The best feature of Cultured Code’s Things is that it’s simple to use. It’s a straightforward to-do and project management application that doesn’t over-promise or under-deliver. It’s easy to get started with the application and work on your to-dos, sort by due date, plan projects, etc.
If you want to use Things more effectively and become more productive you can systemically setup Things to better support your workflow.
Disclaimer: this isn’t the “be-all-to-end-all” way to setup Things, it’s just the way that I have seen works the best for a consistent workflow that can handle a bunch of to-dos and projects.
Area of Responsibility best practices
One of the best ways to get started setting up your Things structure is to start with Areas of Responsibility. If you are a Getting Things Done nerd, then you have probably heard of this term, if not, Areas of Responsibility are the different, over-arching topics that you work in and play in life. For instance, work, home, family, finances, spirituality, organizations, etc. could be a good starter list of Areas of Responsibility.
The reason that we start with Areas of Responsibility when setting up Things is because by assigning whole Projects as well as infividual to-dos to an Area, you will be able to take a vertical view at your Next list. This will allow you to first filter out all of the to-dos that are related to work or home, and then further filter them.
If you are unsure of what Areas of Responsibility to start with, it would be good to at least start with a list like this:
- Health and Vitality
- Friends and Family
After that, you can add new ones as they come up in your life or if you have a single to-do or project that doesn’t necessarily fit in the ones you have.
To add new Area of Responsibility:
At the bottom left of Things, click the + button and then click New Area of Responsibility.
Or, in Things’ menu, you can click File > New Area of Responsibility.
Your new Area of Responsibility will be added to Things and you can edit its name in the left sidebar and press Return to save.
On the iPhone, tap the Settings button in the bottom right of the Lists screen, then Manage Areas > New Area.
From there you can name your new Area of Responsibility. The tap the Save button.
Setting up tags in Areas
One of the features that is a bit lacking in Things is the way to filter your to-dos when you are actually trying to get stuff done. There is a “trick” you can use on the Mac to be able to add a bit more structure and filtering capabilities to your lists: adding a tag to an Area of Responsibility.
For instance, say you have a bunch of to-dos that you can do on your Mac. These to-dos could be work related, finances related, home/personal related, etc. With setting up tags to be linked to an Area of Responsibility, this gives you an added “dimension” of filtering.
We recommend setting up your Area of Responsibility tags in their own group like so under a parent tag of AoR (for Area of Responsibility):
Each tag corresponds to an Areas of Responsibility:
And each tag is added to settings for the Area of Responsibility. You can manage your Areas of Responsibility by clicking the small cog icon in the bottom right of the left sidebar on Things for Mac:
Now, when you are looking at your Next list on the Mac, you can choose multiple tags to filter your list by holding the command key (⌘) and clicking on the tag. This will allow you to see all of the to-dos that are associated with an Area of Responsibility as well as any other tag filter you’d like.
Using Areas as single to-do lists
Another use of an Area is to use it as a single to-do list. What you can do is assign a to-do to an Area rather than a project if the next thing to be done only takes one step (like watering your plant, or paying a bill online). We like to consider these types of to-do “maintenance to-dos” as well as single to-dos. You can even setup repeating to-dos under Areas.
Using Areas as large projects
Another useful way to use Areas as a placeholder for larger projects. You might find that a simple project list for the majority of your projects may suffice, but if you have a large projects with several moving parts and sub-projects, you may want to consider using an Area to house all of these related project lists.
Areas of Responsibility in Things are a great way to setup the base structure of your system. With this base structure of Areas, it’s much easier to categorize and organize your projects and to-dos.