You Don’t Need Another App
By Charles Olsen
I follow some of the message boards on Reddit, including the Subreddit for the Things app from Cultured Code. I recently saw a message from someone asking for recommendations for an alternative to Things.
They were using Things to keep track of the tasks they had to do, and tasks that they would like to do. They admitted that they were getting stressed because they had to keep reading through the whole Today list to pick out the tasks that had to be done.
I’ve been doing computer support for over 20 years, for both hardware and software. While most of the requests were about problems that needed to be solved, many were asking for recommendations for hardware or software. Like the question above, a lot of people have asked me to recommend software to solve their problems.
If you are struggling with some part of your work or personal life, you may think that finding the right tool will solve a problem. Now that we all carry powerful computers in our pockets, it might seem like all you need for a particular problem is to find the right app. Apple built an advertising campaign around that idea, and even has a trademark on their slogan, “There’s an app for that.”
An App is Not the Answer
In many cases, you won’t find the solution in an app. The first step is to develop a process, a methodology to handle the desired workflow. If your process is a mess and you put it into a computer, you now have a computerized mess. You might be able to make a bigger mess, faster than ever before, but it is still a mess.
Your first step to achieving real productivity with your task lists is to develop and practice an effective methodology. Once you have a good process, you can evaluate the available tools and find the app that will work best for you.
If you’re reading this blog, you already know where I’m going with this — Michael Linenberger’s MYN (Master Your Now), 1MTD (One-Minute To-Do List), and 1MPM (One-Minute Project Manager) are the best methodologies I’ve found for managing your task lists and small projects. 1MTD is great if you’re tracking up to 100 tasks, and MYN can effectively track and prioritize any number of tasks.
And it turns out, the Things app is one of the most effective and beautiful tools I’ve found for the 1MTD and MYN processes. I’ve written a couple of articles for this blog about using Things for 1MTD and MYN, and Michael recently released a video course which goes into considerable depth in teaching you how to use Things in general, and especially in using it effectively for MYN and 1MTD. If you are using Apple devices, Things is the most elegant tool I’ve found for MYN.
Answering the Question
Back to the Reddit post that inspired this article, where the poster was stressed because they couldn’t keep track of the tasks they had to do …
I replied that they were probably looking for a process rather than a new app, and gave a brief overview of MYN. They could create Areas in the Things app for CRITICAL-NOW and OPPORTUNITY-NOW, and set the option to show Areas in the Today view. In a quick review at the start of the day, tasks that must be done Today should be dragged under CRITICAL-NOW, while other tasks that you can work on Today should be under OPPORTUNITY-NOW. If there are tasks you particularly want to work on Today but are not critical, you can drag them to the top of the OPPORTUNITY-NOW list.
This should remove any stress of trying to figure out which tasks you absolutely have to do today. If it’s listed under CRITICAL-NOW, you know that you must complete it today. Once that list is empty, you can look at the top of the OPPORTUNITY-NOW list.
I found this process particularly helpful recently after I had a major surgery. For a few weeks during recovery, my energy and ambition levels were very low. Picking the next show to watch on streaming was about the limit of my ambition.
So when a task popped up in my CRITICAL-NOW list, I knew that it was something that really had to be done — ambition or not, I had to make it happen. I had planned pretty well in advance and didn’t have many tasks coming up in CRITICAL-NOW, but when it happened I knew that they really had to get done.
The MYN process is a simple yet powerful methodology for managing your task lists and projects. After a quick review in the morning, you have clear lists of tasks that you must do today, and tasks that you can work on today if you have time.
Before you go looking for another app, make sure you have an effective methodology in place.
To learn more about 1MTD and MYN, I suggest you start by reading MYN and 1MTD. Here you’ll find an overview of the MYN and 1MTD methodologies, and there’s a link to download a free PDF copy of the complete book, The One-Minute To-Do List. Even if you decide to use the MYN methodology, it’s best to start by learning 1MTD. MYN starts with the 1MTD setup and process, then adds in powerful Defer-to-Do and Defer-to-Review processes.
I’ve written articles for this blog that can give you a taste of using Things and Todoist for MYN. Michael also offers video courses that will give you in-depth training on how to use Things or Todoist for 1MTD and MYN. The MYN and 1MTD page includes links to those courses.
You can find all available training here: https://www.michaellinenberger.com/Store/index.html