This is my story of how I started to organize and bring focus to my life using OmniFocus and “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
I have all kinds of future projects due at work and home, and they keep piling up before my very eyes. I have to remember to do all these things for family events that happen a few times a week. My daughter just brought home a list of things they need to bring to school from now until the last day of school. Including favorite stuffed animal day, crazy hair day and wear your pajamas to school day. All kinds of bills are due and they are always on different days. And there seems to be an endless amount of Birthday’s and Anniversaries to keep track of in order not to be that guy that forgets everything.
Sounds like a lot? Sure it is. Am I worried that I’m going to forget something? Not at all, because I have OmniFocus to help me.
How did I stumble upon OmniFocus?
I use to lay awake every night thinking about all the things that I needed to do the next day, or the laundry list of things that I have forgotten to do over the past few nights (funny enough, it included laundry too). That was until I found out about an organizing method that could help me get all these ideas out of my head and into a system that would control them and help me figure out what my next step was. All I ever needed was just knowing what I should do next, but when you’re already overwhelmed that’s sometimes the hardest part.
This system is explained in a book called “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This is a system that CEO’s of fortune 500 companies use to manage their tasks, so it should be able to help me.
When I was reading up on this way to organize my life I was instantly given hope that there was an easier way to do things. I felt encouraged by how well thought out this system was. It was like I finally understood what my biggest issue was… and that was having a brain that couldn’t stop thinking.
My only issue with it was if you wanted to do it manually you’d have to have like a thousand file folders sitting on top of your desk. So I knew there had to be an electronic way to automate this procedure. But, finding it became a nightmare in and of itself.
Apple’s reminders app is nice and helps me figure out my grocery list, but won’t help me remember the millions of things I need to remember and definitely won’t let me see these things when I need to see them. I tried all the “to-do” list apps I could find and it just wasn’t working or I’d have to modify it so much to make it fit this system that the setup was often times worse than the problem.
Until I found OmniFocus. OmniFocus gave me back control over my own life by allowing me the freedom to put down all those thoughts into an organized system that I could then let help me make it through my days. And, best of all this is all automated.
What is this OmniFocus you speak of?
Omnifocus is a task manager (or a todo list), that has multiple levels that allow you to sort out your tasks by project, context, location… Or whatever you prefer. The great thing about OmniFocus is the way you can view different tasks. Let’s say my wife is sending me on an errand to a store that just so happens to be a store where I need something for another project that I have at work, then using contexts and locations might help you see this. By focusing on the store or letting the iPhone app notify you when you reach that location.
One of the things Getting Things Done teaches you is to do weekly reviews of the tasks that you have. Just in case things change, or you figure out the next action in a task. It’s one of the major differences between this software versus other task management software. It gives you options to set up how often you will do a review.
My favorite view though that OmniFocus offers is “Forecast”… it links your calendar to your to do list. Helping keep you the most informed you can be at any given time. But more importantly, letting you focus exactly on what needs to be done on any given day and keeps your worry about next week’s tasks at bay.
I also love the fact that I can put a due date on something, but also put a date when it starts showing up in my Forecast view. I like to set the date something is due to show up a few days or week before it actually is due. This way it shows me that I need to get going with this task. And if I have time any of those days ahead of it’s due date, I can get a jump on things.
As an amateur musician I also appreciate being able to attach audio recordings to tasks so that I don’t need to hunt around for them when I want to work on a project, or the chords to the song I am playing that day. But this is also good for pictures or other files.
The Only Con
The only thing that is troubling about OmniFocus is that it’s so robust that it may take you awhile to get use to it. At first glance I thought that it would be impossible for me to use. Then I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials and manged to lay the ground work for what I currently use on a day to day bases. Now that I have everything set up the way I want it, it’s almost effortless compared to those other programs out there.
Want to hear how a newly exposed user is dealing with getting used to the app? Read their full review here.
The conclusion is…
OmniFocus has helped me let go of the countless thoughts that go through my mind all the time and actually helped me focus more energy on my day to day job. Becoming more of an assistant then actual software. It solves all of my task management problems by allowing a quick place that I can dump my goals and projects into and focus just on the next action of each task instead of trying to solve all the problems of the world in one day.