Embracing GTD with FacileThings

It’s great that there’s a spectrum of task management web apps to help you get things done. Each of them offers a different approach and interface, so you can choose from a wide variety to find the app that works best for you. After all, everybody has their own way of working through their tasks and projects.

FacileThings is one of the new kids on the block and presents a fresh take on the GTD app category – it’s not just a to-do list. Developed by a dedicated team in Spain, FacileThings urges you to think about all the things you need to get done, organize and prioritize it all and then work through your tasks efficiently and effectively. If your time management has been completely out of whack and you’re looking to get a grip on things, this might be the way to do it. Let’s try it out, shall we?

Overview

FacileThings embaces and implements the principles David Allen has outlined in Getting Things Done (GTD), his book on productivity and how to use a system to complete tasks and get ahead. While other apps offer to-do lists and sometimes additional features, FacileThings focuses on getting you to prioritize your tasks and complete them without stressing about them. The app is free until next month so you can register now to check it out.

Getting started

Signing up for FacileThings doesn’t require a credit card and as mentioned, it’s free to try until Mar 1 2012. Till that date you can choose to go with a 6-month plan at 6€/month, after which it’ll cost you between 7€ and 9€, depending on the duration you choose. All accounts come with everything included – 5GB storage space for reference material, mobile site/app access, metrics and unlimited tasks and projects.

The FacileThings Dashboard

The FacileThings Dashboard

The interface

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be greeted by your dashboard, with a list of sections on the top and a sidebar on the left with categories for your stuff. On FacileThings, stuff refers to just about anything that comes to mind – a task, an idea or even something to keep in mind while working on a project.

There’s a box in the middle for you to enter your stuff. The app urges you to collect or put down everything you can think of that needs doing – personal chores, professional tasks and everything in between. At this point you don’t have to worry about syntax or due dates. Entries appear below the input box and can be acted upon from there. After you’ve made a list, you can begin to process your tasks.

An Inbox with 'unprocessed' items

An Inbox with 'unprocessed' items

Processing tasks

Processing is essentially a way of getting through your checklist by prioritizing tasks and then acting appropriately upon each of them. FacileThings suggests collecting all your stuff in the inbox without worrying about details, then processing them one by one. You can think about whether a task requires action or not. If it requires action, you can delegate it, do it yourself if it takes just a couple of minutes, or put it on your Calendar to do later with a due date.

Your Calendar with items

Your Calendar with items

If it’s just info that’ll come in handy later, file it in the Reference list and upload attachments (documents, images, etc.) to each item here. This could be a phone number, an idea for a project that you want to develop later, etc. If there’s something just doesn’t need to be done now, Incubate it. And, if you find that some stuff doesn’t need doing at all, Trash it.

In doing so, you’ll understand which stuff actually needs doing, how it should be done and when, thereby making you more productive. If you’re ever confused, there’s a nice tutorial on the site to help you fully understand how to get the most out of FacileThings and GTD principles.

Advanced input

By default, when you enter stuff into FacileThings, everything gets into your Inbox. You can choose to add due dates and times as well by using the date picker or by using the syntax detailed here. You can also tag items with hashtags to make items easy to identify. E.g. If you’re making arrangements for a romantic date for Valentine’s Day, you can enter tasks like buy flowers #vday and pick up dinner ingredients #vday. This makes these items not only easy to spot, but you can also filter your task list by clicking on the tag to see only those tagged tasks.

There are other ways to collect stuff too – you can connect your Evernote account and set the app to pull in content from a specific notebook. This works, but it’s kind of clunky – FacileThings creates a new item by getting the title and appending a link which opens the note in your Evernote desktop app. I don’t think I’d use this method at all.

You can also email your stuff or even set FacileThings to collect stuff from your Twitter favorites and Delicious links. However, I mark favorites on Twitter only to read later and not for tasks so this is something I’d avoid.

As for smartphone access, apps for iOS and Android are currently in the works – but until then you can use the site’s mobile version which works alright (though it still looks like the older FacileThings site design).

FacileThings on mobile (Android)

FacileThings on mobile (Android)

Using FacileThings

I tried to get acquainted with this app by entering some chores and setting up a project to start a food truck. After collecting all the stuff I had to, I tried processing it all but it felt like a bit tedious spending time thinking about each item and then categorizing it. I find that I’m more partial to simpler systems wherein you just enter a list of tasks and treat it as a checklist.

Adding attachments to references is a pain – you’ve to first process an item and mark it as reference material, then go to the Reference section, find your item and then add an attachment. Similarly, there are cases where you can’t easily move items from one section to another. There aren’t any keyboard shortcuts either, and this app could certainly do with a few.

FacileThings also has features for collaborating with other FacileThings users, but I couldn’t really get it to work. Plus, these users have to already be registered on the site with the exact email address you enter in order to establish a connection. It’s all a bit difficult to use, frankly. There are graphs in the Metrics section to help you track how much stuff you’ve got done and your effectiveness in GTD, but they didn’t seem to reflect new data.

Conclusion

FacileThings has a lot going for it as a GTD app if you’re into David Allen’s teachings. However, I personally spend only a couple of minutes a day with my to-do list and this app unfortunately needs a lot more of your attention than that. It also has a few usability issues and would do well to take a few cues from other apps in this space like Wunderlist and Sandglaz. The site is being updated constantly so hopefully some of these concerns will be addressed soon.

FacileThings isn’t really for me, but if you’ve got complex tasks and would like to try applying GTD ideas to get through them, sign up for the app while it’s still free and see if it helps you become more productive.


Summary

FacileThings is a task management app based on GTD principles with an aim to give time back to you.

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  • I would also recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.