Getting some more focus with OmniFocus

I really like the “Getting Things Done” methodology and while I am still reading the book I think I have picked up enough of the methodology to create a fairly workable productivity workflow. The methodology itself is fairly straightforward and the challenge is making a concerted effort to do what you need to do to integrate it into your day to day life. You can implement GTD using a couple folders, pen and paper but I like to have everything digital so my weapon of choice is OmniFocus. I bought a single license about a year ago for $79 (I was silly, I should have bought a pre-release license for a lot less) and that investment makes it worthwhile spending time with OmniFocus getting it working for me.

I’ve just spent a little time this morning looking at how I have been using OmniFocus (or not, which is the problem). I started by watching an introductory video I have in iTunes (don’t know where that specific video is online but here are the OmniFocus tutorials). I have a number of folders, projects and tasks in OmniFocus already but when I opened OmniFocus in the past my eyes just glossed over and that isn’t very good. The system you use to manage your tasks needs to be user friendly and even fun if you are going to keep going back to it.

I noticed that one of the things I was doing was creating folders for specific clients, unhelpfully labelled projects within the folders and then all my tasks. I decided to change that straightaway and ditched my old folders and poorly named projects and created new ones. Steve Jobs project.pngOne of the things I was doing in the past and which I am now remedying is that instead of treating projects as overall goals, I just gave them case names. This was a little too bland and non-descriptive so I have given them names as if they are goals (which they are, really) and all the tasks in those projects are the incremental steps towards achieving the goal (as I understand it, this is the whole idea). As you can see the from the image to the right, I created a little demo project to show you how I am setting up my projects and tasks. Please feel free to give me pointers. The screenshot below is what you’ll find in the project “Show Steve the light”:

Steve Jobs tasks.png

I don’t know if I am describing the tasks well enough so it is very much a work in progress. OmniFocus is fairly flexible and I am still messing around with perspectives and views to get my lists set up in a way that works for me. I am also about a year overdue on a decent review session so I am going to set aside a couple hours to sit and do that. Working as an attorney makes it vital to be on top of what is going on in my files because there are a number of things I need to deal with and many of those are time sensitive. The time sensitive tasks go into my calendar (I can schedule stuff in OmniFocus but I’m not sure I want to put those tasks there … what do you do?) and the general tasks will go into OmniFocus.

I think the big challenge, for me at least, is developing the discipline to look at OmniFocus when my day begins and keep referring back to it as the framework for my daily activities. While I have a fetish for developing these sorts of systems, my challenge is remaining engaged in the systems I develop. I also get a little lost in developing the systems and I forget to actually get the work done. Creating a new GTD workflow isn’t the same as actually getting that stuff done.

I thought I’d just share some of my thoughts about this as I go here. Please feel free to share any tips, tricks and processes that work for you. I am still pretty new at this and am always interested in ideas that can help me become more productive.

Paul

Enthusiast, writer, strategist, web developer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

  1. Paul, I think you’re onto the right idea that these sorts of systems are a work in progress. As long as you continue to adjust and constantly discover what works well for how you think, then it works well.

    I made a similar transition in terms of projects, though I still have more to do – namely that Projects seem to work best as things that can be completed and folders are better as an Area of Responsibility.

  2. Paul, I think you’re onto the right idea that these sorts of systems are a work in progress. As long as you continue to adjust and constantly discover what works well for how you think, then it works well.

    I made a similar transition in terms of projects, though I still have more to do – namely that Projects seem to work best as things that can be completed and folders are better as an Area of Responsibility.

  3. @Kourosh
    Thanks for your comment Kourosh. As I mentioned in my post, I still feel pretty new at GTD (still reading the book after a year!). I do find that when I sit and read it it comes together a little more for me and my ideas about which kind of system will work for me coalesce a little more.

    I am beginning to think I need to embrace OmniFocus more and get an iPhone or iPod Touch so I can run the iPhone/iPod Touch app as well. Not being able to make my GTD system more mobile and integrated is a barrier.

  4. @Kourosh
    Thanks for your comment Kourosh. As I mentioned in my post, I still feel pretty new at GTD (still reading the book after a year!). I do find that when I sit and read it it comes together a little more for me and my ideas about which kind of system will work for me coalesce a little more.

    I am beginning to think I need to embrace OmniFocus more and get an iPhone or iPod Touch so I can run the iPhone/iPod Touch app as well. Not being able to make my GTD system more mobile and integrated is a barrier.

  5. One thing to keep in mind–are these actions sequential or parallel? A few of them seem sequential, meaning you can’t complete later actions until you finish the earlier ones. I always put the sequential actions in a sequential list so the blocked actions don’t show up as Available.

    I find this incredibly helpful now that my list of actions has grown to the hundreds.

  6. One thing to keep in mind–are these actions sequential or parallel? A few of them seem sequential, meaning you can’t complete later actions until you finish the earlier ones. I always put the sequential actions in a sequential list so the blocked actions don’t show up as Available.

    I find this incredibly helpful now that my list of actions has grown to the hundreds.

  7. @gokubi
    Hi, you’re quite right. Those tasks should be sequential if that was a real task list. I just wanted the screenshot for the post so I didn’t think to set the list up sequentially.

  8. @gokubi
    Hi, you’re quite right. Those tasks should be sequential if that was a real task list. I just wanted the screenshot for the post so I didn’t think to set the list up sequentially.

What do you think?

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