Getting things done

Only a few months ago I recorded an episode of Tentative where Reda and I talked about the tools we use. During it I unabashedly said that I use email for my task list and that I find comfort in it’s simplicity. It’s turned into a lie.

I manage to have ADD when it comes to list/todo programs. I feel like I’ve downloaded and bought all of the productivity applications. Every few months I decide the one I’m using isn’t working for me and I try a new one or fall back to an older system.


A majority of task software isn’t thinking about the collection process and instead focuses on the processing and organization of tasks. This was my initial draw to using Inbox. With it I didn’t have many folders of projects, I didn’t have duration, or tags or the whole slew of other tools for organizing. I had two lists, work email and personal email and that was it. I really liked that simplicity. Many of the things I need to do come in through email so using email as a list seemed sensible.

Where most of them fall apart for me, including my email/Google Inbox set up, was remembering to write down the things that I needed to do. If you don’t get your tasks into your system you’re not going to remember to do them so your system falls apart. And that is precisely what happens. I forget to do things that I should or need to be doing because I don’t add them to my task manager. There was a big barrier to collecting new tasks into Inbox that weren’t email. I’d have to do many steps just to add a task on both my desktop and phone. The work involved was high so I tended to not record them and subsequently forgot about them.

Back to Omnifocus

Omnifocus is great if you have a process for keeping track of your tasks because it can be customized to your hearts delight. But that’s the problem, unless you know how you are going to tackle your productivity you find yourself fiddling with the application more than actually doing things. This was my problem the first time that I used Omnifocus, I fiddled with the organization and never got into a groove collecting and completing tasks. My process for reviewing and using the app fell apart because a lacked a concrete process for doing both.

This time around I tried to take the things I learned from my email lists. I keep only one major list that houses a majority of my tasks this way I can ignore the complexity that can develop from maintaining too many open projects. I do have some individual projects that. I use contexts for work, home, computer, phone, email and errand. These sum up a majority of contexts that I’m in.

Collection with Omnifocus

One of the biggest reasons I choose to come back to Omnifocus was for the many ways I could record tasks. My favorite has quickly become Siri and the auto import from Reminders app. I’ll ask Siri on my phone or watch to set an iOS reminder and Omnifocus will suck that reminder up into my inbox. Makes recording super simple and can be done almost anywhere. I’ll also use the force tap on the Omnifocus icon to create a new todo in my inbox. I’ll use the Save + to add in multiples at at time. It’s one thing that seems so simple that so many applications get wrong.

On the desktop I have an Alfred workflow that I had previously. Many apps have this but coming from using Inbox, it felt wonderful to be able to do again. I also can still forward email to Omnifocus and it will create a todo for me. So my inbox isn’t ever littered with things that I need to do.

The rest of the setup

My biggest love of Inbox was it’s snooze and being able to see tasks when I could focus on them. I get overwhelmed by long lists and tend to shut off and not use that system that won’t let me hide all of the things that I need to do but don’t need to do right now. With Omnifocus, I use a combination of start date and flags to show me the tasks that I should be working on. If I don’t think I can get to the task I’ll push the start time out to a day when I think I will be able to focus on it. All my other tasks are hidden from view.

For me the best part of this is setting these to a specific time of the day. For work things I can set them to 8am when I walk in the door. For tasks at home, I set them to 8pm when I think my son will be in bed and I’ll have a few minutes to accomplish some things before I render useless for the night.

I’ve customized my forecast view in Omnifocus to show me all of the current items that are available and flagged or due. The tasks combined with my calendar gives me a good overview of what I’m going to do in the day. On my watch I have a count of the tasks that are ready to do or tasks in my inbox that need to be sorted. This keeps me on top of my lists and keeps me organized.

This set up has been working for me for a few months now and I’m hopeful that I’ve finally gotten to a groove with it.

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