Leaving Bear Tracks in Things

For the past few months I’ve been using Things as my daily task manager for the simplicity of its interface and its Apple Watch app. But one feature I have missed from more complex project management tools is threaded comments in tasks. Some of the projects I work on involve multi-step tasks that unfold over long periods of time; I find it can be really helpful to leave myself notes, sub tasks, links, and other bits of info as I work through them. While the “notes” section for Things works in a pinch, it is an extremely basic text area without features like Markdown.

So last week, as I was reading John Voorhees’ review of Agenda, a sentence toward the end caught my eye: “…I use notes in conjunction with my task manager far more often than my calendar…” And I thought, “Yeah. Me too.” But for some reason I never thought about a good, systematic way to make those linkages.

It struck me that the answer was probably a database-driven writing app, even though I largely avoid those in favor of file-based systems. But I decided to fire up the much-ballyhooed Bear, and soon realized that its solid URL scheme allows for easy integration with Things — and that integration can be automated using Workflow.

In fact, thanks to Workflow’s smart variables, this can be accomplished in only three steps:

Here is a link to the full Workflow: Things Notes In Bear. This works by asking you to create a task, then creating a note in Bear with that task as the title, then linking that note into a Things todo which has the same title.

After using this for the last week or so, I’ve found that keeping notes in Bear works as expected: the editor is great, and I can take more detailed, Markdown-flavored notes for complex tasks. But what surprised me is how handy it is for writing-based tasks (like this very post), where the link goes directly into a working document. Mentally, I’ve found this eliminates a lot of friction — getting started with writing is just a click away. And having not used a ton of database apps like this, I was really pleasantly surprised to learn that Bear’s unique URLs work across platforms. So my notes, their links, and the related tasks all stay in complete sync across devices.