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GTD: Real-life experience with Things


I'll admit it -- I'm a notorious procrastinator.

Give me something to do and no deadline, and I'll put it off until everyone forgets about it. Give me a deadline and I'll wait until the deadline is looming before I'll get things going. This not only happens in my professional life, but my personal life as well. For example, my wife is still patiently waiting for me to complete some painting in our newly renovated laundry room. Hey, it's only been a month since I started the work!

If there's anyone who needs to follow the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, it's me. In the past, my To-Do list consisted of Post-It Notes scattered on my desk with lists of things to complete. A couple of months ago I thought it would work better if I organized my notes into one place, so I bought a hard-cover Moleskine and started writing listing things to do in that book. Nice, but I was out of luck when I didn't have the Moleskine with me.

I always have my iPhone with me, so it made sense for me to start using it to help add some semblance of order to my life. That's where Things, the task manager from Cultured Code, helped me out.

The various Mac preview versions of Things have been out for quite a while, and I even tried them out earlier this year. I dutifully fired up Things every morning, entered tasks for the day, dropped in future to-do items as I thought of them, etc... Unfortunately, I couldn't take that information with me on the road, so it was essentially useless. I was back to square one with the Post-It Notes and Moleskine.

That all changed when Things for iPhone 1.1 (click opens iTunes App Store) appeared last month and syncing with the Mac version became a reality. Now I had a way to keep my über-To-Do-list updated on my Mac, where it would be backed up by Time Machine constantly, and take it with me in the iPhone as well.

Since I still do a lot of my work on my 20" iMac, I downloaded the latest version of Things from the Cultured Code website and installed it. At this time, Things for Mac is still in public beta. When it officially ships later this year, the cost will be $49 but you can guarantee a $10 discount by signing up for their newsletter now.

What I love about having Things on my iMac is that I'm not constrained to entering all of my many to-dos on the iPhone with the virtual keyboard. Instead, I can use my big, comfy Mac keyboard to type all my ideas into Things quickly.

Things for Mac

My preferred way of entering new tasks into Things is to just click the Quick Entry button in the lower right hand portion of the screen. That brings up a Quick Entry dialog (see below) that grabs all of the pertinent info like the name of the task, the due date (if any), tags to aid in searching for tasks, and notes to describe what the task entails.
Things Quick Entry

What's great about this tool now is that I can use the Things iPhone client to enter, edit, or categorize tasks when I'm away from my desktop machine. For example, while I was out of town this week, I decided that I needed to recycle a bunch of old, unused electronics equipment. I created a number of tasks (first screenshot below) to sell the items on eBay -- my preferred method of recycling -- and then moved the tasks to a new project category called "Recycle old equipment" (second screenshot below).

Things iPhone 1
Things iPhone 2
When I got back into town from Raleigh, NC, the first thing I did after powering up my iMac was to launch Things. I had already set it up to sync with my iPhone (screenshot at right) so it was ready and waiting for the iPhone to contact it. To sync, Things and the iPhone just need to be on the same Wi-Fi network and Things needed to be running on both the Mac and iPhone. Sure enough, all of the work I had done on the airThings Wi-Fi link to iPhoneplane on the way home was synced to the Mac. Items I had completed were moved to the Logbook (an archive of work that is done), new items had been added and moved to their respective projects. Cool!

I've gotten into the habit of checking the iPhone at least twice a day to see what things I need to get done, and which items I've completed. Am I getting more done? Yes, and I think most of this is due to Things being on my iMac and iPhone.

If you have a favorite GTD app for Mac and/or iPhone, please feel free to discuss it in the comments section below. And if you prefer doing your GTD tracking manually, let's hear about that as well.

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