Things 3

My first task management application was the one built in to my trusty Palm Pilot.

It was barebones, but powerful in its simplicity. I could add tasks, reorder them, and categorize them into different lists. As a young ADHD brain, the ability to always have this list with me was life-changing.

I have used quite literally hundreds of task management applications and methods since this first introduction. By far the best I’ve ever used is Things 3, a mac-only task manager by Cultured Code.

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The biggest “feature” of this app is the design. It is just beautiful. As it is the app I interact with most, and is often nagging me with things throughout the day, it needs to have a nice interface.

There are more powerful applications than this one when it comes to getting granular with task and project details, but in this case the simplicity feels purposeful. This app has a distinct point of view.

Helpful features I recommend are the “Quick Add” capabilities, powerful recurring task/project functions, and carefully thought-out keyboard shortcuts.

Give it a try and see if it is a match for your workflow. If you would like help setting things up, let me know.

Regular Reviews

A daily, weekly, monthly, and/or annual review process provides an opportunity to bring things back into focus which may have been forgotten.

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Daily Reviews

Every day I have two repeating tasks in Things 3 with multiple sub-tasks.

  1. One is my “boot up” routine, which asks me each day to:
    • Brush my teeth
    • Process my email inbox
    • Process any tasks which I added to the “inbox” area of Things 3
    • Plan my day by arranging tasks in order of importanceThe most useful part of this one for me are the prompts to clear my inbox each day (I attempt to maintain an Inbox Zero strategy on weekdays) and the daily processing of inboxed tasks.
  2. The second daily review I do is my “Shutdown” routine in the evening. I get a notification around 8pm, and generally try to complete it by 9pm. My shutdown routine consists of:
    • Brushing my teeth again
    • Taking my magnesium supplement (supports quality sleep)

That’s it! It doesn’t seem like much, but having a consistent opportunity to go back and make sure I do these basic things means…well…it happens. Before this system, I would usually miss 50% of these or more daily.

Weekly Reviews

I probably should have started with this one. The weekly review is where things start to get powerful.

My weekly review includes:

  • Look over my list of completed tasks for the previous week and pat myself on the back
  • Proces my physical inbox (the one on my desk with all the crumpled up receipts inside)
  • Proces my digital “file” inbox (this is where all my scanned receipts and other documents go throughout the week)
  • Review all projects and “areas” within my task manager
  • Look over my calendar for the coming week and writing down any relevant tasks
  • Go through transactions [[Freshbooks]] has imported from my business bank account and categorize/approve them
  • Budget for the coming week using our favorite budgeting app, YNAB

Some key things to point out here:

Celebrate your wins.

It is life-changing to establish a regular practice of reviewing what you have achieved. Celebrating wins isn’t just self-congratulatory hooey. This practice has been provent to increase motivation for the future.

Your calendar has secrets to tell.

I’ll be vulnerable for a second here: forgetting appointments, neglecting to prepare for meetings, and not noticing potential scheduling conflicts are the way my ADHD shows up the most.

If you have ADHD, you can probably relate. We ADHDers get real good at fast apologies and last-minute cram sessions. In the past, I had convinced myself I was just better dealing with things “on the fly”.

If you recognize a similar internal dialogue, try a structured, intentional glance through your calendar every Sunday.

For each appointment:

  1. Ask yourself if there is any preparation you could do, or something you need to remember to bring.
  2. As you think through each write down each task and make sure it will alert you on the day it matters.

Now the weekly review has become a deeply engrained ritual, I can’t imagine how I got through my week before.

Org-Day (Monthly Reviews)

On the first of every month I complete a monthly review I like to call “org-day”. Because it is fairly extensive, I generally block out 2/3rds of the workday to make my way through this list.

At the beginning, I struggled with justifying the time it took. After trying it out for a couple of months though, I realized the time-savings and efficiency gained throughout the entire rest of the month far outvalues the missed time working on client work.

Org-day consists of several segments: Reset, Review, and Money.

Reset

  • Clear my Desktop, Downloads and Documents folders (I use cloud storage for nearly everything, thus anything in these folders generally needs to be deleted or put somewhere else)
  • Go through my phone and computer applications and remove anything I haven’t used in the past 3 months
  • Go through my contacts and delete anyone who I no longer anticipate communicating with

Review

  • Review all emails which contain the word “unsunscribe” or “newsletter” and block or unsubscribe from ones I no longer want to receive
  • Review notes in my “ideas” folder, and add any I’d like to work on to my task list

Money

  • Scan the expense receipts in the glove compartment of our car
  • Count our cash box
  • Go through our list of monthly expenses and see if there are any which can be cancelled, renegotiated, or found for a cheaper price

You can imagine how, compounded over time, the result of these habits can have lasting benefits.

The productivity benefits of regular review checkpoints are bountiful, but I haven’t even mentioned biggest thing I’ve gotten out of this process: Peace of mind.

Psychologically, knowing there is time set aside to “worry” about the various aspects of life means I let go for the rest of the time.

As we approach New Years, I’ll be doing my first “Annual Review” during the month of December. As I’m sure there will be things to learn, I’ll be doing a separate blog post. Should be fun!