The Psychology of OmniFocus

Ryan Norbauer wrote an interesting article on what he calls, “The Psychology of OmniFocus: How to Wrap your Head Around the Finest (and Most Perplexing) GTD App on the Market.” We know many of you are OmniFocus fans out there (we are too) and I thought this was an interesting read. I particularly liked:

“If you’re just borrowing ideas from GTD here and there, like the idea of grouping your to-do lists by context, you’re missing almost everything GTD has to offer, which is a terrible shame.”

This article is worth a read on tapping into the

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  1. Its a real shame that this program is Mac only. I recently shared an outline of how I used Mindmanager and Resultsmanager to manage my drafting projects.

    I have always kept my out for other programs or web apps that might let me have everything together no matter where Iam. So far my current system doesnt do that.

    As Iam Windows based, to the best of my knowledge from reading the company website an d other bits and pieces, OmniFocus looks to be the only program out there that would do everything I need.

    If there was just a way I could use it on my current computer.

  2. Why can’t there be a Windows or web version of OmniFocus? I feel like I’m really missing out because I don’t own an expensive Mac OS machine.

  3. Bless you for posting the manual for OmniFocus. I have been trying to use it, but I know I’m not using it to its full potential, and spend so much time puttering away on it trying to learn it that it becomes more of a distraction than a helpful tool.

  4. This is very true. I am an overloaded artist from Europe and since I’ve blended together the GTD system and Omnifocus my life became ‘transparent’. Now I at least know what I am not doing:)

  5. As a librarian, I have to laugh at his example of “a book that I’m waiting for from the library and is due to be returned on 22 January. This task (automatically grayed out for the time being) won’t show up in my menu of tasks for the day until 22 January, when I can actually do something about it.”

    As if he’s never heard of the possibility of a library book being returned early (in fact, most are). Or the possibility that the person who has the book will renew it. Or that it might be kept overdue. Only a small fraction of our books are returned on the actual due date.

    Your library has a sophisticated system which allows you to request a book that is checked out, receive it as soon as it is returned (even before the due date), and prevent others from renewing the book if there is an active request. Trying to second-guess that system and do it yourself is a clear recipe for disappointment.

    Me, I’d place a request for the book at once (it doesn’t take more than 2 minutes), and consider it delegated. I’d create a “waiting for” task to track the status of that request. If I hadn’t heard from the library by a few days after the purported due date, I’d follow up.

    (I can’t pretend that our request system is foolproof and error-free, which is why I’d definitely want to do a timely follow-up if the book didn’t materialize by the time I expected it to.)

    I think the moral is: be a good delegator.

  6. The author blows off Things as a toy. I went from heavy-duty Omnifocus user to Things user, and now I spend less time diddling my software/system and more time GTD.

    To each their own.

  7. I have to say that OF is the right way for me. It was one of the main reasons I’ve switched to the Mac OS and now I can not imagine the real working day without my Macbook!

  8. Scott Viney wrote: “Its a real shame that this program is Mac only.”
    For me this is the biggest advantage. I rarely buy any software which is multi-platform, because that means little attention to Mac-only features. I switched to Mac because I liked how it feels. It’s hard even to explain what it is, but if you open any multi-platform app on a Mac, it doesn’t feel like real Mac citizen. Shortcuts are often different, icons and fonts are wrong, buttons are in wrong order, etc. If you really want good experience, you have to switch to Mac and use Mac-only apps. I don’t want to sound like a Mac funboy, but that’s what it is…

  9. Omnifocus has been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for many Windows users. In my experience, Windows users are on the platform not because they think it is any good, but because of inertia. Everyone is just one step away from ditching Windows for good: one more virus, one more weekend wasted troubleshooting, one more system wipe and reinstall, one more crash that loses valuable data, one more great app that only runs on MacOS. Maybe Omnifocus is that one great app that finally gets you do ditch Windows … which you have secretly been wanting to do for years, anyhow. And now you have an “excuse.”

  10. I’ve tried Things. Okay, a bit too fiddly.

    I’ve tried Midnight InBox – way too complicated and convoluted, good effort though, just too much, like an iPhone.

    I’ve tried OmniFocus – better, more pro, but can distract you with styles ability, meaning customizing it a bit. A bit confusing to begin with, but more professional level.

    But for simplicity there is Actiontastic.

    Simple, to the point, non-distracting and can sync up with iCal. It’s free, a bit frozen in development, but super fast and again, very to the point, GTD app for the Mac.

    The other way to go is Palm OS – not WebOS, but the classic Palm OS – Tasks – create categories with @Home, @Errands, @Work, etc. Then get to getting things done.

    Simple, easy. Also Projects for Palm OS, a free project app for those more complicated multi-action projects. Can export selected tasks to the Tasks/To Do app and you’re set. Thats all you need on the Palm and if you can find it, Life Balance ain’t bad either!

    A bit of retro-PDA-computing – The Newton MessagePad. Especially the eMate and MP2000/2100 models. Get Adam Tow’s ToDo app and that’s pretty much all you need for single action tasks. Set up folders for saving each task in contexts like, again – @Home, @Work, etc. For Projects use Notes because you can create outlines in them for sub-tasks.

    Don’t complicate it, keep it simple, stop there and you’ll be in charge. Why I like PDA’s of an earlier time, is because both the Palm (and it doesnt have to be the most modern Palm) and Newton MP’s offer focus. Key word, focus. And simplicity…and mobility.

    I tried the iPhone. It was distracting, too many opportunities for distraction, complication, eye candy and fiddling.

    Also, in computing GTD systems you cannot get anything done on a multi-tasking type environment. That’s why a Palm/Newton or any other retro PDA is great – single-tasking, non-folder fiddling, etc. environments. And again, you can take an old cheap Palm, green screen retro and start GTD-ing. You’re also not tied down to the computer or a computer OS.

    OmniFocus is nice, pro, but a bit too anchoring to the computer, then to an iPhone app, and clouds and syncing over Webdav’s, just get somethings done!

    *Newton’s do have a date issue in 2010. It’s a challenge to get one to set to the current date, you have to install a patch fix to correct it. You have to set yourself up with a way to install this patch. You can do it USB to Serial, WiFi or Ethernet PCMCIA card with crossover, its not easy, but once you pay your nerd-dues, it works. Just a warning but a worthwhile effort if you need something focused and simple for your digital GTD-ing.

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