Testing reminders

Todo lists, along with calendars, are a crucial part of how I manage my life. Over the years I’ve tried lists of all types. In my early twenties I decided digital was the answer, so I tried out every app I could find. None quite matched what I wanted. At one point I carried around a Field Note which acted as my second brain. It was always by my side, in most cases literally in a side pocket, along with a pencil. Then my toddler son grabbed it and chucked it into the bathroom sink. In an instant I saw days and weeks of my life fading alongside the smeared graphite. I went back to digital that very day. 

In my journey to find the right tool I tested Clear, Remember the Milk, early iterations of Apple Reminders, and every other app I could get my hands on. Omnifocus 3 caught my eye, and I dove into it headlong. I shared it religiously with colleagues and learned every part of it. It mostly worked for what I needed, and became a crucial part of organizing my life for a few years. Then Things 3 was announced and I switched over. The beautiful design won me away from Omnifocus. 

And so, since Things 3 was announced, I’ve been a fervent user. I tried switching from time to time, but stuck with it and built my life around it. That was 7 years ago. 

A great todo app requires a few things for me. I need a way to mark items as due on specific days, and each time I open the app it should be able to filter to just what’s due on that day, while also having an easy way to see what’s due on future days. Ideally this is designed in a simple way, I can easily move items between dates, and it doesn’t feel overwhelming. 

Beyond that core element I’ve come to count on subtasks, notes within tasks, repeating tasks, and a prominent widget on my iPhone homescreen.

Things 3 does all of that, and I’ve been very happy with it. 

However, in the last year or so I’ve been testing default software on device; and in the case of the devices I’m using, Apple’s builtin defaults. I switched from Chrome to Safari, moved from Google Calendar to Apple Calendar, and from Bear Notes to Apple Notes. 

Each time I’ve made the switch I looked at how I used the app, and whether I could make Apple’s equivalent software work the way I needed, or if I’d be willing to change my workflows to match Apple’s design. 

While Apple’s individual apps don’t count for all the use cases I might want, I’ve found they often cover just enough. There’s a lot of reasons why I’m trying this, and I may write on that in the future, but for now it’s an interesting experiment to see if I can use Apple’s apps, and whether the tradeoffs are worth it. Also I’ll be saving on subscription costs over time. On that note, I’m also testing 1Password to Apple Passwords, and will share more on that once I’ve figured it out. 

So, today, after talking to my friend Saadia the last few weeks about the great app migration, I decided to switch from Things to Apple Reminders. I started by moving over every todo item from now till Sunday, and checked them off on Things. That means Reminders is the single source of truth for now. I also put a task on Reminders for Sunday to either move the rest over, or switch back to Things. I’ve found with moves like this that I need to go all in for a period of time to see if it really works for me. 

Right off the bat it seems Reminders has every feature I need. The way I go about using those features is a bit different, and taking some getting used to. But I’m excited to see if it will work.