Things 1.1 Brings a New Model for Working with Delegated Tasks

If you haven’t yet worked with the people feature in Things before, version 1.1 is the perfect opportunity to try it out. The new way delegated tasks are handled in Things 1.1 is much more flexible and also works much better when you sync with the iPhone or iPod touch version of Things. But lets start at the beginning.

For any person in Address Book, you can create a list in Things by choosing “Add Teammate…” from the File menu. If you have also stored the IM addresses of your teammates in Address Book, Things will automatically show their IM status in the sidebar:

For each teammate, you can now create a list of items you are waiting for them to complete. You can think of these tasks as being delegated to the respective person.

Previously, when you dragged an item – say from the Next list – onto a person in Things’ sidebar, the item was removed from the Next list and shown in the person’s list instead. This makes perfect sense since this item is now delegated to another person and hence, no longer your task. There is simply no other choice than to remove it from your next action list. Considering that the Next list has a tendency to grow very long anyway, every task not there is a good task. Or is it? In fact, many months of experience has told us differently!

There is another way to look at delegated tasks. Even though you have handed over the task to someone else to complete, you still have to make sure that the task gets done and that the results will meet your expectations. Some time after you delegate a task, you may want to be reminded to check whether or not it has already been completed successfully. In some cases, you may even want to get in touch with your teammates more often to check whether it is necessary to provide them with more help or information.

When you delegate a task, there are two aspects:

  1. The task that your teammate is supposed to complete, and
  2. Your responsibility to make sure that results are returned.

Previous to version 1.1, the behavior of delegated tasks in Things was modeled to capture the first aspect. We have now decided to give the second aspect precedence. Now, when you drag an item from the Next list to a teammate, it will show up in the teammate’s list, but it still stays available in Next as one of your responsibilities. Of course, after delegating a task, at least for some time, there is nothing you can do about it. Hence, it shouldn’t appear in your next actions list. What you can do now is to drag the task to the Scheduled list (works for tasks that are not part of a project) and enter a date in the future when you expect the task to be completed by your teammate. When that date arrives, Things will show your task in the Today list to remind you to check back with your teammate.

For complex delegated tasks that take a substantial amount of time to complete, it is now possible to combine start dates (Scheduled list) and due dates. You can use the due date to specify when the task needs to be completed at the latest. Due dates are often determined by external requirements beyond your control. By using the start date (Scheduled list) on the other hand, you let Things remind you to get in touch with your teammate to discuss intermediate results, or evaluate whether the due date can still be met. Then, you can reschedule the task based on the results of your discussion to make sure you will get back to your teammate in a timely fashion, ensuring results are delivered as expected.


  1. Giovanni Toffoletto May 11, 2009

    We need to sync those tasks with other people and we need it soon! Please?

    Aadd that and you’ll win MY money!

  2. [...] Des Weiteren enthält das Update (was meiner Meinung nach bei all den Erweiterungen/Neuerungen schon fast an einem Upgrade grenzt): Verbesserungen im Bereich der Synchronisation der Mac App von Things mit der eines iPhones oder eines iPod Touchs, sowie die Möglichkeit delegierte Aufgaben so zu verwalten, dass es möglich ist Aufgaben an Teammitglieder zu verteilen und entsprechend Fälligkeitsdaten und Startdatum der Aufgabe für das Teammitglied festzulegen, mehr dazu hier. [...]

  3. William May 11, 2009

    Personally, I don’t think syncing is needed and I worry about the complexity it might introduce. However, this current two-step process is kind of strange. I like what you are aiming for, but I think the flow could be simplified:
    1 – Drag the task to the person
    2- Get a window allowing you to send them an email, and allowing you to set a date when you’d like to be reminded to check in with them.

    Allowing you to send an email right from things would not only be faster, but it would carry the added benefit of allowing the email to be associated (via a url) with the reminder task, so that in 3 weeks when I want to know when and what I told them to do, I can see it!

    Keep up the good work!


  4. T May 11, 2009

    Does the IM status work with other IM programs such as Adium, or does it require iChat?

  5. Jürgen May 12, 2009

    @T: Displaying the IM status in Things’ sidebar does indeed require iChat.

  6. Brendan Erwin May 12, 2009

    Why the limitation for follow-up on tasks that are part of a project? For me, and I’d have to assume many others, most of the work I delegate to others is within the scope of a project… Misc. non-project tasks are usually my own TODOs.

    It just seems bass akwards. What am I missing?

    (Oh, and please do IM status from Adium too.) :)

  7. ant May 12, 2009

    This amazing app just keeps getting better! Thanks for all the hard work!!!!

  8. David May 12, 2009

    We would really like to see sync btwn Mac users. Computers excel at the mundane & tedious chores like keeping users in sync automagically. It will mean more licenses sold here since not everyone uses Things, but would if we could delegate btwn Macs.


  9. Rob de Jonge May 12, 2009

    I second William’s earlier comment.
    I also second the desire for using Adium instead of iChat, that was ‘hidden’ in T’s comment. Although I understand why you opted for iChat.

    I think adding the second aspect as described in this post makes perfect sense. My initial response was annoyance, because for most delegated tasks in my situation I don’t bother entering a due date because (a) I speak to the people frequently enough that a simple check in their list is sufficient; or (b) due date is not relevant. But I appreciate that for most people it makes perfect sense.

    For people like me … perhaps you care to add a preference setting along the lines of “Show delegated tasks in my task list too” or something. I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in Bangkok if you do! I promise!

  10. Cavell L. Blood May 12, 2009

    What I think would be great, and I think this is what Giovanni is mentioning also, is the syncing tasks with other team members that have Things. That would be ultimate!

  11. Matt May 12, 2009

    I am no programmer but wouldn’t having a subscription or a login to a central server allow syncing between team mates.
    This would negate the need for using email at all.
    After initial setup it would be seamless?
    Or am i missing something?

  12. Gruni May 12, 2009

    Mhhhm. Will there be Adium-Support? Or probably better a well documented Plugin Interface?

  13. Marcel May 12, 2009

    Nice! However, in the ‘Next’ list on the iPhone, the teammate should also be displayed, as in Things on the desktop. Example:

    Werner: Do the laundry

  14. Magnus May 12, 2009

    I’m sort of curious about how ordinary “waiting for” is supposed to be handled. Most of these, for me, are one-off delegations, or delegation to a wide variety of people, certainly not just a small group of teammates. There’s no way I’m going to list every person I’d like to get back to (that’d be one person per to-do, in some cases) – and I *certainly* wouldn’t want to put them all in my address book.

    So what should I do? Add a dummy person called “Other People” or something, in my address book? For now I just create followup-to-dos with the required info in the task text…

  15. Ryan May 12, 2009

    I’m betting Things uses Apple’s InstantMessage.framework, that’s how the iChat integration works. Problem is that Apple doesn’t make it possible for other IM clients such as Adium act the same as iChat with this framework.

    I’m not a Things dev so don’t take my word, but I’ve know about this Adium bug for a while.

  16. Courtney May 12, 2009

    I second, Giovanni’s and Cavell’s sentiments… The missing piece to TM and TT is the ability to easily collaborate with colleagues.

    The point to this entire software set is to make GTD easier. Our colleagues are key in this effort. Making small, seemingly minor tasks easy to share, ensures that items which SEEM minor, but eventually end up being very meaningful, are shared early on in the process, b/c sharing is easy to do.

    In response to William and Rob… certainly, I have no idea if this effort is difficult to implement from a programming standpoint or in building out the TM or TT flow. This is unfortunately part of the burden of the great team at CC. As a consumer, I assume this process will be well thought through and end up working very well. Once this is the case, I will feel that TM and TT are one of the best programs I have ever used!

  17. Paul May 12, 2009

    Sync of people between TM and TT is key for me. When I’m meeting one of my team, usually away from my desk, being able to see at a glance on my iPhone what that person’s delegated tasks are, and their status, is invaluable.
    As Brendan mentioned, being able to delegate project tasks is also much needed. Most of my work is centered around projects.
    Pretty much everything else is perfect for me. Thanks guys!

  18. rick May 12, 2009

    This is not a big deal, but it would be great if when you double-click on the green dot for a teammate, it opens the same iChat dialogue that Mail does when you click the green dot there. It seems a little pointless to tell me a teammate is on-line but not enable me to launch a chat from the green indicator.

    Fantastic app, though. I realize I’m picking nits. Whatever a nit is.

  19. tobias s buckell May 12, 2009

    Awesome. However…

    I’m stumped by how to take a task out of delegated to a person so that its back to just me. I can change it from person to person, but how to I undo assigning it to a person?

    Why can’t tasks be assigned to multiple other people?

  20. Steve May 13, 2009

    Great app! I like the new delegation structure and would like to be able to see my “People” list synced to the iPhone. Then I could pull up a “follow-up” list when I’m meeting with a direct report.

  21. miten sampat May 13, 2009

    i was wondering whether you would enable a feature whereby when i assign a task to a team member …it automatically sends them an email ?

    (assuming i have their email address in address book).

    has anyone else asked for this?

    …you might ask, how about making an update when they complete the task. that i think would be an additional feature you can add later.
    perhaps by asking the team member to reply back with an email saying task complete (with some task id).

    is this on your roadmap?

  22. John Erik Metcalf May 13, 2009

    very good comments by Rick, William and others.

    here’s my +1 for
    - clicking on the green dot to bring up a chat box
    - William’s simplified delegations “1 – Drag the task to the person
    2- Get a window allowing you to send them an email, and allowing you to set a date when you’d like to be reminded to check in with them.”
    - or FTW, real delegation between Things users. as in, the person i’m delegating to receive a note in their Things Inbox asking them to accept the task i sent. (my gf keeps delegating tasks to me via ActionMethod and bc of that im finding myself using it more and more, even tho all my friends use Things.)

  23. Jürgen May 13, 2009

    @Brendan Erwin: This is a limitation we will remove soon. There will be more details in the forthcoming roadmap article.

    @Marcel, Steve: This is indeed on our roadmap for Things touch.

    @Magnus: What many users are doing is to add a tag “WaitingFor” for this purpose.

    @tobias s buckell: You can use the menu command Item > Remove Delegate.

    @Giovanni Toffoletto, William, Cavell L. Blood, Matt, Courtney, Paul, et. al: We hear you load and clearly.

  24. Aron T May 14, 2009

    I just saw this post on the blog, and I actually reported this behavior as a bug before I saw it! Personally I do NOT want to see People’s stuff in either my Next or Today. When I want to look at my People I look at their People folder. Seeing all the people stuff in my Today folder adds a huge amount of clutter and removes the whole focus idea of GTD.

    What I did now is use the “dont show in Today” option on the iphone side to move them into the Next but I still don’t want or like that. (and why isn’t there a remove from today option on the Mac side?)

    Please, please, please add as an option the ability to continue to work with the old behavior. Sometimes ‘new features” detract rather than add, and in general, if you make a radical change like this, you should give people the option to stick to the old behavior if they prefer it.

    Finally, please add People and Areas to the iPhone side and make the iphone sort consistent with the Mac sort (I really like your new sort by project or area)


  25. Jürgen May 14, 2009

    @Aron T: I can totally see your point. What you could do even now is to set all delegated tasks to Someday, which would remove them from your Next or Today focus.

    One way I can see to give users the “option” your are asking for, is by introducing an optional “Waiting For” focus. When enabled, it could display all delegated tasks among other tasks you are waiting for and may not have a person explicitly associated with.