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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.

Sergio Mora's picture

Taxonomy : Somewhat a critique...

Taxonomy : Somewhat a critique to Schoonover's way of organizing things? I've seen the screencasts and I got to say that he has a "lot" of folders in his projects pane.

For the people like me, who does not have the oportunity of testing OmniFocus (I would love to like I tested OO3), I hope you talk a little about printing to index cards, and how to set up a system just based to be synced with index cards (I mean, physically and in the mind). I think that the index card thing is successfull because it is a way of thinking.

I got always an index card on my desk showing me just my today actions, or actions for a specifical context (for example @calls and @email). This is just so good because it's like an abstraction of what you can do and got to do in a certain time. Index cards help to having always the "big picture" of whatever you got to do. When I use apps like iGTD or kGTD, I just feel lost between a flow of information and the system itself overwhelms me.

A feature I would like to see, finally, is keyboard strokes... for example "c+" (like in Google Reader for labels), a way of fast switching to a context to another, and so, having fast knowledge of your contexts and next actions. Maybe some kind of script like "export context to sticky note", who passes for example your "@calls" to a Stickies note, would be nice for achieving what I described as an index card way of thinking and acting. The idea is how to pass from complexity (a GTD system must support complexity) to simplicity, because I'm a little bit persuaded that human brain acts always simple.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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