The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).
Note: This post may seem familiar to those who have been reading the site for a while. I decided to update a previous post for two reasons: 1) Because some of the tools I’m using have changed or have been update and 2) Because I’ve changed a bit of my thinking.
Yesterday I shared the four types of to-dos. Today I want to follow up by sharing the tools I use to accomplish them. I’m going to start by letting you know my priority for each, my app of choice and the best possible alternatives.
I’ve tried a variety of solutions, from post-it notes to iPhone alarms and nothing worked until I was recently turned on to Due. This iPhone app is nothing short of a stalker. It takes seconds to set up a reminder and upon the due date, your phone will start sending you an iPhone Notification every minute (you can also set it to every hour). This sounds horrible, but it is a fantastic way to never forget the little things again. I’ve gotten my $5 and more from this app.
The Pros: Super fast to set up, easy to use, simple to share and almost impossible to ignore.
The Cons: Lacks the location features of Apple’s own Reminders app.
The Flat-Out Bad: iOS limitations mean you can only get a reminder every minute or every hour when 5 minutes would be ideal.
Alternatives: If location support is essential and persistent reminders are not, go with the Reminders App.
While I use Google Apps to store my calendar, the native iCal on my Mac sucks. I’ve tried a few things, including the popular BusyCal, but nothing was ever really sufficient. That is until Flexbits introduced Fantastical. This menu-bar based application drops down to provide you with a look at your week and makes it fast and easy to enter new appointments (which has always been painful for me.). Now, I simply use one keyboard command and start typing in natural language (e.g. Lunch with Dad at McDonalds at noon tomorrow) and Fantastical takes care of the rest. It also works with Outlook and Exchange, so those of you Mac folk who still have some remnants of your Windows life can still take advantage of this kick-ass way to quickly get a look at your week or to swiftly add something to any of your calendars.
The Pros: It could not be easier to use and is almost impossible to screw up creating an appointment. The latest version also added the ability to edit and delete items which has eliminated the need for any other calendar app on my Mac.
The Cons: The app will occasionally put information in the wrong field, but fixing this has always been preferable to using any other option.
The Flat-Out Bad: There is nothing I hate about this app.
OmniFocus is the leading choice amongst nerds everywhere. While I resisted this for a long time in favor of the more straightforward Things, I have now converted and am blissfully happy with that decision. OmniFocus gives me an environment that’s extremely powerful, yet can be customized to feel simple. It also has excellent iOS apps and a great syncing solution that ensures I’m always up to date and always able to capture new tasks.
The Cons: It’s expensive and the learning curve can be a bit steep. Thankfully David Sparks helps by offering a comprehensive series of videos.
The Flat-Out Bad: The communication from Cultured Code leaves a lot to be desired and OTA Syncing has been “imminent” for far too long. There are also some key features like collaboration and pre-set projects that are missing or could use serious improvement.
Lists need to offer quick entry, quick completion and most important of all, quick reorganization of tasks. While the new iPhone app Clear has brought this tier of to-do to the forefront, I’m sticking with Listary. What it lacks in looks, it makes up for in features. So much of my list making (especially for short term things like grocery lists) come from my wife via text or email. Listary seems custom made for these kinds type of situations.
The Pros: The team has put their time and energy into making it as fast and easy as possible to add tasks. It’s especially helpful for taking lists from text messages and turning them into multiple items that are just waiting to be checked off. The shared list features are also great. As is the ability to sync your lists with Simplenote.
The Cons: Once you look at Clear, you realize just how much Listary is lacking in the looks department.
The Flat-Out Bad: More than the looks, once you play with Clear it becomes, well clear, that it’s a little harder than it should be to edit things. Thankfully, the team at Listary seem excited by the prospect of improving the app in light of the competition.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Dear god, Michael is a crazy person who uses too many apps” and you’re probably right. If you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t likely need more than one of these tools. If, like me, you have trouble keeping everything straight, try breaking them apart one at a time and see if taking a separate approach to some or all of these types of to-dos helps. It may seem like a lot more at first, but over time this approach has come to feel like a lot less.
- At some point I will stop with the clear puns, clearly that day is not today… [↩]