Hi everyone! What ways do you use Things to be more productive? What does your setup look like and what tips/tricks do you have for other Things users?
I’m a big fan of Things 3, and depend on it totally nowadays. I adore it.
Anyway, something I started doing recently is using another app (SimpleNote in my case, but anything that’s Markdown friendly, syncs between macOS and iOS, and is share sheet friendly on iOS will do) for keeping a growing library of lengthy checklists (e.g. what to pack for a work trip that involves flying, my checklist for filming an animated video) or meal recipes together with their ingredient lists in Markdown format.
On my iMac I can select the text in a checklist, hold down the keys to activate LaunchBar, and then send the selected text to an AppleScript I wrote that parses the Markdown into the json syntax of Things’ URL scheme.
That may sound like a mouthful, but it takes a split second to invoke, and it instantly generates in Things, from one text note… multiple todos, each with tags, notes, and multiple sub-actions.
So now when I find myself repeating complicated tasks which require multiple sub-steps, I have a repository of tagged checklists I can quickly add to Things.
SimpleNote syncs across macOS and iOS, so I have it on my phone and iPad, and I’ve built an equivalent workflow in Workflow app — I can select the text in a note, tap the share button that appears and run the workflow from the share sheet to import the same checklist info directly into Things when I’m away from my Mac.
With the desired checklist now in Things, as I progress through the list, perhaps checking if I have all the ingredients for tonight’s dinner, I can mark each action complete (and the remaining checklist becomes my shopping list in the case of recipes)
I love how scripting and URL schemes allow me to combine and extend already powerful apps and use them in ways beyond what the developers wanted to include as standard features
I’ve been using Things as my primary task manager since December. I’ve written more in depth about why, but it has worked incredibly well for me since then. So much so that I wasn’t even really tempted to try out the latest version of OmniFocus when it came out.
I do my best to follow the GTD methodology, and Things helps me do this without stressing me out.
I have 5 different “Areas” set up: Personal, Work, Church, Podcast, and Blog, and these all often have different projects set up inside of them.
The Today view is where I mostly live though. I will often assign a date (not a due date, just a “When?” Date) to a task that is when I hope to do that task based on how my week looks. If I get to that day and I realize I don’t have time, I just select another date. If something comes up midday and I don’t have time, but I definitely need to do it tomorrow, I just leave it. No flashing red, no overdue, I just do it the next day.
One of my favorite features of Things though is Siri on the Apple Watch. Other task managers I tried could add tasks via Siri, but not on the Apple Watch. Things can. The only downside is that in order for the task you add to sync to other devices, you have to open the Things app on your watch. This is a limitation of watchOS ( for a fix in watchOS 5?).
Things automation is really powerful too if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve loved integrating it into Drafts 5.
All in all, Things has a lot of what I loved about OmniFocus (GTD focus, native iOS experience), without the things I don’t (the UI is much better in my opinion, overdue stress, etc).
That’s my biggest hangup too - Siri not working 100% properly. For me it’ll add tasks but it won’t set off reminders if I add via Siri. But the Apple watch complication works well!
I use Things3 on all my iOS devices and my MBP. I have 6 areas set up such as for Work, Financial, Home Tasks, Shopping, Fun Activities, etc. And within those I have projects with tasks. Before switching to Things I had some of this info spread across Evernote, Notes, Calendar and Reminders. It was complicated and a mess to navigate. Now I have everything in Things and have tasks scheduled out 5 years or more in advance (e.g. reminders to renew driver’s licenses, replace old smoke detectors or etc). I also use the feature to forward email to Things. I have yet to set up a Workflow using Things.
Compared to some other options I like the clean UI. UIs I find distracting, cluttered or ugly really hinder my usage of an app. I also found setting up Things and maintaining it to be close to effortless which is for me at least an advantage. Of course everyone has different preferences so it is always a good idea to try something out for yourself. And I know a number of people who end up changing tasks management apps every couple of years because for them that helps them.
Re having to open the app on Apple Watch to have tasks added via Siri take effect, I have a Series 3, with Things pinned in my watch’s dock — it is my understanding that with watchOS 4, pinning an app in the watch dock signals the OS to keep that app in active memory and updated more often.
I had thought that just having an adornment for Things on the watch face would have a similar effect, and it may be my imagination, but I’d swear adding it to the dock had a significant beneficial effect beyond adding a watch-face adornment (Disclaimer: not a scientific study with double-blind testing!)
So I find that adding tasks to Things via Siri on the watch almost always takes effect without having to open the watch version of the app. Not 100% of the time, but roughly 19 out of 20 times.
Do you have Things added to your watch’s dock? Does that make a difference for you?
This is very interesting! A related tip I picked up from somewhere for these common checklists was to make the template checklist and set it to Someday - that gets it out of the way but they remain handy for duplicating and dragging over into the appropriate project whenever you are ready for it.
I use an Alfred workflow to get to predefined combinations of tag-combinations that I use often. Previously I had all these in a Bear note that I would open side-by-side with Things, like here:
I also put in some up-front effort into organizing tags and having memorable shortcuts so I could assign those quickly. Following a GTD-ish system, my tags cover:
Ideal time to be doing the task (morning, afternoon, evening) + two speciality tags - “deep work” and “MIT” - so “MIT” definitely gets done the first thing early-ish in the morning - different from the “morning” from the parentheses, which is just the first half at office and “deep work” gets done whenever I can steal a long-ish block of uninterrupted time.
Context - so I know what combinations of apps to fire up.
Status - with me, for me to delegate, waiting for someone else… I tend to always filter tasks by the the first in this category, unless I’m up for review.
Expected duration and energy level.
Here’s a mindmap with the tags overview:
I’ll pingback with any other details that may be of general interest from my setup
When I get the time, I’m going to do a full writeup on my website, but one handy thing I’ve done is create a workflow in the Workflow app that takes an email from Airmail on iOS and creates a Thing task, with one key difference from the default Things action. The key difference is the mail link at the end of the message. It puts a link to the Airmail message there, but also converts that link into a Mail URL, and puts that there, too. That lets me open the link on my Mac, where Airmail isn’t my app of choice (I use both Mail and MailMate on my Mac for work/personal, and have a Keyboard Maestro macro to open the link in the correct app).
I’ve noticed that ever since I put the Things in my watch dock and as a primary complication on the watch, Siri seems to accurately record everything I ask her to save. As a side note - it also seemed to fix all my CarPlay issues. So hopefully in WatchOS 5 we see improvements
Following for insights and for posting my own setup some time ;).
I switched over to Things 3 about six weeks ago after nearly seven years with OmniFocus. The transition was smooth, and I have completely adapted to the Things workflow. I particularly appreciate the Today view. I’ve created a morning ritual where I spend two or three minutes to shape my day. It’s dead simple to rearrange tasks to get them in the approximate order I’ll do them in. Swiping tasks to the left allows you to perform bulk actions. I’ll use this to set the tasks I want to complete later this evening which is nicely presented in the Today view. The time I spend each morning setting up my day is somehow calming and keeps me focused and productive now that I’ve spent the few minutes it takes to set my agenda for the day. OmniFocus has many powerful features like custom perspectives, but I never really felt as much control of the day itself like I do with Things.
I am a new user to Things 3.
I had mistakenly set up some items to repeat daily. Then I did not look at the app for several days. When I later opened it I saw multiple copies of the repeated items. What a mess!
Anyway, I was able to clean up the duplicate items and then I realized that I had set up the repeats incorrectly. I saw that you can set the repeats for “after completion” (not daily) which is much closer to what I really wanted anyway.
So, I’m just passing this on for any new user of Things 3.
This is an awesome thread. Just started using Things on the iPhone about 3 months ago and love to see how others are using Things. I think Things is perfect for those that appreciate a simple UI and want to live a less stressful life, more of a Viticci style life. If I don’t get to something in my Today view, it just rolls over to the next day. No big deal (as long as I eventually complete it).
I finally decided to go all in with Things - at least with the iPad version. I am going to delegate all my todo’s to the iPad and leave the Mac for my other work.
I have to add that the combo of Drafts and Things is absolutely a game changer. No longer do I enter my tasks in Things - most of it is done in Drafts. it is so awesome. And because of this combo, I am pretty sure that I can get away without using the Mac version.
(on a side note, same thing with Drafts and Calendar - no more single entry of Calendar events) Amazing.
That’s the path I’m traveling. Don’t have a heavy load but my iPad is the base for handling mail too.
No, I do not aspire to iPad only.
Going from Todoist to Things 3 had me using projects for actual projects. That being said this “tip” is nothing revolutionary, but I adopted it from listening to CGP Grey’s podcast in that every project gets a codename instead of a literal name.
In my line of work, this is really handy in that a project’s scope and external name can change over the course of working on it. A codename is catchy, fast, and easy to remember.
I would be confused trying to remember the codenames.
You can set up recurring events to repeat after completion or on a fixed schedule.
One of my least productive habits is switching between OmniFocus and Things a couple of times a year, with occasional side-excursions into 2Do and Todoist. I swore in February that I was never going to do that again – even wrote a blog post about it:
Then I did it again in May or so and then I did it AGAIN two days ago!
The latest trigger was this review by Gabe Weatherhead:
I realized that some of the things he finds annoying about OmniFocus are things I find annoying. And the reasons he uses OmniFocus do not apply to me. So I switched. I used a script for importing from OmniFocus to Things and now I’m back on Things.
Things just involves a lot less clicking around. 90% of my tasks go on one long, unstructured list, and Things seems happier about that. You don’t have to select a project to save to Things. Just enter a task, move it to “Today” or “Anytime,” and you’re done. Also, I like the search: Cmd-F calls up a search box, enter some text and the results pop up. With OmniFocus you have to select whether to search “here,” “remaining” or “everywhere.” I use search often; if I think I may have entered a task already, I do a quick search to check, to avoid duplication.
I do miss the way OmniFocus handles repeating tasks. OF repeats the last occurrence of a task, so if you modify the task the subsequent repetitions reflect the changes. Things replicates from a master copy.