TaskPaper: Bulky archive section in sidebar

I’ve been using a couple of “Projects” for grouping daily work in various ticket queues: one for triaging, and the other for regular ticket smashing. This is a hold over from an idea in my previous post, “Things: Repeating Projects!1

When migrating some stuff to TaskPaper, I created those two projects from Things as projects in TaskPaper—which are also shown in the sidebar. Getting messy after four days in!

Daily work “projects” means that the Archive projects displayed in the sidebar will be extremely long if I don’t do something. I have a couple of options so far:

  • Don’t use them as projects, but Markdown headings. I can still fold the text under that header—that’s what I want.
  • Move them to another file weekly, to keep things tidy. I’d need to open the Archive TaskPaper file.

Now that I consider it, the second option isn’t that big of a deal. It’s all plain text, and relatively quick.

For now, I’m trying the first: Markdown headings, then making sure to indent the relevant tasks I’d like the group.


  1. Things — In the Logbook, completed projects stand out versus todos because they contain multiple todos. However, repeating todos overpower projects due to the large volume of regular completed todos. I have a habit of noting the amount of time I spend across our numerous queues. 

TaskPaper and my iPhone

I wrote a comment in a previous post (Considering TaskPaper 3) to describe how I could add information to my TaskPaper files with Siri using Reminders and Drafts. Check that out. Now, I’ll briefly explain how I’ve worked with my TaskPaper files on my iPhone so far.

My decision to get TaskMator was based on Gabe Weatherhead’s reviews on Macdrifter. I recommend reading them first.🙂

This morning, I also listened to Episode 026 — Old Stock Ale and Task Management from Nerds on Draft (an episode from a year ago), which includes some discussion about TaskPaper and TaskMator. (See show notes.)

Anyway. I haven’t used the alarm feature yet. Filtering by project or tag works well. Same with search from the home screen, which seems fast. I’m also fiddling with saved searches:


Due
(@due or @today or @flag) and not @done

Not @done
not (type = note or @done)

Quick tasks <= 15m
@time <= 15 and not (type = note or @done)


At the moment, I omit the notes in some saved searches because I use often include notes. (In the TaskPaper app, I collapse these quickly. All from my keyboard, loving it.) With the above syntax, that means done tasks aren’t displayed even though the notes under those tasks are technically not marked as done.

Anyway, the goal is to narrow the scope of my tasks. I might create two dupes that include notes for more detail.

For adding stuff to my TaskPaper files, I have several actions in Drafts that prepends the chosen draft.

  • TP (Personal)
  • TP (Personal, done)
  • TP (Personal, added)

For the second and third, those are for instances where I only have a single-line draft.1

When ready to clear my “inbox” at the top of the file, and on my iPhone, I can tap each task, and move it to my desired “project”.2 Or, using two fingers—tap and hold the bottom menubar, then proceed tapping the other tasks you’d like to manage—I can add the relevant tags, then move it to the correct project.

I’m not certain if the purpose of Taskmator is to use a one or two huge TaskPaper files. If you enable the badge number, and the most recent file you opened had over 250 tasks, your mind would go numb. I’d like the ability to designate a project for each TaskPaper file, but I imagine using a different setting for separate files would be tough to implement.

Even though I’ve gotten comfortable with Things, I’m pleased with TaskMator!

 


  1.  See also: My Habit of Noting Timestamps 
  2. Remember: I use “projects”—as labeled with TaskPaper files and apps—as “Areas” to combine a broad group of related items. 

TaskPaper 3: Fold and Focus

Two days at work alongside TaskPaper 3, and I’m digging these two features:

Folding items – You can now fold items, hiding the items indented under them. To fold and item click the blue bullet point to the left of the items text.

Focus projects – You can now truly focus projects instead of just filtering to show a single project. The difference is when you focus a project like this you’ll no longer see all the leading indentation. This means you can create deep levels of subprojects and still edit them comfortably, instead of seeing a bunch of leading whitespace everywhere.

I keep track of my work through our various ticket (email) queues with a few notes under the task for each queue. Having everything neatly folded when I open TaskPaper and makes me happy. I switch to the Today saved search, then working through tasks one at a time, focusing with ease when needed. Super quick, and entirely from the keyboard.

It’s also fast and handy to start a clean ad hoc brain dump without opening a new file or window. (I did this today reviewing some information for an internal P2 thread.) The following takes a couple of seconds.

  1. Start a new line.
  2. Create your heading.
  3. Go In (⌥⌘→), and all the other text disappears.
  4. When you’re done, you can Go Out (⌥⌘←).

No need for the text? Indent the line after the header for speedy folding (⌘.) under that header. When you’re ready to trash that text, fold the branch (⌘.), select the branch (⇧⌘B), then delete (⌃⇧K).

Try the demo!

My Habit of Noting Timestamps

Over the years, I gained the habit of noting timestamps on items like to-dos and projects in Things.1 Now I’m wondering if that’s overkill now that I’m getting comfortable with TaskPaper.

Generally, I prefer including timestamps with every task, project, or note for the following reasons:

  • “Then you’ll have it”2. (i.e. You never know if that will help in the future.)
  • When reviewing my tasks and projects, the timestamp is a gentle nudge to moving something forward.
  • If something is super stale, I’ll feel more comfortable deciding to punt it.

A penny for your thoughts! Does it really matter adding that information with to-dos and projects? Despite using snippets, am I still wasting time?


  1. With clipboard snippets in Alfred, seven keystrokes will paste 31 characters of the current date and time (including seconds and time zone). I have three other variations with the same keyword that appends one of these words: start, added, and done. 
  2. Arrested Development reference! 

Thoughts for moving from Things to TaskPaper

Dimitry Jacobs helped me remember that I could copy several to-dos from Things into a text editor in one step—like TextWrangler (Mac)—or an entire project into a notes app like Simplenote or Drafts (iOS).

(See: Emailing To-Dos — Things Support)

Mac

You can send emails containing the titles and notes of your to-dos by dragging them out of Things for Mac and into a message in Mail.

Let’s say you used Quick Entry with Autofill when saving a to-do associated with a webpage.

Things test todo 1.png

Things test todo 2.png

When you drag and drop those to-dos from Things into TextWrangler, both notes are enclosed within parentheses. (Not optimal.) In addition, the page title is saved for each note, but the URL isn’t included. Deal breaker.

Things Mac drag and drop todos.png

Lastly, while you can copy multiple to-dos at once, you cannot copy a project and its to-dos, which means you’d need to manually copy and paste the project (along with its notes).

iPhone

In contrast with the Mac app, you:

  • Cannot copy multiple to-dos at once.
  • Can copy “the contents of an entire project”.
Things test project and todos.png
Preparation: Project to copy from Things for iPhone
Things iPhone share copy text.png
Result after project in Things was copied from iPhone

Process

As a workaround, the combination of the Things apps will speed up the workflow of migrating the rest of my to-dos and projects from Things to my TaskPaper files. I’ll explain “moving” to-dos that aren’t meant to be in a project.

Note: You can skip steps 4–5 when you’re comfortable with the output.

  1. Mac (Things): Create a new, temporary project.
  2. Move—drag and drop—all to-dos that are not in a project into the temporary project.
  3. iPhone (Things): Copy the project. This text copy retains a bit more information—including any URLs, in a slightly nicer format—than copying from the Mac app.
  4. iPhone (Simplenote): Paste contents into a new note.
  5. Mac (Simplenote): Copy the contents from Simplenote.
  6. Mac (TaskPaper): Paste the contents into TaskPaper.[^1] I paste into the top of the file.
  7. Mac (TaskPaper): Move the to-dos out of the temporary project and into my desired locations, then format to my liking.
  8. Mac (Things): After migrating the to-dos from an Area, move them to another Area for safekeeping.[^2] For example, along with my “Automattic” Area, I created another titled “Automattic to TP”.[^3]

 

If you have Drafts, here’s an alternative to steps 3–5:

  • After copying the project from Things (which means it’s in your clipboard), use Drafts’ Today Widget by tapping on the clipboard icon (“new draft from clipboard”).
  • In Drafts, run the appropriate Dropbox Action on the new draft to prepend its contents into the desired TaskPaper file.

 

A few other thoughts:

  • In TaskPaper, there isn’t an equivalent to Areas (Things).
  • At the moment, I’m using two separate TaskPaper files: Automattic and Personal. These are my main “Areas”.🙂
  • One-off to-dos that don’t need an actual project go into a Todos project at the top of each appropriate TaskPaper file.
  • iPhone: I’m trying TaskMator 3, which supports saved searches. (Yay!) I’m not sure I need to edit my TaskPaper files heavily while I’m away from my laptop, so I decided against Editorial.

TaskPaper: Next Actions search query

Last week, Matt Gemmell included six searches when he shared his OmniFocus-inspired TaskPaper theme. I noticed that the “Next Actions” search includes the first line of the project, even if it’s a note.

Next Actions @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\)\)[0])

I usually have a line or two of notes in my projects in Things, so this wouldn’t work if I need to display the single next task for each project.1

The following change adds the desired item type, which means the next task (not note) will be displayed for all of your projects:

Next Actions (improved) @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\) and (@type = task\)\)[0])

You can see more details on Formatting Queries in the TaskPaper User’s Guide.


  1. I’m migrating from Things to TaskPaper 3. More to come about that process in the next post.