Getting Things Done with OmniFocus and Things

I've been using GTD for the past 6 months by name, and for years on and off previously by intuition. This post is a summary of my experience with 2 software packages that facilitate GTD. 

I saw "Getting Things Done" and GTD over and over in Lifehacker headlines before it clicked in my little mind that it's not just articles about "getting things done", but about a productivity methodology. For the uninitiated, check out David Allen's book Getting Things Done. I'm not going to attempt to teach GTD as there are many better qualified than I for the job; read the book and check out Allen's website. I'm not in complete control of my world, but I at least have a good idea of what I'm not doing…and that's a comfort. 

Confession: my MacBook Pro is nearly a part of my body. The only way I'm able to leave it and not shake is to have my iPhone in hand. It's really that bad.

As such, when implementing GTD in earnest it was quite natural for me to find a software solution to organizing my inbox, projects and priorities. I came a littler later than most to the game, so iGTD was out there and another solution that added on to OmniOutliner. I checked those out, but found myself drawn to 2 alpha/beta packages: OmniFocus and Things. OmniFocus is now in v1.0 and Things is…um, still in alpha land.

I started with OmniFocus in beta. I was getting feature and bug fixes from them multiple times a day….which was awesome. The program is extremely flexible and does not restrict you to using GTD their way. But I also found that the interface and my keystrokes didn't get along. You know, how you expect to be able to tab through a row and start another row, or hit enter to save that row, but not start another row until you hit the New keystroke. Or how when you accidently find yourself on a new row, but abandon it because that was an accident, it doesn't go away realizing it was an oops extra keystroke. OmniFocus and I just weren't in sync….spiritually. 

Then my alpha release of Things arrived…. 

Things is a better looking program, for what that's worth. It immediately appealed to me because it seems to function the way my brain does…simply. You can fill your inbox, create nested projects, and organize accordingly. The interface is a pleasure to use. In the morning I can star the tasks I want to tackle that day and then switch to the Today view so I see just those items. Easy enough. I can do that.

I also like the concept of tags in Things where you not only give a task a context (Mac, Phone, Throne Room) but also an as you see fit label for help organizing. At least that's my take.

Notes on tasks are handled nicely too.  When you click a task the task expands to show the notes and then contracts when you click away.

Unfortunately, since Things is alpha the features don't go too much futher. And I can only remember 1 update release from the dev team in the past 3 months. It seems the momentum there has dwindled.

And back to OmniFocus. I realized this past week that Things was just not cutting it and I need to give my investment in OmniFocus another shot. I'm now looking at the OmniFocus interface in such a way that I can customize my views to mimic what I liked about Things. 

Instead of starring today's tasks, I flag them and then fitler my context view by flagged only. Done.

Next I need to resolve my discontent with the shortcut keys. I accidently hit some combination yesterday that wigged out the planning mode and my tab key now runs in circles through a single task where previously it didn't

Probably my favorite feature of OmniFocus is adding new tasks to my inbox via email. This is great when I'm out and I can use my iPhone to email a task to myself. When I return home, I have a new task waiting in the OmniFocus inbox ready to be sorted. 

If you're looking for a methodology to give you a better handle on your work and various demands on your time, check out GTD.  



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