Handling Repeating Tasks and Routines in OmniFocus

After reading my last post about my OmniFocus setup, Evan Lovely asked

Could you talk more about your Routines? What’s in there? Does anything repeat? Do you set defer or due dates on them?

He’s referring to a Single-Action List I have inside my “Personal” folder called “Routines”. Inside this project are actions and checklists that repeat on a regular basis. Here’s a list of the current actions in the project…

  • Weekly Review – Every Monday morning I’m prompted to do a standard GTD review of all my ongoing projects in OmniFocus.
  • Reconcile credit card – We have a credit card that we use entirely in place of our debit cards that gives us a flat percentage back on everything we buy. We use it to pay for everything we can and at the end of the year we usually have around $700 in cash rewards we can claim as a holiday bonus. Every Monday morning I completely pay off the previous week’s charges so we never carry a balance.
  • Tag keeper photos – As explained in my photography book, once a week I look through all of the photos my wife and I have taken and use Finder tags to call out any “keeper” photos we may want to put into a book later.
  • Sort photos into albums – Nearly the same as the previous item, but in this case I’m extracting out any photos that belong in their own dedicated album.
  • Take belly photo – While my wife was pregnant, this reminded us to take one of those cheesy profile belly shots each week.
  • Weigh-in – I’m overweight and trying to do something about it. I weigh myself to track my progress at the same time every week.
  • Sort scanned documents – I run a paperless home office. This reminds me to sort through any recently scanned documents and file them into the appropriate folders in Dropbox.
  • Check that Backblaze backups are working – I manage the backups for all of mine and my extended family’s Macs. I sign into Backblaze once a week to make sure everybody’s backups are still in order.
  • Sign into backup email account – Once a month I sign into the secret Gmail account I use as a recovery account for all of my significant online services. I due this to make sure Gmail knows the account is active and won’t accidentally suspend it.

There are more items in my “Routines” project, but that’s a good sample of what’s in there.

I use it as a dumping ground for all the periodic checkins I have to do to keep my other trusted systems running smoothly. OmniFocus is the central hub that reminds me to keep all of the other systems in my life on track.

Actions that have a hard due date such as my weigh-in and taking my wife’s photo, have a defer and due date on the same day that repeats weekly.

Items that need to be done on a regular basis, but don’t have a strict due date (like sorting my photos) have a repeating defer date. Using a defer date is key as that tells OmniFocus to not bug me about it again until a set time after I’ve actually completed the task.

So, thoughts? How are you dealing with repeating tasks and items that need to happen regularly?

My OmniFocus Habits – Four Years Later

I’ve been using OmniFocus since the Kinkless days. Over those many years, my life has changed in countless ways, and with it, so has the way I use OmniFocus. Perhaps the best compliment I can give the app, is that it’s always managed to be exactly what I needed it to be at any given moment.

Four years ago, I wrote a long post about how I used OmniFocus to manage the three areas of responsibility in my life: personal, work, and freelance. Those areas have all grown rapidly since then. I’ve had my first child, taken on a more demanding full-time job, and watched my side business grow into it’s own full-time operation.

I figure it’s time to show how my workflow with OmniFocus has evolved to take on the added responsibility in my life.

I’m going to break this post down into three sections:

  1. How I Organize My Projects
  2. How I Define and Implement My Contexts
  3. My Daily Workflow

Let’s get started.

How I Organize My Projects

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Similar to what I described four years ago, the majority of my projects are sorted into three folders which represent the three primary areas of responsibility in my life:

  1. Personal
  2. Tandum (my day job)
  3. Freelance (my side business)

Other than the different job, that’s pretty much how things were four years ago. What’s different, however, are the three additional folders I’ve added to the bottom.

The first one, “Photo Book”, is for the book I’m writing. It’s a large enough task that I needed to break it down into multiple projects. I could have kept them under my “Freelance” folder since they technically are a side-project, but that felt wrong as writing is such a different beast than software development. And that’s one of the key lessons I’ve learned as my use of OmniFocus has evolved. Don’t feel like everything has to fit into a neat, pre-existing category. Don’t artificially restrict yourself. Feel free to let things land wherever makes sense to you.

The second and third additional folders are special. First, you’ll see that I’ve moved all of my Someday/Maybe/Tickler projects into one folder. I was tired of them littering my other project views, even being on-hold. Grouping them into one location helps my sanity. I also know they won’t be forgotten as they show up automatically at set intervals during my OmniFocus review.

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The final folder is for template projects. These are projects that have many steps and frequently repeat. Instead of recreating the project from scratch each time, I create it one time and place it on hold. Then, whenever that project occurs, I can drag a copy of it into one of my active folders. The two template examples in this screenshot:

  • New App Release: Every time I release a new version of one of my apps, there’s a concrete fourteen step process to ensure everything goes smoothly. I’ve eliminated most of the chance of error by using this project as a simple checklist for each step.
  • Travel Packing List: This is a great idea I read somewhere else online. I used to worry every time I walked out the door to catch a flight that I had forgotten something. Now, I have a standard list of everything I need to pack that I can confidently go through before each trip. As you’ll see in the next section, each of the items on my travel packing list are assigned to a context of the store where I’ll need to buy them if they’re disposable. (Target, Walgreens, etc).

One rule of thumb I’ve learned the hard way is to never nest folders. Folders within folders just lead to a world of hurt and cognitive load. I’ve found it’s best to keep as flat a hierarchy as possible. Your milage may vary of course.

How I Define and Implement My Contexts

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One of the most significant changes I’ve made is how I approach my contexts.

I used to go with standard run-of-the-mill contexts that related to the specific tools I needed at hand to complete a task. Things like “Mac”, “Phone”, “Home”, and “Work”. But after re-reading Getting Things Done last year, I came to the realization that most of my tasks are bounded not by what tools I have available, but by my energy level. Tasks such as “Write new blog post” and “Update credit card mailing address” are both something I need to do while at my computer but require vastly different levels of energy and time to complete. This insight led me to categorize my tasks into the following contexts:

  • Full Focus – tasks which I need uninterrupted time and concentration to complete
  • Quick Hits – tasks which I can knock out in just a few minutes, one after the other
  • Brain Dead – tasks which require no energy or concentration

I found great success with splitting up all of my tasks into one of those three contexts. It allowed me to judge what sort of mood I was in and how much time was available before determining what to work on. After a few months of using this strategy, I further segregated things by breaking them out into parent contexts of “Personal”, “Work”, and “Freelance”, which correspond to my primary areas of responsibility. While not strictly necessary, this additional grouping allows me to focus on what’s appropriate depending on whether or not I’m at home or at work.

Of course, not all of my contexts relate to energy levels. I still have a “Phone” context and ones for stores I frequent. (Although, I no longer use OmniFocus for shopping lists other than for big-ticket, future/someday purchases. All of my family’s shopping lists are kept in sync between my wife’s and my iPhones using the wonderful Silo app).

You’ll also notice I have on-hold contexts for tasks that other people owe me. I wrote in detail about how I manage the relationships between tasks and other people a few weeks ago.

My Daily Workflow

The biggest and best improvement I made to my daily workflow was to codify my morning routine for picking what I’m going to work on that day. (In fact, a big part of determining what to work on each day was simply realizing I need to a concrete series of repeatable steps for choosing my day’s tasks.) Back in 2010, I wrote

It’s hard to describe how incredibly powerful Perspectives are until you actually spend a few days with them in your workflow. Other task managers have smart folders or dedicated “Today” lists, but they absolutely pale in comparison to the flexibility that Perspectives afford.

The same is still very much true today. I’ve taken OmniFocus’ perspectives feature and simplified them down to three custom perspectives I use to plan and attack my tasks for the day.

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Each morning when I arrive at work, I switch to my “Planning” perspective. This perspective shows me every single task that I could possibly do, grouped by context. I take five minutes and work my way through each task and decide if it’s something I want to focus on today. If it is, I flag it. I try and pick two “Full Focus” tasks that I believe I can accomplish that day. This ties in nicely with my daily goal of doing one (or two!) concrete actions. Additionally, I pay special attention to any tasks in my “Quick Hits” or “Brain Dead” contexts. I try and flag as many of those as is reasonable, since I know there will be times during the day where my time will be limited or where I’ll be low on energy.

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Once I’ve flagged what I want to do today, I switch over to my “Today” perspective. This perspective shows all of my flagged tasks in addition to anything that is due or due soon. The list is then sorted by due date. This gives me a complete overview of everything that must be done today (and anything with a due date should really be due that day, otherwise why have a due date at all?) and what I had previously flagged to complete today.

Throughout the rest of the day, I spend nearly all of my time in this “Today” perspective. I simply work my way through my list, item by item, working to get as much done as possible before it’s time to go home.

My final custom perspective is “Waiting”. That’s simply a list in context mode, focused on my on-hold tasks that other people owe me, grouped by person. This is particularly helpful when synced to my iPhone. When I’m in a meeting or run into someone, I can just tap this perspective and see if there’s anything we need to discus. For more details on how I handle the relationship between tasks and people, here’s a post I wrote earlier this year on the topic.

Wrapping Up

So, that’s it. That’s a quick summary of what my OmniFocus setup looks like four years since I last wrote in detail about the app. The biggest difference maker in my daily sanity has been the realization that I can stay on top of everything in my life with very little mental overhead if I simply trust my system and take five minutes every morning to plan my day. That, coupled with weekly reviews, ensures nothing falls through the cracks.

I’d love to hear about your own custom OmniFocus workflows. Feel free to email, tweet, or write to me in the comments below.

Delegating Tasks and Outsourcing Your Indie Business

A few weeks ago there was some discussion online about hiring virtual personal assistants to help offload non-essential business tasks. Around that same time a Twitter user messaged me (and quite a few other indie devs) asking what sort of business tasks we would consider outsourcing. I’m pretty sure this industrious @replier was just looking for job leads, but it did cause me to stop and consider what parts of my business would I be comfortable delegating to an assistant.

The short answer is, not much.

For developers of a consumer-oriented product I think there might be a strong possibility of being able to hand off documentation writing and lightweight customer support. It would be great if I had someone answering emails that only required a link to an FAQ article, leaving the truly in-depth questions for me to answer.

But for a technically niche product like VirtualHostX, I worry my non-specialized assistant wouldn’t have the technical chops to answer anything but the most basic support questions. Writing documentation would likely also be a problem. However, if they’ve used the software proficiently in the past, the thought of them editing together some instructional screencasts is very appealing – as that’s something I never find the time to do myself. I’d love to build a list of topics and then have them go off and come back with screencasts ready-to-go. I’d easily pay a few hundred dollars a-piece for that service.

So while I’m not comfortable outsourcing my core business tasks, I have begun delegating personal tasks to free up more time for the business. A few months ago I signed up for Fancy Hands. For a few bucks a month I have access to a network of virtual assistants that I can send odd jobs to. Basically, anything non-confidential that can be completed electronically and/or remotely is fair game. I’ve used my assistant to schedule appointments, cancel hotel reservations, price shop, and do online research. I’ve been very pleased so far.

At first I found it difficult to come up with tasks to delegate to the service. A week or two would pass and I’d suddenly think “Oh, crap. I haven’t tasked them with anything lately” and worry about not getting my money’s worth.

So, I created an “on hold” context in OmniFocus called “Fancy Hands” just like I would create for any other person I assign tasks to. Then, during my weekly review or when I’m flagging tasks for the day, I’ll consciously keep an eye out for anything I can assign to them. This helps with remembering to delegate tasks as the possibility of doing so is forefront in my mind.

I don’t have any big conclusion or take-away. These are just my thoughts after actively trying to learn how to delegate tasks while running a one-person company.

Assigning Relationships Between Tasks and People in OmniFocus

For years I’ve used on-hold “waiting” contexts named after coworkers and family members to denote tasks that I’ve assigned to other people and am waiting on them to finish. But a few weeks ago I had a realization that there are two other types of relationships between tasks and people that I haven’t been tracking. And with a few quick modifications to how I title my tasks, it’s possible to track them in OmniFocus.

Let me explain.

There are three types of relationships between tasks and people:

  1. A task can be assigned to another person by you.
  2. A task can be assigned to both you and another person.
  3. A task can be assigned to you by another person.

Number one, tasks assigned to another person, can be handled as mentioned above by giving the task a context corresponding to the name of the person it’s assigned to. So, if I’m waiting on Jeff to complete a design document, I’d give that task an on-hold context of “Jeff”. This lets me quickly filter tasks that Jeff owes me whenever I run into him. Great. I’ve been doing this for years.

But it would also be super useful to track tasks that are shared between you and someone else. How can you do this with OmniFocus?

The best solution I’ve found is to add the other person’s initials to the task title surrounded by parentheses. For example, a task that I’m working on with Mike Davis would be titled “Review design specs (MD)”. Then, much like focusing on a context assigned to a person, it’s easy to view all of the tasks you’re doing with someone else. Just perform a search for their initials inside the parentheses like “(MD)”. You can even perform a search and save it as a custom perspective for people you frequently need to review. And don’t forget the parentheses – they’re important. It prevents your search from finding task titles with words that contain the initials you typed.

Taking the initials trick a step further, I add initials inside square brackets for tasks that I owe someone else. For example, instead of creating a task titled “Complete TPS report for Jack Posey”, I title it “Complete TPS report [JP]”. Again, this lets me perform a search for anything I owe Jack.

You could go even further and use additional sentinel characters to define other relationships between tasks and people. For example, you could use curly braces { } or angle brackets < >. I don’t use those myself, but it’s nice knowing they’re available if there’s another relationship type you frequently need to assign.

Choosing the Right App

Just a quick reminder that occurred to me today.

Always remember to use the appropriate tool. Don’t be afraid to split your data across multiple apps and inboxes when appropriate.

For example, I store all of my action items and tasks in OmniFocus. But last night I remembered I needed to buy water at the grocery store in the morning before work. I could have put that into OmniFocus, but I wouldn’t have checked it early enough in the morning as I don’t do my daily review until I’m at my desk at work. Instead, I used Siri to create a timed reminder in iOS’s native Reminders.app to alert me in the morning so I’d be sure not to miss it.

That’s just a long way of saying that it’s ok to split up your data when it makes sense. It’s better to have a few different apps that you use at the right time than one app that’s only used correctly some of the time.

OmniFocus for People Who Work From Home

Two and a half years ago, when I first wrote about how I use OmniFocus, I was working a full-time job in addition to my committments at home and my freelance work. A year ago this week, I left my day job and ventured out on my own — devoting myself full-time to building my own apps and the occasional freelance job. That’s neccessitated a change in my OmniFocus setup — particularly with how I structure my contexts, start dates, and due dates. Today, I’d like to go over how these things have changed and the system I’ve settled on. (I think I got the idea for this system from either David Sparks or Simplicity Bliss. I can’t find their original link right now if I did, my apologies.)

Contexts for People Who Work at Home

The biggest change in my routine is that I no longer go into an office every day. Occasionally I’ll work from a coffee shop, but the majority of my work day is now spent in my home office. This has caused me to rethink how I structure my contexts.

I’m not a strict adherent to David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, but I follow it fairly closely. If you’re familiar with the system you’ll know that when choosing what to do next, he says there are four criteria you can apply, in this order:

  1. Context
  2. Time available
  3. Energy available
  4. Priority

Allen defines Context as “the first factors that limit your choices about what you can do in the moment.” He lists factors such as being at a specific location (home, work) or having a particular tool (phone, computer) at hand.

Previously, I had seperate contexts for Home, Work, and Phone — plus contexts for Errands and any people/coworkers I’ve delegated tasks to. Now that I work from home, that’s changed. Here’s why.

The location requirement makes sense for people who have a regular 9-5 office job, but not so much for folks who work at home. Except for errands, most everything on my todo list can be done at home.

Also, as third-party apps improve and gain functionality on my iPhone and iPad, the requirement of having access to a specific tool is rapidly going away. I always have my phone with me, and if I’m home, I always have ready access to a computer or iPad.

Practically speaking, this means I’ve gotten rid of my Home, Work, and Phone contexts and replaced them instead with labels that borrow traits from Allen’s “Time available” and “Energy available” criteria. My new context list looks like this:

OmniFocus Contexts

Since I’m now “always” at home, my next actions are better decided based on my mood and how much time I’ve got available.

High Energy is for actions that require my full attention. Things such as a writing this blog post, fixing a bug in one of my apps, etc.

Quick Hits are items that I can just bang my way through, quickly. Anything that will take less than two minutes to finish goes in here. Knocking this list out all at once in the morning is an easy morale boost for me.

Brain Dead is just what it sounds like. These are things I save for when I’m low on energy at the end of the day or anytime I just don’t have the mojo ready to do real work. Stuff like paying bills, scanning any papers I’ve got laying around, or changing lightbulbs.

Those three contexts encompass everything that was previously in my Home and Work buckets.

The rest of my contexts haven’t changed. I still keep my Errands context organized by store — each of which is GPS tagged in OmniFocus, so my tasks automatically pop-up on my home screen when I’m near the store. And for any tasks I assign to another person, I keep a context for them under People, which is on hold so the tasks don’t show up in my list of available actions.

Start and Due Dates

The other big change in my OmniFocus habits I’ve noticed since leaving my day job is how often I assign start and due dates.

An amazing (and perhaps obvious) result of working for yourself is that you rarely find yourself up against hard due dates. Now that I’m my own boss, I definitely push myself to get things done by a certain time, but if they aren’t? It’s not a big deal. I can just push them off to the next day.

This means in almost every instance where I (or my boss) would normally assign a task a due date, I instead give it a start date. It’s great because items I can’t currently work on stay out of my view and only show up when I’m ready to work on them.

Replacing due dates with start dates has dramtically increased how often I add something to my inbox. I used to worry about adding trivial small reminders because I didn’t want them clogging up my task list. But now that I’ve discovered the power of start dates, I throw everything in there with a start date, knowing it won’t appear until I can actually do something about it. An added bonus is that OmniFocus rarely shows an overdue or due soon badge, which means if one does appear, I know I really do have something due. Less false positives mean I pay better attention and am less prone to ignoring the warning.

Mandatory Conclusion

So that’s it. Working from home has been a big and very much welcome change. And as my work habits have changed, so has the way I use OmniFocus. And, as usual, it’s kept up like a champ.

How I Use OmniFocus to Organize My Life

I’ve noticed a resurgence on the web of people talking about OmniFocus and how they use the app to manage their task lists. Despite being a user for nearly three years — since the first public beta — for some reason I’ve never gotten around to writing about why I find it so useful and how it fits into my own workflow. So that’s what this post will attempt to do.

(Oh, and if you’re one of those readers who likes to skip straight to the end, allow me to save you the trouble: OmniFocus wipes the floor with every other Mac task manager because of Perspectives.)

Everything I say obviously only applies to my own, odd way of getting things done — but hopefully there will be a few points others might find useful, too. Particularly since my work straddles two different worlds: during the day I’m at a large corporation with responsibilities to multiple teams and relying on tasks delegated to other co-workers. At night, in addition to my personal commitments, I freelance and run my own, small software company.

OmniFocus helps keep me sane. Here’s how.

Three Buckets

All of the tasks I do throughout my day fit into one of three buckets. Some people call these “categories” or “areas of responsibility”. OmniFocus represents them as folders.

My first folder, “Personal”, holds all the tasks and projects that fall under my, well, personal life. This includes everything from the mundane “buy toilet paper” and “rent car for NY trip” to beefier tasks like “get three estimates for new backyard fence”.

Within this folder I have a few single-action lists. These are a special category of task lists in OmniFocus that aren’t actual projects. Meaning, they’re not something you can ever fully complete — they’re ongoing. As you can see in the screenshot to the right, these lists cover topics like “Financial”, “Home Repairs”, “Shopping”, and my “Someday” list. I’ve found that most of my day-to-day tasks fit nicely into one of these lists. And if they don’t, it’s no big deal. I just create a new project as needed.

My next bucket (folder) is “Click On Ideas”, which is the LLC I do freelance work as and use to sell my Mac apps. Within that are folders for each of my apps and projects for any freelance work on my plate.

In the screenshot, I’ve opened up the folder for Nottingham. Inside you’ll see I’m actually using OmniFocus for tracking bugs and new product features. I’d never recommend this for larger, team based work, but as a single developer it works fairly well. The majority of my bug reports and feature requests come from user feedback via email. Because OmniFocus integrates so nicely with Mail.app, it’s practically frictionless to convert an email from a user into a task.

The folder I use to organize my day job at Yahoo! has a different structure. Each project gets its own list which sits inside one of two folders. “Projects” is for items that have a hard delivery or launch date. These are lists that contain concrete steps towards launching whatever it is I’m working on. They’re larger commitments that will eventually be completed and go away. The “Ongoing” folder is for projects that are complete from a development standpoint but still need to be maintained. It also contains other, more generic areas of responsibility that have occasional tasks.

The one thing all three buckets have in common is that I’ve structured their folder and task hierarchy uniquely to match the way I naturally focus on my work. In my freelance world, I rarely multitask. I’m focused on a single project for days at a time. Selecting one of my app folders lets me quickly see everything related to that product and nothing else. But at work, I’m constantly shifting my focus as priorities and other external variables change. Being able to focus on the projects that have due dates makes it easy to evaluate what needs to get done now and what can wait till later in the day or tomorrow.

Starting the Day

The organization explained above is how I make plans and keep an eye on the bigger picture. But when it comes to actually doing the work and knocking down my todo list, I have a rigid routine in place.

Each morning after I wake up, I get a drink (not that kind of drink), freshen up, and sit down on the couch with my laptop and zone out for 30 – 45 minutes checking news, Google Reader, Twitter, etc. I’ve found that getting all of my “soft news” and social updates out of the way first thing in the morning helps repress the urge to to check-in constantly throughout the day. I take note of anything worth reading for later, filing items into OmniFocus and Instapaper as needed.

With that out of the way I move on to my email. Like many people I’m sure, this is usually my largest source of stuff to do. Despite being two timezones ahead of my co-workers, I’ve always got 20+ action emails waiting for me when I wake up. And while I don’t subscribe to Inbox Zero or whatever, I do process my emails immediately, in a way that makes sense to me.

Each email gets scanned and categorized. No excuses. Every message is either

  • Something I can immediately delete or archive
  • Something that I can create a task out of and then archive
  • Or something that needs a reply. If that’s the case, it stays in my Inbox until I do so.

The benefit of this system is that no email gets left behind. Everything is guaranteed to be acted upon or at least seen and acknowledged, quickly. Perhaps more importantly, it means that each message remaining in my inbox is either unread or awaiting a reply — anything urgent is caught before it becomes a problem.

With my email processed and new tasks delivered to OmniFocus, I can turn to what actually needs to get done today. This is where OmniFocus really sets itself apart from the competition.

Perspectives

OmniFocus has the notion of Perspectives. These are saved settings that you can switch between with a single click. When deciding on the day’s work, I switch to the Due perspective. This gives me an instant look at all the tasks that are overdue or need to be completed in the next day or so.

I’ve customized OmniFocus’s built-in Due perspective to group my tasks by context. This gives me a clear division between what I have to do for Yahoo! and everything else. That’s important to me because, after all, Yahoo! pays the bills and those tasks take priority over most of my other commitments.

This first-thing-in-the-morning review provides a good foundation for the day. It’s great starting out with a clear sense of what needs to be accomplished so when your boss emails with a fire drill you know immediately what can be shifted or dropped without wasting time gathering your notes.

With a clear mind, it’s easy to get started and fully concentrate on the work at hand knowing everything else is accounted for and ready when you are.

But OmniFocus’s Due perspective is just the beginning. Here’s my toolbar with the perspectives I flip between most frequently.

There are four perspectives on the right that I’ve created.

  • Y! Available – Shows all of the work related tasks that I can choose from to do. This is more powerful than it might initially seem. Because OmniFocus lets you make certain tasks dependent on others — Task A has to be completed before Task B — you only see those items you can actually do. It filters out everything else so you don’t get distracted when picking what’s next.
  • Y! Next – This is similar to the Available view, except it further refines the tasks it displays. Rather than showing everything you can do, it simply gives you the next item available in each project. This is great when you’re in the zone, cranking through your work, and trying to stay focused.
  • People – I love this view. It generates a list of all the items that I’m waiting for other people to finish. Here’s a screenshot:

    I accomplish this by creating a context with the name of each person that owes me something. Then, whenever I need to delegate a task, I just assign it a context of that person’s name and forget about it.

Two tricks that make this work well:

  1. Group people by company. This lets me see not only who at Yahoo! I’m waiting on, but also any 3rd party vendors.
  2. Make sure you mark each context as “on hold”. This way, the tasks don’t show up in your Available or Due perspectives. Since the tasks are assigned to other people, there’s no need for you to worry about or even seem them.
  3. Weekly Report – Finally, this perspective generates a list of everything I’ve accomplished in the last week — grouped by project and ordered by date completed. This is a great tool to have at your disposal during stand-ups or review meetings with your boss.

It’s hard to describe how incredibly powerful Perspectives are until you actually spend a few days with them in your workflow. Other task managers have smart folders or dedicated “Today” lists, but they absolutely pale in comparison to the flexibility that Perspectives afford.

Let’s Be Clear

I don’t want to end up with an inbox full of hate mail tomorrow morning, so there’s one thing I want to clarify (because I know how insanely zealous the web’s productivity cult can be). This is my system. Not yours. I’ve timed my daily activity futzing around in OmniFocus, and it has never broken twenty minutes. That’s less than half an hour out of my day in exchange for a clear mind and less stress.

But if you’re one of the many on the web, clamoring for “simplicity”, who work best in plain text files, edited in Notational Velocity, synced via Simplenote to your laptop, where you publish them to your GitHub hosted website using Sinatra, and then review them on your iPad at Starbucks, before transcribing them into your Moleskine using a Blackwing pencil — more power to you. The important thing is that you find a system uniquely fitted to your needs. Which leads me to my final point…

The Takeaway

First off, I apologize for my use of the word “takeaway”. It’s something that was beaten into me during my assimilation into the culture of a corporate Marketing department. (action items!)

The takeaway from this blog post is this: Don’t let your desire to Get Shit Done™ get in the way of you getting shit done.

More specifically, find a system for managing your commitments that works for you and stick to it. Use any tool you want as long as it fits your workflow and keeps you sane and efficient. It’s ok to tweak things down the road, but don’t go jumping ship each time the new task manager du jour gets a favorable Lifehacker review.

I’m not going to call out anyone specifically, but there are a number of well-known bloggers who I follow and respect very much, yet week after week it seems like they discover a new iPhone task tracking app or some holy grail full-screen text editor that promises to revolutionize hipster productivity. And that’s fine — whatever works for them. But my fear is their clout, if you can call it that, is creating an online community of zombie, productivity wanks who put their tools in front of their work — who spend more time figuring out how to get stuff done rather than actually doing it.

My advice to you? Ignore those posts. (Hell, ignore this one!) But hurry up and find a system that works for you so you can get back to doing what you do best — making awesome stuff.