Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
There are three kinds of people: Those who make lists; those who don’t make lists; and I wish I could remember the third kind, but I didn’t write it down on one of my lists…
As you probably guessed, I’m the first kind: An inveterate list-maker who is never without a notepad, notebook, Post-it note pad, or iDevice. I’ve told my family for years: “If you need me to do something or be somewhere, make sure I put it on my to do list or I’ll forget it before you even leave the room.”
I keep lists for everything. What kinds of lists? At any moment I have between 5 and 10 lists going: a master To Do list, To Do lists for projects, lists of phone calls I need to make and letters I need to write, shopping lists, wish lists, lists of potential article topics, and more. Until fairly recently, I never left my office without a pen and notepad for writing down whatever I needed to remember. When I got back to the office I’d transfer any little notes to my lists, which I maintained on yellow legal pads.
I knew from the start my Mac would be much more efficient than a pen and paper for making and managing lists, so for the past 30 or so years I’ve been making the transition from pen-and-paper based lists to file-based lists. In that time I’ve tried literally dozens of apps for managing lists or tasks.
One thing I learned early on was that an outline makes a nice, natural framework for a list. So most of the list managers I used in the early days were actually outline processors such as ThinkTank, More, and Acta.
An outline is an excellent framework for a list.
While outliners worked OK for managing lists, I always felt the computer should do more of the heavy lifting. For example, I believe list items should include due dates, priority levels, and tags. And the software should automatically archive completed tasks. I also realized that an outline is great for hierarchical lists, it’s not the best framework for date and time-based events like appointments, meetings, flight times, and the like.
Over time I figured out that, at least for me, the Holy Grail would be fast, easy data entry anywhere, using any device. My dream system would be designed so I could add new items quickly and easily using any of my Apple devices. And, of course, I needed something that synchronized items and events on all devices in (near) real time. The bottom line was that I needed a To Do list app that integrated seamlessly with a calendar.
For years I used iCal (now known as Calendar) for both to-do lists and events. Its to-do features were weak, but I had yet to find something that worked better. Then, a few years ago, Apple introduced Reminders, which helped a lot. Around the same time I switched from Calendar to BusyCal, which made things even better. I’ve been using BusyCal and Reminders ever since.
While that combo was pretty good, I never stopped looking for something better. In the OS X era I’ve tested close to a dozen list-making/time management apps including Things, OmniFocus, and many others. And I’ve read a bunch of books on productivity and task management, but until now I found all the software I tried and books I read were too complicated, too simple, or too crappy. The bottom line is that while my Reminders and BusyCal-based system doesn’t suck, I’ve finally found something I like even better. It's called The Hit List from Karelia Software, with versions for the Mac (US$49.99) and the iPhone ($14.99), and a free syncing service so every item on every list appears on every device in (near) real time.
Next: The Hit List for Mac and iPhone