctance to add new features to Things 3 whenever someone requests them. Like going back to read Getting Things Done after you’ve been practicing it for a while, the more I use Things, the more I find myself understanding Cultured Code’s design on a deeper level. When used to it’s fullest, Things 3’s design almost tricks you into prioritizing your tasks without realizing it at least it did for me. Because it wasn’t obvious to me until recently, I wanted to share a bit about how I use Things each and every day to prioritize my tasks.

The Inbox

Every morning, I begin by processing my Inbox, which happens to be the first section of the app in the sidebar. Things that pop into my head as well as a few automated tasks usually make their way here every day.


Moving down the sidebar to the next section, I start processing my Today list. I used to throw anything I hoped to do on this list, but I’m more judicious than ever about this list now. Only things I realistically need to do today stay Today list. Any tasks that I’m just hoping to get to get removed. Being ruthless about what appears in Today means that I can actually complete everything on the list most days, and I can go to bed feeling accomplished rather than defeated by the uncompleted tasks I didn’t get to.

Anytime (Maybe)

If, and only if, I complete everything in the Today list and I’m still in the mood to keep working, I’ll move down to the Anytime view. Once again, the key is to be strategic about what’s in Anytime. Things I would like to do but probably won’t have time to tackle anytime soon aren’t Anytime tasks. Only things I’ve committed to doing and can actually start right away appear in Anytime. Because I tag my tasks by location,I can quickly narrow down the Anytime list based on where I’m at, and know that anything being shown can be worked on right that moment. By ordering my areas and projects in order of priority, I also know the first item on the list is usually the most important which takes reduces any need to shop for tasks. I just work my way down the list.
That’s my daily workflow – process the inbox, work through Today, maybe move onto Anytime. Nothing fancy.

The Weekly Review

It’s important to not miss the critical step though. It’s a weekly review that keeps everything going.
Once a week, I will go through the Upcoming, Anytime, and Someday lists making sure everything is in its right place. If a particular date in Upcoming looks overloaded, I’ll try to move some things around. If something’s in Anytime, but I know can’t work on it anytime soon, it gets moved to Someday. If something in Someday can or should actually be started now, that gets moved back to Anytime.
By using Things more strategically, I’ve been able to counteract my tendency procrastinate on larger priorities by shopping for less pressing tasks in Anytime or Someday.

8 thoughts on “Prioritizing Things in Things 3

  1. Bob Luth says:

    Hi Andrea,
    As one who fairly recently moved from Todoist to Things, I’m following your posts on how you’re using Things with interest – this was another thought-provoking one, so thank you for taking the time to post it.
    I’d be interested in hearing how your tag usage has evolved in Things – that seems to be one of my sticking points.
    Keep up the great posts!

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Bob!

      I can certainly do an updated post about tags soon. I find it’s really easy to get carried away with tags if you’re not careful, so I’ve settled on a fairly basic set that seems to be working. Stay tuned!


  2. Ian Morrison says:

    Hi Andrea

    I glanced at Th3 a few months ago and dismissed it as too simplistic, how wrong I was.
    Nice to find your cool words of wisdom, much easier to digest than the manic youtubers who post about this.
    I use Th3 alongside a habit tracking app (Balanced, unfortunately pulled from the store but there are lots of others) and — crucially — the Pomodoro technique which helps me blast through procrastination.
    You’ve probably heard of Pomodoro, it started by using a kitchen timer to set up 25 min uninterrupted focused blasts of work. I use “Be Focused Pro” — by far my pick of the many pomodoro apps especially since it syncs between phone and mac.
    I have exactly one Th3 tag: POMODORO for stuff I know will need a blast.
    One final recommendation: A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley, real insight into learning and motivation for any kind of study, not just math. Key tip from Barbara: Each morning think of one thing you can do today that will make you proud this evening when you look back over your day, and, of course, make sure you do it. Works for me!
    Well… thanks again, gotta go, I’m procrastinating!



    • Andrea says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for stopping by. I have heard of the pomodoro technique. There’s actually a post on here of my own lazy iteration of it because the traditional one didn’t work quite so well for me. I will definitely check out the book.

      Have a great weekend!

  3. fjab says:

    Hi Andrea, thanks for the insightful post!

    Not sure you’re still monitoring this, since it’s a bit odler, but if yes: Can you go into detail what you mean by “processing” your Inbox and Today list, respectively? Do you work through your Inbox tasks in the morning (seems unlikely, because then you’d always work on random, but not high priority, tasks)? How / when do you decide what goes into “Today”?

    Thanks for the help!

    • Andrea says:

      Processing the Inbox is part of the GTD methodology, and really just means figuring out what you need to do with something – not necessarily doing it. The main principles are generally this: Can you do it within 2 minutes? If so, do it right away and be done with it. Can it be deferred until later? Can it be delegated to someone else? Can you just delete it?

      So in the mornings, I’m just going through the things that have been added to the Inbox or that have popped up in Today and running through that decision process. I’ve written a number of posts here about how I decide which tasks to actually do on a given day, which is ever evolving as my life changes, so it may be worth browsing some of my other posts tagged with Things 3 if you are interested in that.


  4. Kaval says:

    HI, have been using Things 3 for a month now and am seeing lots of benefits. Is there a way to set certain task to always show at the top of the today view?

    • Andrea says:

      If you group tasks by project in the Today view, tasks appear in Today based on how they’re ordered in the sidebar, so I try to order my areas and projects in order of priority, with the ones I need to see first at the top. Tasks without an area would appear above all tasks assigned to an area, but I wouldn’t really advise that. If you don’t group by project, you can manually move tasks around in the list. If neither of those work for you, the other workaround is to use a tag to filter the list, but there really isn’t an automatic way to always show certain tasks at the top.

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