Get Things Done with Nirvana

Getting Things Done, as a concept carved by David Allen in 2001, has aged fast. Users of the method have been shaping its recommendations to fit their needs, but, most importantly, they did so to catch up on how technology could help them get things done with less friction. Apps have also developed their own ways to support some sort of easy path to achieve productivity and the starting point from Getting Things Done soon deviated into several personal methods.

As a Mac user, I’m very familiar with the dispute between Omnifocus and Things, being a previous user of the latter and considering the jump to the previous until I reached out for the web and found Nirvana, which felt like a better deal coming from Things, which manages tasks with Next Actions and Today lists, rather than Omnifocus with its Forecast and the reliance of due dates.

Path for GTD Revelations

It’s rare when someone stick to their first productivity app, one day the tasks become harder to handle and our current application can’t support the rate of incoming to-dos to manage. Then we look for options according to what we learned about ourselves using the previous task manager. In my lookout I dug through many apps, everything with priority on team management was no good and my focus was on a tool for individuals.

Among the apps I tried for a longer period were Todoist and Omnifocus, both are great, but demand due dates to take the best of them. Although the latter offers options to create a section for Next Actions with Perspectives, I never felt comfortable due to the fact that I had to configure a lot to make it appropriate while I couldn’t find good use for most of its default features.

Did I tell you that I also require apps to be pretty?

Did I tell you that I also require apps to be pretty?

This odyssey had further detours through its course, but they all got me closer to the features I truly needed, these revelations guided me to Nirvana, a GTD web based app for individuals we reviewed almost 4 years ago and not much has changed since then, but many of the complaints listed in our previous review were covered, such as a way to visualize your existing contexts, areas of responsibility and contacts as you add a new task.

What Sets It Apart?

The original Getting Things Done works with the Inbox, where you toss every tiny task that pops in your head to later on process this stuff according to their action requirement, such as the Trash or Someday/Maybe for non-actionable tasks or Projects for outcomes requiring multiple steps to get done. After that, these actions can be delegated to someone else to do them, sent to the calendar to be done in a specific date or to a list of Next Actions, which contains the tasks you must do as soon as possible.

Select energy, time, contacts, contexts, attach to projects and areas of responsibility. All in the task window.

Select energy, time, contacts, contexts, attach to projects and areas of responsibility. All in the task window.

When it comes to Next Actions, you pick the next thing to do using a four-criteria model, topped by Contexts, which are your available tools, time and energy available, and priority, which is mostly defined by intuition and your own judgement call. Nirvana has you covered on most of the steps listed here in this workflow that got lost on the GTD variations of other apps. You’ll still prefer to rely on your own calendar app and there’s no collaboration set to properly delegate tasks, but it packs the essential tools for the GTD aficionado.

Nirvana holds a few more tricks under its sleeve, such as giving you an email address to send tasks to the Inbox, like Omnifocus, multiple themes and Areas of Responsibility, which are like global filters you can assign to tasks and projects to refine your workspace, such as keeping your home duties separated from your office assignments.

But the main reason why I moved all my tasks to Nirvana is so simple you may be surprised to know how many apps lack this feature: parallel or sequential projects, where the first is a list of actions that can be done in any order, like a grocery list, and the latter contain tasks that must be done in a specific arrangement, as a meal recipe, and hides all tasks below the foremost from your searches and Next Actions.

Smells Like Productivity

I learned that a tidy Next Actions list is my way to become more productive and Nirvana sorts your tasks under multiple categories, I have three favorites on this field: Later, which is a middle ground between your Next Actions and Someday/Maybe lists; Waiting holds your tasks on hold until something happens; and Focus, the place where the tasks you selected with the four-criteria model and tasks due in the current day go marked with a star.

This is where Nirvana lets down and needs an overhaul.

This is where Nirvana lets down and needs an overhaul.

Nirvana also supports scheduled tasks, which will be starred and sent to your Focus list when their due date arrives, you can increase the range of days using a start date or repeat them daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Repetitive tasks have a few more tweaks available, although I miss the “repeat after completion” option from other apps. I also presume this feature could be further improved by sending tasks on the start date to Next Actions instead of Focus while the task is not due until the upcoming day.

Sometimes, More is Less

Some features from Nirvana are double-edged, for example: manually logging completed tasks into the Logbook may be a burden for some, but others might appreciate the extra layer of control. All in all and apart from attempts such as Zendone to integrate multiple services and functionalities, your GTD workflow will still demand a nice calendar like fruux, a collaboration tool for your office such as Flow and an organized database for your references, as Evernote. When it goes down to managing your personal tasks, Nirvana makes a great partner even without a remarkable mobile support. Don’t follow the minimalist hype of “less is more” blindfolded because sometimes a job is better done when you keep the whole toolbox nearby.

Settling down with a productivity app built to tackle such a complex matter is, most of the time, a losing game, leading many users to keep scavenging for alternatives instead of getting things done, but no tool fits every hand and you may need to give up a little to use an app to assist in your task management. You gonna crack some eggs, but the right app for you will minimize these losses to a barely noticeable value. Nirvana is that kind of application for me.


Summary

Nirvana is task management software that's 100% web-based. Based upon the well known Getting Things Done® (GTD®) method of keeping organized, it is fast, easy, available from anywhere.

  • Nirvana build 569  | 
  • Free with limitations and $5/month or $39/year for unlimited projects, areas and reference lists.  | 
  • Nirvanahq, Inc.
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