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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Getting ready for OmniFocus

(Disclosure: I am a contributor to the OmniFocus project)

According to OmniGroup, about 2,500 people are now participating in the "sneaky peak" beta of OmniFocus, and new folks will continue to be added as capacity for support allows. But even if you're not yet using the app and are just waiting to get your hands on a finished version, it's not too early to start thinking about making a smooth transition from wherever you are now.

Moving your world of action into a new application is like moving into a new house (and can be almost as stressful). This is your chance to throw away crap, rethink how you've been doing things, and just give yourself a fresh start. So before you ever fire up OmniFocus for that first time, do yourself a favor and get sorted out with your current system first. Believe me, you're much more likely to handle this well before the temptation of having the app in your hands sends you diving into using it full-time.

In short, I recommend you start by conducting a thorough review that's focused on bringing all your tasks and projects up to date and in line with reality.

  • delete or archive all the crufty tasks and projects that you've finished or that you never really intend to do
  • carefully review all remaining items to ensure that each is still timely, well-defined, and worthy of your attention
  • tweak next actions to reflect true physical tasks that you really plan to complete (related to all three of these: Does this “next action” belong someplace else?)
  • look over all your contexts and consider deleting or combining any items that are more taxonomically satisfying than functionally useful (related: Simplify your contexts)
  • if you're using an electronic system, including Kinkless, definitely make and retain multiple recent backups just to be safe

But, whether you're moving from Kinkless, paper, or what have you, when you're finished with this preparation, you should have a completely up-to-date and actionable dashboard of your near-term activities.

Remember, it's garbage in, garbage out with this stuff, so be sure you're starting out with as little crap as possible. And, honestly? If you feel your current system has way more trash than treasure, you might (carefully) consider starting over from scratch once OmniFocus arrives. Whatever works for you.

In my opinion, OmniFocus works because it helps enforce several habits that have been shown to help people succeed with making a personal productivity system that works and that sticks. Still, it's not a magic wand. Like any tool, it's only as useful as the hand that wields it.

In my next post on OmniFocus, I'll go over what I consider to be some best practices that come out of my own experience using OmniFocus for a couple months now, including how to avoid fiddling, how to not get wrapped up in taxonomy, and, how to stay focused on action.

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About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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