The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).
Over the years I’ve had far too many email accounts; all doubled as to-do lists. I had an inbox on my desk (that acted as a to-do list too). I had the blinking red light on my office phone, which, yep you guessed it, that served as a to-do list. I had my desk itself, which grew more and more cluttered with papers and projects. I had the desktop of my computer which was littered with files and folders. All of it added a tremendous amount of stress and disorganization to my already disorganized and stressful world. Just about every last one of these spaces was a dead end: the email accounts were overloaded, the inbox overflowing, the red light ever blinking, the desk piled high and the desktop a mess. It was driving me crazy and it had to stop.
About a year ago, I decided to seek out a task list that could begin to pull all of these disparate threads of my life together. At the time, there were two applications that stuck out above the rest; there was Things, a focused app with a great UI and what turned out to be a terrible data syncing solution and OmniFocus, a powerhouse application that is the clear favorite of most web geeks. I tried both out and couldn’t quite get my head around OmniFocus. It was too much and the learning curve was too steep for my needs, or so I thought.
I set out with Things and quickly fell in love with the ease of adding items into it. Things allows you to create tasks using one of two pop-up boxes that can be triggered at any time the application is open by a keyboard shortcut. One that offers up an empty box and another that automatically adds highlighted text, selected files or a link back to a specific email into tasks the notes field. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, Things did not have a great syncing solution1 and I would often lose data between my work and home computers. This caused me to trust the system less. It also bit me in the ass a few times. I decided to give OmniFocus another look.
Thankfully, right around this time the ever-amazing David Sparks came out with a series of three videos that I now consider to be standard for starting to use OmniFocus. This series goes from the basics to the geeky and shows you from a user’s perspective how to make the most out of the app. I made the switch and I never looked back. Their cloud sync is flawless, their apps are far more powerful (especially for when you want to review all of your upcoming work) and the clipper offered some sanity-inducing options like the ability to add several tasks at once. I just didn’t get that from Things.
Now, rather than jotting things down on paper, calls, reminders, and minor tasks all go into the app. Emails that require follow up at a later date go into OmniFocus with a link that takes me directly back into the email for reply. I scan documents that require follow up into Evernote and create a task along with a link back to that note in OmniFocus2. I put files in their proper place and create a task with a link to the required files.There was instantly less crap all over my desk, less email in my inbox, no perpetual blinking lights, a less cluttered desk and an organized desktop on both of my computers. Everything in my life that requires further action has became a checkbox inside a single, well organized, home inside of OmniFocus.