Back to Things.

I’m a serial experimenter with task tracking. But Things keeps pulling me back…

It’s a terrible habit, and the GTD crowd (and many other, far more sensible, people) will look aghast at me. But I can’t help switching task tracking methods from time to time.

Life at the Bar means running multiple cases and projects simultaneously. Lots of juggling. And deadlines which vary from the immediate to the months-ahead. So I just don’t understand how colleagues can manage that without some way of keeping track. For some, paper is best – and I respect that. For me, though, I need an app.

I’ve tried loads. But Things – a horribly expensive, yet beautiful, Mac/iOS system – has been my mainstay for several years.

I say “expensive” because unlike almost every other app or service out there, Things’ inventors, Cultured Code, charge separately for Mac, iPhone/Watch and iPad. A total of £80 for all three. Ouch. (Although that’s the lot: no ongoing subscription fee, which somewhat justifies the expense.)

But it’s lovely. Keyboard shortcuts to die for in the Mac app (and on iPad, if using a keyboard). Smooth animations. And really thoughtful design: including (lord, I love this – it’s so obvious I wonder why others don’t do it) making sure tasks for Today are permanently Today, rather than slipping automatically overnight into Overdue.

Still, every so often I wonder. Kanban boards attract me, for instance, but only if they allow a global overview. So Trello is out. And I miss the “type it all, let the system work out what you mean” way of entering info (for instance, typing “Do stuff on Monday in Projectname”, or some such, instead of picking dates and projects separately) which keeps me happily in Fantastical for calendars.

So I wandered into Todoist for the past week. The “just type it in” was fabulous. Nested projects were really useful – it does annoy me that I have to use workarounds in Things. Subtasks with their own due dates were very nice, too. And while I don’t add files to todos – my work doesn’t really lend itself to that; not where I’m not confident of where they’re being stored – being able to do so might be a real nice-to-have at some point.

But after a week, I’m back in Things. I can live with the additional step for adding dates and projects, since Things doesn’t make it too hasslesome. On iPad and iPhone, being able to drag down and search feels incredibly natural. Its smoothness and thoughtful, app-first design gets out of my way. And being able to work wholly on a keyboard – no mouse, no trackpad, no reaching up to the iPad screen – is just liberating.

So I’ll stay for a while. If I need a Kanban board for a specific project, I’ll drop into Notion. (Which reminds me – that didn’t work out as an overall option, despite my earlier optimism. And Scrivener has given way to Ulysses. I’ll get to writing that switch up – well, when I can. The tl;dr version being that Scrivener is lovely, but I just can’t work successfully without really good and simple sync.)

I can’t promise the lure of greener grass won’t crop up again. But for the moment, Things, once more, has my back. And it feels good.