Getting things done these days is a challenge for all Mac users, despite oh so many tools designed to help. The most important aspect of any Mac tool is how we use it to get done what we want. From simple to-do lists to mini-project manager utilities, Mac users have many choices. One of the best is also free.
Even the simplest tool doesn’t do much if it isn’t used. First on the list of requirements is discipline.
Hog Bay Software’s TaskPaper takes the simple approach to managing tasks and projects. Create Tasks then add them to Projects.
TaskPaper makes it easy to create lists of tasks and group them by project. All of your information is stored in a simple text file that is easy to take with you on the go, and edit when TaskPaper isn’t available.
A remarkably simple interface is what sets TaskPaper apart from other to-do lists. The added benefit of storing Tasks within Projects and having all your lists in one application is beneficial.
TaskPaper is about as close to an onscreen notepad to-do list as you can get. All it does is list tasks and projects. Unfortunately, that means TaskPaper is very easy to outgrow, but not inexpensive at $19.
Taking The High Road
OmniFocus works great as a Getting Things Done® trusted system but can also be used to fit other task management styles. You can add or hide features such as start and due dates, time estimates and task recurrence based on how you manage your tasks.
Most Mac users are unlikely to outgrow OmniFocus. Create tasks on the fly from any Mac application, including email. Sort and store tasks according to project or focus time (perfect for GTD disciplinarians).
OmniFocus plays well with other Mac utilities, such as integrating with iCal’s to-do items. OmniFocus also uses a true database to store information, instead of a flat file as with TaskPaper.
The interface is traditional Mac OS X. Toolbar on the top. Context on the left sidebar in Context mode (a toggle button), or inbox and Library items in Planning mode. All the detail items show up in the right side of the window.
OmniFocus preferences are extensive, allowing users to manipulate multiple databases and locations, store and manage clippings, create specific actions for integration with Mail, and sync with iCal. Tasks can be pulled up in OS X’s Spotlight.
It’s easy to get lost in OmniFocus and forget that the whole idea of Getting Things Done is to match Tasks with Projects with a Focus time to get the tasks done. Complexity is what you get for $79.
The GTD Drug
What do you get for free? iGTD, one of the best values in a Mac utility for handling Tasks and Projects.
Like Things, iGTD is deceptively simple, and takes an elegant approach to managing your daily to-do list, but makes it simple to attach items to projects, and then set up focus time, called Contexts in iGTD.
Add tasks from many external applications – Safari, Firefox, Mail, Entourage, Finder, NetNewsWire, Microsoft Word, TextMate – just to name a few. Integrate with MailTags plugin for Apple Mail. Create new items using smart Quick Add and Quick Type.
It’s not that iGTD isn’t loaded with features. It is. iGTD integrates with iCal and .Mac accounts. Tasks can be exported to HTML, CSV format for Excel, or plain text files. Drag and drop Safari URLs and store as a task. Assign contacts from Address Book to a task.
Tasks can be nested into Contexts and Projects. When you get too many of each, filters let you focus on just what needs to get done now, or what needs to be planned for tomorrow.
The user interface can be customized to display columns you want, and hide those you don’t want. Even the iGTD toolbar can be customized.
Setting up your soon-to-be more productive life with iGTD is not a challenge. It’s simple.
Once you understand the three basics, Context, Projects, Tasks, all that’s required is to set up Contexts in iGTD.
What are contexts? There are places or situations where you’re supposed to complete your tasks: your home, your office, your phone, your Mac connected to Internet.
Easy enough, right? Now think about your Projects and add them via the Projects tab. Don’t worry if you don’t remember all your projects now. They can be added later.
Think about your tasks – can you group them into projects? Of course, you can – consider creating a separate project for each more significant group of work activities. You may also think about creating some projects for your private tasks which belong together – financial issues, designing your website, school projects.
Next, think about your Tasks and how to organize them. There’s lots of flexibility here. Add tasks to Context or Projects or both. At first, they go into the Inbox, then assign them to Projects. Then assign yourself a Context, a time to do the tasks.
iGTD becomes like a happy drug for Mac users who want to accomplish more, are tired of to-do lists, and need to be more efficient. It’s a user friendly utility at a remarkably low price. Free. For now.
Even more remarkable is the iGTD online instruction pages. Remember, iGTD is free ware. For now. iGTD 2 is on the way, with iGTD Pro not far behind. iGTD is a bargain. For even more detail on using iGTD, check Michael Buffington’s How I Use iGTD on 43Folders.