How I use Omnifocus

Omnifocus on iOS
Omnifocus on iOS

A few years ago, I read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. It was the first project management/time management methodology that has made sense to me. Essentially, you dump all of your items into a trusted system and use that system to keep track of everything. Anything that requires more than 2 minutes of your time and takes more than 2 steps to complete becomes a “Project” and all the tasks that are required to complete the project are called “Actions”.

When I was tied to a corporate Microsoft Windows computer with Lotus Notes back at Discovery, I managed all my tasks on paper with limited success. Notes was abysmal for many reasons, but one of the chief reasons was that it didn’t integrate with my Blackberry (shudder) and it’s task list. My attempts to keep track of things on paper didn’t go well, because I didn’t always have my paper with me. So, I switched to keeping track of things in Evernote – which worked marginally better. Right before I left Discovery, I started working on a Mac. This didn’t solve the task management issues, but it gave me a stable workstation.

When I joined Juniper, I was once again saddled with a Windows XP environment. While this was disappointing, I was happy to have an exchange environment, which included Outlook and a decent task manager, but at the time iOS didn’t have a native task manager. I bounced around between a couple of task managers on the iPhone and syncing my Exchange tasks with various services such as Remember the Milk and Toodledo, but finally settled on Google Tasks and 2do App.

This worked well for a while, but I longed to get back to a Macintosh. When I did, I discovered Omnifocus and finally found an application that fit my needs and worked well with my GTD workflow.

It took some setup and investment, but now I use Omnifocus almost every day and the investment has been well worth the expense (both in terms of time and money — the OF applications are not inexpensive).

I’m currently previewing the OF2 Beta and it looks good, but it’s definitely beta code. I haven’t had a lot of crashes, but it’s not optimized at this point and it can be a bit slow.

There are a couple of features that I use in Omnifocus that are really valuable to me and help me keep things on track. I’m anxious to see how these work when they’re rolled out in the OF2 beta.

Focus in a New Window

I start my day by doing a daily review, which is set up as a project in Omnifocus. The first thing I do is Focus that project in a new window. This gives me the ability to use this project as a sequential list while also looking at all the things I need to do in another window.

Daily Review Focus
Daily Review Focus
Next Actions
Next Actions

Perspectives

I set up a few perspectives and put them in my toolbar so that I can easily switch between different contexts and lists. One of these is a perspective for anything with a context of “Waiting” – I can easily see everything that I’m waiting on by clicking this button.

Apple Script Integration

I use two scripts on a regular basis. First is the Send to Omnifocus Script for Outlook. This script copies the text of the highlighted message and puts an attachment (link really) of the message in the notes of the Action. So when I’m running through my mailbox in Outlook I can simply issue a “Control O” and send the message to my inbox in Omnifocus. Then when I’m actually working on it, I can click on the attachment and immediately have the email available to act upon.

The other script is Curt Clifton’s Verify Next Action Script checks all my projects to ensure that they have a Next Action. If they don’t, then the script changes the name to “$ProjectName — Missing NA” so that I can easily find the projects where I either need to add Next Actions or close out. If all are good, then a notification is sent via growl (and now I have growl send notifications to my notification Center) that says that all my projects have Next Actions.

If you’re a Mac user, and you are a GTD practitioner, you need to give Omnifocus a try.

2 thoughts on “How I use Omnifocus

  1. Good day. Thank you for your post. I am so looking for a solution to manage my day. I also use a Mac, iPhone and iPad and have tried 2Do, Things and TaskCoach. None have really integrated as I need. I use Outlook 2011 and I use Evernote HEAVILY. Mostly for notes, receipts, web clippings and keeping notes on projects.

    My question, coming in ~a year after your post, is Omnifocus still the a app for you? Can I add links to my Evernote? Also on a “task” can I add multiple notes to it (e.g. A task that is waiting, I may follow up with a call and leave a vMail, can I add a note with date/time and that I left a vMail?)

    Thanks

    Manny

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    1. Hi Manny-

      I am still using Omnifocus on my Mac and IOS devices. They just released OF2 and I will likely buy the upgrade to the PRO version which gives you the ability to integrate things like apple script. There are a number of great apple scripts out there to integrate with OF:

      Curt Clifton (who is an OF developer) maintains a bunch of scripts in the public domain.
      Justin also has a Outlook to OF script that works really well.
      There are a couple of good posts on integrating Evernote with OF here and here

      With respect to adding notes to tasks, you can add quite a bit to the notes field. It supports links, it supports attachments, etc. Here’s a screenshot of a task with notes: http://wp.me/a1ZAP3-CV

      With respect to follow-up, I created a category called Waiting where I put ticklers with due dates such as “Waiting for response from – Jack ref email I sent” – I use Apple Mail, and use a apple script to put the mail into the notes. You could use the Outlook to Omnifocus script to do the same thing.

      Like

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