Back on Things 3 (from OF)

I thought I would revive this perennial as I have (not sure if temporarily or not) moved all my task management into Things from OmniFocus

Having used OF for years and been on the iOS Beta since forever I am getting frustrated with it. Firstly the Beta just rumbles on and on, frankly I am probably going to resent paying for it when it launches as I have been using it for months now.

Secondly the Beta, written in Swift, is far from smooth, yes I know its Beta but the inline inspector is not my favourite thing and drag and drop/tap targets are exceedingly flaky.

Mainly though the ability to create headings and checklists in Things, for me is a proving to be revolutionary. For example I took an on-line course I am doing on the Greensock/Scroll Trigger JS libraries out of OF where it needed a folder, three projects, one for each part of the course and numerous action groups within each. In Things it’s one project, three headings, and tasks with checklists, oh and MarkDown notes in tasks where I need them.

While it might be the same number of actual things to tick off, visually it’s easier to assimilate, there are less actual tasks (due to the embedded checklists) and a general feeling of calm, so therefore willingness to tackle it, as opposed to what OF gave me visually.

My weekly review is now a a task with a checklist rather than (yet) another project, the same goes for a few other checklist things I do weekly/monthly.

I rarely use due dates so the defer/due options in OF I can (I think) do without, and I have created some shortcuts and a KBMaestro palette to simulate my perspective setup. I will be interesting to see how it goes, this is my second attempt with Things, this time though I have a feeling it will stick!

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This kinda reminds me of @curtismchale’s video on OmniFocus being legacy software.

I agree with him in some regard – it’s weird to see OF lag so far behind the usability of other apps. Then hearing reports like yours of how difficult it is to do normal stuff in OF4 makes me a bit concerned about how successful OF will be going forward.

I’m sure OF will retain its cult following as it has for years, but the polish and ease-of-use of other apps (namely Things and Todoist) are so much more attractive to me.

I’m currently using Todoist for all my task management. Honestly, every time I opened up OF, I got stressed the heck out because I had to figure out every little nut and bolt of my workflow. Too many knobs. Too few guardrails. Not enough help where I needed it.

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You could call me one of those “cult” followers. I have used Omnifocus since 2013 & never really considered another option. It works! :+1::wink:

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Agreed yes it works, but 1. The Beta is moving in a direction which I am not particularly liking (in-line inspector, swift implementation is causing issues etc etc) 2. It has not really evolved in terms of new features, emphasis has been on automation which is in a lot of cases a solution looking for a problem and 3. Apps like Things, and ToDoist have been much more innovative in recent times.

Honestly if I could rely on 2Do, that may well be my best option but the glacial development rate does not allow me to trust it with systems so central to my business.

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I would’t introduce the OF4 beta to anyone because it’s still in the gestation phase. Version 4.0 is mostly a rewrite using SwiftUI which is also having birthing pains of its own. But it lays a solid foundation for future iterations. I suspect that version 4.1 will be where we actually see new features introduced. But version 4.1 won’t come until the iOS version 4.0 is released and the Mac version 4.0 is finally launched.

I’m eager for Omni Group to finally break away from its OmniOutliner roots and finally incorporate things like a Kanban view or checklists.

I just have my iPad in split-screen mode with 2 OmniFocus perspectives. The left pane shows a custom perspective showing my checklist perspective and the right pane showing my other work.

As an alternative, I did set up a Numbers spreadsheet document as a spreadsheet. I have split-screen active with the Numbers spreadsheet on the right pane taking up 1/3rd of the screen. The other 2/3rds of the screen on the left is reserved for whatever app I want to work on.

This idea originated from a previous post where I used a Numbers spreadsheet in the slideover pane:

As an example, I have one sheet that has my Daily shutdown checklist. There’s another sheet for the Weekly review. Then I have various “trigger” lists when I’m doing a mind sweep.

I’ve opted to do the 2/3rds, 1/3rd split pane view on my iPad whenever needed. But most of the time, I use the slide-over pane to show and hide the checklist when I want to.

When it comes to repeating checklists, I don’t really care to record them as completed in OmniFocus. Routine things aren’t important enough for me to check off in my task manager. I usually have the Due app on my iPhone to ding me when to do a checklist or a single OmniFocus task to remind me to do a checklist. I store my checklists outside of OmniFocus and share that document with others from my iCloud Drive or Dropbox folder.

Another thing I’m hoping for is reports of some kind. I don’t know how I’d do feedback. I’m not much of a gamer and it’s too easy to rig my Todoist karma score by introducing fake/easy tasks to check off.

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Agreed it’s still very rough but… The inline inspector design however seems to be largely fixed and I just do not like it, it causes me friction that I do not need. That plus the inability to make my life easier by using checklists and headings having used Things (and tested ToDoist) I now consider a deal breaker, and do not see why I should wait probably another year for OmniGroup to play catchup, if indeed they do.

Don’t get me wrong OF has been a game changer for the way my business and life run and I have a lot of built up affection for it and the general OmniGroup philosophy, I just think at the moment I need a change if only to shake me up and the way I organise stuff.

That was the way I did it, however a single task with one inline checklist does in some ways seem more logical given its a job done in one hit usually. I may revisit this, my first Things weekly review is later today so I will reserve judgment for a while.

Yep, I remember Doist asking for Karma feedback once and I said “highly addictive but probably ultimately useless” . :grinning:

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I have that turned off :smiley: I don’t find it all that useful outside of the dopamine hit for checking off enough tasks. It’s just an engagement hack for people who don’t stick with todo lists.

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Doesn’t that lack of a defer/when date bother you?

Four years ago, I’d say yes.

Today, I’d actually contend Todoist doesn’t have a due date, and it’s scheduling feature is more of a defer date. So I schedule tasks to a day and work off that list.

I really only care about what’s happening today, so I don’t need to hide a bunch of stuff in other parts of the app. I have a filter created to show me what I need to be concerned with today, and if it’s too much, I’ll reschedule to a less busy day.

Do you have a way to understand when there is a true due date? A negative consequence will happen if you don’t complete it?

Absolutely not, Things has a defer date which I use for scheduled maintenance and support tasks. Very few of my tasks have a definite hard deadline although I complete most on the day I planned.

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I don’t hit this too much, but I usually assign it p1, and if there’s a due time, I’ll assign a reminder. Largely, it hasn’t been a problem.

You and I touched on Things3 already before but yeah, I’m right there with you. I refused Things3 in my toolkit for a long time. I tried it (as we all do) occasionally but it never stuck. The OF beta though drove me away and Things3 has been a joy to use. Checklists are crucial now - no more SA lists in OF!

The biggest improvement for me is the ease of moving tasks around. I can add tasks literally anywhere I am working - including the today list. Every view is sortable via drag and drop. These are the kind of things the OmniGroup just never implemented for one reason or another.

I saw that months ago and cannot agree more. I feel like a cheater because OF has been my main tool since the kinkless days but at some point, like a bad relationship, you just have to move on.

I do open OmniFocus beta from time to time just to see if they have made any “leaps and bounds” with the direction and sadly, they have not.

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Hi, been a while :grinning:

So far absolutely enjoying Things, no switching back and forth between perspectives I thought I needed.

A shortcuts/keyboard Maestro workflow which filters by tags. I have now tagged every area with the area name, which makes focussing on a specific area very easy. No real pain points at all and can not see me going back to OF at least in the V4 iteration.

Agreed drag and drop is silky smooth and the ability to easily sort the Today view (OF4 has just introduced this at long last in Forecast) with drag and drop allows me to sort my day to the degree I actually hardly need tags.

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I felt that way too when I was looking to break away from OF. When you invest time and money into something, It’s hard to justify moving away. In reality, it’s the sunk-cost bias at play :frowning:

This is partly what I’ve been finding with Todoist. I wonder if sometimes we as people tend to think because there’s power there, that we have to use it. Perspectives are extremely powerful, but do most people really need that? In my experience it only complicated my experience and added a lot more overhead to manage.

It depends on the person. The only perspectives I’ve used while in working mode are:

Big Rocks - shows all remaining actions in my currently active projects. I use the project sidebar to select the project I’m working on right now to see the remaining actions and get to work on it.

Menu - shows all the other single actions not related to a Big Rock. Usually admin work and single one-off tasks. grouped by tags and sorted by due dates. I’m in this perspective when doing time blocks doing batch work (all computer work, work at the warehouse, work at the sales floor, etc.).

I’m typically in different contexts throughout the day. I might be doing an errands run and will have tags for groceries, at the hardware store, or at the different rental units I have. I also have tags for the different people I need to talk to. It’s lumped under family (with the names of my family members), customers (for the office), tenants (rental units), or any other important people (accountant, lawyer, doctor).

I think many work-from-home types may not rely so much on context tags because most things are done from home. But I need them.

Most of my perspective uses have been during planning mode during the daily shutdown and weekly review.

Due perspective to show due items coming up in the next week

Someday perspective showing all on hold projects.

Review perspective to check on any projects and lists that needs to be looked at.

I’ve been able to do a mid year review and notice which perspectives I don’t use. If I haven’t used it in the last 6 months, it’s probably a perspective I need to reevaluate. Does it belong in my toolbar? Or can I tuck it away in the perspectives menu? Or do I just delete it forever?

The key is in curating the tags and perspectives. They come and go. Add them or delete them when needed.

A work-from-home user will have a reduced or minimal set of tags and/or perspectives.

So far, I’ve been working well with OmniFocus 4. I’m glad there are enough apps such as Amazing Marvin, Todoist, Things and others to fill in the gaps for people with varying needs.

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I was a perspective power user :flushed:Perspectives for this that and everything else in between which when I look back did cause friction in that I would have a task to clear my comms perspective, when I came to do that it was not possible, calls not answered so needed to be rescheduled, one person needed to be called in the morning, others in the afternoon. It was very difficult to actually “clear” the perspective which meant I had to keep switching back to it. My main projects (the big rocks) are basically handled in the project themselves so no need for a custom perspective.

I have no less tasks now, but much more of a calm mind, difficult to explain but now my tasks for the day mainly get completed, before with OF they were often not.

I think Things lack of flexibility is actually it’s strength, there is enough leeway with tagging and areas as well as projects to accommodate most people without leaving so much fiddle room that the temptation is to constantly try to create the perfect system in place of actually working. One thing I have done though is create KBMaestro filters to replicate simpler perspectives i.e. today filtered by communications, or open support tickets in the anytime view. Or of course any errands.

TBH this has proved to be enough for me, I appreciate it may not be for some, but I have learned that for me anyway sometimes less really is more.

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That’s exactly it for me, @TheOldDesigner! I always felt that the “power” behind OF somehow boosted GTD but in reality and in retrospect, it created much more anxiety that I really needed. Once I really accepted Things3 for what it is, I realized I could just get things done and move on because it limits my ability to tinker.

I don’t use it heavily. Just a place to capture and aggregate tasks. I’ve gone mostly analog now for my daily and weekly planning and cherry pick what’s in Things3 for context.

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Instead of molding the tool to you, you mold to the tool.

The paradox of choice is a real thing. The more choices, the harder it is to make a choice. That’s bad news for a productivity tool – our job is to choose the most important work, not the most optimized way to get the work done.

The less a tool forces me to choose, the more willpower I have to choose what’s most important now.

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+1 on this statement!

A few years ago, I switched from working out of my task manager to working on my Today’s Agenda list (or Today’s To-Dos). I hated working out of my digital task manager because I’d get distracted and see all the other projects and tasks that gave me a lot of choices. The more task items in my today list, the more worried I’d get because I had only finished 2 out of the 10 tasks I wanted done today.

Nowadays, I’m just using my task manager as a second brain to store everything. At the end of the day, I’ll pick 3-5 tasks or a couple of Big Rocks to focus on tomorrow. I’d write those all down on an index card and leave it on my desk. I’m already focused. I don’t want to see all the other tasks available to me. When/if I finish those tasks, I’ll go back to my task manager and pick out a couple more to do to finish the day.

Alternatively, if i wanted to do it on my computer, I I would go to OmniFocus and select a few tasks, copied them to the clipboard and then opened the TextEdit app. I pasted the clipboard into the TextEdit document. I hide my task manager and leave the TextEdit document visible.

Screen Shot 2022-02-23 at 12.03.07

My pasted text are hyperlinks that go back to the original OmniFocus project or task.
I’ve since transitioned from TextEdit to the Agenda app to record my daily activities. I create a new dated entry in Agenda as hyperlinks

I would record my outcomes (results) as well as any thoughts or issues that I may consider for future tasks.


Staying out of my digital task manager has kept me focused. I can use this method with Things, Todoist, or OmniFocus. If I’m in my task manager, I have a tendency to wander, I use my task manager for the second brain and Agenda as the Daily Driver. I’ve also used my trusty BuJo as my daily driver when i just want to go hybrid as well.

The less time I spend in my task manager, the more time I have for doing things.

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