While a lot of productivity writers online like to talk about methods and practices avoiding the talk of applications I am taking a different tactic. The reason why a lot of writers avoid discussing applications is they come and go over time and each person is different. There is one app, however, that has stuck around and has remained solid over the long term - Things 3.
I have been using Things since version 1 and version 3 is only an improvement on the system. The application stays close to the Getting Things Done methodology I have followed since my first job making it a natural fit for my way of working. It is important to note that if you do not follow or understand Getting Things Done then this app is likely way more than you need.
Still here good. I am going to go quite deep on the method and how Things 3 handles this in spectacular style.
The first part of GTD is capture and Things 3 handles this extremely well. On a Mac simply press control and space on your computer from within any app and type what is on your mind, hit enter and this is saved to the applications inbox for processing later.
From this same window, you can also enter notes, due dates, tags, checklists and even specify the project you want to save it to. I don't do this very often unless adding a task that is due today then I will add the date at this point. Additional information is added in my review session either later in the day or the next morning.
The clarify step in getting things done is something that I personally know to be extremely important this is the part that can help you beat procrastination and get things done when in the moment. This is where the thinking takes place, what is this task really, is it a project (a multi-step task), do I need to do it, can I delegate it, is the task clear, what is the next action.
Things 3 inbox and keyboard shortcuts allow you to quickly burn through your captured thoughts adding this level of thinking and move onto the next step - organise.
It is important to learn the keyboard shortcuts of Things 3 as these are where the real power and speed can be found.
Ok so now we have reached step 3 in the methodology and this is where a lot of applications fall short. Organising everything you have to do at a level of detail Getting Things Done promotes with next action level tasks can make a system get out of control very quickly.
Things 3 handles this beautifully. You have 3 levels of the organisation structure and as seen below you have a lot of flexibility with this.
Areas of Responsibility
Think of these are parts of your life you want to manage, work, home, side projects. Areas of responsibility can have tasks in them for the small jobs that are not a project in themselves and areas also have a someday list.
Under areas of responsibility, you have projects. Projects are multi-step tasks and that need to list out multiple next action tasks. These can be as big as redesign the website or as small as organising a dinner date for your anniversary. Projects can be completed while areas of responsibility can not.
Headings sit within projects and are only really useful on the bigger projects, think redesign website scale projects. Headings allow you to separate and group tasks together, be it milestones, phases, or just a list of similar tasks within the project.
Additionally, tasks can have checklists, these can be useful for having an operating procedure or breaking down a task that doesn't need a whole project but could use some little steps to help guide you.
While reflect is listed as step 4 in the method according to the book I feel this would be better as a step 5 for most people, however, I do see its place here as well. Reflect, also referred to as the weekly review is when you review your system as a whole, looking in every nook and cranny to clear out what is not relevant any more.
Reflection is also a good time to ask why is a task still around and not completed, is it that the task is not clear enough and you are procrastinating on doing it - if so, reclassify it.
Things 3 makes reflection and weekly reviews a breeze. I can complete a weekly review within 30 minutes on a Sunday with my laptop (around an hour if I only have my phone). The anytime and upcoming views allow you to quickly process around half the system in the first 10 minutes of sitting down. The remaining times goes on making sure longer-term scheduled tasks and someday tasks are still relevant on need actioning anytime soon.
The final step in the method is engage or doing, this is where you will spend most of your time and in Things 3 this is on the Today page.
I have my today page grouped by project so I can quickly work on the bits I need to get done and stay in one frame of mind for as long as possible. Today view is clean and simple with a large focus on the stuff you have to get done.
At the very top is shows you events from your calendar for the day so you don't have to keep checking a different application for what is coming up and as you complete tasks they disappear to your log bookkeeping your view with what is currently clean and accurate.
Almost every review of this incredible application online today tells you how expensive Things 3 is. At almost £80 for the 3 apps is it not the cheapest around but it is among the best and if you follow Getting Things Done then for a one time purchase of £80 Things delivers value for money by the truckload.
I run my life, personal and business in Things 3 and without it, I would be lost. The application is the first thing I open when I wake up and the last thing I close before going to bed. It has earned a place in my dock, home screen and even as a shortcut on my watch face. That is the sign of a truly great application.