Getting Things Done (on a Mac and an Android Phone)

Hey! Just after the Things Android Script? It’s here (this post will tell you how I came to write it)

In a technical process sense, Agility in software development is simply the application of basic task management ideas, that help organise an otherwise complicated set of deliverables into small bites, consumable by a diverse team of professionals.

For about 5 years, I’ve been a devotee of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, to accomplish the same thing, at a personal level. When you boil the two down, the principles of GTD and project Agility are strikingly similar.

1. Capture all you need to do in a single list (Agile Backlog/GTD Inbox)
2. Make time regularly, to review and to break that list down into small and achievable tasks
3. Work on the most important thing first, then the second, and so on until your project is done.

I’d highly recommend the original David Allen book if you’re keen to de-clutter your life a little.


So this post began as something VERY different.

Over the years I’ve experimented with dozens of ways to apply GTD to my life. In this process, I’ve used a whole stack of software to mange my Inbox and project lists. I thought I’d grace you dear reader, with a cutting review of my perfect GTD system for Mac/Android! Brilliant!

I was going to review the following products and make a

  • Astrid
  • DGT
  • Evernote
  • GoTasks
  • Gtasktic
  • Omnifocus
  • Producteev
  • TaskSurfer
  • Task Unifier
  • Things for Mac
  • ToodleTask
  • Appigo Todo
  • Wunderlist

Quite a list, but I realized two things:

  1. It was going to take a long time and a lot of work to review al those
  2. That I couldn’t actually give you anything better than this guy (Tom Philip).

Tom’s done a great job of pointing out the good and bad in a bunch of apps, and after reading his round-up, I thought that the only thing I would do differently (aside from not doing as good a job) would be to make an alternative final recommendation.

So, cutting to the chase, my authoritative view and system referral is (drum roll) . . . . . . .

Evernote & the Secret Weapon; my system of choice for the last 6 months or so.

The Secret Weapon is not a product or a software solution in itself, but a manifesto and complete step-by-step playbook on how to turn (the fantastic) Evernote into a kickarse GTD productivity machine. The system teaches you to use the tags and notebooks in Evernote to create a task collection and completion workflow, based on Getting Things Done. It’s easy, it’s everywhere (Evernote is free on every device you can think of) and it works! It’s been my trusted system for 6 months, and whilst it feels a little imposed (jut a little), it never let me down.

The web site is tremendous. I don’t know why they took the time, but I consider The Secret Weapon one of the best examples of a community website I’ve come across. The site is (now) sponsored, but not overtly, and would have required a great deal of effort to produce, with videos that describe every aspect of the theory and the system.

If you are just starting out on your Getting Things Done journey, and you want cure-all, no-cost, you-bloody-beauty, platform/device-independent system, then GO NO FURTHER than The Secret Weapon!

That’s what I was going to say, but then something happened. I remembered “Things For Mac”.

“Things for Mac” (now “Things Mac”) was the very first GTD application that I ever used. I fell in love with it from the moment I first saw the beautifully simple interface that it’s famous for. The product is developed by Cultured Code, a company that’s both set in it’s ways, and not really renowned for action. A real shame, coz Things mac costs US$49.99.

Here’s a little story.
In early versions of Things, it was only possible to sync over WIFI. In 2009, that was OK, and it’s funny to think back to how few apps could actually deliver cloud-sync back then. Competitors began doing just that though, mostly using online tools (RTM, Toodledo) or Apple’s services. Cultured Code assessed these options, and announced that it would go-it-alone, assuring customers that their homegrown sync would be worth the wait. So we waited. And waited. And waaaaaaited. Until in October, 2012, cloud sync finally arrived. I’d given up waiting 2 years earlier.

By the time “Things Cloud” finally saw the light of day, I’d made a conscious decision to divorce myself from the suffocating, mother-knows-best world of the “Apple Ecosystem”. Nothing too radical, I just bought an Android phone. However even in 2012, this made impossible the use of Things Mac, as the most important part of my GTD system is the collection of ideas on the run, that automatically appear in my computer’s GTD Inbox for review.

The moment I really “got” GTD, was the moment I “got” the Inbox. It acts as a catch all for notes, reminders and embryonic tasks/projects, and I need to get stuff in there as quickly as I can, then move on. I’ll sort through it later. For GTD to work for me, I need a one-click add for notes and ideas on the desktop and on mobile devices; whatever’s closest at hand!

Big problem. Not only did cloud sync take a long time to come to Things, but there’s no Android companion, and there never will be.

My planned app review had me revisit the desktop version of Things and tragically, the romance was rekindled. I love Things Mac. I think it’s as close to perfect as you’d get for GTD on the Mac, it’s just that damned missing “Things Cloud for Android”! I was torn between and almost perfect system based on Evernote, and THE perfect app that had no mobile solution for me. What to do?

Well . . . . .

I wrote a Things Android Sync myself. It’s allowed me to reacquaint  myself with the wonderful world of Things for Mac, with the bonus of having both task collection and task review on my Android phone. There, fixed it.

Both Evernote and Things have extensive Applescript libraries. Borrowing idea from Jan Schwenzien, I decided to make myself a quasi “Things for Android”, by automating:

1. The creation of Things Todos from notes I’d make on the Android phone
2. The maintenance of an Evernote note that reflects the GTD “Next” list in Things Mac

It’s not a real cloud sync. It relies on Evernote’s sync capability, and a background applescript running on your Mac. It works a treat for me though and has answered all my prayers for a way to use Things Mac with my Samsung.

You can get your own copy here, to use as you wish.

To conclude then, I give you my two Getting Things Done recommendations.

  1. Evernote (with The Secret Weapon) – For a great free GTD solution that I swear by
  2. Things Mac (with my applescript) – For a better, but not free GTD solution that I swear by!


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    For implementing GTD you can use this application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

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