This is a guest post from an avid user of MYN, Charles Olsen, who found a creative way to use the software Things on the Mac to implement the MYN tasks system. What follows is his well-written article (with me only adding links and emphasis).
While I found the processes of GTD to be helpful in improving my productivity, it wasn’t quite enough for me — something was missing. I found the missing pieces in the Urgency Zones of 1MTD and MYN, as well as the Defer-to-Do and Defer-to-Review processes. MYN really helped get my task lists under control.
The hardest part for me has been finding a software solution. I know it can be done on paper, but if anything happens to that paper, the information is lost. I want a software solution where the data is backed up. I also like a database with dated items that will bring Defer-to-Do and Defer-to-Review tasks to my attention on the appropriate date.
I don’t use Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Outlook for Windows — or Windows, or anything Microsoft, at all. My primary computer is a MacBook, and I do a lot of work on an iPad Pro. I also want to be able to refer to my lists on my iPhone. I tried using the Toodledo MYN system, but I ran into some issues with Toodledo.
After trying several different apps, I finally found a software solution for people like myself who work entirely with Apple devices. Things 3, from Cultured Code, is an excellent tool for 1MTD, MYN, and 1MPM.
(Note: I have no affiliation with Cultured Code; I’ve just been trying to find the ideal MYN solution for my own use, and I think I’ve finally found it in Things 3.)
Things provides the basic elements you’d expect to find in a to-do list manager. Actions that you need to perform can be entered as tasks. A task in Things can include quite a bit of information besides the title of the task. There is a Notes field, where you can enter additional information about the task.
A task can also include a checklist or subtasks. Tasks can be organized by adding tags, which are useful if you are using GTD Contexts. Tags are also helpful for planning projects using 1MPM, which I will discuss below.
A task can have a Start Date and a Due Date (called When and Deadline). The When date is the key to using MYN in Things.
If you want an alarm to remind you about a task, you can set a reminder when you schedule the task. You can also set tasks to repeat on a fixed schedule, or based on the last time the task was completed.
Things has a few built-in lists, starting with a GTD-style Inbox. If a task is entered without a Project or Date, it automatically goes into the Inbox to await processing. Enter a future date in the When field for Defer-to-Do or Defer-to-Review, or enter today’s date to schedule the task for today.
Next is the Today list, where you plan your day. This is where your MYN processing will take place.
There is one option you need to set in Things to make MYN work. In Preferences, under the General tab, there is an option called Group to-dos in the Today list by project or area. This option must be unchecked.
Another option you may want to consider is in Preferences under the Calendar Events tab. You can have events from your calendars (including Google and Apple calendars) displayed in your Today list, allowing you to see all of your appointments and tasks on one screen.
You can add tasks directly to the Today list, and tasks will automatically appear when the When date arrives (or the Deadline, if there is no When date).
The When dates drive the MYN system. By setting a When date in the future, I remove the item from my Today list. Deferred items will appear on my Today list on the appropriate day.
I’ve added two tasks to my Today list that I never mark as complete:
I can review my list on any device (Mac, iPad, or iPhone), and drag tasks up or down to meet my current plan. Deferred tasks that have been automatically added because the date has arrived will appear above my CRITICAL NOW task — so I can immediately see the newly-added items that I need to plan (or defer again).
My CRITICAL NOW list should be empty at the start of the day, while there are usually some tasks on my OPPORTUNITY NOW list. I start by reviewing the OPPORTUNITY NOW list, to see if there are any items that need to be moved up to CRITICAL NOW.
Then I look at the new tasks that came in at the top of the Today list. When I drag the new tasks down to OPPORTUNITY NOW, I usually put them at the top of that list, pushing down the older tasks. This gives me FRESH sorting of the tasks on that list.
If you are using Significant Outcomes for larger tasks that don’t list well within the MYN task list, simply add another task above your CRITICAL NOW list:
Putting these items at the top of your Today list will ensure that they receive proper attention.
While MYN lives in the Today list, there are some other built-in lists that you may find useful.
The next list in Things is Upcoming, which shows a detailed view of appointments and tasks scheduled for the next week, and a summary of appointments and tasks after that. While this can be handy, I seldom look at this view. Using When dates with Defer-to-Do and Defer-to-Review ensures that I will see every task when I need to, and looking ahead would probably be more distracting than helpful.
Besides setting specific dates, you can also schedule tasks for Anytime or Someday. The next two lists in Things will show you those tasks. I don’t find these lists helpful for MYN, but they’re there if you want them.
The next list is Logbook, which shows all of your completed tasks. And finally, Trash holds the items that you’ve deleted.
You can also create your own lists for grouping to-dos, such as creating Projects to group tasks for particular goals. You can also create Areas, which can contain projects as well as tasks. For example, you might have Areas for Career, Family, Health, etc., and add projects under those areas.
If you realize that a task should actually be a project, there is a command that will convert a task to a project. If that task had subtasks, those are converted to tasks in the new project.
Areas and Projects are completely optional in Things. You can implement a full MYN system using either, both, or neither of these capabilities.
Converting Emails to Tasks
Chances are, a lot of tasks come to you in emails. Things makes it easy to convert those emails into tasks.
The first step is to enable Things Cloud. This is also necessary if you want Things to sync between multiple devices. (And it provides a backup of your Things database.) There is no additional charge for Things Cloud.
In the options for Things Cloud, you can manage Mail to Things. An email address is assigned to you, and any emails sent to that address will be added as tasks to your Things Inbox. Add this address to your Contacts, and you can forward any emails you need to convert into tasks. The email subject will be used as the task name, and the body of the email will be added as the note.
I also like to use this as a reminder to follow up on email requests. When I send an email asking for something, I bcc my Things address. Then when I process the task, I add “FU:” to the start of task to remind me to follow up, and set a When date.
I also receive email notifications for certain bills, and I’ve set my email to automatically forward those messages to Things and archive the emails. The bill payments become tasks in my Things Inbox, to be processed like any other tasks.
Some third-party email apps will allow you to add emails into Things, without forwarding the email. I use Spark mail on my Mac and iOS devices, and it can save emails directly into Things.
One-Minute Project Manager
You will want to create projects if you use Michael’s 1MPM (One Minute Project Manager), which works quite well in Things. A project can include Headings to divide the project into categories or milestones — for example, Critical This Week, Opportunity This Week, and Brainstormed Tasks or Over The Horizon.
When you start a new project, you can create the headings and then dump tasks under the Brainstormed Tasks heading. During the weekly planning, drag the tasks up to the appropriate urgency zone, and into the sequence that you will be working the tasks.
A project can also have notes, where you can enter a brief description of the project. This can include key dates, last review date, etc.
“When” dates can be used on the tasks if you want to automatically bring them to your Today list, and you can also set a Deadline. A task can have tags, which is a good way to track who each task is assigned to. When you view a project, at the top it shows a list of all tags used in the project. You can click a tag with the person’s name to see all unfinished tasks with that tag.
Things is only available for Apple devices — Mac, iPhone, and iPad. There is no web version. If you work with Windows or Android computers, you will not be able to use Things on those devices.
While many apps now use a subscription model, Things 3 is a one-time purchase for each type of device: $49.99 for Mac, $19.99 for iPad, and $9.99 for iPhone and Watch. Things for Mac has a 15-day free trial, so you can try it out before paying. You can buy Things from the App Store, or download the Mac trial version from their website.
You can find out more about Things on their web site: https://culturedcode.com/things/