Is Things Too Simple?

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.

Project Management

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.

Filter by Area of Focus and context

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.

My Areas in Things

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.

3 Ways Things Can Make You More Productive

Things has changed the way that I manage my life.

I’ve been more productive over the past year using Cultured Code’s Things task management app than using any other application to manage my life. Things’ beauty, simplicity, power, or the focus that the app brings to my work and life has made me more productive.

Do you want some of this awesome get-goingness and get-stuff-doneness (that’s a word, I swear)?

If so, read the top 3 ways I’ve learned how Things can make you more productive.

Simply productive

One of the best ways that Things can make you more productive is allowing you to enhance and increase the amount of work you can get done without having to deal with complicated menus, filters, hierarchies, etc. In fact, many users of Things enjoy the simplified approach of the application because it keeps you from “fiddling” with app features and allows you to concentrate and focus on what’s really important.

Some people may think that “the lack of features” that Things has limits the functionality and usefulness of the app. My argument to that is Cultured Code has made very deliberate decisions about the way that Things works. They are opinionated and thoughtful when it comes to the design of the apps on the desktop and iOS. Because of that, there are some constraints of the application, but these constraints can be worked within to become more productive.

GTD focused

Without saying it themselves, Cultured Code has made Things to be compatible with Dave Allen’s GTD methodology. The use of an Inbox, Project list, Next list, Someday list, and Areas (GTD calls them “Areas of Focus”) makes it evident that Things can work as a GTD system. Other applications like OmniFocus, Todoist, Wunderlist, etc. can be made to work that way, but it isn’t as obvious and requires some “set up”.

I’ll dive deeper into how Things is one of the most perfect apps for the GTD methodology in later posts.

Today focused

Something that “goes against the grain” of David Allen’s GTD methodology is the idea of Things’ Today list. David Allen has said that daily to-do lists don’t work. If you read into this, he’s basically saying that only a daily to-do list doesn’t work; if you are relying on a daily to-do list to be your entire system, you are in for a world of hurt. But, if you have a daily to-do list of items that must be done on that day as well as your total life to-do list (i.e. your projects and next actions related to them), the daily to-do list is an extremely productive and powerful tool.

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With Things’ Today list you have a daily review of all of the things that are marked for you to see or are due that day. You can then go over them one-by-one marking them as something that needs done today or moving them to a different day. It’s the best way that I have found to keep up on the most important, time sensitive to-dos and projects you may have.

There’s so much more

I have to say that Things is one of the easiest and most accessible apps that I have ever used, because of it’s well thought out structure and simplicity it makes it one of the best apps on the Apple platform to get more stuff done with way less effort.

Are there any other ways that Cultured Code’s Things has made you more productive?