Tag Archives: Thanh Pham

Essential OmniFocus Scripts and Workflows

Who is this for? New or beginner OmniFocus users looking for best practices and basic tricks.

Note: This post is a running list and will continue to be updated with new options. There will also be another list for geeky workflows coming soon.

OmniFocus Walkthrough Videos — MacSparky

This video series from David Sparks is the single best place to get started with OmniFocus, even though it clocks in at four hours (spread across three videos) it is well worth the time and gets you started on the right the right foot. If you don’t think it’s worth the time to watch these videos, you probably don’t need OmniFocus.

OopsieFocus Script — Shawn Blanc

A task manager is only as good as it is reliable. If you close OmniFocus, it won’t react when you use the quick entry or clipper. Thankfully Shawn Blanc solved this problem with a single script. Once installed, OmniFocus will respond every single time you call it.

Templates.scpt — pxldot

There have been a few ways to create templates for frequently created projects in OmniFocus, but this is by far the best and most robust option.

How to get all of your crap into OmniFocus

This post and screencast from yours truly will give you an overview of just how easy it is to create tasks from text, websites, files, emails and Evernote notes.

My OmniFocus Setup

An in-depth look at how I use OmniFocus to get things done. There are several ways to make the most out of this application, this is mine.

OmniFocus Premium Posts by Asian Efficiency

This premium product is a great option for those looking for hand holding while getting started with OmniFocus. It’s ideal for those who want a better way to manage their tasks and projects, but perhaps aren’t entirely married to David Allen’s GTD.

Using OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini

Those who prefer the GTD framework would be better served by Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with OmniFocus. It’s well written, very in-depth and there’s also an audiobook option.

The OmniFocus Setup

There are several great videos from The OmniFocus setup that took place during Macworld. If you only plan to watch a few, start with Sven Fechner’s “A Fresh Take on Contexts” and David Sparks’ “Do Stuff!”.

Download OmniFocus for Mac, iPhone or iPad.

Great Resources

Creating an OmniFocus HotSpot

Who is this for? OmniFocus users looking to automate the process of sending files to their Inbox.

From Thanh Pham at Asian Efficiency:

Here’s a simple yet oh so effective way of getting tasks in your OmniFocus inbox for files you need to review. […]

It works with a combination of an AppleScript, Hazel and OmniFocus. It’s super simple.

I still prefer my Evernote-based approach for creating tasks from files, but this is a nice alternative approach for those looking to conveniently store a file while simultaneously creating a task.

My OmniFocus Setup Talk on Contexts

Contexts. A group chat covering oddities and niceties from The Omni Group.

Contexts. A group chat covering oddities and niceties from The Omni Group.

Earlier this year at Macworld, I was invited by the OmniGroup to lead a group discussion on using Contexts in OmniFocus with a man who literally wrote the book on this (well, wrote a book on this), Thanh Phan of Asian Efficiency.

I’d recommend watching this if you find yourself struggling to use Contexts “the right way”. Thanh and I both use them in very different ways. While some of the talk discusses the pros and cons of our personal approach (you can learn more about how I use them here), what it really demonstrates is that there is no wrong way to use contexts. There’s just what works for you and what doesn’t. For those struggling to find their unique approach, I believe this video will prove useful or at it should at least give you a few new ideas to try.

In addition to our video, the OmniGroup has posted the first few of the talks from the day including Tim Stringer’s talk on “Holistic Productivity”, Dinah Sanders talk on “Engaged Productivity” and Sven’s “Fresh Take on Contexts” talk. I’d especially recommend Sven’s for yet another take on how to best implement contexts in OmniFocus.

Keep an eye out for more talks from the OmniGroup, including great ones from Koroush Dini, David Sparks, Merlin Mann and my parnter-in-geekery, Mike Vardy on The OmniFocus Setup page soon.

Getting Started or Just Getting Better With OmniFocus

Of all of the applications on my Mac, there are few I use and depend on more than OmniFocus. It sits at the core of my workflow and has helped me significantly improve the way I approach my work and life.

OmniFocus has been a game-changing application for me, but it comes with two costs: a fairly hefty price tag and a steep learning curve. Having spent my money and my time, I can tell you that both expenses have paid significant dividends for me. More than any application that I’ve tried (and I tried quite a few along the way), OmniFocus has proven to be a powerful and flexible tool that best suits the way I like to work. It has allowed me to adapt it to my workflow rather than trying to force me into the application’s point of view. As the way I work has evolved, so has the tool.

For those who have been looking for a better approach to task management, there’s never been a better time to give OmniFocus a shot. As they prepare to release OmniFocus 2.0, they’ve decided to make the current version of available at no cost until the new version is available. You can find all of the details here. This extended free option should provide more than ample time to see if OmniFocus is for you.

OmniFocus Resources

If you’re looking to make the most of this trial, here are a few free and paid resources you should consider to help you get acquainted or get more out of OmniFocus.

David Sparks’ OmniFocus Screencasts

This three video series spans nearly four hours and is the resource I used to get familiar with the essential features of OmniFocus. David provides an over-the-shoulder look at how he uses OmniFocus, while showing off several of his favorite power user features. These videos are a great way to get familiar with OmniFocus, especially if you’re struggling to get your head around the essential functionality of the application. You can watch the entire series of videos for free here.

OmniFocus Premium Posts from Asian Efficiency

This newly released paid product from the team at Asian Efficiency is ideal for those looking to up their OmniFocus game. Thanh and Aaron offer up tactics and philosophies that aim to save you time and offer peace of mind while helping you get more done. It’s a comprehensive product that comes loaded with additional audio bonus material. Where David’s videos are meant to give you a thorough overview, OmniFocus Premium Posts looks to provide you with a cohesive workflow. There will also be free updates to this guide when OmniFocus 2.0 is released. You can purchase OmniFocus Premium Posts here.

Creating Flow with OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini

An alternative premium product geared towards new and existing users alike. Kourosh’s Creating Flow ebook (and audiobook) is one of the most commonly cited resources for improving at OmniFocus. While the Asian Efficiency borrows from GTD, it does not adhere to it. Creating Flow, on the other hand, is the perfect resource for those looking to align David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done methodology with OmniFocus. You can purchase Creating Flow with OmniFocus here.

The OmniFocus Setup

For those who plan to attend Macworld, the OmniGroup (the team behind OmniFocus) are offering a day of 1-on–1 setup appointments on January 31st. In addition to the hands-on help, the day will included several speakers including Merlin Mann, David Sparks, Mike Vardy, Thanh Pham, Kourosh Dini, Sven Fechner and yours truly in order to help you make the most out of OmniFocus. For more on The OmniFocus Setup, click here.

If you’ve been considering checking out OmniFocus, there’s never been a better time or a better group of resources to help you get more done.

Guide The Elephant To Get Big Things Done

Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guests posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Thanh Pham of Asian Efficiency, because, well he is both Asian and Efficient. Thanh offers practical and thoughtful advice on better ways to do better work. Today he’s taking a page out of Switch, a recent book from the Heath Brothers, and is talking about elephants… you know, the metaphorical types that can help you get wherever it is you want to go.

Thanh and the team at Asian Efficiency also introduced a brand new product for OmniFocus today. If you’re looking to get more out of OmniFocus, I suggest you check it out. It offers a comprehensive strategy for getting the most out of one of my favorite applications.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re in South Africa a couple centuries ago. It’s hot, sunny, you live in the safari and you’re itching to go out and explore. One day you came up with the idea to visit Europe – the continent thousands of miles up north. It has always been your dream to explore this new continent ever since you were a little kid.

So one day you decide to take action on this. The only thing you have to do to get there is to ride your elephant all the way up north – long enough until you reach the beaches that separate Africa from Europe.

As you sit on your elephant, you check your compass and you direct your elephant to go north. The route to Europe is not complicated – you just have to check your compass and follow the arrow that points north.

Along the way, you try to follow the path that others have taken before because it provides the least amount of resistance and it gives you the smoothest journey. But most of all, it’s the fastest route to Europe.

It’s not an easy feat to go all the way from the south to the north. It’s a journey. It takes time. It takes commitment. And most of all, you always need to be aware of where you’re heading to. When you don’t know where to go or what to do, your elephant will wander off, walk around in circles and take you to other places. She will follow and do what it will want at that moment. She is much stronger than you and once she takes on its own will, there is not much you can do but it’s always your responsibility to guide the elephant into the right direction.

Why am I telling you this? It’s one of my favorite analogies for achieving big goals. You see, the rider is your logical part of the you. It’s that part of you that is conscious, can plan things, has willpower, and can make calculated decisions.

The elephant represents the emotional part of your brain. It’s much stronger than the rider and it wants to do whatever it feels like it in the moment when it’s unattended. If she’s hungry, she will go out of her way and find food. If she’s tired, she will stop and rest. The rider needs to take care of his elephant or she will do what she feels like…oftentimes detrimental to the rider’s purpose.

It’s your job as the rider to guide and nurture your elephant. If you don’t know what to do and have no clarity, the elephant certainly won’t either. She wants to follow your direction but if you can’t provide it, she will do her own thing. She just wants to live in the moment and follow her own instincts. That’s why you always have to stay on top and tell the elephant what to do to stay the course.

How does this work in today’s world? You need to know and define what your big goal is. There needs to be absolute clarity in this. What does the end result look like? Clearly define this so that once you have it, you can say to yourself, “I’ve made it.” Going to Asia is bad. Going to Ho Chi Minh City for 2 weeks in August is better. Write a book is bad. Have my book on Mac productivity published before the end of the year is better.

When you clearly know your big goal and what it looks like, you can tame your emotional self that often wants to fight you and do something else. If you can’t, it will lead to procrastination. No motivation to get things done. Half attempts and lack of effort in what you want to do. An unclear and badly defined road ahead makes it easy for you to wander off.

But you, as the rider, need to constantly remind yourself to guide the elephant. You can have sticky notes all over your office and house with your goals. You can set reminders on your calendar. You can review your goals every morning before you get to work. All these variations of you looking at your compass will help you be aware of where you need to go.

It’s this everyday awareness that will propel you to get closer and closer to your destination. It allows you to guide your elephant and take care of it. She just wants to be fed with the right information and guided. When you nurture your elephant, it will listen to you and go the extra mile for you. This means resting enough, taking breaks, having a strong reason why you’re doing this, understanding what the true benefits are of this journey, feeding it the right food and motivating her to keep going.

Once you have these two things in place, then following the path becomes easy and it will be just a matter of completing the journey. We often don’t know how to get to the final destination. We know the starting point and the destination, but the path to it is often unknown. As you go through your journey, when your elephant is not properly taken care of, it will be give in to whatever comes her way. She might be tempted by the river where other fellow elephants are and seek temporary companionship. She might want to follow another path because it’s sunnier and easier to navigate. But you need to guide her and do what’s best for the mission.

That means resisting temptation. That means staying in Friday night and working on your project. That means saying “no” to others. That means making sacrifices that might not feel good in the short run but that will advance you. Whatever it takes, stay on the right path and don’t get derailed.

Big goals don’t come easy. You’ll have to go through a journey and resist temptation that will lure you to go other places. Try to follow your compass. Guide your elephant. Stay on the path. When all these three are aligned it will ultimately get you where you want to be.

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Adding Context(s) To The OmniFocus Setup Event

Sometimes it pays to ask a question. Oftentimes questions lead to answers and, occasionally, opportunities (more on this in a second). Recently I’ve found myself questioning Contexts and the way that they can best be used in a personal productivity system. I questioned them when sharing my own approach in a recent post and questioned them in recent Mikes on Mic’s episodes with David Allen, the creator of GTD, and Ken Case, the CEO of OmniFocus (my task manager of choice).

No idea what Contexts are? As Thanh Pham shared in his Getting Started With OmniFocus series:

A context is a “label” you can give a task that allows you to group tasks based on a tool, location, or people.

This is a valuable bit of information when creating tasks as it allows you to logically group actions. Over the years however, the importance of individual tools and locations have diminished as our technology has become more powerful. We can do more work in more places and there is tremendous overlap in the various devices we use to accomplish our work (for more on this, I suggest you read this post).

While I’ve found what works for me, I still do not believe that the dust has settled on the best way to move forward with Contexts. Our tools and our best practices are yet to fully adjust to modern technology. As someone who is always looking for a better way to make things happen, I was thrilled that the OmniGroup decided to start “The OmniFocus Setup” event with a group discussion on “Contexts: A group chat covering oddities and niceties” and was honored to be asked to help lead the conversation along with the aforementioned Thanh Pham.

I’m a strong believer that there’s no wrong way to use Contexts and OmniFocus has always excelled at allowing for various uses. My suggested best practice is to start with something that seems logical and fine tune from there until you find what works (even if that means using no contexts at all). In my case, this began with the straightforward approach from David Spark’s OmniFocus Screencasts and led to a far more boiled-down approach. This is what worked for me, but as you’ll often see, there are various effective approaches to Contexts.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of The OmniFocus Setup on January 31st. Our discussion helps kick off the day at 10:10am (the one-on-ones start at 9:30am). I hope to see you there and look forward to learning as much from the conversation (and the entire day, for that matter) as I can. With fellow guest speakers like David Sparks, Merlin Mann, Sven Fechner, Kourosh Dini Tim Stringer, Dinah Sanders, Thanh Pham and even Mike Vardy, I expect it to be an educational day for anyone looking to up their OmniFocus and personal productivity games.

How To Pitch With TextExpander

Over the next month, I’m going to be writing less here on the site. I have a larger project that I want to focus in on and need to free up some attention in order to actually get it done. Rather than letting the site sit idle, I’ve asked several very special guests to share their thoughts and expertise on how they actually get big things done.

Pitching a guest series, or anything for that matter, takes time. Especially if you want to do it right. While many of the people I asked are friends and good acquaintances, I didn’t want to send a mass email. I’m asking them to spend their valuable time to help, so a more personal approach seemed like the least I could do. That said, much of the information was the same and much as I wanted to reach out to everyone personally, time would not allow for 30+ entirely unique emails. This is where TextExpander comes in.

I was able to speed things up significantly by creating a TextExpander snippet that included a few key aspects:

  1. A fill-in field to put the person’s name – Basic as this sounds, you’d be shocked by how few people do this.
  2. A paragraph that went to everyone explaining that I needed to take some time off from writing and that I could use their help.
  3. Another paragraph that went to everyone explaining the “Actually Getting Big Things Done” series and what I was hoping to accomplish with it.
  4. A fill-in area to add a personalized message including why I thought they made sense for the series and a possible idea for a piece (while making it clear that I’d welcome anything that resonated on the topic).
  5. An optional fill-in section that briefly explained my site for those who may not be regular readers.
  6. A outro that provided an idea of timeframe and next steps.

After naming my snippet and giving it an easy-to-remember abbreviation, I was able to type it into a new email message which prompted me to fill in the name, write a personal paragraph and decide if I wanted to add my optional paragraph explaining the site. Upon completion, the initial abbreviation was replaced with a fully written, personalized pitch.

TextExpander let me move through my list at a brisk pace, but made it possible for me to do so in a way that I was proud of. Better yet, when I received some early feedback that my pitch was a little long, I was able to jump into TextExpander, tweak my snippet to offer a more streamlined version and get back to asking for help.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, so over the next month or so there will be guest posts from Gini Dietrich, Mike Vardy, Aaron Manhke, Erin Feldman, Jason Konopinski, Nick Wynja, Justin Lancy, Dave Caolo, Gabe Weatherhead, Bryan Clark, Robert Agcaoili, Thanh Pham, Jason Rehmus, Sven Fechner, Stephen Hackett, Yuvi Zalkow, Brett Terpstra, C.J. Chilvers, Matt Alexander, Andrew Carroll, Marcelo Somers, Jean MacDonald, David Sparks and more surrounding the topic of “Actually Getting Big Things Done”. I’ll share on my own big thing soon, but in the meantime, I can’t wait to be inspired by so many who know how to make big things happen. I hope you will be too.

Check back tomorrow as we kick of the series with a great post from Aaron Mahnke or better yet, subscribe for free by RSS or Email to receive all of the “Actually Getting Big Things Done” posts and more from A Better Mess.