Things 3 and GTD

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss Tools & Software for GTD' started by mcogilvie, May 19, 2017.

  1. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    Things 3 was released May 18th by Cultured Code. It is an app for "personal task management" that syncs seamlessly across Apple devices: iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Mac. It is a strong contender in the high-functionality Apple task manager space, along with Omnifocus. I was a beta tester for Things 3, and thought I would provide a brief review for those interested, along with some lessons I am still learning about GTD and me.

    First, the good: Things 3 is a beautiful app, with meticulous attention to user experience. Although the core design of Things 1 and 2 is basically the same, the developers have come up with some innovative features, and also borrowed and improved on features found in other programs. A partial list:
    • Headers inside projects allow task groupings
    • Any task can have a checklist (a feature found in Wunderlist).
    • Search and Navigation is fast and easy. On a mac, you just type "Re" and you will get a list that might include a "Research" area of focus and a "Review" tag. On iOS, you pull down and type. This is similar to the cmd-O functionality in Omnifocus, but faster and works on iOS as well as macs.
    • Easy drag and drop functionality on all platforms: you just do it and it just works.
    • Easy multi-selection on iOS: almost anything you can do to one task, you can do to any number of selected tasks.
    • "Magic +" on iOS: you stab the big blue + and move it around the screen to create a new item. This determines both location and type of item in an intuitive way.
    • Most-requested features are included: time-based reminders and (on macs) multiple windows.
    • Other clever refinements, such as an "Evening" section of the Today view, and progress pies for projects.
    It is really quite elegant. I think it makes Omnifocus look cluttered and a bit ugly. The developers have done an outstanding job of design.

    Now, the not-so-good: Things 3 was designed with a particular approach to task management in mind, and it wasn't GTD. It's organization of tasks is based on Areas that contain tasks and projects; projects in turn also contain tasks. Contexts can be implemented as tags, but tags can be used for other metadata as well, such as time and energy required. This means that if you filter on the tag "Home" you will see a list like this:
    Project 1
    task for home
    Project 5
    task for home
    I find this distracting, and it's very difficult to grasp a given context's next actions at one go. You do get a consolidated view of tasks due today as well as "starred" tasks in the Today view. By default, these tasks can be rearranged with drag and drop however you like. Things is designed around making a daily plan in the Today view and organizing tasks on that daily plan. This is not new: it was the philosophy of Things 1 and 2 as well. It's not really designed for the intuitive-choice-in-the-moment that I think GTD promotes.

    Finally, lessons (re-)learned:
    • Manual re-ordering is a mixed blessing. It is something many people have wanted in Omnifocus, myself included. It is almost essential in a crunch situation. However, aside from date-based views, manual ordering is the principal sorting mechanism in Things, and it gets tedious in day-to-day use.
    • Projects in the sense of ordered sets of actions are a necessary evil in a task manager, both essential and a trap. 90% of my projects only have one or two next actions at any given moment, but the temptation to make near-useless "project plans" is strong. Things exacerbates this tendency. On the other hand, I have a few responsibilities that require planning, coordination with others and attention to detail that really warrants a high degree of organization, a project plan if you will. Overall, organization of actions into projects represents drag on the system, and that's true in Things or Omnifocus, or any similar system.
    I am completely on the fence between Omnifocus and Things. They are both very good at what they do, but neither is great for me. Things is probably a good choice for people who want a tool that starts simple but can do more, and for people who really like daily plans.
     
  2. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    It's great that the upgrade price is not higher than the price for new customers. Oh, wait, there's no upgrade price. ;-)
     
  3. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I think it is fair to say that most of the people buying Things 3 at 20% off the first week will be upgraders. This is the first time Cultured Code has had a paid upgrade, and the pricing seems fair to me. On the other hand, the annual fees charged by some tools in the GTD space seem pretty high at near or even above USD 100 per annum. For reference, the cost of an annual refill for a paper planner is somewhere around USD 35. It's not as if we don't have a choice, though.
     
  4. Folks

    Folks Registered

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    Things 3 on the MacBook looks good but is - again - no real GTD software.
    No Weekly Review, nothing for Reference Material etc.
    On the iPad there is a problem if you have a lot of projects as they push the contexts or "areas" as they call it downwards so that they disappear.
    As an old Things user I am very disappointed about the new version.
    I have completely changed to FacileThings. At first I was in doubt to go back to Things (3) but there is no need for me.
     
  5. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I haven't noticed ANY info in Things 2.8.10 on iPad about this discount. And the app is 17.99 Euro in app store. No 20% promotion mentioned. And within one day (2017-05-18) they've published 3.0, 3.0.1,, and 3.0.2 version of the app. It doesn't look stable...
    How do you move your tasks from 2.8.10 to 3.0.2 if these versions are two unrelated apps?
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  6. photodiva

    photodiva Registered

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    As a long-time but sporadic Things user, I purchased the upgrade for the desktop, iPhone and iPad versions. It was super easy to migrate from Things 2. I too was disappointed at first and felt a bit lost. This morning I gave it another look and came up with what I think will work for me. It's very similar to how I have been using Evernote for GTD. I have areas (work, personal, etc) with projects listed under them. Then I created a new area for each context (computer, home, waiting for, etc) and this is where all the next actions go. It's clean and simple. I use the notes section in the project for noting key info and a little update about the project's status. I can move actions into the Today list, and I really like that I can also see calendar items from iCal there.
     
  7. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    Where can I find this 20% off promotion (that @mcogilvie mentioned) in app store?
     
  8. photodiva

    photodiva Registered

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    When you go to the App store, the price is listed with the 20% discount applied. So the Mac version was $39.99 USD but two weeks from now it will be $49.99 USD.
     
  9. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    In Poland it's 43.99 Euro ($49.30). It's sad that the EU company offers discounts for US customers only. :-(
     
  10. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    People in the US are poor due to the high price of prescription drugs in the US so we get a special break on imported GTD software. o_O Your right, of course. None of it makes much sense.
     
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  11. chirmer

    chirmer Registered

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    Thanks for your post, @mcogilvie - it's great to get feedback from someone who heavily uses GTD. I'm giving it a whirl, because I really like how it looks so far and Things was my very first task app, so I'm sentimentally attached to it, I suppose. I always get turned off apps because they're just too complicated, and this one looks like it's going to strike the right balance for me, possibly. Plus, no matter how hard I practice GTD, I still love to see my day laid out for me. I get decision fatigue very easily, I've discovered.

    I just wish it were subscription-based. I'm not a fan of forking out all of the money up-front if it turns out in a month it's not for me. Especially when it's $80 for all 3 apps. Yikes. It's what has kept me off Omnifocus for so long. I know that long-term it's cheaper for the consumer, but there's more risk and I'm incredibly risk-adverse ;)
     
  12. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I really relate. Doing and deciding is hard enough without having to jump through hoops with your software. I did find out something interesting just before Things 3 came out of beta. I was really busy with the end of the semester and an upcoming trip. There were lots of next actions, with lots of drop-dead due dates and sequencing. Just for fun, I set everything up in both Things 3 and Omnifocus, and found they both worked very well for me in a sort of "crisis mode." So I think the question for me may be what works on (so-called) normal days. As soon as I have a couple of normal days in a row, maybe I'll figure it out.
     
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  13. chirmer

    chirmer Registered

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    Yeah, I really struggle with decision fatigue. I never realized GTD triggered it for me until I went back to a planning-based method. Wow, what a difference! But things fell through the cracks (a lot of things), so I'm trying to find a happy middle zone. This new Things seems like it might do the trick, though I'm soooo tired of swapping around apps. I've been doing the bare minimum necessary to get things done, but the summer is my busiest time of year and decision fatigue is back in full-force. I just cannot function the way GTD advocates by default - the thought of staring at my entire Next Actions list every time I complete a task in order to pick the next one practically gives me hives. Too many decisions get made just in deciding what to do - when it comes to making a decision for a task or project, I'm spent. I'm not really sure how to solve this, but at least it now has a name and I'm trying different things to see what works.

    Sadly, I cannot use Things at work - I'm on a PC. Which is, of course, where 99% of my projects reside. Also, it looks like files cannot be attached to tasks? Anyone with the Mac app able to say whether or not files can be attached?
     
  14. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I've struggled with this too. While I have no definitive answers even for myself, I've found two strategies that seem to work well for me under different circumstances. The first is really just Covey's four quadrant scheme used as a daily plan. The priorities are urgent and important, followed by important, followed by urgent, followed by neither. It's easy to implement this in Omnifocus; in Things I do it with drag and drop and faux next-action separators in Today. The other one I got from Mark Forster, who has really focused on list traversal algorithms. The scheme I like is called (hold your hat) "Fast Final Version Perfected". Basically, you move backwards in time on a preselected list of next actions towards the oldest action. It was designed for paper, and there's no perfect electronic implementation.

    Files cannot be attached, alas. Links do work, at least for URL's and email. I haven't tried other kinds of links yet.
     
  15. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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    I can find FVP but not FFVP. Where's FFVP description?
     
  16. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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  17. TesTeq

    TesTeq Registered

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  18. Gardener

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    Do you have the power/authority to limit your work in progress--that is, to be working on a very limited number of projects at once? That's my current strategy for reducing overwhelm.

    A Google search that finds a fair bit of discussion is

    kanban limiting wip
     
  19. chirmer

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    Sadly only to a very limited extent. I can make a plea to my supervisor that I'm overwhelmed, but unfortunately I'm working a job that really should have two separate people doing each half of my job. My saving grace is that I meticulously note everything (thanks, GTD, for building this habit!), so when someone asks me why I haven't done this or that yet, I can point to them the 75 things above it on the list and they stop nagging for a bit :) I got our workplace on Trello, and let me tell you, being able to point people towards my tasks board is a real eye-opener for them. Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that certain higher-ups here are taking on more than we, the staff, can chew at one time, so we're pretty much just stuck dealing with it :(

    Sigh. I will continue doing research, however, so thank you for the Google suggestion!
     
  20. photodiva

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    Files can be attached -- I just tried it -- but it looks like the only way is to drag and drop a file into the Notes section of a task. But it works -- I tried it with a pdf and a Word doc.
     

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