Last week the Apple nerdery got very excited with the release of Things 3. I took a look and realized that I’m not as interested in to-do apps as I used to be. Mostly I just do the things I need to do as they come my way. Making lists generally doesn’t help me. Perhaps it’s a limitation of my imagination or an indicator of a less active life. I’m just not so busy that I really need an app to keep track of tasks and projects. I’ve tried many of them over the years and none of them ever really stuck. The closest I got was using Wunderlist but that faded as well. Am I doing it wrong?
With the introduction of “Hey Siri” I found that Apple’s Reminders app was sufficient for my fairly limited needs. In fact, I actually found that do to the convenience of Siri I actually used Reminders consistently for very quick, location-based tasks. For example unusual things such as returning a bucket I borrowed from a friend when I know I’ll be driving by their place the next day prompts me to say: “Hey Siri, remind me to return Karen’s bucket tomorrow morning at 9am” or perhaps I need to make a phone call but only at a certain time, that also would get a request to Siri. But those kinds of things don’t need complicated to-do apps, just something basic that will allow me to ask Siri to create a reminder which will pop-up a notification at a specific time or location.
Here’s how I tend to do around-the-house chores. Some repeating weekly or monthly tasks are set-up as repeating reminders. Most notably I have monthly reminders for flea/tick/heartworm meds for my cat and dog. I’ve also got a reminder to change the cat litter. I don’t need such reminders for most other tasks. When the grass gets high I cut it. I’m outside everyday so I can see when I need to water the garden. When my recycling pile starts to overflow I drop it off.
I do my shopping list via Hey Siri and Reminders and the AnyList app that imports anything it finds in my Shopping List.
If I have a larger project such as painting or staining a structure I will just add the things I need to get to my shopping list. Then I get them and then I do the job. I don’t need to list out the steps because they are usually self evident.
When it comes to client projects, again, these are generally straight forward. I get hired to to a brochure or a business card or an annual report and I just do the job. The steps involved are not so many that I cannot easily just do them. With a new website or brochure: Create project folder. Collect text, images and graphics which are placed in project folder. Open or create html file or InDesign document, etc. I rarely have more than one or two projects at a time and have no problem dealing with that kind of activity level. I recently did an annual report. The tasks were largely the same as the last time I did such a document and they flowed from my email exchanges with the client which evolved from instructions then questions then gathering of text, images, graphics. I did a first draft then a back and forth with suggestions and edits then a second and a third. At no point did I need a task list. The same might be said for a recent presentation design and a website re-design. My projects evolve along with email, text messaging with a client and at most a few notes that I might take in the Notes app.
I can’t quite sort out where a to-do app fits in to such projects. It would be like creating a to-do list for my day. Get up. Go to the bathroom. Make coffee. Eat breakfast. Feed the dog. Walk the dog. Refill coffee. On and on. I don’t need a list for such obvious things.
What about a larger non-normal project? Perhaps something large enough with many steps might need a project to-do list. When we were building our cabins a few years back we made weekend shopping lists for the needed materials. But again, this was more about knowing what we needed for the next phase of the construction. I suppose some might do a series of to-dos in this case. At the time (2008) I probably scribbled the list on paper as I didn’t have an iPhone. Were I to do be doing it again today I’d likely just do a shopping list as I do for groceries. But I wouldn’t do a list of to-dos for the actual construction process.
Special tasks seem rare in my life. Often such things are events that go on the calendar. I often take my granny to her doctor so those those appointments go in the calendar for a day and time. Events for family or friends also go to the calendar. If I need to check in with someone about a detail for such an event more often than not I just send a text when I think of the question. No need to remind myself to send a text. A few days ago my brother-in-law called to ask if I could design an invite and a slide show for my niece’s upcoming graduation party. I was out for a walk when he called so I opened up the Notes app to take down the details I needed. I suppose it could have gone into a to-do app under a task “Create Emma’s Party Invite”. Instead I made a note titled Emma and scribbled in the details of the event and a few things that I needed to include in the invite and in the slideshow. Perhaps that’s the key. More often than not anything that comes up that I don’t do immediately get’s put into Notes because of details that I need to do a task or project. Perhaps I’m using Notes in cases where many would use a to-do app?
I don’t know. As I said, maybe I just don’t quite get what to-do apps are for. Maybe my activity level is just very low. I’d like to try out Things 3 but chances are I’d buy it and it would mostly sit in a folder unused. Again, I ask, am I doing it wrong?