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Tag: OmniFocus (page 1 of 3)

The Benefits of Occasionally Switching Task Management Apps

Geeks love trying shiny new toys. For me that love extends to experimenting with new task management apps. Over the past year I’ve switched task management apps twice – once temporarily, and once for good (for now). About six months ago I switched from OmniFocus to TaskPaper, before eventually switching back. Most recently, I’ve switched from OmniFocus to Things, and it looks like that one will stick. I discovered a few benefits in that exploration.

You rethink how you do things

In the brief time I spent with TaskPaper, I discovered how much I enjoyed its simplicity, and how I was more efficient in digesting what needed to get done. There was just something appealing about its simple list view, with headings and indented entries.

My use of TaskPaper helped me realize that as much as OmniFocus was much more complicated, I could replicate that list view with a custom perspective. My custom perspective listed all my important contexts, with tasks (or next actions) below each context.

The list was long, but still scannable. For my type of work, that was better than wrangling with a custom context that (hopefully) surfaced the actions that were important for me. It also worked better (again, for me, in my line of work) than diving into specific projects to perform actions of my choosing, since my work isn’t project based.

You learn what is important

My dalliance with TaskPaper got me primed for switching to Things. First, it made me realize I value simplicity. I was ready for a tool that didn’t require as much fiddling as OmniFocus.

It also made me realize how important easy capture was in a system. The ability to capture actions and tasks from just about anywhere is one of the strengths of OmniFocus. I came up with several workarounds to capture items into TaskPaper, but there was still friction involved.

You clean out the cruft

A regular review process is supposed to help you clear items out of your system that should no longer be there. That doesn’t always happen, though. Over time, your task management app can get bloated with tasks and projects you’ll never touch.

Each time I switched systems, I forced myself to take a long, hard look at my projects and actions, and decide whether an item really needed to come over to the new system. I started lean and mean, but knowing full well that task creep would set in soon.

It’s fun

Yes, the primary purpose of any task management system is to help you get things done. But, as a I suggested at the start of this post, geeks often like trying out new toys. I found this to be the case with both TaskPaper and Things.

That spark of fun also translated into a burst of productivity. Instead of slowing down while I learned a new system, I found myself reinvigorated and getting more work done.

In a perfect world I’d find an app and stick with it. I hope Things is it, but I’m a realist and know I’ll always be tempted by the next big thing.


OmniFocus vs. Things: Why I Switched

If you’ve visited 40Tech lately you’ve seen several posts on Things, which is now my task management app of choice. My switch to Things surprised me. For a few years, I was an OmniFocus snob. I fancied myself a power user, and thought other task management apps were somehow inferior because they didn’t have the level of power offered by OmniFocus.

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Calculating Dates When Automating OmniFocus

A few days ago, I wrote about my first attempt at using the new and improved automation features in OmniFocus for iOS. In that attempt, I used Editorial to create a Taskpaper-formatted template that prompted me for dates. Those dates would carry over as due dates in an OmniFocus project. I’ve since tweaked that template, so that it flags the tasks, and automatically calculates defer dates based on the due dates.

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OmniFocus iOS Automation – First Look

UPDATE (2016-05-01): I’ve updated this template to calculate defer dates, add flags to tasks, and make the project parallel instead of sequential. You can find the updated template to download, along with an explanation, in this post.


The Omni Group released a new version of OmniFocus for iOS yesterday. That version dramatically improved automation in OmniFocus for iOS, adding support for two-way communication with other iOS apps. This was irresistible for me, so I dove in, albeit at a very basic level.

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Voicemail to OmniFocus, via Keyboard Maestro

voicemail to omnifocus with keyboard maestro

Like many of you, I get deluged with voicemail messages, which is almost like a double whammy, because our phone system sends my voicemail messages to my email inbox. I’ve recently come up with a way to create a new OmniFocus task that contains the date and time of a voicemail message, allowing me to sort my messages in OmniFocus based on the time received. The OmniFocus task also contains a link back to the voicemail message (but see below for a glitch that may be unique to my phone system).

I put this system together thanks to Keyboard Maestro. I’m barely competent with Keyboard Maestro, but I was able to pilfer bits and pieces of other macros (and an AppleScript) from the Keyboard Maestro forums, and couple it with a good deal of tinkering.

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