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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.

read more »

Kinkless.com and "The Kinkless Desktop"

Kinkless | Productive Creativity

My pal, Ethan, is a photographer who's probably best known in the Mac-o-sphere as the author of "Kinkless GTD," the AppleScript for OmniOutliner Pro that caused a sensation last year among Mac productivity nerds and helped lead to the development of the OmniFocus task management app (disclosure: it's a project to which Ethan and I both currently contribute).

Well, if you haven't visited Ethan's Kinkless.com site in a while, you'd do well to pop by for a fresh look, because you're in for a treat.

In addition to doing a re-architecture and redesign that's one of the most eye-catching I've seen on a Drupal site, Ethan has begun writing some very useful tutorials (in addition to the screencasts for which he's becoming well-known).

For example, he's recently completed his "Five Steps to a Kinkless Desktop" series, focusing on how to "clean up, prettify and streamline the usage of your desktop." He starts with "The No-Mercy Cleanup":

So we have an undifferentiated mass of stuff on the desktop. This is the point at which a lot of organization self-help tells you to sort through it file by file. I am not going to tell you this. Why? Because I am lazy and realistic. You are just not going to clean up your desktop right now. Why? It’s overwhelming. So we’ll use a trick I call the “No Mercy Cleanup”

If your Mac and your brain need a dose of strong medicine, don't miss this.

I'm really enjoying seeing Ethan contribute his thoughts on productivity -- I've learned from working with him over the past few months that he's very thoughtful and deliberative about this stuff. Despite being a taxonomical animal, he's always focused on sharing first-person changes that will bring real, non-fiddly benefits to the lives of creative types. Looking forward to seeing where he takes this.

Drew McCormack on GTD for scientists

Getting Things Done (GTD) for Scientists - MacResearch

I enjoyed this post by Drew McCormack on how he discovered GTD and has started using it for his work as a scientist:

The thing to realize is that most people don’t get lessons in organizing themselves at school or college, and they certainly haven’t been prepared for the rapid pace of modern life. GTD is nothing more than a few lessons on how best to organize things. At the center of it all is what could be regarded as a multi-dimensional ToDo list. The idea is to get every project you have, however big or small, out of your head and into the list. That allows you to relax about things, and be more productive at the same time.

"Multi-dimensional ToDo list." I'm totally stealing that.

Also, I mention it here because this post provides that rarest of voyeuristic nerdthrill: getting to peek at how someone else is using Kinkless!

Any tips or stories from the science nerds out there on how GTD is and isn't working for you?

TUAW's notes from the OmniFocus meetup

OmniFocus Sneak Preview - The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW)

Dan Lurie at TUAW has detailed notes on the OmniFocus Meetup yesterday at the Apple Store.

  • OmniFocus, unlike its predecessor KinklessGTD will feature an instant data propagation across the app, thus doing away with the need for a "sync button," and ensuring your data is always where you expect it to be.
  • OmniFocus will have a simpler and more streamlined interface than OmniOutliner, on which KGTD was built.
  • Users will be able to view multiple or individual projects and contexts in either a single window or multiple separate windows.
  • OmniFocus will support existing KGTD QuickSilver inbox-entry actions.
  • OmniFocus will also feature a standalone proprietary quick-entry method via keystroke, similar to Yojimbo.
  • Future versions will support user definable smart folders.
  • The first version of OmniFocus will not require 10.5 Leopard, but all following versions will due to the use of Leopard only technologies.
  • Like KGTD, OmniFocus will support syncing with portable devices through iCal.
  • OmniFocus will be fully applescriptable.
  • Future versions will support integration with OmniPlan.
  • Future versions will support universal action creation from other applications (such as turning an email message or iCal to-do into an action).
  • Future versions will support attaching or tying of files to actions and projects.
  • OmniGroup is planning to release OmniFocus within the next few months.

It was great to hear Ken lay out OmniGroup's plans and progress on the Kinkless replacement. Thanks much to everyone who showed up yesterday.

OmniFocus meetup, Monday @ the Apple Store

The Omni Mouth » OmniFocus get-together during Macworld week

Upcoming.org: OmniFocus Meetup at Apple Store (Monday, January 8, 2007)

As most Kinkless nerds already know, OmniGroup is developing a full-on Cocoa implementation of Ethan's script that they've dubbed OmniFocus. Since the OmniGroup folks will be in town for MacWorld, they've kindly offered to host a meetup at the Apple Store on Monday afternoon. For better or worse, your Author will be the emcee.

read more »

HOWTO generate a kGTD Project list for your weekly review

While OmniFocus is under development (and yes, friends, I have seen it: it is actual software that does things), we Kinkless users will have to make do as we can for now. And while I still find my own kGTD setup oddly stable given its byzantine under-the-hood workings (think: innards of Cylon Raider meets Brazil's pneumatic tubes), there are definitely times when I crave just a bit more canonical GTD functionality.

One of the most vexing shortcomings in kGTD (God bless it) is the lack of a formal Project list -- one easy location to glance just all of the obligations and desirable outcomes that are on your horizon, without reference to the tasks that comprise them. David Allen has repeatedly said that the project list is critical (as I recall, his quote in our interviews was "...the Project list is king."), and, honestly, lacking an all-in-one Project list for your weekly review is kind of like sitting down to the SATs without your two sharpened #2 pencils.

My solution for this has two components -- one mostly behavioral and one mildly technical. Both are squirrely and lofi and your mileage may vary. As ever.

read more »

Ethan on Kinkless and OmniFocus

Hold breath. Exhale. Focus. | Kinkless

I don't have much to add to Ethan's (typically entertaining and gracious) post about OmniFocus -- an under-development OmniGroup app that will bring Kinkless' functionality to a stable and powerful Cocoa application. But, first off: Yay! The Kinkless is dead! Long live the Kinkless!

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kGTD tutorials: Projects and actions, Timed actions

43F Wiki user ThePolack has been putting together some great kGTD tutorials, including a useful introduction to using the Projects and Actions sections that covers several of the features that most folks only figure out after a few weeks of regular usage. Handy.

But, I want to especially highlight his tutorial on using timed and dated actions in kGTD. These are powerful features that have caused considerable confusion for users, and ThePolack provides a lucid explanation of how the different events work and how you can use them to manage all those little periodic tasks that pop up in your life.

read more »

Ask 43F: Handling notes in scattered places

Shiran Pasternak writes to ask:

I'm overwhelmed by various note-taking tools you've recommended in the past (so it's your fault). I use, fairly arbitrarily, either TextMate, OmniOutliner Professional (purchased for kGTD, of course), and Notational Velocity...

My main problem is how to retrieve the notes, given that they exist in these scattered applications. Should I then migrate all my notes and use just one of these (or another I may have missed)? Or, should I use a combination of the tools? If so, can you offer heuristics for when to use each note-taking application, and also, if possible, some ideas for how and when to retrieve notes?

This is a really good question -- especially given how many people are suffering from the first-world problem of having way too many cool Mac apps to choose from for this kind of work. The short answer is to slim down the number of tools you're frequently using, but to then be sure you also do something smart and repeatable with everything you've captured. The longer explanation...

read more »

43F Recap: Best of iCal Tips

Wow. It's been over nine months since I quit Entourage in favor of the kGTD/iCal productivity tag-team. In that time, I could have had an infant, finished a school year, or been responsible for a couple failed sitcoms. (I mean: if I had a uterus, was still in college, and were, say, McLean Stevenson)

Yes, friends, I do still spend a lot of my day shaking my hammy fist in impotent rage at iCal's numerous shortcomings, but I've reached a kind of détente with Apple's stock calendaring app, and along the way I've discovered some modest ways to squeeze more drops of Cupertino-y goodness from its moist Jolly Rancher-like pages. Here's a few of my favorites.

  • Getting more out of iCal - "The truth is, iCal works great with kGTD (mostly of course), and once you make your peace with the perplexing stasis of its feature set, there are some not-bad hooks and affordances hiding in its pastel, roundy corners. Here’s a few I like."
  • HOWTO: Flag “penciled-in” events in iCal - "When I create the event, I just put a Spanish-language question mark “¿” (hit: OPTION-SHIFT-?) in front of the event’s title. Like so..."
  • Schedule (and choose) a dash in iCal "If you start the name of the task with the number of minutes in the dash, you have a very easy to way to see items that can be knocked down quickly (hint: sort “To Dos by Title”)."
  • Dr. Contextlove or: “How I stopped worrying and learned to love iCal” - "But why bother with organizing these into meta-groups? Ah, because it makes it so easy to reveal or hide all the tasks that I can work on at a given time, just by ticking the group’s little click box."
  • Kinkless GTD .83: Enhances Quicksilver and iCal integration, much more "I really like to plan in kGTD and then do out of iCal since it reduces the amount of fiddling and meta work temptation. That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t benefit from a little extra backward integration."



An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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