App of the Week: Actions by Moleskine

Moleskine’s productivity app is as addictive as its notebooks. The legendary notebook maker’s third app is the epitome of simplicity.

By Jesus Diaz of fastcodesign.com

The infinite descending spiral of chaos that I call “my life” is always in dire need of organization. While I should probably give up and embrace the madness, from time to time I’ve tried different task managers, apps, and tools in an effort to reign in the four horsemen of my personal apocalypse (work, family, friends, and hobbies).

Today, I gave Moleskine’s new Actions app a shot.

Moleskine–the manufacturer of the popular paper notebooks of the same name–has been trying to gain a foothold in the digital space for years. Its first app, 2015’s Journal, tried to mimic the feel of real-world Moleskine journals using a terrible skeuomorphic interface. It never made it big and got lost in a sea of journal apps and bad reviews. By 2016, Moleskine had seemingly realized that replicating physical products in the digital world was pointless. It released the
Moleskine Timeline app, an elegant and clean calendar application with a minimal interface that reviewers call simple and effective.

The company’s new Actions app builds on its success, integrating with Timeline (as well as Siri) to keep you on track. It’s a to-do list that turns your items into “actions,” whether that means errands, homework, or something fun. And just like Timeline, its interface is so clean, simple, and precisely laid out that using it feels a little like unwrapping a real Moleskine journal and smelling it with a deep breath–though it doesn’t try to literally replicate that feeling with its design.

Unlike plenty of other to-do apps, Actions doesn’t try to nest tasks, establish any multi-step processes,  or organize your actions in any way except by time and category. It simply allows you to create to-do items in the form of cards that get clearly laid out on a timeline.

On the app’s home page, you’ll find the “Schedule,” with your pending tasks organized on a linear weekday timeline: Today, I have to go buy some bonito for Saturday’s lunch. Tomorrow, finish that illustration of David Bowie. Sunday I have to fix a chair and Monday get a blood test. Each of these tasks can belong to a color-coded category, so I can see what I’ve to do at a glance.

 

Actions also has a “Logbook” section, which keeps a record of all the tasks you’ve completed. At least for me, it’s a necessary thing for personal satisfaction and mental closure; I get a kick out of completing tasks and striking them off on a list, and I also like to look back to savor it. Your completed actions pop up in your Logbook after you’ve completed them, and you can set exactly how long it takes for them to be logged.

Finally, there’s the “Lists” view. Here you can set up the categories to classify your actions (and see the latest tasks in each category). Each category can be color-coded for easy identification (all my Co.Design-related tasks are a nice gray, for example). Picking a color is a nice playful touch that contrasts with the general sobriety of the interface: colored circles appear on the screen like moving molecules, stopping for you to make your pick. If you press on one of the circles and throw it, it will bounce around like a ball for a second.

And that’s it. The actions are always shown in card form, color-coded by category. With a right swipe you can mark an action as complete, and with a left swipe you can reschedule it. You can also set them to repeat, but instead of pre-filling the rest of your life with repeated actions (like “Laundry”), the app will only add the recurring task once the previous instance is complete or expired. The latter is a nice touch that avoids adding unnecessary clutter to your digital life.

There are many task managers out there. Many of them are very good. I’ve tried most, and they always seem to do too much. Eventually, they complicate your life more than simplify it. There’s a point at which organization can turn into its own arduous task. On the flip side, some of these apps try to be simple–like Apple’s Reminders–but end being confusing and limiting.

Actions gets it right, avoiding the pitfalls of either side with good UX and clean design. A tight set of features coupled with simple UI forces you to unclutter your tasks, mentally, as a first step to tackle them in your daily life. After all, refocusing on the bare necessities is the key to a better life–online and off.

Download Actions foriOS
Not available for Android as of this posting.


Do you have a favorite Task Manager App? Tell us about it in the comments below.

How to: create a ‘do it later’ to-do list

A deferred do-it-later list can transform your to do list.

By Charlie Sorrel of CultofMac

Todo lists are great for not forgetting to, you know, do stuff. But they can be tyrannical, stressing you out with an endless queue of tasks which need to be completed. Even if you are hyper-productive, and manage to get through most of your chores, your todo list can end up cluttered with lower-priority tasks that don’t need to be on it.

This, then, is where the do-it-later list comes in.

A do it later to do list is the most useful to do list

A do-it-later list sounds like a goof-off. After all, you’re purposely putting a bunch of task off until an indefinite future date. But that’s exactly why its such a powerful idea. Instead of cluttering up your inbox with tasks that can’t be completed, you can keep your actual todo list short, while still gathering future task in a useful place.
Examples of good do-it-later tasks:
• A task with a definite future start date.
• Book and movie launches in the future.
• Notes, and things you want to remember, but don’t require you to actually do anything.
• Gathering the actual to-do tasks for a big future project.
• Tasks you can’t be bothered to do right now, even though you probably should.

As you can see, these are mostly the kinds of things that don’t need to be on your regular todo list. If your todo list is full of this kids of task, then you end up having to look at these same todos over and over, you learn to ignore them, until you end up actually forgetting to do them when the time comes.

The last entry — tasks you can’t be bothered to do right now — is just admitting to yourself that some things just aren’t going to gets done today, or even this week. Instead of torturing yourself, just get them off the daily list and do something else instead.
And all the while, they make reading your “real” todos much harder.

How to use a do-it-later list in Things

I’ll use Cultured Code’s Things app to demonstrate how some todo apps have built-in support for do-it-later lists. There are two main ways to create a do-it-later list. One is to make a separator list, and just put everything there. The other, which is much handier, is to use an app that can hide certain tasks. A good do-it-later feature lets you:

• a start date to a task.
• Hide tasks with start dates in the future.

Someday

Things is exemplary in this regard. First, it has a dedicated do-it-later list, called Someday. Anything added to this list (done with the mouse, or by typing Command-O) becomes a do-it-later item. You can find all your Someday task in the Someday box, listed up in the sidebar. But the killer part is that you can choose to hide or show Someday tasks in the rest of the app. For example, I have a list of ideas for How To articles. Perhaps I have a bunch of How Tos I want to write when the next version of iOS is released. If I mark these as Someday, then I can just hit a button in my How To list that shows or hides Someday items. Someday items also get a special checkbox made from a dotted line, to distinguish them visually.

 

If you add a date to a task, it also disappears when you choose to hide future items. Until, that it, the future date comes around, and the task magically reappears on your main list. Look for an app that supports “start dates” if you like this feature.

Things’ implementation of do-it-later lists is great, and the big advantage is that you can organize these tasks into projects, like any other, and yet still hide them.

How to use a do-it-later list in Reminders or any other app

Things’ handling of do-it-later items is great, but you can still keep a do-it-later list in a simpler app. For instance, in Apple’s own Reminders app, you can just create a special list that you use as a do-it-later list. Then, whenever you want to defer an item to your do-it-later list, just move it to this list.

On the Mac and the iPad, you can just drag-and-drop the task to your do-it-later list. On the iPhone, you have to enter the task’s edit mode by by tapping the task, then taping the little i button, then selecting the list you want send it to. That’s a pain, but then, Reminders on the iPhone is almost nothing but pain.

The disadvantage of this method is that tasks have to be manually moved back to their original list when you want to “reactivate” them. The advantage is that you can user it in any app ever, even a plain old text note-taking app.

Do you have a favorite To Do workflow? Sound off in the comments below!

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