Forget what you need to do, with confidence!

Importante update:
Since this article has been getting lots of page views even though its a bit old, I feel the need to give a short update on the status of The Hit List application. For months that users have been crying for lack of updates. Worse than that, for months that the main developer (or his company) don’t release any news whatsoever regarding the state of THL. They are also not answering any kind of emails, facebook or twitter messages, etc etc. This deafening silence has brought most of THL user base to a very angry state with no positive results.
Taking this in consideration, and assuming that the THL future seems dubious, I can no longer advice you to choose THL for your GTD needs in a Mac. I will, however, leave this article as it is for people who still use it and want to keep it.

When I made my recent switch to the Mac, one of my first concerns was to find the best app to help me manage my digital GTD system. After lots of downloads, demos and screencasts I finally found The Hit List, which I think is the best app for my implementation of GTD on a computer. Note that I said “my implementation”. Everyone will have different preferences, needs, etc…

Introduction

Quoting from the website:

The Hit List is a simple, yet sophisticated application to manage the daily chaos of your modern life. Based on the simple concept of making lists, The Hit List lets you plan, forget, then act when the time is right.

Your life is complicated enough as it is. The tool to manage your life shouldn’t be. The Hit List keeps things simple by not forcing you to learn a system. It can be as simple as just keeping a list of things to do as you would on a piece of paper. However, if you do have a task management system such as Getting Things Done by David Allen, The Hit List is flexible enough to support you.

This was what inspired me to try it in the first place, and later was the decisive feature that made my choose THL over Things. Many apps are too much focused on tasks and to-dos, but there are lot of lists in GTD which are not necessarily tasks. THL supports generic lists, lists groups and smart folders – a set of features which makes it super flexible to implement a great GTD system.

In each list item, you can apply tags freely. THL does not have real context support, but its easily done with the @tag syntax (it applies different color).

The Lists

The left side bar has two different view: Folders and Tags.

The tag view lists all your tags (including the context-like ones), clicking on a tag shows all the list item where that tag is applied. This is a very simple way of accessing tasks on a specific context.

The folders view is where all the magic is. The first recipient is the Inbox. This is a list where you can just drop stuff to decide later. By the way, THL supports a shortcut key to quickly add something to the Inbox even if you are working in another application.

Then you have the two hit lists: Today and Upcoming. I think they are quite straightforward, but honestly I don’t use them much. (Feature request: let me add my own smart-folder/list to the Hit lists folder)

Last but not least, user created folder. Here you are free to create as much lists, folders and smart folders as you like. This is where THL stands out from the competition.

Using generic lists allows you to include non-doable stuff, like Someday Maybes, WaitingFor, Shopping List, Wishlist, Agendas, etc…

I also have an Actions list, for all the loose actions which don’t belong in any project.

When I was setting this up for the first time I encountered a problem. How can I get a overview of all my tasks that are left to do? If I select the “Actions” list I’m not viewing the tasks inside the Projects and vice-versa (by the way, if you click on a folder, you view the contents of all the folder’s contents). Then for my delight I found out about SmartFolders. Using a specific set of rules I created my NextActions smartfolder, which basically lists all my actions which:

  • are not done yet
  • the start date is NOT in the future (you can do it now)
  • are in my actions list or in any projects lists – I excluded all the other lists as they are not used for doable tasks

Here is a picture of my smartfolder configuration, in case you want to copy (note the use of sub-rules)

Conclusion

The Hit List is a great way of implement GTD on a Mac if, for you, GTD is much more than just to-do lists and projects.

With this system I’m basically implementing my runway and 10,000 feet levels. I’ll study the possibility of including the Areas of Focus in here also, but right now I prefer to use Circus Ponies NoteBook for that as it requires a bit more planning and sketching :)

There are lots of other features in THL which I didn’t cover here (time-tracking, iCal and Mail integration, iPod sync, etc etc). Do check the website to watch some nice screenshots and read about its features. You can also try it for free and register it later. 5 stars :)

If you have any comments or questions, drop a comment :)

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