Things: To Do items and other projects
I’ve written before about how much I love Things, and that hasn’t changed. When it comes to organising and tracking daily tasks, Things is still my go-to. However, there were a couple of issues that I had begun to run into which were becoming counter-productive:
- Too many tasks, not enough organisation: Similar to what I had experienced with Evernote, while I was quick to dump all sorts of things I wanted to do into Things, it seemed like the ‘Someday’ and ‘Anytime’ pile were growing and growing into a huge, unmanageable mass. Piles of articles to read, videos to watch, and miscellaneous tasks. Even using tags, it was becoming a strange source of low-level anxiety, as I knew I would never get round to doing anything there.
- Recurring tasks never ‘completed’: Lots of the things I want to do are daily tasks, such as practicing Japanese, or making music. The problem with this was that most of my To Do list never really changed. I would tick off the checkbox, only to… immediately re-create it for the next day. It felt like a pointless exercise, and didn’t provide any of the satisfaction that I should feel upon completing a task.
What I realised was… neither recurring tasks or lists of videos to watch, articles to read, or music to listen to are actually To Do list items at all, but something quite different.
What I thought of as daily tasks are actually habits, rather than ‘to do’ items.
This was an important one. Realising this was liberating, as I could approach the issue differently – with a Habit Tracker.
There are various different kinds of habit tracker templates available, and I customised one that I found online (I can’t remember where now, sorry!). Each week I create a new table, and adjust the habits I want to focus on as appropriate. This not only allows me to more easily track and report on my progress – but also frees up my To Do list in Things for one-off, immediate tasks that need to be completed on a specific day.
Things to Read, Watch, and Listen to
As I mentioned, my Things ‘Anytime’ lists were filled with different articles I wanted to read, or videos I wanted to watch at some point, and it simply wasn’t working. Instead, I created different databases in Notion to gather and organise this stuff.
For example, here is my list of films to watch…
an excerpt from my Reading List (don’t judge)…
and my trimmed down YouTube list (filtering out the Japanese learning videos, as there’s so many of them).
The beauty of this is that I can organise them in a much deeper way with Notion, assigning tags, related URLs, authors, etc – and then sort/display them on that basis. Rather than facing a huge list of items to get through like when they were chucked into Things, I can now dive in to the specific database and find exactly what I want when I have some spare time. I can also add notes and ratings when I’ve actually read or watched them, which are also reportable/sortable.
Blog Post Ideas
Ideas for blog posts were another thing that I used to store in Things, which didn’t really work out all that well. The reality with blog posts is that they all exist at different stages – and are more like mini-projects than To Do list items to be checked off.
Now, I organise them as documents within Notion, like so:
Each entry acts as its own ‘page’, which can contain notes, images, etc, and I can assign tags depending on the status of any particular post (from idea, to ‘in progress’, to completion).
Again, doing this means that my To Do list is freed up and reserved for items which require action and completion in the short term – which brings added focus and clarity.
Aside from the deeper meta-data capabilities that come with Notion’s database approach, there’s also something else which has proven to be invaluable, but also really simple… and that’s the visibility of the tasks.
While hard to capture in a screenshot, all of my different lists or projects can be displayed on my home dashboard in a neat, logical, organised way.. with a custom view as appropriate. This means that instead of dumping things into ‘Anytime’ or ‘Some Day’ in Things and forgetting about them, I can keep certain projects or items on my radar – without them becoming too intrusive or overwhelming.
Things is great, but trying to use it as a master tracking utility for everything simply wasn’t working for me. Offloading the larger and longer term projects to Notion, and having Things focus on specific things I need to get done on a day to day basis has made a huge difference. Give it a bash.