Review of Things up on NosillaCast

I'm reviewing Things Mac and Things iPhone by Cultured Code at www.culturedcode.com. These applications complement the "Getting Things Done" methodology developed by David Allen. I got interested in this methodology after reading about it in the "Next Actions" column at the "About This Particular Macintosh" website (www.atpm.com). I downloaded the audio book from Audible last December and away I went.

The philosophy behind "Getting Things Done" in a nutshell is to collect up all your "open loops" - tasks that you have to do, be they work or personal - so that you move them from your (overfilled) brain to an external tracking system. David talks about classifying these tasks based on context, such as "phone", "office", "computer", so that you can go through the tasks based on where you are at, and even how much energy you have. He also advocates using projects to collect tasks for which multiple steps have to be done to accomplish the job. There's much more in the method and I encourage you to read or listen to the "Getting Things Done" book.

Enter Things - my electronic task tracking system. Things makes it very easy to enter tasks into your "Inbox". Just press the plus-button or cmd-N or control-space when Things is running and enter your task. When you're ready to go through the Inbox, click on that and move the tasks accordingly to projects or whatever. You can set due dates, schedule recurring tasks - such as reminders to pay bills each month. Things also supports categorising tasks by projects as well as by areas of responsibility. You can also create team members and delegate tasks. There's even a "Someday" folder where you can collect your long term goals or further out tasks. Just get them out of the mind and into Things.

Things lets you create and assign tags to your tasks. This lets you identify the contexts which you want to associate with your task. For example you could assign "phone" to a task to indicate that you need to be by a phone to do that task. You can also assign more than one tag to a task, so you could have a task which had "phone" and "home" tags. Things then lets you filter your tasks by tags so you can quickly locate all the phone calls you need to make, or errands you have to do.

The best part about Things is that the Mac and iPhone apps seamlessly integrate with each other. All you have to make sure is that the iPhone and Mac are on the same wifi network and start both apps. The first time you sync you have to pair the iPhone and Mac - much like pairing a Bluetooth headset. And after that it's all transparent. Things Mac has a menu item to sync on demand if you need that.

There's a whole lot more which Things can do - go check out Cultured Code's website! Now, you can actually do the "Getting Things Done" technique without using Things, through a filing system and a set of tickler or memory jogger files but... where's the fun or tech in that?!?

I'm glad to say that keeping with the Getting Things Done mindset has been working beautifully. Firstly, it's remembering to keep track of all my projects and actions using Things for the iPhone and Mac. When I can't do that, I jot the task or action down in my Livescribe notebook or a small 3x5 flip notebook which I keep in my purse. Later when I have the iPhone or Mac, I transfer the task items into the electronic tracking system.

I've also emptied my e-mail inboxes for home and work - yes, there are NO messages in ANY of my inboxes! I triage my inbox each time mail comes in and move task items to the @Action, @ReadReview or @Reference mail folders, as mentioned by David Allen in his book, and so named so they sort to the top of your folder list. Then when it comes time to take action, I sweep through my @Action folder and dispatch them. Any e-mails which I need a response to, get filed into @WaitingFor - which I review regularly to keep track of the response.

It's been almost 2 months since I started on my voyage with GTD. It takes discipline to focus, organise references, gather tasks and determine next actions but the result has been worth it. My brain feels a whole lot less stressed since I've started putting all my project tasks and actions into Things - even home chores! I still need to sort out my filing system at home and at work - I've bought a Brother P-touch PT-2700 labeller for home and it lets me print labels from Mac OS X, and use the Brother labeller from my lab at work.

You can learn more about "Getting Things Done" at David Allen's website www.gettingthingsdone.com. I highly recommend both the Things applications and use them both at home and at work - there's a hint on Cultured Code's website on how to use DropBox to synchronise your Things database between several Macs - you just have to remember that only one copy can run at a time since the database is single access only. Starting on the methodology has certainly helped me managing my tasks and reference material. I'm presently reading David Allen's "Getting Things Done" book to build up my skills and remind myself of what I heard in the audiobook. Enjoy your "Getting Things Done" voyage!