My husband is a productivity junkie. Every week he likes to show off some new piece of software he’s found that will improve his daily work speed by nine seconds, and I usually just smile encouragingly and walk away. Occasionally, however, I try out one of these tools, and this time, I have found one that I love: Things.
Things is a to-do list/task manager for Mac OSX by Cultured Code. Now, there are a LOT of list-managing “solutions” out there, and I’ve tried many of them, but I always ended up going back to a disorganized paper list, because it was just too inconvenient and/or slow to use software. With Things, however, I never use paper anymore.
One of the reasons Things is so convenient is that you can type in a to-do item without actually having to be in the Things application. If I’m working in Photoshop, for example, and it reminds me of some product pictures I forgot to take, I can hit a particular keystroke and a little black box pops up. I can then type, “Take product photos” in the box, hit the Enter/Return key and my item will end up in my Things inbox, where I can sort it later. At no point do I have to switch out of Photoshop to do this, so there’s no delay in being able to get right back to work. Since I type faster than I write, this process is actually faster than using pen and paper.
At a good stopping point in my day, I usually open up Things to sort my inbox. Like in other programs, in Things you have the ability to create projects and due dates to house your to-do items, but the most wonderful and brilliant thing about Things is that you can use tags as well. Whats so great about tags? It means you can sort your items by any category that is meaningful to you. In most other programs, you can sort items by priority, due date, person responsible, etc. All the usual office categories. But by creating your own tags, you can sort items by where they occur, how long they take, or how fun they are. For example, maybe you run most errands in three different places: your local main street, the street near your work, and the big box strip mall two towns over. You can tag the errands you need to run with “local errand,” “work errand” or “mall errand.” Then, the next time you are headed to any of those three places, you can click on that tag and all of the errands you can do in that place pop up. Print your list and you’ll never again kick yourself for forgetting something while you were out.
But maybe you don’t have time to “Buy a new dishwasher,” even though it’s on your “mall errand” list. If you’ve also tagged your items with the time they take, you’re good to go! Just click on both the “mall errand” tag and (while holding down the Shift key) the “5 min” tag, and you’ll get only those items you can do at the mall in five minutes or less. Sweet! By using tags, you can create and sort a list based on how you already live and work, rather than having to adjust the way you think in order to fit into some software company’s idea of what is the best way to organize your life.
Things has many other great features, such as an automatically generated “Today” list, based on your due dates, reminders and recurring tasks. Really, the only big drawback of Things is that it only works on Apple products, like Macs and iPhones. If you use a PC or are planning to get a Google phone that uses Android, you are S.O.L. my friends. The developers have said that they are not going to release a version of Things for these other platforms anytime soon. For the rest of us Mac-only users, Things will remain free of charge until MacWorld, when it goes from beta to full release. At that point it will cost $39 for early adopters, and $49 for everyone else, which is still much cheaper than your average Filofax.