Giving OmniFocus a break for Things3

Giving OmniFocus a break for Things3
(Greg Newman) #1

Lately, I have been feeling obstructed and not settled with my systems and started giving it a lot of serious thought about why and how to fix it, or if I really should. What really started me down this path is a life change. I quit freelancing after 18 years (as a software craftsman) and went to work full time for a company. The demands are much different.

Points that bother me about Omnifocus:

  • I seriously dread reviews; daily and weekly.
  • Everything has grown to large and complicated even though I’m diligent about no nested folders, as few tags as possible, etc.
  • having to create automations to try and simplify feels like a red flag.
  • It’s notifications have become a sound of dread.
  • Planning my day eats up too much time and I have to use custom perspectives to achieve it.
  • Notes implementation is just poorly done.

I could go on but those are my biggest points.

I started thinking about using Org-mode again. I like plain text and use emacs for my job a lot. But there’s no viable iPhone companion so that is out. It also requires more commitment than OF does to ramp up.

I looked back at TeuxDeux and while I love it the lack of notes and notifications is something I need.

I was updating software on my iPad this morning and Things3 had an update. I opened it up and was surprised to see the two big problem points I had with it are resolved and/or better than I expected they would be.

  • Repeating tasks used to be cumbersome to remove. That’s fixed and now has a concept of pausing them. Hmmmmm. I can also choose to repeat from completion date or static date.
  • It now has notes on a task and easier to get to than OF.

I started playing around; adding areas and projects and tasks. The concept of “this evening” for scheduling is very nice. Headings and checklists make my projects much easier and prettier.

Checklists easily replace the automations I have in omnifocus which kept my today list slim by linking to other lists of tasks (sometimes recursively). For music study, this is awesome. Repeatable lists of repertoire or technical routines. Wow.

Adding tasks to “today” is super easy. Calendar is very nice. I tested Siri integration with CarPlay in my truck. It works as good as OF. This is important to quickly inbox thoughts as I get them.

I hope I’m not being over optimistic because it’s a new tool which can always be fun for a while. But the fact that OF has become a thorn in my side I’m willing to try it for a month.


If you can , give us an update on weekly basis . Hint : use things new recurring feature

(Wilson Ng) #3

I hope it has eliminated that bug where you can’t complete a task until the actual due date. I’d like to hear if that’s been fixed.

(Greg Newman) #4

Yesterday, I loaded a lot of the tasks that I had in OmniFocus into Things. It was my normal weekly review schedule so last evening I did my review. It was refreshingly easy, even without a dedicated review tab. I thought this would be an issue but it wasn’t. The “Anytime” tab is basically the same thing minus the “mark reviewed” toggle. I simply went down through everything in “Anytime” and made adjustments, scheduled it for the week or deleted it.

Where this got interesting…
In OF, I would apply a concept of someday by putting the task/project on hold and move it to a folder called someday. When I wanted to pick back up on this task/project in the future I would have to find it, move it back to where it belonged and remove the hold status. In Things, during my review, I moved anything I don’t want to think about to the “Someday” tab via drag and drop and found that the areas that it was originally assigned persisted. If I schedule something that lives in Someday, it is moved back into the originally assigned area without any work on my part. During review, those items don’t reside in “Anytime” so I don’t see them. I did scan the Someday tab but it’s kind of nice to not have someday tasks in my core review.

Drag and drop
Drag and drop to Fantastical works. It doesn’t provide a link back like OmniFocus did but I’m ok with that. I rarely if ever used that feature. To be honest, I’ve almost abandoned time boxing tasks and only time box whole concepts of work (coding, studio, guitar, dog training).

I had a Zap for gmail that would trigger when I starred and email and it would send it to my inbox. I edited that zap yesterday to go to Things now and no issues there.

Repeating tasks

This is what is really selling me on Things!! I always had repeating tasks for my morning review, evening closeout, weekly review, monthly review and many other things in OF. For my reviews and evening closeout I had a project that listed all the things I had to do for that review; maybe 5 or 6 items for my morning, 4 for my evening, about 10 for my weekly. Because these were scheduled using defer dates it would muddy up my today perspective and forecast so what I did was create a trigger task that would link to that project. I’d then work through the list and when completed it would complete the project and setup the repeated defer for the next day/week. I’d then have to go back to the today perspective and complete the trigger and the same repeat would cycle. In Things I have these reviews as a task in a “Settle” area. Each task has it’s own checklist within the body. I simply go through and complete the checklist, complete the task and a new one is spawned for the next day. What’s so delicious about this is I can modify tomorrows review task and it won’t affect todays task because repeats are spawned as duplicates and any edits aren’t global.

I created a project with a due date of Friday and created a few tasks. I was able to complete all tasks right now and also the project. It looks like they must have fixed this bug.

I’ll update again as I progress with Things3. So far I’m really impressed. I wasn’t when it first came out because it had a lot of limitations and bugs.

(Wilson Ng) #5

Yay! Glad to finally see a viable Things workflow that can parallel OmniFocus!

Review is something I just can’t afford to not have! And glad to see completing tasks before due date is fixed.

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(Greg Newman) #6

Same here and I somehow thought it would be a point of failure but in the end it was less painful that doing it in OF.

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Have you purchased the iPad version as well? I’d like to request for a small review.

Does it have recurring reminders like Due or 2Do?

I agree with you that OF review is a feature I thought is indispensable but at end with little bit of discipline and big cup of coffee you can do the review in just any program .

(Wilson Ng) #8

I think this is part of my personal philosophy…

Create a workflow that becomes your foundation. If it’s simple enough, it should be transferable to any app. Review is a basic habit but it’s disheartening where many think they shouldn’t have to do a review or disregard it completely.

The hard part is trying to adapt those habits to the app. But that’s why we participate in forums. We have a group of similar minds finding solutions.

I do like Newman’s review workflow for Things.

(Greg Newman) #9

Yes. I have Mac, iPhone and iPad versions. I also have Due but don’t use it. Can you explain in detail what you need me to test?

Bingo! To me there are three components.

  1. Capture
  2. Categorize
  3. Review

With review being the absolute most important with the exception of actually doing. These three components can translate to any system but if there is friction, which I started to hate with OF, then the system fails. As Kourosh calls it, “a settled system”. The joy I’m finding the past few days is the fact that the friction is gone and I’m feeling settled once again.

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Due continuously keep reminding you if you ask for a reminder. OF simply gives a reminder which What does “Things” do ?

How are the keyboard shortcuts implemented in Things on iPAD ? OF & 2do have excellent keyboard shortcuts.

(Wilson Ng) #11

A podcaster, Carl Pullein, has his called COD

My own personal one is CORE

OF3 for iPad doesn’t have the wide range of keyboard shortcuts that Things 3 for iPad has.I think I read somewhere that Things for iPad allows a user to navigate completely with just the keyboard and no need to touch the screen.

The 2019 Omni Group roadmap says they are looking at improving the user experience especially on iOS devices.

I like to use the Due app on my iPhone/Apple Watch for nagging reminders. It has been implied that OF3 will have nagging/repeating reminders coming eventually. My favorite reminder for Due is a Daily Review reminder. It is set to start nagging at 4:30 pm and then remind me every half hour. I leave the office at 6:30 pm. If I can’t get to it at 4:30 pm, I know I’ll have a few more chances to get to it. If I get home without doing a review, it’ll still nag me until after dinner. It’s often the best way to remind me to do a daily review.

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(Greg Newman) #12

Same as Omnifocus which is fine for my use case.

I am a lightweight iPad user so I don’t use a keyboard with it.

That would drive me insane but I guess that is the point. What really works for me is seeing the red badge count on my iPhone. That’s enough of a reminder for me most time.

(Wilson Ng) #13

I need the nagging. I am immune to badge numbers if I don’t unlock my phone. I like the Due app buzzing me on my Apple Watch to remind me. Of course, I could set it to nag once an hour.

I need my keyboard if I am doing heavy project planning and creation. Otherwise I also don’t use the keyboard.

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I too need the nagging of Due , but I make sure not more than 1-2 tasks exists in Due.

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(Greg Newman) #15

I can understand that. I do my heavy planning on the laptop mainly because I have to copy over content for notes from other sources.

Happy accident this morning - I found I can rearrange the “today” view according to the order I want to tackle the tasks. However, since I have my today view separated by areas, the reorder has to be done within the areas or it will reassociate the task with another area. Reordering the forecast in OF just did not work (I don’t think).


I still feel like Things has its issues but overall it’s the one app for me that just flows effortlessly. It’s hard to fully explain but it’s a combination of all the little things. The app has done a great job of balancing projects + tasks without feeling too overwhelming.

That said, I do think Things can fall apart if you have a LOT going on in your life/work. For me, I have roughly 20-25 “non-routine tasks” I need to take care of on a weekly basis. The people I see who are making heavy use of OF are the ones who have 3-5x that amount of work per week and multiple people they have to check-up on, etc…

That’s funny. I’m immune to the constant nagging of Due. I use Due for some reminders (taking out the garbage, or making sure the garage door is closed at night, etc…) but that’s primarily because I don’t need to see those in my task list all day long or have a log that I completed them later.

(Justin DiRose) #17

So true! I’m doing daily reviews on paper now… :smiley:

Really glad you’re finding something that’s working for you @gnewman.

It’s really interesting the trend I’ve noticed – most people just want something simple that they don’t have to fiddle with. Customize? Sure. But complex? Probably not.

This is what I ran into when I tried it. I had a lot going at the time and it felt like the complex style of task management I was using fell apart in Things. However, I wonder if I went back to a digital task manager if Things would be it… my approach is much simpler right now.

Definitely not trying that experiment for at least 6mos to a year though :laughing:

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(Wilson Ng) #18

I’m glad that I no longer fiddle. I’ve found my core set of custom perspectives and I haven’t added any new ones in quite a long time. There are times when I will make a throw-away custom perspective but it’s been few and far in-between.

Find the lists that you frequently need to check and create them.

The hard part is trying to figure out what your preferred custom perspectives are.


It’s been 27 days @gnewman , how goes thing for thee?

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(Troy Patterson) #20

I’m curious as well. I just moved back to Things as Todoist was just not well designed for iOS where I do most of my personal writing and work, I’d also tried going back to reminders as I don’t really have a crazy amount of tasks, but this made brain dumps difficult and long term planning a disaster.

Things using Drafts as an input system which can add some natural language ability is the key to my workflow right now.

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