If you’ve followed MacAutomationTips over the years, you know I’ve tried several task managers–from Things, Todoist, and Informant, to ClickUp and TickTick. I even spent time back in the day with OmniFocus and Wunderlist. But no matter how hard I tried, none of them worked. For a while, I didn’t know what else to try until I discovered Amazing Marvin.
I know what you’re thinking: here Bakari goes again trying another task manager. But I can say unequivocally that I will use the Amazing Marvin desktop app at least five years from now, and here’s why.
Customizable User Interface
Marvin is one of the few task management applications that enables you to customize the user interface for your particular workflow needs.
Here’s a screenshot of my current setup. I show later in this article how the user interface can be changed.
Amazing Marvin Setup
The following are a few visible strategies I’m using. Marvin has close to a hundred features, and dozens more settings. You can spend a couple of weeks customizing how you want your Marvin setup to look. I’ve numbered the features in the screenshot I discuss below.
- Most Important Projects (MIPs): When I set up projects in other task managers, I would end up not referencing them or, over time, forgetting them. With Marvin, the MIPs strategy puts my three or four selected projects on the Day View so that I’m reminded to schedule and complete tasks in them.
(Note: the Day View is customizable. Later in this article I show you other ways to customize Marvin.)
- Sections: I use the Morning, Afternoon and Evening Sections strategy to divide up my tasks for the day. This strategy is like Time Blocking, which is another strategy you can employ in Marvin. You can also use a Kaban or cluster layout for tasks. Even the sections are customizable.
- Projects and Tasks: In Marvin, projects and their tasks are little containers that can be moved from day to day or put into a weekly, monthly, and annual planner.
- Large Sidebar: The Marvin Sidebar allows for almost any item, including Smart Lists, Pinned Tasks, Categories, Projects, Habits, and even links to external web pages.
- Mini Calendar: The Calendar allows for jumping to specific days and months.
- Tiny Sidebar: You can close the Large Sidebar and still have access to the Tiny Sidebar which can also include links to Timers, Projects, Weekly Scheduler, Goals, Habits, and much more.
To plan my week, I use Marvin’s Weekly Scheduler, which includes access to my Master List of tasks (not shown in the screenshot) and task filters and Smart Lists, which I will talk about later.
Note: the week view doesn’t show all my tasks, because Marvin allows for creating Global Filters for filtering out certain tasks and categories I don’t want shown in this article.
Weekly Scheduler Features
- I use the Weekly Scheduler to add and move around tasks. Marvin allows for filtering out Calendar Events and completed tasks for the week.
- The togglable left panel includes links to Smart Lists, Scheduled items, projects, and Master List of Categories. This panel is a way to help fill up my schedule for the week.
- Time Tracker: as I’m writing this article, I chose to have Marvin track how much time I working on this particular task. Marvin includes a couple of timers, including a pandora timer.
Another nifty Marvin strategy is called Day Planning.
- The Day Planning alert includes, as you can see, the number of tasks and projects I have scheduled for the day. It suggests that 4-5 hours is a good amount of time for getting work done.
- Blocks, another strategy, consist of items you can include in your Day View, including a set timer, a task template, and links to a smart list, category, or external webpage.
Features and Strategies
There are close to a hundred features and strategies for enabling all sorts of actions including filters, alerts, time tracking, warnings, and task planners.
Though I have about 80 features and strategies enabled, here are a few I like the most, in addition to the ones (Most Important Projects, Day Planning, Weekly Scheduler, Custom Squares, Day Planning) I’ve already described.
- Top of Mind: shows a mini window on my desktop of the next or current task. It includes buttons for tracking time and completing tasks. This strategy is useful for reminding me what I should be doing.
- Timers: I sometimes use a timer displayed on my desktop to keep me from wasting too much time on a task.
- Backburner: This can be used to hide tasks that you’ve planned for a later date or that you want to do someday but you don’t want the tasks in your Master List.
- Quick Add: When you click the Space bar, you can quickly add tasks from within any area of Marvin. You can use Marvin shortcuts to quickly type project names, schedule or due dates, task duration estimates, etc.
- Quick Jump: Similar to Quick Add, you can use a keyboard shortcut to search and jump to nearly any Category or task.
- Pinned Tasks: Pinned tasks are tasks you might do regularly, but they are not recurring. So for example, when you schedule a pinned task, a copy of that task is created, so you don’t have to re-create it.
- Day Note: every day, Marvin presents a new space for writing notes that are all archived in the notes area. I use the Notes feature for summarizing and reflecting on my day.
- Review Date: I can add a Review Date to any task or project so and get alerted about it. This is a feature I’ve always wanted in a task manager.
Setting Up Marvin
As you can tell, there’s much you can do with Marvin. Some users might be overwhelmed by the number of features. Here are my suggestions of essential features to set up in Marvin:
- Start with the default setup of Marvin, and then think about what you want Marvin to do. Browse the Strategies and Features section for what is available. Many of the strategies include short videos of how they are used. In addition, watch all the Amazing Marvin videos on YouTube, starting with this introductory video.
- Marvin includes other planning methodologies, including 1-3-5 Day Planning, Pomodoro Sprints, Eisenhower, Ultimate GTD, or Marvin GTD. Save the current setup and switch to another one if you prefer.
- Decide what items you want in your sidebars.
- Create main Categories (folders) and sub-categories, and start adding recurring tasks to them. Note: when you create recurring tasks, you can’t change some of the settings for those tasks. You have to duplicate the tasks and then change the settings.
- Decide what strategies you want to use on your Daily View, such as the Focus Picker, Affirmations, Alerts, Calendar Events, and Habit reminders.
- Familiarize yourself with the Settings preferences and the preferences you want to make. You will have to experiment with what works best for you.
- Learn about Smart Lists and create them because several Marvin strategies and features can provide alerts, lists, and reminders based on specified smart lists.
Marvin is so advanced that it includes several workflow templates. You can change the default Marvin setup to similar user interfaces of task managers like Things 3, Todoist, Wunderlist, TickTick, OmniFocus, and Nirvana HQ. Below are screenshots of the Marvin templates.
You can also apply a workflow methodology, such as the Eisenhower, Poromdoro Sprints, Ultimate GTD, or 1-3-5 methodology.
It’s a little scary to set up your Marvin and then change to another template or methodology. But I discovered while writing this article that Marvin includes an Open Workflow Builder that creates a sandbox version of Marvin that you use to experiment with the different templates, methodologies, and snippets to see what you might prefer.
You can also save the existing version of your Marvin account and load a new one. Click on the Menu button on the top-right of Marvin and select Workflow Templates to create a sandbox version or to switch to another template.
While you’re in the Templates area, also check out the Marvin Snippets. It includes features for setting up…
- A week and Month list of projects and tasks
- Missing Estimate Alert for tasks
- Your Short tasks list of items that take less than 10 minutes
- Eisenhower Matrix for categorizing items based on importance and urgency.
- Next actions lists
- Started Projects for unfinished projects
- Deadline items that are coming up.
- Separate habits view, for viewing habits outside your to-do lists.
Amazing Marvin Shortcuts
Like most advanced applications, Marvin has tons of shortcuts for navigating the features and inputting tasks.
Marvin makes it easy to access the Shortcuts by clicking the ? button in the top-right of the Day View to view the shortcuts in the right-side panel, or Shift-/ to see an overlay of global shortcuts or area-specific shortcuts.
BetterTouchTool Finger Gestures
As a Mac Automator, you know I’ve set up BetterTouchTool finger gestures (more about BetterTouchTool) to trigger various actions in Marvin.
My BetterTouchTool finger gestures trigger the Today view and Settings sections. A 3 Finger Tap closes a section, and a 3 Finger Double-Tap opens the Week View which I review at the end or for day next day planning.
Marvin Lifetime Subscription
Another almost unique feature of Amazing Marvin is that it offers a lifetime subscription!
The monthly subscription is $12/month, or $8/month paid annually, or you can pay as I have, a $ 300-lifetime subscription and you own Marvin forever.
I decided to pay the lifetime subscription, not just because it saves me money in the long run, but also because I don’t plan to switch to yet another task manager. I’m staying with Marvin because I can switch workflows if I need to try something different over time.
I understand that developers need and deserve money for all the wonderful work they do. However, I have paid annual fees for apps over a five-year period which total a lot more than what the apps are worth.
For example, I have paid $39 annually for five years for an app. That means so far I’ve paid $195. If I keep paying for that app for another five or ten years, I will have paid up to $400 for an app that essentially gets bug fixes and a few upgrades every six months. I understand that I can drop a subscription at any time, but as a dedicated customer, developers should offer a lifetime plan.
After spending some time in Marvin, you will quickly see that a lot of time and creativity has gone into the application. Christina, the founder and one of the developers of Marvin, said that the application took about seven years to develop to where it is today. You can check out more about Christina and her husband on their About page.
Amazing Marvin has a lot more room for growth, but I personally think it has more than enough features right now. The developers can slow down and build on what they have developed so far.
There is a pretty good iPhone version of Marvin, and there is also website access. In addition, the application can be used offline.
I plan to produce a few videos about Marvin. If you’re interested in this application, please let me know because that will inspire me to write more about how to use it. If you’re already using Marvin, let me know what you think about it.