Cultured Code’s Things application is a powerful task manager and works well with productivity systems like Getting Things Done. One of the key features and paradigms that Things prides itself on is its simplicity and being able to get started using the system to be productive right away.
But, is Things too simple for a super busy professional or someone that has taken productivity to a “blackbelt” level? Let’s find out.
Things and other applications like it (OmniFocus, Todoist, Toodledo, etc.) aren’t what a “professional” would consider a project management system to be. Most “professionals” and PMPs (project management professionals) consider the apex of project management apps to be something that can produce a GANTT chart or show you a critical path. These consist of apps like Microsoft Project, or for the Mac, OmniPlan. These applications produce extremely detailed project plans that show resource utilization, days and times that a task should be done, blocking of tasks and resources that can produce bottlenecks and more. While these can be valuable, project planning that is this granular rarely works for someone that is personally trying to become more productive.
What Things offers is a much simpler version of project management. Users can create a Project and have a list of to-dos linked to the project. It’s a flatlist with no hierarchy or dependent sections, but it gives the user a a clear view of exactly the next action that they should take. The user can then give each to-do one or multiple tags so they can see these actions in a different way that can allow batching of to-dos later.
Detailed project plans are very useful, especially for large and complicated projects, but Things can offer a personal look into exactly what you need to do at a more detailed level while the project is moving forward.
Using the tagging feature in Things can give you a completely different perspective on your to-dos. Because Things allows you to assign multiple tags to a to-do, Area of Focus, or project, you can slice-and-dice your project and to-dos in a way that works for you.
I tend to use tags as contexts in the GTD sense of the term (a phsyical location or set of tools that are needed to complete a task) and assign them to individual to-dos. But I also use tags as a way to filter my Area of Focus inside of Things. I assign a tag to a specific Area of Focus and then filter my to-dos by Area first and then by context. This allows me to see all tasks that I can do at a computer that are for work, or all calls I need to make for personal reasons. It’s a two-phase approach of filtering and dicing up my to-dos to see the right list at the right time, allowing me to concentrate on the tasks I can do when and where I am.
We will show you how to assign tags to Areas as well as to-dos and then see the to-dos based on what you actually can and want to work on.
Areas are a special type of list in Things. I like to think that they coincide with David Allen’s GTD terminology for “Areas of Focus”. Areas of Focus are higher levels areas of life that we are responsible for like our jobs, families, finances, spirituality, personal organizations, etc. These tend to be perceived “higher” than our project lists and are never completely “done”. What I mean by that is that Areas are something in our lives that we need to constantly pay attention to that will allow us to be whole. I know that this is deep, but bare with me.
Like I said, Areas are a special list in Things; you can assign to-dos as well as projects to areas. With this, you can group all of your projects and single item to-dos (to-dos that don’t go with a certain project but belong to a certain area of your life) in a single list. So, you can have all your work projects and single to-dos, personal projects and single to-dos, etc. in one list to review or work from. This allows you to look at your to-dos and projects at a different level and perspective than the Next, Today, and Projects lists.
Just because Things looks simple and is easy to start using write away doesn’t mean that it isn’t capable. Sometimes simplicity is exactly what you need to make a productivity system useful and long lasting. I manage over 70 projects in Things and feel that its “simplicity” is a great feature to ensure that I’m getting the right things done at the right time.
We will explore more of the features of Things in later articles that show that Things is completely capable of handling a complex work load and built to help you manage it.