I’m trying to use TaskPaper for three different things: 1) managing my professional and personal life, 2) managing the details of my projects, 3) drafting outlines.
As a GTD app, it’s going to replace Circus Ponies Notebook, a very flexible app that has recently stopped development, and is unfortunately plagued with some major issues that make it unpleasant to use. Since TaskPaper is much simpler, I’m trying to see if I can make my GTP workflow different, maybe cleaner.
In GTD, everything starts with lists. Then lists get collected into projects, then in different areas of work/life. For example, I may make a list of books to study for an exam. Then I will group them in the exam’s syllabus. Then in a folder containing all the materials for the exam (teacher’s name and contacts, lesson’s room, exam’s date and results). All this will go inside the university cycle dossier together with the other courses. And all this is either a page in Notebook, a main-level project or a separate file in TaskPaper. Something like:
- Studies [page, file, or project]
- Bachelor in Humanities
- Professor’s name and contacts
- Lesson syllabus
- Further materials
- Exam’s date and results
Or, I can organize my job, something like this:
- The Big Ultrasonic Airplane Project
- Customer’s company
- Address and various informations
- Referral’s contacts
- Technicians to talk with
- First draft
- Meeting dates
- Contact them tomorrow!
- Final draft
And so on. A separate file could contain the details for the single project, with each step detailed and managed individually (status of the single parts, daily briefings, visits to an external company, detailed notes on things to do, double check, revise).
Most list items have a deadline, some a starting time, and must interface with my Mac and phone calendar. With Notebook, each item/activity can be synchronized to a calendar. Completing an activity and checking it makes it disappear from the calendar. Editing it makes it be automatically updated in the calendar.
Unfortunately, Notebook has a serious bug that makes editing activity times very clumsy, having to deal with palettes and separate fields. This is the main reason I’m leaving it. I like, on the contrary, being able to write the time inline, as you do in TaskPaper. I only would like that the search engine understood natural language dates (January 20), instead of ISO-formatted ones (2017-01-20).
TaskPaper lets you easily create an event in the calendar, by using the Quick Look feature. It is not a synced event, but it should work. In case of editing it, you have to go go the calendar, delete the old event, and create a new one from TaskPaper. I know there is a script that should help making this easier. I would love it could make this syncing process assisted, as the most recent version does with Reminders (that I use very sparsely, instead relying heavily on calendars).
Another thing I rely heavily on is a list of due-soon things to do. If the calendar gives the big pictures, and lets me plan my time, the due-soon list gives me a procedure to follow for the next few days. Notebook had the SuperFind page, showing the next events grouped by context (page/project), and ordered by date. Nearer or overdue activities were shown in strong red, nearing activities in pale red. I don’t think coloring by date is possible with TaskPaper’s search results, but I think this is something I can live without. Also, date order could be not so important, if I can focus on a shorter time, and use the calendar exclusively for a bigger pictures and longer time forecast. What I really like in TaskPaper, is that it shows each activity in a detailed context’s hierarchy.
As an outliner, TaskPaper is very simple and effective. Create a project, and it becomes an headline in the sidebar, for easy navigation. Collapse and expand items at will. Focusing is immediate as cliccking on a project’s name. Copy everything, and paste it into a wordprocessor or mindmap app, and you are in an effective integrated system. Themes in the newer version would be great for choosing the right style, but I’ll live without (or, I’ll understand how to use the older version, that I’m not fully understanding).
So, at the moment I’m using TaskPaper as an outliner, and as a detailed planner/task sheet for a couple projects I’m working on. I’m only experimenting with it as a GTD system, with the lack of complete calendar synchronization making it less useful than expected. Natural dates processing would be a plus, but I guess I can live without (and the newer version makes it easy to enter ISO dates).
I’m sticking with it? Who knows. I like the concept, but for some time I’m also limited to the features of the very nice version 3.3.2. Any innovation will not be for me. But I’ll see if it will work for me in any coming future.