In this article I’m going to describe the value of a task manager in helping you with the stuff you have to do but the difficulty where it comes to choosing one. I’ve come across numerous references where some people have tried everything under the sun only to go back to something or continue with their quest. Choosing a task manager often involves:

  • expectations of what you think it should be able to do
  • using the product and how you find personally
  • price – this is way too expensive or what am I getting for such little money (expectations playing yet another role here)
  • is it assisting me or impeding me?

The Need for a Task Manager Assist

With our technologies in hand, many predicted that life would be simpler and open to more leisure time. The shorter work week was discussed and shared work( was on the table (two people do the same job but share the work so there is enough to go around). Aspects of life would become simpler as we moved away from a paper based economy to that of a paperless based economy. The new technologies would allow us to do this as it supported scanning docs into systems, like Evernote and DEVONthink, to get rid of the paper. Finding what we needed would be a breeze.

An Idealic Sound

This all sounds rather ideal. The question wasn’t whether it was to happen or not but how soon. Theoretically, these promises were to pay off immediately. However, there is reality and there is delusion. Unfortunately. this rather ideal sounding new society was just that; a sounding rather ideal than it’s material realization.

Some would counter we haven’t given this enough time. Well, we’re about fifty years into a rapidly advancing technology and it is generating more to do; to know; to grasp than our human minds/brains were designed for.

Stuff is coming from us at all angles but not like a locomotive peacefully chugging away at night to get to where it needs to go but rather like a supersonic jet that does crazy acrobatics. Only one hundred years ago we got, say in information, stuff from the townsfolk and the newspaper. The radio hadn’t quite made it on the scene yet and the telephone was just starting to happen.

Steve Jobs gave a speech in which he said “The telephone was really the first and only really desktop appliance, and we think Macintosh can become the second desktop appliance for these tens of millions of people.” It was elegant in its simplicity of use and efficient at getting information across. Fast forward to today, and we have so many appliances at our disposal you just have to pick something to get your information as there is simply too many sources. Mark Zuckerberg might think Facebook is the b all and end all but to many it was the dawning of the end of civilization. So yet another source of information; be it good or whatever no one seems to care when they sit and spend countless hours doing ….. what????

However, these are all inputs of information which is swamping us. When we only know about Trump because we chose CNN as a source of our information, don’t we feel like a failure when someone asks what do you think about such and such which is local news and you don’t have a clue let alone a response.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing a source or two of information. However, since we live in a global economy and world we seem to expected to know about everything.

To deal with this though there’s:

  • the Smartphone and
  • Google

You just look it up. Google is information what Kleenex is to tissue paper. However, it’s ultimately a-lot. Now you have to fit your life and personal life into this. You decide you want to implement x, y and z. This is where the task manager steps in because without it you’re going on a very stretched and markedly over used memory. With Task Management, as it is so important, comes unrealistic expectations of what it can do. So let’s try to encapsulate a more realistic view of what can be done.

Task Managers and the Necessity

A task manager, in and of itself, is not sufficient to be considered a full productivity system but it’s the place to start. Since the world has grown tremendously complex, so too has our need to implement more sophisticated tools to help us deal with it. In David Allen’s book he points out that our memories our very limited in what they can hold. His view is the mind is for ideas and not to be clutter with trying to remember things beyond what the mind is capable of. So to get stuff out of our mind to be reminded of what we need to do, we need to employ a task management system.

At its simplest it is a reminder of things that have to be done. At its more complex it is a visual guide to not only what has to be done but how we go about and do it. Thus, our task management system or set of reminders can simply be a pile of unorganized tasks in a tool or it can be a more complex, structured system. The systems I’ll describe are of the latter variety in which the system uses areas or lists to contain projects and from that the tasks and subtasks necessary to make something happen.

The Systems

There are a slew of task management systems but for the purposes of this article I’m going to contain them to two that follow the above principles in similar ways. In fact, when looking at these divergent systems, you will see commonalities. This is when personal preference steps.

In this article, only Things 3, an outright sale platform that runs solely on the Mac and TickTick a subscription based but cross platform system will be considered due to their different styles but similar capabilities.

Things 3

Things (only for OSX and IOS) has been around for quite some time. It has always been a popular program for both power yet simplicity and intuitiveness. Things 3 is like a completely different yet incredibly elegant revision if Things. It’s a complete re-write and if you like a very clean look with an operation that is almost magical and you only use IOS, this might be the program for you.

Powerful as they Come

Do not let the simplicity and intuitiveness fool you. This is a full fledged, almost GTD structured program. It has four major components to assist with your workflow:

  1. Areas – like folders to contain projects in areas like Finance, Personal, Work and even more granular if you like. This is a very good way to help with the organization of a lot of stuff.
    1. Projects – which is designed to achieve a goal. You might set up a project to balance or budget your finances etc. Again, this is an essential part of your goal meeting criteria.
    2. Tasks – which are the things you have to do and check off when completed
    3. Subtasks – an interesting area of a task in which you write down things that have to be done within the task such:
      • Buy the groceries
        • milk
        • butter
        • cheese
        • bread

Comprehensive except for Cross Platform

If you live in an Apple world solely, I’d look no further than Things 3. It is beautiful, powerful, intuitive and is an outright sale item.

With that said though, TickTick is based on a subscription model but provides all the features of Things 3 quite similarly plus it is widely cross platform.

TickTick Your Subscription Model Alternative

Some people are dead set against the subscription model. However, if there is a program to compete with Things 3 and outshine it due to the cross platform capability it is TickTick.

This is one of the new kids on the block but possibly as a result of that it is very advanced both in the interface, its intuitiveness and power. It is a subscription based model running around $27.99 yearly but the cross platform capability of the program may necessitate it.

If you like Things 3, you’ll love TickTick. In some ways it is similar to Things 3 architecturally with a slight look and feel difference.

This is one fantastic program than will run in multiple environments. It provides the same four layers as does Things 3.

  1. Folders are like areas
    1. Lists are your projects
    2. Tasks
    3. Subtasks

All Things Considered TickTick is the Winner

Even though Things 3 in no way can to be interpreted as a poor choice if your environment is all Mac, should you have a need for cross platform, TickTick

is the clear winner amongst any program that would vie for this space. It has the beauty and structure of Things 3 but a powerful advantage due it being cross platform.

Even though I prefer the outright sale model, there is no question that TickTick is the winner here. You just never know if you might suddenly find yourself on a team that involves different platforms. Since TickTick is not only a joy to use but provides very powerful views that are both customizable and can be designed for specific purposes, it has all the power necessary along with the flexibility to be a first class program manager.


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