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Tag: Productivity (page 1 of 14)

Hyper-Scheduling Light With Things

I’m a big fan of the work of David Sparks of MacSparky and the Mac Power Users Podcast. He’s recently written a few posts on what he has called “hyper-scheduling.” The CliffsNotes version of hyper-scheduling is that David blocks off time in his calendar for performing certain tasks. Jeff Perry of the Tablet Habit does this too, calling it Time Blocking.

As I’ve read David and Jeff’s insights, I realized I’m doing “hyper-scheduling light” (perhaps ultralight) with Things. This is one of the reasons Things has clicked for me.

hyper-scheduling Light

My job isn’t suited for the scheduling of specific times during the day for performing certain tasks. I’m faced with too many unavoidable interruptions and too many tasks that arise suddenly and need to be handled on short notice. As much as I’d love to go into “do not disturb” mode to churn through work, there are too many downsides of this for me on most days in my line of work.

Despite these roadblocks, I do have a general idea how much time I’ll have each day for churning through my task list. I just don’t know exactly when during the day that time will fall. Enter Things.

With its “Today” and “Upcoming” views, Things makes it easy to schedule my tasks for certain dates. I set an item’s start date, and it appears in the view for that day. 1 During my weekly review, which usually occurs on Friday, I plan out my next week. I go through my actions and tasks and decide what I want to get done on each day of the upcoming week. When a particular day arrives, my task list for the day is waiting for me.

This isn’t for everyone. Some people work better diving into their projects each day, and picking from their tasks or next actions. That became too overwhelming for me, which is one of the reasons I switched to Things. I wanted a tool that would not only help me organize my tasks, but would help me do them as well by bringing them to me on certain days. Things does that for me by allowing me to schedule them.


  1. OmniFocus supports start dates as well, and you can view a schedule in Forecast view, but items that aren’t completed on their start date fall off of the Forecast. It remains to be seen whether the new version of OmniFocus will change this.


The Benefits of Occasionally Switching Task Management Apps

Geeks love trying shiny new toys. For me that love extends to experimenting with new task management apps. Over the past year I’ve switched task management apps twice – once temporarily, and once for good (for now). About six months ago I switched from OmniFocus to TaskPaper, before eventually switching back. Most recently, I’ve switched from OmniFocus to Things, and it looks like that one will stick. I discovered a few benefits in that exploration.

You rethink how you do things

In the brief time I spent with TaskPaper, I discovered how much I enjoyed its simplicity, and how I was more efficient in digesting what needed to get done. There was just something appealing about its simple list view, with headings and indented entries.

My use of TaskPaper helped me realize that as much as OmniFocus was much more complicated, I could replicate that list view with a custom perspective. My custom perspective listed all my important contexts, with tasks (or next actions) below each context.

The list was long, but still scannable. For my type of work, that was better than wrangling with a custom context that (hopefully) surfaced the actions that were important for me. It also worked better (again, for me, in my line of work) than diving into specific projects to perform actions of my choosing, since my work isn’t project based.

You learn what is important

My dalliance with TaskPaper got me primed for switching to Things. First, it made me realize I value simplicity. I was ready for a tool that didn’t require as much fiddling as OmniFocus.

It also made me realize how important easy capture was in a system. The ability to capture actions and tasks from just about anywhere is one of the strengths of OmniFocus. I came up with several workarounds to capture items into TaskPaper, but there was still friction involved.

You clean out the cruft

A regular review process is supposed to help you clear items out of your system that should no longer be there. That doesn’t always happen, though. Over time, your task management app can get bloated with tasks and projects you’ll never touch.

Each time I switched systems, I forced myself to take a long, hard look at my projects and actions, and decide whether an item really needed to come over to the new system. I started lean and mean, but knowing full well that task creep would set in soon.

It’s fun

Yes, the primary purpose of any task management system is to help you get things done. But, as a I suggested at the start of this post, geeks often like trying out new toys. I found this to be the case with both TaskPaper and Things.

That spark of fun also translated into a burst of productivity. Instead of slowing down while I learned a new system, I found myself reinvigorated and getting more work done.

In a perfect world I’d find an app and stick with it. I hope Things is it, but I’m a realist and know I’ll always be tempted by the next big thing.


OmniFocus vs. Things: Why I Switched

If you’ve visited 40Tech lately you’ve seen several posts on Things, which is now my task management app of choice. My switch to Things surprised me. For a few years, I was an OmniFocus snob. I fancied myself a power user, and thought other task management apps were somehow inferior because they didn’t have the level of power offered by OmniFocus.

Read more


Things: Cross-Platform Attachments with DEVONthink – Part 1 (40Tech Video)

I’ve made my first ever YouTube video for 40Tech. This short video addresses one of the main shortcomings of Things, my current task management app of choice. Things does not support the syncing of attachments from Mac to iOS, or vice versa. This video takes a look at how to use DEVONthink to add an attachment to Things on the Mac, and have it available in Things on iOS.

I’m sure I’ll work the rough edges off of these videos if I do more in the future, but I hope this one helps some of you out there. The video is embedded below, or you can click here to go to the video on YouTube.


Using DEVONthink and Things →

Eric Böhnisch-Volkmann writing for Devon Technologies’ Devonian Times blog:

DEVONthink and DEVONthink To Go can be comfortably used with OmniFocus by using item links. Many other applications support URLs, too, and can so link back to documents stored in DEVONthink. For example Things from Cultured Code which works with DEVONthink very similar to OmniFocus:

As a couple of the commenters to the linked story point out, you can use the Things quick entry hotkey on your Mac from within DEVONthink (assuming you’ve set up the Things helper app) to automatically create a task in Things with a link back to the item in DEVONthink. Setting up your task in this manner will create a link that works on both Mac and iOS. On iOS, you can use the share sheet from within DEVONthink To Go, and get a task with a link back to the item in DEVONthink.

This is important, because Things doesn’t support attachments. Since DEVONthink links work cross-platform, DEVONthink is a great candidate to use as your Things file system.

Why go to this trouble, instead of using an app like OmniFocus, which does support attachments? After a few years of using Omnifocus, I’ve been putting Things 3 through its paces. It doesn’t have quite the power and flexibility of OmniFocus, but I’ve been surprised to find it actually might fit my workflow better. I have many, many one-off tasks, as opposed to projects, and Things seems better suited to that. The visual representation of Today and Upcoming, as seen in Things, can be done in OmniFocus with some customization, but the visual representation of this in Things works with my brain a bit better.

As David Sparks, aka MacSparky, has mentioned, there is value to using a tool that gives “delight.” Right now, I’m finding that Things gives me delight in ways that OmniFocus doesn’t. It keeps me working toward getting my tasks done. We’ll see if that lasts after the newness of the app wears off.