Tricks for Improving Things 3

Now that I’ve been using Things 3 for a while, I wanted to share some of the “workarounds” I’ve been using to overcome some of my minor gripes along with some tips and tricks I’ve been using to make my life easier.

Denoting Projects vs Sub Areas

2019-02-06-screenshot-2Unless Things 3 decides to add headers to areas, you’re stuck with using projects or tags to denote your sub areas of responsibility. I’ve opted to use projects because I like seeing the visual reminder of what I’m responsible for. This, unfortunately, leaves me with no distinction between my projects and sub areas. Admittedly, this was an issue with Omnifocus as well, so I’ve gotten into the habit of prefixing projects with a checkbox symbol to differentiate them from sub areas. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Improving Mail to Things

The ability to email tasks into Things is something I don’t widely use at the moment, but I do use it for one task in particular – checking my physical mailbox. I have IFTTT set to email Things whenever I get an email from the US Postal Service’s Informed Delivery informing me I have new mail arriving later in the day.

Unfortunately, Mail to Things is limited to sending a task to your Inbox, not the Today view where I need it to appear. Sure I could have just moved it every day, but that’s a pain. Using the Things AppleScript Guide and a little trial and error (it was my first time using AppleScript), I was able to craft a script that finds my “Check Mailbox” task in the Inbox, moves it to my Household area, and assigns it to “This Evening”. The script runs anytime Things activates on my Mac thanks to Keyboard Maestro.

It’s worth mentioning that moving the task to This Evening automatically is dependent on a separate script which checks for any tasks tagged with Evening and moves them to This Evening. This script triggers along with the previously mentioned script as part of the same Keyboard Maestro macro anytime Things activates on my Mac.

Utilize URLs

I started adding URLs to tasks years ago mainly to save me time locating bookmarks and navigating to websites, but lately I’ve also gotten really into using URL schemes throughout Things.

On the Mac, I’ve started including links to Keyboard Maestro macros in some tasks. Some are simple like adding a link to my Weekly Review task so that I can open BusyCal directly to my filtered Weekly Review view. I also use them to generate new templated projects either from a task itself or within a project’s notes field. For projects that may require follow up tasks or projects, this allows me the option to generate them as needed rather than adding them up front and then canceling or deleting them later.

For iOS, I’ve also started linking to Shortcuts. One of my favorites is the link attached to my meditation task which runs a shortcut that enables Do Not Disturb for 15 minutes and then opens the Headspace app.

The Delegated Tag

My last little hack mainly just satisfies my OCD. While my boyfriend and I share the responsibility of the household chores, the master list of those chores resides in Things. I use a “Delegated” tag to denote things he completes so that I can distinguish them in the Logbook section of the app. If there’s something he’s usually responsible for, I’ve tagged the task with Delegated permanently, which also gives me an easy way to let him know of any chores he can do when he asks what needs to be done around the house.

Using Keyboard Maestro to Send Tracking Numbers to Deliveries in Airmail

I’ve been using Airmail since the day it came out, so I was ecstatic when it came to iOS. The iOS version even added a bunch of new features, and the most recent Mac update for brought most of those features to Mac as well. On iOS, one of my most used features is the ability to send emails to Deliveries to track shipping notifications via the Action List. Sadly, there is no Action List on the Mac version.

Deliveries does have a Share extension on the Mac, so you can right click the tracking number and send it to Deliveries, but in my experience, the share extension doesn’t always grab the right information. For example, capturing an Amazon order grabs the “#” before the tracking number, which prevents Deliveries from recognizing it as an Amazon order. Not only do you have to delete the symbol manually, you still have to confirm the dialog before it gets added to Deliveries – all unnecessary steps in my opinion.

Deliveries offers another way to send things to the app – forwarding them to an email address, so my first thought was to set up an IFTTT recipe to forward emails to Deliveries. I quickly realized that to capture all shipping notifications automatically, you either need to create rules to pick up all the specific types of order notifications to avoid missing any emails or create a generic rule that searched for something like shipping which caught way to many irrelevant results.

So I abandoned fully automating the process and instead turned to the trusty Keyboard Maestro which I seem to be using for everything these days. I was able to set up a hot key, only available in Airmail, that will forward the email to Deliveries and then archive the message. It works for any order type without creating multiple rules, and it reduces the number of steps required to add something to Deliveries down to one.

You can see the workflow below:2016-06-15 screenshot


Creating a Smart Grocery List in Omnifocus

Last week, I added an Amazon Echo to my slowly-growing collection of home automation devices. The recently added Spotify integration is what sold me, but within a few days, Alexa, unexpectedly, made herself known as the missing link in how I collect my grocery shopping routine. I’ve written about my set up before, but it’s evolved since then especially with the addition of Alexa in my kitchen.

**Disclaimer: References to products on this page may contain affiliate links.**

To start, it’s probably best to share a few basic tidbits of my routine:

  1. I tend to make 1 weekly trip to the grocery store (typically Aldi).
  2. Paprika is my recipe manager of choice. Two years ago, I was keeping a messy collection of recipes on Pinterest, which I later found out consisted of mostly dead links. Now all of my recipes get saved to Paprika for safe keeping and are meticulously organized based on meal type and whether or not I’ve made them before. I also only save things I’d truly want to make, so no more 30 unprounceable-ingredient, 25+-step recipes.

    Paprika OS X

    Paprika for Mac

  3. Omnifocus is where my grocery list lives along with all of my other tasks. I’ve tried keeping a separate list, but I really prefer having my lists in as few places as possible.
  4. Both Paprika and Omnifocus are available on Mac and iOS meaning the majority of my workflow can be used anywhere.

Getting Things on to the Grocery List

  • Things I buy regularly on a predictable schedule – These are set up as recurring tasks in Omnifocus based on how often I buy them – the”defer another” option, if you’re curious.
  • Things I need for a particular recipe – One of Paprika‘s best features is it’s ability to make grocery lists. It even combines quantities if multiple recipes call for the same item. While you can use the Paprika app to manage your list entirely, I prefer Omnifocus. Thankfully, Paprika also has the ability to export their grocery list to Reminders. I know I said I prefer Omnifocus, but stay with me here. Omnifocus can capture tasks sent to Reminders. With that you can essentially export from Paprika to Omnifocus.
  • Things I want or don’t necessarily buy on a predicable schedule. Not everything in my kitchen is part of a recipe or something I buy regularly – sale items, less used staples, etc. I could just manually add these things to Omnifocus, and when I’m out of the house that’s what I do, but when I’m at home the Amazon Echo makes things crazy easy. I set up an IFTTT recipe so that any time something is added to my Echo shopping list, it gets added to Reminders. Again, Omnifocus is set to capture anything sent to Reminders. The result, whenever I run out of something that’s not a regular buy or I think of something I’d like to buy and I happen to be home, I simply say “Alexa, add <item> to my shopping list.”

Items added either via Paprika or the Echo are added to the inbox in Omnifocus where I process them with the rest of my tasks. Once processed, they get added to my Shopping List single actions list. Anything I need to buy gets added to this list with the “Shopping” context. If they happen to be grocery-related, they get added to a special “Shopping: Grocery” sub-context. That used to be where the filtering stopped, but the lack of organization left me scrambling around the store. (If any of you are familiar with Aldi, you’ll know it’s set up much like an IKEA where you’re supposed to go in one direction.) To account for this, I recently added sub-sub-contexts to further sort my list. Since I always shop at the same store, my Grocery sub-contexts are set up to match the layout of the store. Aldi happens to be a small store so this ends up being about 6 sub-contexts.

Getting to the Grocery Store

When I arrive at the store, Launch Center Pro prompts me to open my Grocery Store perspective. Any items with a Grocery or Grocery sub-context appear sorted by context. The result: A grocery list sorted by aisle.


Grocery List Perspective on iPhone

Grocery Perspective in Omnifocus for iOS


*Other people have suggested using recurring projects to sort your grocery list. I decided to go with contexts because it allows me to add one-off items along with my recurring items each week. If using recurring projects, those one-off items would also end up as recurring items which required an extra step of removing them from the next week.

Shop Amazon Echo – Always Ready, Connected, and Fast. Just Ask

What’s on My iPhone 6 (December 2014 Edition)

It’s been over a year since I posted my first “What’s on my iPhone?” post, and that means I’m due for an update.

I still use the same general organization – frequently used apps on the first page with the last row empty, folders on the second. Moving to an iPhone 6 also gave me an additional row for apps on each screen.

I’m actually shocked to say that many of my “frequently used” apps from last year have lost their spots on my home screen. Calendar, Yahoo Weather, Things, and Fitbit have all been retired for other alternatives. Clock, Calculator, Camera+, and Light have all been replaced by swiping up to reveal the Control Center introduced with iOS 7. My dock however has remained the same.

Onto my new (and improved) home screen.

As you can see, Calendar has been replaced with Fantastical. Although I prefer how Apple’s Calendar icon shows the date, I prefer Fantastical’s quick entry and Today widget. Yahoo Weather has been replaced by the default Weather app (having stock apps replace third party apps doesn’t happen too often). Things has been replaced by Omnifocus (No surprise there.), and Fitbit has been replaced by Jawbone (after switching from the recalled Fitbit Force to the Jawbone Up24). The apps in this row are are the main apps I check throughout the day to know how my day’s going.

The next row of apps is entirely new. Day One, a journal app, is a recent addition (I recently switched from Momento.) Habit List tracks my daily routines. Waterlogged tracks my water intake, and Mint tracks my spending. In a general sense, these are my “tracking” apps that keep me on track.

The next row of apps is media-related. Keeping their places on the home screen are Reeder and Pocket. Downcast, my podcast app of choice, and iTV Shows, for tracking my favorite shows earn the 3rd and 4th spots.

The third row of apps is sort of a grab bag of miscellaneous apps that includes the only game on my phone, Threes, an app I can’t live without, 1Password, my favorite GPS app, Waze, and a folder of remote apps (Nest, Smart Glass for the Xbox One, Wemo, and Screens, a VNC client.

The final row includes the phone app, the App Store, and Settings.


On the second page you’ll find a similar collection of folders before.

The Apple folder still exists but includes more apps now that Apple keeps forcing me to keep more of their apps on my phone. This is really just a folder to hide all their apps I don’t use.

The Files app contains a few different apps now, and truthfully Files isn’t much of a representative name anymore, but I haven’t found a better name. This folder holds Google Drive and Paprika (my absolutely favorite recipe manager), Blackboard Mobile Learn (for my classes). The other three apps, Scanbot (which I got for free), Momento, and Diptic, are likely on their way off my phone because I just don’t use them.

The health folder primarily contains guided meditation apps I’m trying out to help me fall asleep. If you have any suggestions, feel free to pass them along.

Media is a combination of my former Watch and Read folders and now contains Fliks for managing my Netflix DVD queue (Netflix if your listening, I’m still angry you removed that from your own app.), HBO Go, IMDb, Kindle, Netflix, SwagbucksTV for earning quick Swagbucks, SportsCenter for updates on my favorite teams, and WatchABC for streaming to my new Chromecast.

The next three folders could realistically be combined in some form, but I haven’t worked it out yet. My $ folder contains all my financial apps, and Save contains apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta. Shop contains Starbucks, Amazon, and cPro for Craigslist.

Social contains all my social media apps: Alien Blue for Reddit, ESPN’s Fantasy Football app, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, Paper by Facebook (this app lets me keep Messages and Facebook in one app rather than two), Tweetbot, and Yammer (for work notifications).

And last but not least, my Utilities folder which holds more miscellaneous apps: Deliveries (for tracking packages), Drafts, DUO Mobile (2-factor authentication), #Homescreen for posting to, IFTTT, Launch Center Pro, QRReader (on it’s way off my phone), Swype (a third party keyboard that makes up for how badly I type on my phone) and TextExpander.

I’m always curious about how people organize their home screens, and to my surprise I find a lot of people end up with similar set ups to mine – mainly the first page of actual apps with a second page of folders. Leaving an empty row at the bottom of the page is also common.

So how do you organize your home screen?

Signature Update


April 2014 Favorites

It’s nearly May, and I cannot wait for summer. In any event, it’s time for April favorites!


1. WeMo

Oh boy. I’m addicted. In fact I bought a WeMo Switch and ended up buying another one the next day. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WeMo, it’s Belkin’s line of home automation devices. You can connect various devices and control them via your phone. I’ve been having so much fun with mine that I’m already planning what else to connect. For now, I have the lamps behind my bed and the LED strips behind my TV plugged into my two Switches. With Belkin’s app, I’ve created a rule that turns my lamps behind my bed on when I wake up in the morning and off around the time I leave. {No more stumbling out of bed in the dark every morning… well most of the time provided I don’t trip…} IFTTT also has a Wemo Channel where you can set things up like when I wake up (with my Jawbone Up) turn on my lights. I even have my lamps blink 10 minutes before I need to leave in the morning. The LEDs behind my TV is more of a convenience thing at this point, but I’m enjoying having them connected with WeMo. I may set up an IFTTT rule to turn the LEDs on when it rains. I have them set to be blue after all.

2. LocateTV

Somewhere along the line, I developed a weekly habit of checking the local TV listings to see what movies I wanted to watch on Netflix were coming on TV. It’s great in theory. I’m not spending money on movies I could see on TV, but every week, {and yes this makes me sound crazy, I know} I would open up my Netflix queue and search for every movie in the list on DirecTV’s site. It was a pain, and I searched high and low for a website that would just say “Hey! A movie you want to see is coming on TV!” Well after way too much searching, I’ve found LocateTV. It lets you add movies and TV shows to a “my picks” section and then shows you if and when they come on TV. You can hide channels you don’t get, and my favorite part, it’ll send you an email weekly too. Problem solved and a lot of time saved.

3. Taco Bell Breakfast

I don’t get out of the house before noon on non-work days too often, but when I do, you can be sure I’m stopping somewhere to get breakfast. My go-to breakfast has usually been an Egg McMuffin combo with orange juice from McDonalds, but I decided to try out Taco Bell’s new options this month instead. I ended up getting a Bacon AM Breakfast Burrito combo and the Cinnabon Delights. I was pleasantly surprised. The Cinnabon Delights are like heaven. Think warm cinnamon sugar Dunkin Donuts Munchkins with the amazing Cinnabon cream cheese icing inside. The best part, they serve breakfast until 11. That gives me a whole extra 30 minutes to get my butt out of bed and ready for breakfast. I’ve managed to do it twice in the past few weeks. Go me! 🙂

4. Back to Work podcast

I may be a bit addicted to listening to Merlin Mann speak. Where do you even start with Merlin? He’s probably best known in the internet world for Inbox Zero and 43Folders but now a days he’s not all about productivity. In any any event, he’s a bit of productivity, a bit nerdy Mac user, a bit person who tells it like it is, and a whole lot of random hilarity. If you’re looking for something random to listen to I highly recommend Back to Work.


5. Wireless Whiskers

If my LocateTV rant didn’t make you think I was crazy, this one will. This puts me in crazy cat lady territory. Wireless Whiskers is an insanely overpriced, not very great quality, solution to an absurd problem. I have three cats. The oldest is overweight and will eat everything in sight only to immediately throw it back up. Another is incredibly timid and will wait until the others have eaten everything before she eats. For years, I decided I would never be one of those cat owners who could just put a bowl of food out all day. So every morning and evening, I’d go on the inevitable search for the cat scoop I never remembered to put back, nearly tripping over 3 meowing cats anxiously waiting for food. I wanted nothing more than to save those 20 minutes spent frantically searching and tripping over cats to feed them every day. So what’s a girl to do? The obvious solution was to get one of those self-feeders, but the fat cat would eat until he was sick over and over like the people at the party in the Capital in the Hunger Games. I could get one of the timed self feeders but again, he’d eat it all and the other cats would starve. So get ready for nerdy crazy cat lady mode… enter Wireless Whiskers, the intelligent self-feeder. Every cat/small dog gets their own tag (up to 8 I believe). The bowl has a wizard mode that calculates how much each cat eats. Once it’s done analyzing, should fat cat decide he wants to eat and eat and eat, it will shut doors over the food if he’s exceeded his allotted food for the hour and then reopen when he leaves so the other cats can eat. Even better, you can choose to reduce a particular cat’s food allotment should you want them to lose a few pounds. There’s even a mode to keep the doors closed all the time unless an animal with an allowed tag comes to the bowl which is handy if you have dogs that like to eat kitty food or if you have a cat that has a special diet. Again, this is totally unnecessary but I’ve gotten a kick out of watching all the pets jump at the doors closing. I’m also appreciating not having to find that silly cat scoop or clean up after the fat cat who ate all the food in 2 minutes.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this review, I noticed the part that holds the food for this bowl was cracked. After a long battle with their terrible and snooty customer service, they agreed to not make me pay to have a new plastic tube shipped for the product I’ve only had for a little over 3 weeks. They likened their support to better than Apple at which I had to laugh at. I imagine their customer base for those interested in this product is pretty small because the$150 for a cat bowl is utterly ridiculous, but they seem uninterested in keeping their few customers happy and do not seem to stand by their product even insisting that defects like the several I had are to be expected. I would avoid this company at all costs.

So there you have it. My favorites for April.

Signature Update

Keeping Up with the Internet

I have a confession to make. I’m an information junkie. {I even took a personality quiz from a local newspaper that said it!} I love reading about new products, fun ideas, and just about anything else you can think of. I subscribe to over 145 RSS feeds, at least 38 YouTube channels, and of course whatever else I happen to stumble upon during the day. Media overload is a normal thing for me, so I have to have some elaborate organization to keep up with everything. Now I had been planning to do this post since I started by blog, so with the recent death of Google Reader, now seemed like as good a time as anyto explain how I manage {or at least try to manage} all of those the things I read and watch on the internet.

Another confession: When I heard of the news that Google Reader was going away, I have to admit I started freaking out. I may or may not have tweeted some complaints to Google and signed some petitions pleading for Google to get rid of it. We all know how that turned out though, and that brings me to Feedly. After trying several options, Feedly seemed to fit my current workflow the best. If you’ve been floundering around since Google Reader died, I highly recommend Feedly. Basically, any RSS feed I follow got migrated to Feedly with their seamless transition from Google, and that’s basically where it all starts.

A view of Feedly in my browser.

So a ton of people posts to blogs I follow, those posts go into Feedly. From within Feedly, I can quickly skim through everything that was posted, and that’s where I choose to read the article immediately {only if it’s short or super interesting}, save it for later, or just ignore it. For now, I’m using the web-version of Feedly on my computer while I wait for my “go to” RSS Reader app, Reeder, to update both it’s Mac and iPad apps. Reeder for the iPhone has been updated to support Feedly though. {If you don’t want to use Reeder, Feedly does have it’s own iOS app that is also pretty nice.} Oh, by the way, Reeder for iPhone is currently free right now, so  if you’re interested in trying it, now’s a great time to do it!


Reeder for iPhone

Now back in the day, I starred anything I wanted to save for later in Google Reader. The downside to that is not everything I wanted to save for later was from an RSS feed which led me to Pocket. I can save anything from the web, including articles from Feedly directly to Pocket. Both Feedly and Reeder offer the ability to add items directly to Pocket quickly. There’s also a browser plug-in for those non-RSS items I want to catch up on. Then, when I have the time, I can catch up on those articles on my iPhone, iPad, or computer either through the Pocket app for Mac or the web. {When I’m on the computer, I prefer the Mac app, but it does lack some of the features of the web version like bulk update so occasionally, I do use the web version.}

Pocket App for Mac

I do have some feeds where I always read every post like the Skimm which posts a “skimm’d” down version of current events for us, “non-newsy” people. For those, I save myself a step and set up an IFTTT {If This Then That} recipe to automatically send those posts to Pocket so that I don’t have to add them to Pocket each day. If you haven’t checked out IFTTT, I also recommend it. You can set it up to do just about anything from sending you a text that it will rain the next day to tweeting Happy New Year for you. It’ll even turn your lights on or off based on events like when the sun sets if you have certain electronic gizmos.

By this point, everything I want to read or check out later is in Pocket. I’ve successfully filtered down my thousands of articles into a more manageable hundreds, but that’s still pretty chaotic. Right now, I probably have about 330 articles to catch up on. Further organization methods vary depending on my mood, but in general, I try to take care of the quick items like pictures or short blog posts first. If there’s something worth saving, for instance, a really good cleaning tip I’m going to want to return to later, I usually pin that onto a relevant Pinterest board. {I know, not the best way to archive information should the author delete content.} Since I typically catch up on things stored in Pocket while on my iPad or iPhone, I usually star {mark as a “favorite”} any particularly long articles, things better suited for viewing on a computer, or videos so that I know those are ones I should catch up on when I’m at a computer.

Now that I’ve covered my RSS feeds, I still have to do something with all those Youtube videos. Since watching videos at work is usually frowned upon, I save watching them for later. Thankfully, YouTube has a handy “Watch Later” playlist for that. On any normal day, that’s where I’d put these videos, but right now I have over 210 videos to watch, and apparently, YouTube has a 200 video limit on your Watch Later playlist which I have reached more than a few times. Now if these were silly 30-second cat videos, this wouldn’t be an issue, but videos seem to be getting longer and longer. {I have one that’s almost an hour long!} I usually try to watch the quickest videos first just to keep the number down, so who knows when I’ll actually get to that hour long video. It seems like more and more people are making longer and longer videos. {Note to all the YouTubers out there – Make shorter videos so we have time to watch them all!} For now though, I have a second playlist, “Watch Later 2.” {How original!} Anything under 9 minutes {because my shortest videos are about 7 minutes right now} goes into that playlist, and I’ve been whittling down that playlist little by little {at least until the next Web Finds}. I plan to keep increasing that time limit up little by little as I watch the shorter videos at least until I get my original Watch Later playlists gets out of the zone where I risk hitting the dreaded 200 video limit. Oh and if any of you are curious as to how I watch these {being the App hoarder I am – I like to try apps until I find the best one…}, I either connect my laptop to my TV and just watch them through the web {42″ of planners, cat videos, and Jenna Marbles…}. If I don’t feel like doing that, I watch them on my iPad or iPhone using my favorite Youtube app, Jasmine.

Jasmine for iOS on my iPad

Jasmine for iOS on my iPad

So that’s my super-OCD method of keeping track of what I read and watch on the internet. {Actual books, movies, and TV shows are a whole other ball game.} If you have any tips on managing RSS feeds or YouTube videos, if you happen to love any of the apps or products I mentioned, or if you just happen to get something out of this post, I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. If any of you happen to have tips on how you keep your RSS feeds organized, I’d love to hear that too. That’s one part of this process I’m not happy about. I just can’t seem to find a good way to categorize them.

And again, all apps mentioned in this post are currently free. I wasn’t asked to mention these products, I just genuinely enjoy using them, and wanted to pass them on to my readers.

Until next time,