My Things 3 Setup and Workflow

(Curtis Spendlove) #1

Yeah. Ok. Fair point. It is an experiment after all. :wink:

So I’ll try to formalize it, maybe even make a separate topic for this experiment if anyone is interested. But I’ll toss out a quick teaser:

Starting Point

Above is my home page for my iPad. It’s in flux at the moment as I’m retooling pretty much everything this year. You’ll note Things in the dock.

In Things, you’ll also note a lot of similarities to Joe’s OmniFocus setup. Honestly his book / video series was the first one that clicked for me. I’m guessing because developers tend to think alike? :: shrug ::

I’m working on familiarity with Things. So, for now I’m using it similarly to how I was using OF2. As I work through it, I expect I’ll start taking advantage of any unique features.

I’m very much liking the Today and Upcoming perspectives (views?). I like that Things uses a soft rollover by default. If you don’t get all your “today” stuff done, it just rolls forward (essentially just stays in Today).

I have my GtD concepts broken into “Areas” (collections of Projects).

Son / Brother
Cayuse Technologies (worky-work)
Knight of the Old Code

And I also have a “Cleanup” area where an import of OF2 and a few other things were moved to. This will, of course, be deleted after items are processed into their proper places in the new system.

Most of the above is obvious, roles I own.

Guidance is a top-level “Manifesto” style thingie. It’s part of GtD that isn’t covered as well as the actual process part, so I do want to go into details over time to give an example…hopefully it can help demystify that portion for some. (All the altitude and runway stuff was a bit weird to me at first.)

Cayuse Technologies is payroll that puts steak on my table. I’m basically a development manager, I code when I can, and run several development teams (more on this over time).

binaryblade is an LLC which my wife and I use for any 1099 stuff we do (she’s a freelance digital artist and I have a few side-gigs that pay randomly).

Knight of the Old Code is my professional branding site. It’s … not awesome at the moment and needs a lot of love this year.

These are ordered in my priority (this mattered more in OF2 than it seems to in Things, but it still makes sense to my brain).

50,000 (lightly redacted for privacy)

This is basically what do I want to accomplish in life, playing around with this a bit, but it is meant to drive your overall goals. You shouldn’t agree to anything that doesn’t move you forward in this plan.


3 - 5 Year Goals


Monthly summary of what I want to accomplish from the higher levels.

All the above areas are used during reviews to keep myself on track.

Email to Things

So, as mentioned earlier, I plan to automate the crap out of my task list. The initial automation target GitHub.

I setup and verified my email in Github (which was kinda awesome since the “verification Email” GirHub sent appeared in the Things Inbox, and I was able to click the verification link and check it off—heh).

I then opened the fire hose and sent everything to my Things email. (Yup!) Obviously this will be trimmed back over time, but I wanted to jump in and see what will be valuable and what won’t.

It was really busy this morning, but I setup a simpler sample by planning a new project to convert my site from AWS hosted to GitHub Pages hosted. Here are the results of a few issues created and fired off to Things:

The verbosity isn’t super helpful, but it is fine. I could probably throw some automation at this at some point. But it’s quickly edited.

And deleted / moved.

They are under the KotOC Rebrand project (this needs to be cleaned up, it has a few temporary parking spots as is—some need to be deleted, some need to move to the Rebrand project).

So far, so good.

That is Ulysses with Things in slide-over. :slight_smile:

And after tapping issue 1:

So Things 3 looks sort of nice... (help!)
Collecting Collections
(Wilson Ng) #2

TThanks for the quick peek. I’ve vainly tried to do the higher altitude stuff and think longer term. Your Guidance stuff has certainly piqued my interest. I’m gonna have to revisit this with my mind map or maybe within OmniFocus.

(Joe Buhlig) #3

I moved these posts to their own topic since @knightoftheoldcode did such a great job spelling out this system.

Sweet! I love seeing folks translate my clunky systems into things they can use in other apps and in their own way.

Also, it makes me happy to see tasks around creating new Jekyll sites and GitHub Pages. :hugs:

One thing I noticed, you don’t use a dark theme for either of these apps. That seems to be the defacto developer thing to do. :thinking:

(Wilson Ng) #4

I don’t remember if Things 3 had a dark mode?

I don’t think there is a forum anymore for Cultured Code. Are they going to address saved views (show Home tags and group them by due date)?

What sort of friction did OmniFocus create for you that you thought was handled beautifully in Things?

Was there any features that you wished would be introduced in a future version of Things?

I don’t have much experience with Things 3 beyond viewing some Youtube videos and my now-expired trial demo. I did find a FAQ support article that addressed some common questions. It addresses some of the interface changes between Things 2 and Things 3.

Thanks for bringing Things 3 back to the spotlight!

(Curtis Spendlove) #5

Naw, man. Your stuff is good. It forms a great basis for things, particularly the Areas of Responsibility.

It is already jekyll, just with a “made mistakes” theme. I want to cook up a custom theme. I also want to try Github Pages since they have added quite a lot to it since last time I tried.

Yeah, unfortunate oversight of rebuilding devices. Also, I don’t think Things has a dark mode…Ulysses has been change.

(Wilson Ng) #6

I think that having a basic foundation helps. It doesn’t matter what task management program we use, If we don’t have the principles and workflow, we can use the app incorrectly. Our system can evolve to meet new challenges that occur over time. I’ve always felt that I should have a system that can be adapted to nearly any task management app.

(Justin DiRose) #7

Agreed. I didn’t start really learning productivity systems until I started seeing how others used theirs, breaking it down to the principles, figuring it out how to apply it to my system, and started talking about it. Those principles have helped me iterate on a system that’s acually working for me.

(Jimmy Johnson) #8

I love how things helps to focus on areas of responsibility, but I can’t get over the lack of ability to attach files.

A major part of my workflow is for people to email me things that I need to review or approve, and these are easily sent to my OmniFocus inbox where I can both review and approve. Doesn’t seem like I would be able to do this with things. Surely I must not be the only one who has a heavy addiction to attachments in my GTD system.


Would the Email to Things work in this case? You would not get an attachment sent to Things but would get a link to the email with the attached file.

(Jimmy Johnson) #10

Does the link back to email work across iOS and MacOS both?

(Curtis Spendlove) #11

I haven’t found one…obviously a glaring oversight. :wink:

Can’t speak for historical resources as I’m a new Things user with version 3. It seems that they really only have a blog and basic support site. I don’t see a lot of “roadmap” style documentation. Which I think is a mistake, but they have been releasing so they are definitely iterating.

I don’t know anything specific about saved views, but that would be a handy feature.

OmniFocus is an awesome app. But along with that comes added complexity. Their UI is pretty nice, but the UX can be a bit clunky at times.

I’m moving more and more flows to iOS (as they make sense, I don’t force things when I encounter friction points).

Things iOS flow is cleaner than OF2’s. But it sounds like OmniGroup plan to address this a bit in OF3.

I will have more specific things to share over time. But ultimately it is just more pleasant to use Things than OF for me. (This is completely subjective.)

… (still mulling this over)

Yup, there is definitely more info on OF than Things. I’m coming clean into Things 3 so although I read the mentioned guide, I don’t have a Things 2 database to import.

Sure…happy to play around with it. I’m not 100% sold on it over OmniFocus, but so far it is “just enough”.

I have found that I tend to get bogged down in minutiae when it is there, so I kinda like the flatter structure of Things.

(Curtis Spendlove) #12

My Email to Things address is a closely gaurded secret. I suppose you could hand that to trusted associates, but I prefer to forward.

So, above is the result of forwarding a message on my iPad. It created a link to the email, which of course links over to Mail properly.

I’m also able to trigger the link switch to Mail properly on my iPhone.

And, of course, the attachment can be opened and viewed from Mail.

(Unsure about Mac sync and custom email clients. Need more testing.)

As is, I triage on my iPad mostly. You can drag / drop an email into Things and get a link. I assume you can do the same for files. But I could be wrong.

I will experiment and report back.

It is definitely not as robust as OF for attachments though.

(A dirty little secret: I know this is against pure GtD, but I work from my email a bit. If there is something more easily handled in email–like approving documents–I flag them and keep them in the inbox. I know, I know…how dare you!!! But it works for me.)


Yes, it works across both iOS and MacOS but it appears to only open the link in Apple Mail.

(Wilson Ng) #14

OF’s greatest strength, flexibility, is also its greatest weakness. Things has a structure with Today, Upcoming, Someday, and Anyday which allows users to come in easily and quickly.This is especially true if your usage is calendar-based (Today, Upcoming, Someday, Anyway).

OF’s built-in perspectives include Inbox, Review, Forecast, Projects, Contexts Completed, and Changed. These are the basic views or perspectives. A new OF user would have to figure out how to create custom perspectives to create the same Things 3 views. Currently, I’m not crazy about the custom perspective settings. I’d like to see more of a Smart Playlist with boolean conditions (all errands that will be due soon in the next 2 months). It takes a bit of work of finally figure out custom perspectives and its limitations.

If Omnigroup can rework the custom perspectives settings to make it easier to learn, that would go a long way.

One of OF’s hardest feature to figure out was the contexts. As explained in the Omnigroup 2018 roadmap, Omnigroup is switching from using the idea/label of contexts and switching to tags. This shift in mindset will probably help newcomers adopt OF3 more easily.

One feature that Cultured Code can adopt from 2Do and OF is the ability to create a smart view feature. These are the saved custom perspectives that allows users to create custom views that filters our tasks and projects (show all tasks that will be due within the next 2 weeks).

I do love the Things 3 workflow but I am looking forward to OF3 and its promise of a user redesign.

(Jimmy Johnson) #15

Looks like an attachment sent via Files app via Share sheet in iOS doesn’t work to open the file in MacOS. Not a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind.

I really like the encryption OF offers and would prefer to not send every sensitive task to an email address in the cloud.

Wondering if Apple Mail could use a rule:

  • if BCC is me and sender is me, then run script
    Script would then:
  • email subject = task title
  • body = body
  • create message link back to email

(Joe Buhlig) #16

2 posts were split to a new topic: My Bullet Journal Derivative

(Curtis Spendlove) #17

Although I do like the idea of “smart views”, I find myself not feeling too constricted with the limited views built into the system.

I do kinda wish that Things (and most task managers) better handled certain types of “reminder” style tasks. For instance, if I add “Garbage Night”, I have to pick how to do that.

Is it an all-day calendar event?
Is it an all-day task?
Is it a task due at a certain time?

None of the above is exactly true, at least in the way I regard taking out the garbage bin to the end of the driveway. And that is a pretty simple task.

Currently, I have it set as a repeating, weekly all-day task.

I also have a similar one for recycling, but set for every two weeks.

Things has the kinda cool Evening view which might work for this, however, I’ve not yet figured out how to setup a repeating task as an Evening task. Also, Things does not seem to support setting a time for a task.

Ideally, I’d want to see Garbage Night as a weekly task, visible only in the evening (after 5 pm or such would be fine), with a reminder at 9 pm (to make sure I don’t forget it if I don’t look at my task list that evening or whatever).

That said, I’m trying to give up control and go with the flow. :wink: I’m actually fine with it being an all-day event.

But this is just a silly (common) example as to why it is hard to write a good task manager. This weekend, when thinking through some of this, I considered writing my own. (I’m not entirely sure I can even feasibly handle that, though. It’s a big project, though I could track it in Things. :wink: )

I’m quite curious to see what they come up with as well. Very interested, indeed.

(Wilson Ng) #18

I’ve decided not to use my task manager for this. I would rather use my calendar app to create an appointment and appropriate reminders (6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm). I’ve been using the Due reminder on my iPad with the nagging reminders (snooze for another hour) and will acknowledge it as done when I do finally take out the trash.

OmniFocus 3 will reportedly have nagging reminders to help us with this dilemma. But as long as you can find a workaround in Things 3, that’s all that matters.

(Curtis Spendlove) #19

Yup. It is pretty easy to define this sort of thing as a task or an event. You can then choose to handle it with an appropriate mechanism.

I’ve tried a calendar entry but then is it an all-day task or a ranged event (6 pm - 10 pm)? I may miss it on the calendar. Repeated, nagging reminders “help”, but are imperfect.

There are nuances to even simple, tiny things. I’m apt to be busy (probably playing Factorio or Rise of Industry) during that set of reminders.

Technically, the best option would be something like “remind me to take out the garbage bins about an hour before bed”. But my task manager would have to know quite a bit about me before it could do the one very well. :wink:

So, yup. All day task it is, until then. This creates some slight mental baggage around seeing it in the list of things multiple times that day. But I can mentally push it to “evening”, and mentally push it further to “right before winding down” (which for me is usually a good fiction book).

This is shy I think hiding it until a certain time frame, with an optional (nagging) reminder might be perfect. :smiley:

Man, garbage…amiright?

P.S. Incidentally, I have been redefining my calendar in regard to all of this as well. :slight_smile:

(Joe Buhlig) #20

I found that I had to do this when I shifted to the analog world. Something about it forced me to rethink how I use it in conjunction with my new task manager.