Over the years, I gained the habit of noting timestamps on items like to-dos and projects in Things.1 Now I’m wondering if that’s overkill now that I’m getting comfortable with TaskPaper.
Generally, I prefer including timestamps with every task, project, or note for the following reasons:
“Then you’ll have it”2. (i.e. You never know if that will help in the future.)
When reviewing my tasks and projects, the timestamp is a gentle nudge to moving something forward.
If something is super stale, I’ll feel more comfortable deciding to punt it.
A penny for your thoughts! Does it really matter adding that information with to-dos and projects? Despite using snippets, am I still wasting time?
With clipboard snippets in Alfred, seven keystrokes will paste 31 characters of the current date and time (including seconds and time zone). I have three other variations with the same keyword that appends one of these words: start, added, and done. ↩
Dimitry Jacobs helped me remember that I could copy several to-dos from Things into a text editor in one step—like TextWrangler (Mac)—or an entire project into a notes app like Simplenote or Drafts (iOS).
Move my entire OF Database into 3 TaskPaper Pages. Export tip : copy and paste into TextWrangler without notes > TP3 😼👍
When you drag and drop those to-dos from Things into TextWrangler, both notes are enclosed within parentheses. (Not optimal.) In addition, the page title is saved for each note, but the URL isn’t included. Deal breaker.
Lastly, while you can copy multiple to-dos at once, you cannot copy a project and its to-dos, which means you’d need to manually copy and paste the project (along with its notes).
In contrast with the Mac app, you:
Cannot copy multiple to-dos at once.
Can copy “the contents of an entire project”.
As a workaround, the combination of the Things apps will speed up the workflow of migrating the rest of my to-dos and projects from Things to my TaskPaper files. I’ll explain “moving” to-dos that aren’t meant to be in a project.
Note: You can skip steps 4–5 when you’re comfortable with the output.
Mac (Things): Create a new, temporary project.
Move—drag and drop—all to-dos that are not in a project into the temporary project.
iPhone (Things): Copy the project. This text copy retains a bit more information—including any URLs, in a slightly nicer format—than copying from the Mac app.
iPhone (Simplenote): Paste contents into a new note.
Mac (Simplenote): Copy the contents from Simplenote.
Mac (TaskPaper): Paste the contents into TaskPaper.[^1] I paste into the top of the file.
Mac (TaskPaper): Move the to-dos out of the temporary project and into my desired locations, then format to my liking.
Mac (Things): After migrating the to-dos from an Area, move them to another Area for safekeeping.[^2] For example, along with my “Automattic” Area, I created another titled “Automattic to TP”.[^3]
If you have Drafts, here’s an alternative to steps 3–5:
After copying the project from Things (which means it’s in your clipboard), use Drafts’ Today Widget by tapping on the clipboard icon (“new draft from clipboard”).
In Drafts, run the appropriate Dropbox Action on the new draft to prepend its contents into the desired TaskPaper file.
A few other thoughts:
In TaskPaper, there isn’t an equivalent to Areas (Things).
At the moment, I’m using two separate TaskPaper files: Automattic and Personal. These are my main “Areas”. 🙂
One-off to-dos that don’t need an actual project go into a Todos project at the top of each appropriate TaskPaper file.
Tab to the Notes field, and paste the URL to the Slack message. Copy paste any other relevant URLs, plus a 5-second brain dump for additional context, if needed. (Consider: What do you need to consider when working on this item?)
Save it to your Inbox.
Next, designate a few blocks of time daily to clarify the items in your Inbox3, which leads to organizing them out of your inbox. 😉
When you need to settle down for deep work, communicate that with your team, then work from your calendar and task manager!
I grouped recurring (predefined) to-dos by adding repeating projects. This allows me to:
Focus on doing work.
Keep the Logbook “clean” going forward, and
Save time from manually copying the to-dos.
David Allen might not condone having the Today focus overflowing with to-dos and projects because some of the items don’t need to be completed that day. However, I know I have the freedom to reschedule or delete items for another day.
(By the way, the Logbook displays all to-dos and projects marked as completed or canceled, regardless of importance or length of time to completion. The repeating projects I share in the above screenshot image—and list below—aren’t that notable.)
If I see a long list of to-dos in the Logbook, where many took 5–10 minutes to complete1, and the large remaining chunk of time is dedicated for the main part of my job, it can be more difficult to identify the higher impact projects or to-dos2.
Here are my current ones:
Work (Weekdays) — Triage a few ticket queues.
Work (Weekdays) — Work in our regular ticket queues.
Home (Monthly, three days before the last day of the month) — Prepare and mail our rent check.
As an example, our landlord requests a mailed check for our rent payment (project3 and successful outcome). Here are the to-dos needed to mark this project as completed:
Write rent check.
Print USPS label.
Mail rent check.
I’d love to hear your ideas! Please share them in the comments, or publish a new post on your own blog, and link back to this one. 🙂
Examples of minor to-dos at work: catch up on reading P2 threads, or watching new intro videos. ↩
Writing this post, I realize I can make this easier by adding a tag to filter the Logbook. It’s exactly what I did to single out the three repeating projects in the image. ↩
If you’re using a task manager with tasks and subtasks, the main task would be “Mail rent check”, and the two subtasks would be (1) write rent check, and (2) print USPS label. The subtasks would need to be completed before the main task. ↩
When using Alfred’s clipboard and snippet viewer with the Quick Entry window for Things, the item would paste into the previously active window, not the Quick Entry window.
I use Alfred snippets1 or several items of text in clipboard history when entering new to-dos into Things, and have been annoyed for awhile because I couldn’t do the same with the Quick Entry window.
Today, I’m stoked to see that Andrew and Vero fixed it. Thank you! ⭐
I think one—or both—of the first two items from the Alfred Change Log for 2.7.2 addressed this issue:
Significantly improve Alfred’s focusing behaviour, not taking active from the currently focused app. This improves a number of things including clipboard history paste behaviour with a multi screen setup.
Bring the Alfred window forward in the window hierarchy
Mac: While viewing the Projects focus (⌘+5) — i.e. you aren’t viewing the details and To Do items within a project — select the project you’d like to copy, then press ⌘+D (Duplicate) to create an identical copy of the project.
It should be listed on the keyboard shortcuts page (required reading for all Things for Mac users striving to be super efficient).
Here are some project template ideas:
Important weekly/monthly checklists
Irregular projects (new clients, employees, taxes)
How would I create, organize, and save the project templates for future use?
Initial setup will take less than a minute:
Open the Tags window (⇧⌘+T), and create a tag named Template for the project.
Click the blank area—in the row of the tag—furthest to the right, which will display a text area with a blinking cursor. Choose a letter to be used for a keyboard shortcut for the tag, like “T”.
Goal thus far — When viewing the Project focus (⌘+5), find your project templates quickly by pressing Ctrl and the letter you chose in step 2 earlier. (e.g. Ctrl+T)
Create a project template:
Create a new project, which will be your template.
Add your desired project tags, notes, and To Do items.
Navigate to the Project focus (⌘+5), press the keyboard shortcut you’ve chosen for the Template tag (Ctrl+T, for this example), then move the project to the Someday focus (⌘+Y) to hide it from your Active Projects list in the sidebar. Once you’ve created several project templates, you can use the up (↑) and down (↓) arrow keys to select a project.
Optional: While viewing the Project focus (⌘+5), select the newly-created project template, and File (⇧⌘+F) the project in the correct Area.
Repeat steps 1–4 for additional project templates, as needed.
Now, you’re a few keyboard shortcuts away from creating a new project from one of your templates. By few, I literally mean:
(⌘+5) Navigate to the Project focus.
(Ctrl+T) View all projects with the Template tag.
(↓ or ↓) Navigate to your desired Project item.
(⌘+D) Duplicate the project template.
(⏎) Open the duplicated project, remove the Template tag.
Edit the project to be specific to the scenario (a.k.a. profit).