TIL (Things 3) – Filter list by multiple tags

When viewing a list on all platforms (Mac, iPad, or iPhone), you can filter by more than one tag.

  • Mac: Press and hold Command (⌘), then click your desired tags.
  • iPhone: Filter by tag, select one tag, then return the same menu for the ability to check more tags.

The “Using Tags” support page by Cultured Code gave a handy example:

It’s useful […] if you want to see all your 🏷 Work to-dos that are also🏷 Important.

For Todoist, see “Filter for tasks by label“. As for Wunderlist, no joy.

Considering TaskPaper 3

Since April 2012, I’ve been a fan of Things as my task manager.1 I haven’t pondered venturing away—until TaskPaper 3. Here’s where my rabbit hole began:

I imagine that navigating through plain text in TaskPaper will be much quicker than going through the menus in an app like Things.2

My goal: see how switching a major part of my GTD system to plain text files affects my productivity, and speeds up weekly reviews. I’m also extremely interested in the power of saved searches. Thirdly, Matt Gemmell shared a TaskPaper theme that, in his words, mimics the aesthetic of OmniFocus.3

Ooh.


  1.  I have eight posts tagged about Things
  2. Yes, there are keyboard shortcuts for Things—which I use heavily—and TaskPaper. 
  3.  I haven’t used OmniFocus, but I’m aware many use it as their task manager of choice. See also: Omnifocus Field Guide by MacSparky, and “My Perspectives in OmniFocus 2” by Brett Kelly

Keep your todos out of Slack

I read through a P2 thread at work discussing Slack and productivity, and figured I should share my thoughts and practices here.

These were some ideas mentioned for Slack messages:

  • Star if you need to take action.
  • Mark as unread until you respond.
  • Open the Slack archive page in a browser window.
  • Slackbot reminders.

I’ve done the first two, but these all blur the primary purpose of Slack: communication and collaboration.

Embrace your task manager and calendar. When used properly, these are your spam-free lists of time-specific events, todos, and projects. When I’m unsure what I should be doing next, I check these.

Embrace your inbox, and “empty” it often

A colleague asks for a favor that isn’t time-sensitive while you’re in the middle of something. What do I do?

Next, designate a few blocks of time daily to clarify the items in your Inbox3, which leads to organizing them out of your inbox. 😉

Now what?

When you need to settle down for deep work, communicate that with your team, then work from your calendar and task manager!


Also highly recommended: The five steps of GTD Methodology


  1. Reference — Quick Entry for: OmniFocus, Todoist, Wunderlist (called “Quick Add” 
  2. This could also be a prompt to gain clarification. For example, “Ask David for sanity check re: documentation update”. 
  3. See also: Battle To-Do Debt 

Battle To-Do Debt

My colleague, Alex Gustafson, recently wrote about To-Do Debt, and I’d like to dissect his post. 🙂

Reminder: I try to practice the methods described in “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

I’m one of those people that uses a full to-do list as motivation to keep the day moving. Left to my own devices I can sit quietly in my chair and let hours float by while I just think. There’s lots of thinking to do. But when I have a full list, it’s a lot less likely I’ll waste my time this way.

The end result is that I add a due date to almost everything in my Wunderlist so that I can stare at the “Today” smart list instead of into my own mind. The other result is that a lot of my recurring events will go red (i.e., late) and stay red for great lengths of time.

I think you’ve gone numb to a few areas in your task manager. The edges of your system are fuzzy from missing proper categorization, and you have too many items scheduled to be completed each day.

Confession: I do the latter often. It’s a work in progress. 🙂

If you ignore the red text (time-sensitive to-dos), the system breaks down from lack of trust, and reduce the chances that you’ll take those to-dos seriously. Don’t set unnecessary due dates on to-dos.


David Allen suggests using your calendar for items due on a certain days.

I use my calendar for timed events and informational items (a.k.a. FYI), but I’m cool with due dates in my task manager, Things, where to-dos or projects appear in red on the day they need to be completed.


I spot an Automattic and Ingress list in your sidebar, and suggest creating folders and/or more lists. (e.g. DnD, Draw, Read, Blog/Main, Blog/Baby, and Someday.)

Glancing at the lists in your sidebar can help with a trigger to review the to-dos in each list, and keep you accountable to move items forward to completion. (Or, help you realize you should move a list/to-do to your Someday folder/list.)

Sort the to-dos into lists when you determine where they belong, rather than staying there indefinitely. If a to-do isn’t in a list, I feel it has less importance because I haven’t fully determined how and why it needs to be done.

Add tags (context) to to-dos in your Inbox. Tags allow you to reduce the number of displayed items appropriate to your current context.

Here are some example tags:

  • Time (5m, 10m, 15m, 30m, 45m, 60m, 90m)
  • computer
  • home
  • errand
  • call
  • iPhone
  • internet
  • write
  • read
  • book
  • buy
  • car
  • Energy (low, medium, high)

In practice:

  • 07:30 — I’m inspired to write! I’ll view the “write” tag.
  • 11:45 — I have 15 minutes at work before heading out to lunch. In the Automattic list, view the “15m” tag.
  • 16:00 — I’m tired. I’ll wind down by catching up on reading P2s threads by viewing to-dos with the “read” tag in the Automattic list.
  • 20:30 — Are there five or six quick to-dos around home I can complete within the next 30 minutes? View the Home list, then search for the “5m”, “10m”, “15m”, or “30m” tags.

For instance, learning to draw is a hobby right now. I want to do a little bit everyday, but it’s much lower priority than finishing my work tasks or chores at home. So it hasn’t happened in almost a week.

Is it a priority, would you like for it to be a priority, or will it be a priority at a later date? This is a great exercise, as I sometimes find myself inadvertently embracing guilt, rather than punting something to my Someday list, or scheduling the to-do to resurface on a later date.

At least once a week, review all your lists — to-dos and projects — in order to:

  • Add new items.
  • Add context to items that have gone stale.
  • Add subtasks to stalled to-dos. Don’t forget to add tags to those subtasks.
  • Check completed items.
  • Delete irrelevant items.
  • Punt items to a Someday list.

While the features and terminology might differ, the concepts are similar from Getting Started with Things:

Great titles for your to-dos make a big difference. […] Be crystal-clear about the real action you’re going to take, so that when you see the to-do again later you won’t have to think twice about what you meant.

Using your screenshot, here are some examples where I combine the above concepts (descriptive title that conveys action, plus tags):

  • “Blog post” vs. “Blog post: Read and scoff at Bryan’s post about To-Do Debt” (Tags: read, 10m, computer, internet)
  • “Read” vs. “Read GTD: Chapter 1” (Tags: read, 30m, book)
  • “DnD Writing” vs. “Write about x” (List: DnD. Tags: 30m, write)
  • “Drawing” vs. “Start sketch of y” (List: Draw. Tags: 30m, write)

Mowing the yard is important, but I hate doing it and I’m only willing to bother under the right weather conditions and time. So it will probably stay red all the way up until there’s a jungle in my back yard.

Let’s apply some a couple minutes of thought to the to-do “Mow the Yard” as an exercise.

  • Do you need to prepare anything before you can start mowing the yard? If yes, add subtasks.
  • How much time will it take? Add tags!
  • Do you and your wife care if it’s a jungle in the back yard? If not, move it to your Someday list or folder to get rid of the guilt. You’ll come across it when you review your lists weekly, or when you see a jungle in your back yard. 🙂

At what point do you declare to-do bankruptcy to get rid of all this to-do debt?

I don’t; that’d entail nuking the whole system and starting from scratch.

Throw Simba

Instead, I employ the above techniques to renegotiate my agreements to eliminate any guilt.

I can work very hard all day, cross lots of items off my list, and still feel like I’m not getting traction.

Traction on what? Try adjusting your Smart Lists so Completed is visible, and review it daily for a confidence boost — or reality check if you’re doing to-dos that aren’t relative to your goals.

I’m one of those people that uses a full to-do list as motivation to keep the day moving. Left to my own devices I can sit quietly in my chair and let hours float by while I just think. There’s lots of thinking to do. But when I have a full list, it’s a lot less likely I’ll waste my time this way.

The end result is that I add a due date to almost everything in my Wunderlist so that I can stare at the “Today” smart list instead of into my own mind.

Takeaways

  • You already have a full to-do list in Wunderlist (and your calendar). Both are technically groups of organized sublists in various designs and layouts. Review both when you have discretionary time, then work off those tasks.
  • Limit your Today smart list for to-dos that need to be done today.
  • Pat yourself on the back! Review your Completed smart list regularly.
  • Allow yourself to “punt” items to a later date, into your Someday list, or into the trash.
  • Bonus: Read “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen. 😉

Thanks for the prompt, Alex!

How Things makes me even more awesome

Things 2 screenshotAround nine months ago, Isaac Keyet persuaded me to try Things for Mac by Cultured Code. I usually prefer plain text, but that’s too simple for the stuff I jot down.

With keyboard shortcuts galore, I quickly fell in love with this app. It costs $49.99 for Mac, $9.99 for iPhone, and $19.99 for iPad — and it’s worth every penny. I’ll explain how I manage tasks with Things.

At work

At Automattic, we communicate internally through IRC, private P2–themed sites, and Skype. However, I do receive email notifications regularly because it helps with my workflow.

At the beginning and end of each shift, my routine consists of processing my email (new post or comment notifications), and reviewing IRC or Skype messages I missed when I was offline. I skim messages, open batches of five to ten browser tabs, and delete the corresponding emails.

When I come across a post that requires more digging (i.e. longer than a minute), I press Control–Option–Space bar to use Quick Entry, which automatically inserts a link in the notes. That item gets saved to Things. (Inbox, by default.)

Without moving my hands from the keyboard, I can enter a title and tags for the item. When I’m done, pressing Return saves the item in Things and the Quick Entry window disappears, leaving me where I left off.

If there’s a block of text that’s perfect for the notes, highlighting it before pressing the Quick Entry with Autofill keyboard shortcut adds it to the notes after the link.

I also sort my Inbox items into Next or Scheduled after processing email. (This might be against GTD methodology, but I equate the Scheduled focus to my digital tickler file.)

If I have an idea that isn’t linked to a webpage or email, or if someone pings me and I can’t get to them right away, I can press the Quick Entry keyboard shortcut (Control–Space bar) and jot it down in seconds.

It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not missing anything as long as it’s in Things (or my calendar, of course).

Pro tip: Read through the keyboard shortcuts a few times, or print it as a reminder. I’ve been using my trackpad too much.

Not at “work”

Away from my desk, I can write new items or ideas quickly with Things for iPhone. I add items from the Things home screen, saving to the Inbox by default.

When I get home, I add additional context (tags, notes). If I’m browsing a site or Twitter, and something piques my interest, I’ll take the extra few seconds to copy the URL in my clipboard to paste in the item notes.

I used their mobile app with local sync via Wi-Fi (before cloud sync), and I think it’s superb now that cloud sync works perfectly.

Wading through tasks

I’m infatuated with tags, making sure I assign the correct one for each item. By doing this, my Next screen is super focused, allowing me to ignore stuff I can’t handle at the moment. Here are a few examples:

  • At work, my Automattic tag allows me to ignore errands and tasks I need to do at home. (Tag management side note: computer is a parent tag, while Automattic is a child tag since I’m in front of a computer when working.)
  • My home tag removes items I need to do at home and away from a computer.
  • My errand tag focuses my view to tasks when I’m out and about.

Relevancy

This process allows me to batch tasks. I’m not constantly changing gears between P2s, Trac, updating support pages, helping people using WordPress.com through email/forums, processing photos, or writing posts (like this one).

I’m also not worried about forgetting the context of an item. I add just enough notes to describe what needs to be done.

Conclusion

If you work on a Mac every day, you should check out the 15–day free trial. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.

Thank you, Things, for keeping me sane. 🙂