My new task management setup with Things and Airmail

Several years ago I wrote a post about how I used Things as my primary task manager. I still get people asking about Things and how I have my workflow setup so here is a long overdue update.

First, am I still using Things for tasks? Actually, yes! I have moved away from Things a few times and I still constantly experiment with alternatives. However, for me, Things just seems to be the best overall system for keeping tasks organized and in sync between my Mac and iPhone. As they say, “it just works.”

There are other solutions that are much prettier (although Things 3 should update the UI). There are also solutions that offer features not found in Things such as  collaboration and commenting with others, a web interface for task management, integrations with third-party services like Basecamp, Jira, or a host of CRMs. If you need any of these features then by all means look elsewhere (Flow, Trello, Producteev, and Asana are great places to start). However, if you don’t actually need these features then maybe Things is still the best option.

But what about getting email messages into Things?

Here’s where my workflow has changed over the past several years. I no longer use Apple Mail (along with MailActOn or MailTags). As Apple made it more difficult to use Gmail (and Google Apps) seamlessly I tried several alternative email clients. I fell in love with Sparrow until Google bought and killed it. I am still waiting on Mailbox to make a Mac client to accompany their iOS app. But until that day comes I am (mostly) happily using Airmail.

The most recent update of Airmail added the ability to create a task in Things from any email message. That’s right… built into the app! No crazy work-arounds through iCal. I don’t even have to run it through an Alfred workflow. Now the only trick was to figure out how to use this feature which didn’t seem to have any documentation.

It turns out it is easy if you know where to look.

Airmail to ThingsFirst, select a message. At the top-right of the message pane you will see a small drop-down arrow. Click that arrow to reveal a (large) menu of actions to perform on that message. At the very bottom of the list you will see the “Create Things Task” option. Click that and the Things quick-add box will appear with the email subject as the task name and a link to the email message as the task’s note.

It is worth noting that Things must be open for this to work. If Things is closed when I click the “Create” option then it will open Things but the quick-add box does not open for me.

Also, I have not found the link to the message useful at all. It actually does not automatically hyperlink for me and so it really serves no purpose for me.

Screenshot 2014-03-17 09.09.39Finally, if you know me at all you know that I typically prefer my hands on the keys, not the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts are the key to efficient productivity. Thankfully, Airmail has a keyboard shortcut for this function and you will find it by navigating to the Messages > Dispatch menu.

If you don’t recognize those symbols, the shortcut is: “control + option + t”

Just hit that key combination when a message is selected and the Things quick-add box will open pre-filled with your message details.

That’s it! As you may have noticed, Airmail will also send messages to iCal and create Apple Reminders. I don’t personally use either of these (I highly recommend Fantastical for Mac and iOS instead of iCal) but if you do then I’m sure the process is similar to the Things workflow.

Do you use your email inbox as a task manager or do you have a way to get message out of the inbox and into a true task manager?