Evernote GTD Alternative: Things App

thingsAlmost everyone who begins GTD journey bumps across Evernote and start using it to store To-Do’s. I did the same too. After a brief stint with Evernote GTD, I realized that it was not meant for GTD. Though, some people (productivity experts) make it work, but I did not had the time or inclination to become an Evernote pro. Mainly because Evernote tends to get too cluttered and out of control if you do not spend time organizing it.

evernoteIn fact, I ended up wasting a lot of time setting up filters, notes and notebooks, almost trying to hack my way to GTD. Eventually I gave up. Like most (ordinary) people, I dumped Evernote but ended up using it for another reason (more on this later).

Since then, my quest to find a good To-Do app began. I tried Wunderlist, Omnifocus, Notational Velocity, Doit.im, Simple Note and many other apps (over two dozen apps in total).  At one point I got so frustrated that I wanted to go back to the good old paper.

 Until one day, I found -“Things for Mac“. I did not like it at the first glance (because it isn’t fancy at all) but after using it, I realized Things App was a bliss in the crowded world of GTD apps.

In just three days, with negligible cognitive effort – I went from beginner to a pro in using ‘Things’. After using it some more, I saw that devil was in details. And in those minute details Things App shines. Here are  some great aspects of Things App that makes it a poster boy from all productivity apps I have tried so far:

1. Lightweight interface

inboxA fundamental criteria I look for in a To-Do app is – light, easy and fast. ‘Things’ scores high on all of these parameters. It’s easy on users and machine alike. It’s an extremely lightweight native app, with low memory and cpu footprints.

2. Easy To-Do’s

Things app is purposefully built “less techy” with a little raw feel. And I totally love it. It has a very mild character , making you feel in control of the app, instead of app controlling you.  Pressing ‘Ctrl+Space’ gives you a new To-Do instantly no matter what software you are using. Dumping everything out of my mind can’t get easier. Moreover, I could drag and drop a To-Do item to an Area of responsibility, Project or a Person – no more typing of information in the ‘fields’. Things deliberately tries not  make productivity a ‘Task’ in itself.

3. Intuitive decision-making

The biggest reason why we need a prointuitiveductivity app is because it can show us a clear picture of what we need to do and allows us to take informed decisions. Things provides a quick visibility over all my projects and corresponding actions – in one single view. You can press CMD+T to  prioritize a To-Do for ‘Today’. If you press CMD+T again, the same To-Do shifts back to ‘Next’. Pressing on CMD+Y shifts a To-Do to ‘Someday’. All these things happens very swiftly. The App does not dominate you at all.

4. Day-specific alerts without behaving like a calendar

reminder

Most productivity apps try to become everything – right from calendar to storage. Things has marked a great boundary between what it is and what it isn’t. Even though it stores day specific events, recurring events and also shows reminders, it does not try to become a calendar. Guys at Things are smart and know that there are really good tools for storage and calendar. Moreover, color coding of day specific To-Do’s is extremely thoughtful and intelligent. Yellow for tasks due today and red for overdue tasks. No clutter with colors.

5. It’s on cloud, iPhone and iPad

cloudThings comes with free cloud connectivity so that your tasks are synced up on all devices. iPhone and iPad apps are equally intuitive. Just what you would need to organize your actions on the go, no fluff.

Having shared so many good qualities of Things, it does have its own limitations. For instance, when I recommended Things app to a client and they wanted Tasks to be shared across the team and Things fell short. Here are a few areas where Things leaves something to be desired:

1. Lack of task collaboration

In today’s collaborative world, assigning a To-Do to someone is unquestionable. Things does not allow To-Do’s to be shared right on its interface. You need to send them via email and there is no track of it on your To-Do list.

2. Cost

Things is pricey than most productivity apps in its category. Majority of To-Do apps have free a basic version, while Things comes with free trial and a decent price tag. It’s not a freemium product. However, the price is justified once you start using it.

3. No Goals

This is a nice to have feature and not a real  limitation. Having Projects/To-Do’s assigned to goals can make Things much more complete. Just the way Things has ‘Projects’, it would be nice if it can allow users to add goals. This is because I always like to know how I am progressing in my key goals.

4. No Windows/android/browser support

The biggest limitation of Things is its lack of cross-platform support. It’s only built for Apple. I find this very strange because not everyone is on Apple.

Conclusion

Apart from the above limitations, Things has nothing much to be concerned about. It is easily the best GTD app I have used so far. I am glad to be on a mac.

Top 20 Most Useful Websites to Boost Personal Productivity

Want to be a productivity rockstar? Here is a list of top 20 websites to boost your personal productivity. These apps can help you organize, improve your focus, make you relaxed and unclutter your life. Go ahead and check them out, every single one of them is useful and unique.

1. Calm

http://www.calm.com/
Want to experience the power of meditation while working? Calm.com is the answer. Unlike many similar websites, Calm.com is a fully guided meditation you can do anytime – online. After completing the 2 minutes meditation, I found a remarkable shift in my way of being. This website deserves a place in your bookmarks.

2. Unroll

https://unroll.me/
Unrollme is a true bliss and life changing. It detects all your e-mail subscriptions by scanning your inbox and lets you decide on which e-mails you want to unsubscribe. When I did, it was a pleasant shock to discover that I was subscribed to over 100 e-mail subscriptions. Thankfully, I unsubscribed from most of them, and now, I get a daily digest of all my subscriptions, in just one e-mail. What a relief!

3. Away Find

http://www.awayfind.com/
Finally, no need to go and check your e-mail inbox for “that” important e-mail. Using this app you can receive timely alerts of important e-mails in a variety of ways such as SMS, voice mail alert, iPhone/Android alerts or even desktop notifications. When you add a specific contact to your alert list, it notifies you  as soon as you get e-mail from that entity.

4. Nature sounds for me

http://naturesoundsfor.me/
This beautiful app has some amazing sounds of birds, animals and nature to instantly enlighten your spirit. Choose from a wide range of sounds, customize them as per your needs and start playing. I especially love the sounds of chirping birds, it’s a wonderful productivity booster.

5. Mind bloom

https://tree.mindbloom.com
Looking at this app will bring smile on your face instantly. It has an amazing feel and you may want to keep it open to listen to the sound of birds. The app gives you an interactive and engaging experience to think about what matters to you in life and actions you can take to accomplish your goals. It’s worth spending some dedicated time over the weekend!

6. Pocket

http://getpocket.com/
Pocket offer much more breadth and sophistication in how you save content over the web. By far, it’s the best tool to capture information, links, images and content from the web, store it and search it when needed. With a handy browser plugin and over 300 supported apps, it’s a must have item in your productivity toolbox.

7. Cold Turkey

http://getcoldturkey.com/
As the name suggests, this app will make you look like a cold Turkey when your urges to surf online kicks-in. It’s an app to help you control accessing unproductive websites during certain periods of time that you define. All you have to do is to download the app, add websites to block list and set the time when you should not access them. Cold turkey will do it’s job to keep you self-disciplined. For mac users, there is Self control app your can download on your desktop.

8. Simple Note + Notational Velocity (Or Roseph Notes for Windows)

https://app.simplenote.com/
Simple Note is a cool to-do app, perhaps the best thing after paper. If you are totally obsessed with simplicity and elegance, you will love these two apps. The reason I have combined them together is because Notational Velcity is the desktop app (for mac) and it syncs up with Simple Note in real-time. Notational Velocity has almost cult like following in mac community. For windows users, Roseph notes is the desktop tool which is (trying to) match up with Notational Velocity, but not close enough.

9. Rescue Time

https://www.rescuetime.com/
Rescue time is actually an all-in-one package that automatically tracks time you spend on your computer and tells you how productive you are based on the statistics captured. It also lets you punch-in any activities you specifically want to track and allows you to blocks sites to keep you away from online distractions. A great overall package for time sensitive work.

10. Rainy Mood

http://www.rainymood.com/
Want to experience rain without water? Visit rain mood, you will love it! As soon as you open this website, you will get into an entirely different zone of creativity. I use it often while writing articles or doing creative work. The spirit of rain kicks in and as they say “Rain makes everything better”, it actually improves productivity instantly.

11. Do Nothing for Two Minutes

http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com/
Want to relax after a hard meeting or a stressful call? Bookmark this app because I know you will get addicted to this one. You can almost reach a zen like state in just two minutes.

12. Focus App

https://www.focusatwill.com/music/#player
This is the app where music meets neuroscience. Based on scientific research, the website not just allows you to be productive with the help of music, it also helps you get a good sleep! Totally awesome and it can become an important part of your productive lifestyle.

13. Sanebox

http://www.sanebox.com/
Sanebox is another good approach to improve e-mail productivity. It automatically prioritizes  important e-mails. For less important e-mails it creates a summary which can come handy to quickly run over anything interesting you might not want to miss.

14. Focus Booster

http://www.focusboosterapp.com/
Focus Booster is  based on the famous pomodoro technique. It allows you to focus on one single task for 25 minutes and then take a break of 5 minutes. Pomodoro technique has been very popular among productivity circles because of its simple yet effective approach towards productivity. If you really want to use and get advantage of pomodoro technique, focus booster is the answer.

15. Live Happy

http://www.signalpatterns.com/iphone/livehappy_std.html
Happier people are more productivity. Who knows better than Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology and author of the book The How of Happiness. Live happy is a happiness boosting program for iPhone. I haven’t tried it but looking at the app reviews, it easily deserves a place on your smartphone.

16. Instapaper

http://www.instapaper.com/
Internet is filled with interesting, amusing and unique information we come across everyday (mostly when we are not looking for it). Driven by our curiosity and quite unknowingly, we spend a lot of our “work time” in reading. If you are facing this problem, Instapaper is what you need. You can click on read later on any article you come across over the internet and Instapaper will promptly save it for you to read later. It also offers good reading recommendations based on your topic of interest.

17. Writeroom

http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom
Unlike practically everything else in our digital lives, WriteRoom’s minimalist interface gives you a truly flattering proposition – It’s You, not the software, that matters. For windows user, we have Zen Writer which has a free trial for a limited period. Windows user can also check Write Monkey which has got rave reviews from it’s users. Write Monkey also has some amazing plugins and it’s totally free.

18. Evernote

http://www.evernote.com
Evernote is a all-time-classic app in productivity circles. You will love it for the sheer simplicity and sophistication of this app. With a powerful search that can search text inside an image, Evernote captures everything right from pdf, images and docs to web pages and visiting cards. A must have feature of this app is the Evernote Webclipper. It’s a nifty browser plugin that captures information over the internet in many different ways. Backed by a large global community and a variety of powerful third party extensions, it’s a must have tool for the knowledge worker.

19. Wunderlist

https://www.wunderlist.com
Wunderlist is one of the fasted growing To-Do apps globally. Thanks to it’s clean interface and collaborative features, it has a winning edge over most of the To-Do apps out there. Check it out!

20. Things

http://culturedcode.com/things 

Things app is one of those well-thought softwares that balances between minimalism and features. They get GTD just right without being too complex or feature rich. One of the best aspects of Things App is the zero learning curve involved. It doesn’t overburden you with buttons, fields and too may options. I have written a detailed review of this app in a separate article.

Finally…

It’s not the app itself but how you use it and benefit from it is what really matters!

This post is going to be my last article in 2013. Wishing you a happy new year and hope that you will make the most out of your life in the new year with these productivity websites.

[UPDATE: January 2015] SpringPad which as in this list has been removed because it has been shut down. Instead, I am putting up Things App. There we some app recommendations in the comments but since this article is focused on personal productivity, I couldn’t incorporate them here.

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