How I manage my life using ‘Things’

As soon as I started running my second company, I knew I needed to step up my task management game. Post-it notes across my office wall and short written to-do lists in my notebook weren’t enough anymore to get a complete overview of what I wanted to get done, and what things other people needed from me to unblock them.

After giving about a dozen different apps a try, I’ve been using Things for more than 3 years now, and it literally controls my life. It’s the first app I open in the morning, and prepping my Things todo list for the next day is one of the last things I do at night.

In this post, I want to highlight some of the things I love about Things.

Why Things?

  • Lovely UI design, and amazing UX
    I love the gestures on iPhone that let you rapidly set a date for a to-do, create a new to-do in the inbox, or select multiple to-dos. The keyboard shortcuts on Mac are even better. And it’s one of my favourite apps to use in dark mode, because it just looks so good!
  • Simple and stable sync
    Nothing is more annoying than trying to figure out why some to-dos haven’t synced between your iPhone and Mac, or getting popups about sync conflicts. That’s never the case with Things, it just always seems to work, making sync something that you forget even happens.
  • So many layers
    Even though Things looks very simple when you first start using it, it allows for a lot of complexity and flexibility in how you order your to-dos. One of the ways it does this is by having a quite extensive hierarchy:
    Areas > Projects > Headings > To-dos > Checklists
    It’s up to you how much of that you use, because only Projects and To-dos are required.
My Things home screen

Things Areas

Areas are the most high-level type of entity that exists, and they are meant to represent the areas of your life that to-dos can fall under.

For me, at the moment, these are:

  • Life: any day to day tasks. This contains projects like Daily route, Groceries, Family and Finances.
  • NearSt: my primary day job, helping local shops get more footfall.
  • Urban Culture: several related side projects that have to do with youth & street culture, including Street Art Cities.
  • Infowijs: a startup I’ve helped build in the past, where I now have an advisory role.
  • Shifting gears: things to do in my spare time. Includes places I want to visit, an unbelievably long ‘To read’ list, and ideas for blog posts.

Using emoji for your Area titles gives them some more colour & importance.

I keep recurring life tasks that should happen every day, week, month or year in a single project.

Recurring to-dos

I’m quite adamant on keeping my calendar free from anything that feels more like a task than an appointment. That’s why I use the ability in Things to make a to-do recurring quite a lot.

It is very flexible, yet pretty easy to set up. You can choose between repeating tasks daily, weekly, monthly or yearly, or a certain amount of time after the previous iteration of the same task has been completed.

Single to-do detail view, with tags, date and project set.

Tagging

Tags in Things are a great way to group to-dos in several projects together, making it easy to see all of them in one place through search. Also, you can tag anything: not just to-dos can be tagged, but projects and areas as well!

I use tags primarily to:

  • Indicate that a to-do or project is related to a person
  • Add time estimates for to-dos (10min, 30min, 60min, etc.)

For tags that you often use, you can set keyboard shortcuts in the Mac app.

Entrepreneur tech kid, co-founder of NearSt, Londoner, open source enthusiast and aspiring spare time literature geek.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store