I’ve been using new tools ever since I received a Casio Calculator Watch as a present in high school and a Blackberry on Christmas. If you can’t recall these gadgets with nostalgia, you may consider me to be horribly antiquated – but for several years, productivity software for Mac was not much superior. It wasn’t until 2011 that Mac apps in various fields began to consistently stand out.
Thus began my journey to find the perfect to-do app (aka task management app).
Over the years, I’ve tested several to-do apps for Mac and iPhone, and they’ve all done a decent job at raising my productivity level. My latest discovery is Things 3, which offers the perfect balance between enticing new features, timeless design, power and simplicity, and delightful interactions.
What’s So Good About Things 3?
Things 3 allows users to take a guilt-free approach to task management. I’ve highlighted some of its prominent functionality below.
Set Important Dates
Not every task is associated with a date. Some can just be completed when you get time. Others, however, are closely associated with dates, and Things 3 is quite accommodating, offering numerous ways to work with them.
For example, it lets you add a deadline to any task or project. My mom asked me to run errands, so I added that task to Things 3 and listed a deadline for it.
Most to-do apps have this functionality. Things 3 goes a step above by conveniently enabling you to include a few other kinds of dates.
For example, I can add a start date to ensure I start working on a particular task at the right time.
While setting the start date, I can also create Reminders to have Things 3 display an alert to remind me of any pending tasks.
I can also use the “when” option to create start dates and reminders, and keep tabs on my activity to ensure you’re on track with upcoming tasks.
Group and Organize Your Tasks
Once you begin using Things 3 to organize different aspects of your life, you can populate it with dozens, or even hundreds, of tasks. This can create a mess, so you need a way to organize and group your projects and tasks. Things 3 lets you do that via “areas” and “tags.”
You can create areas for several different aspects of your life. I’ve made one for home, one for office, and one for friends.
Not only do these let me organize my tasks logically, but they also serve as helpful prompts to ensure I’m driven and responsible in all of my responsibilities.
All projects and tasks can be further streamlined with the help of tags. You can use these to arrange your tasks in several different ways.
Tags associate your tasks with certain contexts (like home, office, pending, important) as well as with people. You can highlight a task’s importance, or indicate the amount of time needed to get the job done. The options are endless.
Know What’s Ahead
I especially love this about Things 3: it lets me keep tabs on tasks I want to complete in the future without cluttering my active list of projects. When I’m busy, they’re not a distraction. But when I’m planning to review what’s left, they can be. Things 3 offers three distinct views for the purpose:
Here’s a quick breakdown of each:
- In Upcoming, I’m able to see a calendar of tasks that have either a start date or a deadline associated with them.
- In Anytime, I can view a list of tasks that I can work on in my free time. These aren’t categorized by an area or project. Neither are they associated with a deadline.
- In Someday, I can view the set of tasks that I haven’t planned on working but may do someday. I use this space to list my life goals.
Maybe one day I’ll visit Antarctica. I want to list goals like these in my to-do app, so that I can remind myself about what I want to achieve. But I don’t want to be distracted when I’m concentrating on what matters now. Things 3’s “someday” feature handles these items pretty nicely.
Overall, Things 3 allows you to sensibly organize tasks by tags, projects, and areas of responsibility. Your calendar and to-do list can be seen in a variety of ways – tasks to do in the near future, tasks that you need to complete today, and tasks you may work on someday. And you get to prioritize, sync and organize each task, area, and project.
Things 3 Pricing
I wish Things 3 was free to download and use. Sadly, it isn’t – you need to pay $49.99 to be able to experience the to-do goodness. But trust me, you’ll be getting your dollars’ worth. With that said, I recommend you to take the 15-day free trial and rate it for yourself before making a purchase decision.
Things 3 is a nice addition to the productivity and to-do space, not just because of its aesthetic appeal, but because the folks over at Cultured Code (the developer) have packaged some of the most wanted features in the tool. They’re constantly listening to entrepreneurs and implementing their feedback consistently. In 2018, for instance, they added a mail feature to the app and enabled users to repeat tasks within projects.
So if it isn’t apparent already, I highly recommend Things 3 as a productivity app for your Mac. It’s incredibly useful, clever, appealing, and it makes tracking and completion of various tasks a breeze.
How to Prioritize Your Tasks to Help You Achieve All Your Goals
A few days ago I discussed why prioritizing your tasks was a much-needed aspect when it came to achieving success. I have always believed that knowing what is important to you will help you focus your energy in the right things.
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
Once you have realized that not every task is equally important and they can be put off, for the time being, you can get to schedule only the tasks that are on your priority list. The problem arises when you cannot determine which task is more important.
One of the questions that help you make sense of prioritization is, “Will this task take me closer to my goal?” The most important tasks are the ones that move you closer to achieving your long term goals.
Prioritization helps you have a plan that will push you to focus your time and energy on the right things. It will also help you ensure that your work is done, deadlines are met, and stress is minimized.
Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation or the number of things that need to be done, that’s when your priorities need to be reordered so that you can get things done that bring you closer to your actual goal. At the end of the day, everything boils down to your ultimate goal.
Nobody’s life is ever all balanced – doesn’t matter if it seems like that to you – everyone has a different set of problems. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day so that you can keep making progress each day.
The Magic of To-Do Lists
“Schedule your priorities.”
To-do lists are really helpful in putting the things that need to be done into perspective. Take the list further by adding additional attributes. You can prioritize tasks in the list itself. If you use an app or digital file, it becomes easier. If you use the old pen-paper method, then you can either rewrite the list after prioritizing the tasks or you can use highlighters or page-markers. Here’s how you can prioritize your tasks.
- Make a list of all the tasks that you need to do.
- For bigger tasks, identify individual tasks that will help you complete the project. The breaking of big tasks should be small enough to be completed in a few days or a few hours.
- Identify due dates – long-range, midrange, due next month or next week.
Now that you have the list complete. You will have everything laid out in front of you. This will help you make an informed decision without forgetting any tasks. With brain dump out of the way, you can focus on prioritizing the tasks.
- Assign priorities to each task, from most urgent to not very important – use A, B, C, etc., to designate levels of importance.
- After you have decided the priority of your tasks, rank each task within the level using a secondary designation, such as A-1, A-2, A-3 – this can be used for sub-tasks.
You must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, most people often spend their time and energy on what is urgent than what is important. This might get you from one point to another in the short-term but in long-term it will get you nowhere. The next step is that you must do what’s important first which is called priority.
Over time, I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything. When we understand this, it becomes easier to understand what actually matters and what you are doing just because.
There are many tools provided online to make planning even more detailed yet easier. Tasks can be flagged with contact details of people involved and reminders of upcoming events, due dates, and meetings. You can also make to-do lists, assign due dates, set reminders, schedule meetings, etc.
“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”
Start and end your day with your “to-do” list – check off what you finished and review the remaining tasks at night and in the morning go through the list once to see what all you need to do. Do not constantly reprioritize the list, as it can quickly become an excuse for procrastination and will leave you confused as to what you are supposed to do.
What if Every Task Seems Like a Priority?
“When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”
If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.
Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”
To achieve success, to complete your goal, to chase your dream with your all – it is really important to learn how to prioritize. There will always be a plethora of things you want to do or you feel like you need to do, but they will never all be at the same level priority wise.
You need to learn to teach yourself to decide on what is important and stick to doing that – this is the key to finishing things that are high on your list.
Prioritizing allows you to identify the most important tasks at any moment and dedicate the limited time and resources you have accordingly.
Why You Should Prepare Your To-Do Lists the Night Before
To be on top of everything, having a set morning routine and night routine that you follow religiously is very important. A routine makes sure that you do all the necessary tasks to ensure that your day running smoothly. The habit of making to-do lists and following it is one of the beneficial habits you can cultivate in order to get all your work done without being overwhelmed.
Many people wonder if making lists at the end of the day is better than making a list in the morning or vice versa. While in the morning, you might be fresh with a fresh outlook toward the day, chances are that making a list in the morning isn’t the best way to ensure productivity. Making a to-do list isn’t enough, knowing how to tackle it needs some planning.
When you wake up and get through your morning routine, it can be difficult to sit down to plan the day. You want the morning to be light and filled with little tasks that are more about self-care than business. The serenity of the morning is the perfect time to be looking after yourself. If someday you happen to wake up late, all your planning will go askew if you leave making your task list to morning.
At the end of the day, you know what tasks you have managed to complete, and what areas of work needs your attention next. This makes it easier to create a to-do list for the next day because you will be making a list on the data from the day. While you can do the same in the morning, the urgencies of certain tasks aren’t going to be that fresh in your mind.
You also have the opportunity to sleep on your list and then revise it in the morning with tasks that would need more attention. Before bed is the best time to create a game plan for the next day. It’s like getting a head start to your day because you already made a plan the day before.
When you make a list at night, you already know what you need to focus on first the next day. What’s your MIT (most important task) and what work you can fit in, considering your schedule. You don’t have to wake up to the task of planning and can use your sharpness in the hours of the morning to actually getting work done.
“Setlists are tough because you come up with this structure of how the songs are going to go from one to the next, but at the same time, you have to be spontaneous and take requests and change the setlist at the drop of a hat.”
-Billie Joe Armstrong
You can put indicators to tasks that are priorities, urgent, or can be put-off, and then in the morning, you can prioritize them with more vigilance. This is something that will help you go about your day as soon as you wake up because you will have a direction to follow. This particularly helps if you have too much on your plate and you are overwhelmed by the amount of tasks that need to be done and feel clueless. With a to-do list prepared, you will wake up with a mission and that will help you feel motivated.
While I am an advocate for waking up early, I know not everyone can afford to. Many of us work lates or have some weird working hours because of international businesses or just because of personal preference. If you are not an early riser, then making a list in advance will let you know at what time to wake up to keep your day running smoothly.
For me, I make a list of my three MITs (Most Important Tasks). I always advise to make a list of 2-3 MITs and try to achieve them as soon as possible, they are critical tasks that yield the most significant results. Once you achieve the most important and difficult tasks, you already have a sense of accomplishment and achievement that will help you get to other not so important tasks throughout the day without worrying constantly.
Having the most important task out of the way gives you an opportunity to be actually present in your workday and work for other things without the constant pressure of this looming task that you will have to get to eventually. You get to give your 100% to everything you do because you are sorted by working on tasks based on your priority.
“I made a huge to-do list for today. I just can’t figure out who’s going to do it.”
That being said, while lists can be a huge help in giving you direction, in the end, you are the one who has to follow them to get the work done so don’t make your lists overwhelming. I understand the urge to fill up our lists with all the tasks that are swarming our minds, I used to do that. I made mile-long lists but never could complete it in the day and that discouraged me.
Then I learned the importance of being smart and setting realistic goals. I started making a master list in which I jotted down every task that entered my mind and then segregated them daily. I focused only on the tasks that were on my today list. Having put the other tasks on another list made me not worry about them and I could focus on my daily tasks better.
“People are remarkably bad at remembering long lists of goals. I learned this at a professional level when trying to get my high-performance coaching clients to stay on track; the longer their lists of to-dos and goals, the more overwhelmed and off-track they got. Clarity comes with simplicity.”
A brain dump is essential to keep your brain from worrying about every little thing. So, make a main overall list and then your daily to-do list can be a subset of it. Every day when you make your lists in the evening or before going to bed, you can go through your main list and take that into consideration against what you achieved today. Based on both things, you can make a much more efficient list. This will help you work little by little to achieve your long term goals as well.
“Mostly I make lists for projects. This can be daunting. Breaking something big into its constituent parts will help you organize your thoughts, but it can also force you to confront the depth of your ignorance and the hugeness of the task. That’s OK. The project may be the lion, but the list is your whip.”
After doing a brain dump of all your ideas and worries, take things out from it to do each day, and do not look at the main list you made again while going about your day. This will free up your mind from the plethora of tasks that need to be done and will let you focus on what you can do now – making sure you give your best in whatever you are doing. There’s no point stressing over the bulk and doing nothing to make a dent in it.
You have to consider your strengths, your weaknesses, your schedule, the probability of last-minute tasks, the average time to get a job done, any kind of raw data that can help you get into the habit of making an almost foolproof plan.
If the list is overwhelming you and discouraging you, then you have to understand that it’s not the lists that overwhelm us, it’s what and how much we put on them. Ever heard about not overfilling your plate, this is exactly it.
There will be days when you won’t complete all the tasks on your list – no matter how hard you try, some days are just not helpful. The unfinished tasks will bother you – if they don’t, then you can use the same list, but chances are that they will. I suggest throwing away that list and start a new one every day.
For most people, when they just add on to the existing list, they start the next day already feeling like having failed because they have tasks from yesterday to go through. No matter how much you do in the day, you will keep feeling unaccomplished because your mind will go in an ‘if only’ mindset where you will keep wondering that if you had finished those tasks yesterday then you could have done more work in the time it took you to get to them today.
This is not a healthy attitude to begin your day with. So, start a new list. Put the tasks again on the list. Now, it is a new list with all the remaining and new tasks together. It will make you feel like you have a fresh list instead of the feeling of working on a backlog. Whatever makes you feel positive about your workflow is what you are going to apply eventually – it is a process of learning and growing.
Making a good plan is half-battle won, that is why it is important to be prepared. To-do lists are your daily plans. If you prepare them smartly and then apply them to the T, you will realize that getting work done is easier than it always seemed. Making a to-do list the night before gives you the opportunity to start your day feeling prepared and ready to deal with anything that comes your way.
7 Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make for a Meaningful Life
A meaningful life holds a different meaning for every single person out there. My definition of a meaningful life will vastly differ from yours. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Everyone feels satisfied with different things, everyone has a different purpose.
One common thing that we can all agree upon is that our lifestyle dictates how we go about our life. Whether we add meaning to our lives or just exist from day to day is promptly defined by our lifestyle choices.
The basic lifestyle choices are all in tune with our basic needs. Our basic needs are usually what we overlook in the process of getting things that will fulfil our basic needs – it is ironic, really.
Here are a few of the most important and down to the element changes that you need to make to live a healthy life and to increase the quality of your life. Most of these are entangled with one another. When you work on one, you are bound to have started working on another. So, let’s talk about them.
1. Wake Up Early
This is one advice that is the beginning of bringing about a lot of good changes in your life. There’s something delightful and serene about the morning time. The environment we are in affects our mood – waking up early is a great example of that.
Not only our productivity is at a peak, but nature is also at its finest, especially if you live in a city. The air around you hasn’t had the chance to be tainted with pollution, and the sound is filled with happy chirping than loud horns blaring – thanks to the morning traffic not having polluted everything yet.
“Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.”
Being in a calm environment helps you focus better. Studies have shown that you have reduced stress levels in the morning which makes you more energetic. Having high energy and better concentration helps boosts your speed, which in turn helps you complete any task in lesser time than it would take otherwise.
This is the perfect time to get your biggest task done, or as I call them, your big rocks or MITs (most important tasks). Starting early lets you wrap up early, meaning you get more time for yourself and your family.
2. Get More Sleep
When you make waking up early a routine, you start going to bed early. This lets your internal clock adapt to the routine, resulting in better sleep quality. Having no sleep pattern messes up the body, but now that your body gets to get the rest it needs, you will see a lot of aches and pains go away.
When we think about working hard, we often misconstruct it as late nights and early mornings, meaning no rest whatsoever. In the whirlwind of getting as much as you can get done, it is easy to start focusing on being busy rather than being productive.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
Another reason that people have difficulty falling asleep is excessive use of screens in their daily life. Scrolling through social media with fear of missing out (FOMO) lingering over our shoulders have become a common phenomenon.
Worrying about life and whatnot already reduces the hours of sleep we get drastically and add to that spending hours scrolling through various apps. It doesn’t only impact your physical health negatively, your mental and emotional health is affected too.
Going to sleep late is considered cool but your body would like to disagree. Not getting adequate sleep not only leaves you feeling tired, but it also develops a lot of health risks. Instead of trying to pump yourself full of coffee to get through the day, work on getting adequate sleep.
3. Limit Screen Time
As discussed, being on our devices is one of the major reasons for us going to bed late at night, mainly social media. You should go on social media detoxes from time to time to help yourself spend less time online.
Phones are one of the biggest distractions right now for a majority of people, taking measures to eliminate the distraction caused by your phone is an important step toward increasing your productivity. Studies have proven that using electronic devices before sleep makes people have trouble falling asleep. It is advised to not use any kind of screen at least 30 minutes prior to bed.
4. Have a Balanced Diet
“The little energy you obtained from your breakfast can ignite your willingness to kick start. Don’t overlook the little energy you have now by fixing eyes on a supposed magical influence farther away!”
As we go on working on our goals, our diet takes a backseat along with our sleep. We sort of have started taking pride in the meals we are missing – it is somehow meant to show how hard we are working. At the end of the day, it is helping no one. One of the meals, that is commonly missed, is the breakfast, it sort of ties to us not waking up early and not having enough time to do everything we need to do before we start hustling at work.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It gives you the energy you need to start the day. Not having a proper breakfast is another reason why people fill up on caffeine. We have forgotten the importance and need of having a balanced diet. In our fast-paced, busy lives – out of sheer convenience – we have started relying more and more on fast foods and instant, processed food.
The processed food we consume isn’t necessarily healthy and doesn’t help our pocket either. Try to prepare batch meals on weekends that you can eat throughout the week. If you are super busy and don’t even get weekends off, then start with having at least one home-cooked meal every day. Your body will be really thankful for the nutrients it is getting.
Always focus on getting a balanced diet. Include whole foods that are filled with minerals, proteins, dietary fiber, fatty acids, and vitamins, meaning nutrient-rich. Include eggs, yoghurt, milk, fruits, oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, wheat pasta, mixed nuts, etc.
5. Practice Self-Care and Meditation
Chasing our dreams doesn’t mean we have to forget ourselves. Taking care of yourself should definitely be on your to-do list – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Being busy is no reason to neglect your health. Even when you are busy, you can slip in moments of self-care. Practising self-care fills us with optimism and helps us gain a better hold on our lives.
Meditation is a good form of caring for ourselves and making a stronger connection with ourselves. It helps you relax your mind and helps increase your focus. Self-care can mean a lot of things like lighting candles and reading or using bath bombs while having a bath or lighting incense sticks while exercising or doing yoga, or even listening to music while cooking – it all depends on what makes you feel like you are being taken care of.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”
Anything that helps you feel relaxed and at peace is considered as self-care. It is supposed to help you live your life to the fullest without the exertion taking a toll on your body. Give your body time to recover from all that you put it through.
6. Listen to Podcasts
Most of us spend hours traveling to either work or college or someplace we need to be. This time isn’t usually ideal for getting work done, so it is sort of free time you get with yourself. Why not do something productive with it while still relaxing.
Our busy minds instantly start to roam and worry, stress about things that need to be done or things that are out of our control. Listening to podcasts on subjects we enjoy gives us something to do and helps pass the time by doing something productive. I usually listen to podcasts to help boost productivity. There are so many podcasts to choose from. If you want, you can also listen to audiobooks.
7. Get a Hobby
Having a hobby is important to give your passion a chance to flourish. It is a great way to learn new things and also relax while doing things that make you happy. Spending some quality time with yourself and doing things that mean something to you – is something that can’t be measured in value.
“It is in our leisure hours that we are permitted to follow our “hobbies,” and it is in them that our truer selves find expression. Many of the greatest men in the world’s history achieved their fame outside of their regular occupations in the spare moments of time which most people think are of no serious use.”
Not having a hobby, or not doing something just because you like it can have negative effects on your emotional health. Gain isn’t only monetary, you can spend time on things that build your emotional wealth. Hobbies get you a chance to figure out your passion if you haven’t already.
With an increase in work from home culture, you anyway spend a lot of time looking into your screen. Try to invest in a hobby that keeps you away from the screen. Get out in nature, spend time with friends and family, get your creative juices flowing.
Making positive changes in life is not about making drastic changes – it’s about taking small steps and being consistent about it – little changes that leave a significant impact are what we are working toward. We are creatures of habit. Breaking a pattern isn’t easy, we try to fight change. Try to ease yourself into things that will help transform your life for a better tomorrow.
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