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November 9, 2010 604 comments so far

Getting Things Done with Firetask

While working on Firetask HD for the iPad I thought it would be a good idea to write a short introduction to the most important concepts in Firetask and how they relate to David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) method...

Like other task management apps in the Apple world, Firetask is based on David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) method. Specifically, Firetask aims to combine the best from GTD and traditional task management (priorities, due dates) while "forcing" you to focus on the currently most relevant tasks. In order to keep this article also relevant and focused I will try to simply describe the most important concepts in one short paragraph each.

Firetask Status Pipeline
Firetask's "Pipeline" of Task Statuses

  1. Today means Focus. Unlike other task management apps, Firetask's "Today" view allows you to focus on the here and now: Today only shows you the upcoming due tasks (for a configurable number of next days), the first next task for each active project and all flagged next tasks. If you really want to see all tasks like in other GTD apps, we have built in an "All" button :-).
  2. GTD Lists = Task Statuses. Many of David's "lists" relate to the status of a task in Firetask. For instance, moving a task from the In-Tray to the next action list of the same project means to simply change its status from "In-Tray" to "Actionable". Task statuses include In-Tray, Someday, Actionable, In Progress, Completed, Cancelled, and Trash.
  3. In-Tray. Firetask's In-Tray concept is based on the In-Tray task status. Note that you can already assign an In-Tray item to a specific project. In-Tray items are currently always displayed in the reverse order of their creation.
  4. Projects. In contrast to many other GTD tools, each task must be part of a project; if you do not want to assign a task to a specific "real" project there is the "Miscellaneous" project that serves as the default project for all new tasks that are not assigned to other projects. This is one of the core concepts of Firetask - if you like it you will certainly like Firetask, if you do not you will probably not like it... ;-).
  5. Due Tasks. In Firetask we are differentiating between due and next tasks. Due tasks have a due date set and can also be repeating tasks. Due tasks always have an automatic order based on due date and priority. The Today view and category task lists only display due tasks if they are due within the next configurable number of upcoming days while project task lists display all due tasks of a project.
  6. Next Tasks. In contrast to due tasks, all next tasks of a given project have an explicit order. The order of next tasks can be adjusted via pressing the "Edit" button on the iPhone or by using the CMD+UP/DOWN keyboard shortcuts on the Mac (drag & drop reordering will be available in the desktop version shortly). A next task is displayed on the Today screen if it is either the first task in a project task list or if has been marked as flagged.
  7. Context = Category. In Firetask GTD context is implemented via task categories. The "To Dos" and "Waiting For" categories are system categories; all other predefined categories can be freely changed, deleted and extended. Categories are visualized by various colorful category indicator icons that we have constantly extended in the past. Typical examples for categories are "Calls" for phone calls you are planning to make, or "Emails" for emails you intend to send.
  8. Waiting For. GTD waiting for lists are implemented in Firetask via the "Waiting For" category. If you assign a task to someone else the task's category is automatically changed to "Waiting For". A quick and convenient way to create a waiting for task in Firetask for Mac is to write @name_of_assignee into the task's subject in any task list. The idea of a waiting for list is to have a place where you can easily "see" for whom and what you are currently waiting for across all projects. In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful concepts of GTD in general.

Please note that we consider these concepts and their current implementation within Firetask still as "work in progress". We are pretty happy with many of them already, but we also know that some concepts might need some fine-tuning or even refinement and so we will keep trying out different things and listening to feedback from our users. Already have feedback for us? Contact us directly at firetask at or visit our Facebook page - hope to hear from you soon :-).