Make Apple Reminders More Like Things 3

Make Apple Reminders act a little bit more like Things using my Shortcut to get rid of overdue due dates.

For those of you wondering what the tip is, I wrote a Shortcut that will make it so Reminders doesn’t have “overdue” tasks, similar to Things. You can follow the instructions below.

Things and Reminders

Things 3 is my main to-do list. Its design is simple, elegant, and fits well with how my brain works.

The funny thing (ha) is, Things 3 is not too dissimilar from Apple’s built-in Reminders app. The app’s layouts are strikingly similar; there are two columns: one for lists, one for tasks. The features are similar: both support lists, sections inside lists, “folders” (called “Areas” in Things), tags, smart lists, due dates, etc. And both apps have similar platform support, with each supporting iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

One might even argue that Reminders has a more robust feature set. Especially with iOS 17, Reminders has these features in favor of Things:

  • New column/kanban view
  • AI-powered grocery list support
  • Custom smart lists
  • Web view
  • Shared Lists
  • Priority settings and flags
  • Integration into Notes, Mail, and Calendar
  • iMessage/Contacts integration

Why I use Things

So why not use Reminders? Especially since it’s free, has more features, and integrates well into the Apple ecosystem? For me, Things feels less top-heavy. It’s important when I need to get stuff out of my head: there’s less to fiddle around with, and with good support for keyboard shortcuts, I can add stuff and navigate around with ease.

Another big idea that Things has: the idea of deadlines. I don’t know why more apps haven’t copied this feature: I don’t want my task to show up in my list only when it’s due, I’d like to work on tasks days before it must be done. With deadlines, I can set due dates for when I want to work on the item, while also setting a hard deadline for when it must be done.

However, this is what I would consider to be the most important big idea: Things doesn’t really care about overdue tasks.

I didn’t realize that this would be important to me, but having tons of overdue tasks in the Reminders app colored in a coat of anxiety-red really made me feel overwhelmed. Things doesn’t make you feel beholden to due dates; instead, anything in your “Today” list from yesterday is content to show up in your “Today” list for today. The exception to this is when it comes to deadlines, but that makes sense to my brain.

The Things interface on the left looks calmer, more neatly organized, and less overwhelming than the Reminders interface on the right, which looks busy, intimidating, and overwhelming. I might also note that there are far fewer tasks in the Reminders app, too. And yet it’s still overwhelming.

Another important thing to note is that most of the tasks I set in Reminders aren’t actually overdue. Since I can’t set deadlines, those tasks are more just there to remind me that, if I have the time, I should work on them. If I had a task like “Pay utilities” in Reminders, it would get lost in a sea of red with all the other “overdue” tasks. However, in Things, since it’s the only thing in red, I can easily see what needs to be done.

Make Reminders just a little more like Things

All of that to say, there’s a tool I made to help make Reminders behave a little more like Things: using Shortcuts, we can make it so the Today list doesn’t contain any overdue items.

As simple as this change is, it helps a lot.

First, download this Shortcut to your iPhone:

Type: Apple Shortcut

Platforms: iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13

Version: 1.0

Then, from the Shortcuts app on your iPhone, set up a Time of Day automation. You can do this by going to the “Automation” tab and clicking the “plus” button in the top right corner.

From there, select “Time of Day”, and then set the Time of Day to 12:00 AM. Make sure it’s set to repeat daily, and that the automation is set to run immediately.

From there, search for the Set Due Dates Shortcut you downloaded. Once set, the phone should do its magic! It will need to be on at 12:00am in order for the Shortcut to run, but this isn’t a problem for me since my phone is usually charging.

Much better:

There are still some problems, namely the lack of being able to set a deadline (at least I can set flags and priorities in Reminders). But! At least the Reminders will show as being due today. No more red. Plus, the Shortcut will keep the original “due at time” settings, so your evening tasks don’t lose their place on the list.

If you’d like to change the date the Reminders are set to every night, you can open up the Shortcut and change this to whatever you would like:

If you have any other tips on how to help Reminders act the way you want it to, please leave a comment or send me a message! I’m super curious to hear your thoughts. Personally, I might want to look into changing how my smart lists behave. Maybe I’ll have a “today + upcoming” list.

Happy tinkering!

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