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hoju 2009-04-10 11:39 AM

A Long-Winded Right-Brainer's Journey
A heartwarming tale of organization, determination, and redemption. An Oprah Pick of the Week!


I'm a right-brained "creative" type. I hate being forced into structure. Boundaries frustrate me. I douse categorization with bodily fluids. And yet, I was drowning in a sea of disorganization. Scraps of paper were clogging my nostrils. Dozens of half-empty journals were weighing me down. And worst of all, there was no clarity in my thoughts.

I don't know how I first discovered David Allen's "Getting Things Done," and I suppose it doesn't matter. It was a revelation, especially his description of what it feels like to not have a system that you trust. He was speaking directly to me.

From there, it was an easy leap to OmniFocus. I bought it when it was still in beta, and quickly got to work. But then I got frustrated with its interface and left for Things, something a lot of people seem to have done.

And again, like many others, especially that prodigally kid from the Bible, I returned to OmniFocus, wiser and clearer than I had been before.

Things had a friendlier appearance, and was much simpler and easier to use. And while there, I realized what I missed from OmniFocus, and even more importantly, what drove me away in the first place.

The first was Contexts. To me, that is the weak point of the GTD system. It sounded great on paper, but in actual practice, it frustrated the tar out of me.

I "get" it: You want to organize your tasks by your physical state so that you become more productive. Surely, you can't send out your emails when you're not at your computer! You can't buy office supplies when you're not at the office supply store!

But that didn't work for me. Either I had to totally micromanage my projects to a very ridiculous degree, or not do it at all. My therapist calls this "all or nothing" thinking, and fine, I suffer from that cursed malady.

Even worse, though, I couldn't think that way. If I'm at my computer, I don't want to do all my computer tasks. I want to work on a specific project, and if that project requires me to send an email, then run to the hardware store, and then meet a contact for drinks, then so be it. The realization for me was that I don't have to be as dependent on Contexts if I don't want to be. I need to keep them simple, such as "Errands," "Personal" and "Work." For me, further subdivisions lead to being too scattered, and then to anger. So much anger.

The second thing that drove me away from OmniFocus was the aesthetics of the application, especially the Contexts window and that horrible salmon color. I hated it so much. I couldn't look at it. The layout of the toolbar bugged me too. It was cluttered and crowded and repetitive, and the icons didn't communicate what I needed them to.

This probably sounds silly to many of you, but it's a genuine sentiment. I believe in beauty in everything, even a task manager. And when I came back to OmniFocus, I realized that now, you can actually change the appearance of the application enormously! (To be honest, this functionality may have existed from the beginning and I may not have realized it, because at that time, I didn't know what was bothering me about OmniFocus.)

And this is one of the grandest qualities of OmniFocus: that the developers, be they ninjas or pirates, really, really, really put a lot of thought and polish into their application. I mean, not only did they put in this functionality to change the program's looks, but to also save your settings as themes. Awesome!

Lastly, it seems that the trip to Things was an integral part of getting to terms with OmniFocus. The simpler structure there made me realize that I hadn't organized my projects properly in the first place. The Areas of Responsibility allowed me to really focus on how I can use folders in OmniFocus to separate my projects into functional mental spaces, not just a place to cram stuff.

OmniFocus is now "it" for me. I love the way it looks now. The toolbar is now the model of zen. My projects are organized better and clearer. The program's integration with so many other applications out there, and its peerless syncing are just icing on this near-perfect cake.

What can be improved? I'd love to see OpenMeta support. The inspector window bugs me, and I wish it was a slide-out drawer. And the interface could still stand to be a bit less fussy.

But as of right now, I'm feeling pretty darn good.

BevvyB 2009-04-10 12:48 PM

I'm arty farty creative too. However, with so many business things on the go that actually let me BE creative, I realised that unless I got super-organised I was never ever going to have the head space to be creative properly, the paradox that the more I get the business side of things in order, the more I'm expected to be creative!

Like you, had to go totally against my own grain so I could finally see the wood from the trees.

Better now. But I still feel the occasional 'its not perfect' pain in OF with contexts / states of mind. And hate the inspector floating nonsense. And I want tags which I would love to use. Sparingly.

Toadling 2009-04-10 04:23 PM

[QUOTE=BevvyB;58313]And hate the inspector floating nonsense.[/QUOTE]

I see people complaining about the inspector, but I've yet to see a good alternative that allows the same power and flexibility. I'm not being snarky, just wondering what it is you'd propose! :-)

Keep in mind that whatever solution it is, it's got to be able to make batch changes (i.e. select a bunch of records and apply settings to all of them at once).


Toadling 2009-04-10 04:33 PM

[QUOTE=hoju;58308]The inspector window bugs me, and I wish it was a slide-out drawer.[/QUOTE]

Oops, just saw this at the very end of hoju's fine piece of literature. ;-) Perhaps that's what you're looking for too, BevvyB?

If that's the case, I can understand. I personally still prefer a floating palette, but I can see how some might want something attached to the main window.

Of course, the problem with that approach is that you get a lot of replication and wasted space if you use multiple OmniFocus windows, each with its own drawer instead of a shared palette between them.

Sorry, just thinking out load.


BevvyB 2009-04-10 04:37 PM

I don't think it's a question of getting rid of the inspector altogether but more to do with putting lots more of that control more cleverly inside the main window. Oh, and having the option for it to be a drawer OR a floating window of course.

I would love to see you knock OF just once Toadling. I'm starting to think you're an anti-troll bot, created by evil forces at OmniGroup :P

BevvyB 2009-04-10 04:38 PM

Oh and now you've replied at the same time as me.

FFS, don't you have anything better to do over Easter?

lol (looks at self)

jbkendrick 2009-04-10 04:46 PM

I actually have found away around the issue of the floating inspector that has been working for me. I open the Inspector and drag it to the top of the OF window just above the search box and then click the disclosure triangle to close it up. Whenever I need it, I just click the disclosure triangle and it opens. I do what is needed and then click the triangle again, which restores its place at the top of the window but out of my way. Perhaps this could be an implementation on the toolbar itself instead of just an inspector button, provide a choice of inspector title bar with disclosure triangle. John

Ken Case 2009-04-10 04:50 PM

[QUOTE=BevvyB;58329]I don't think it's a question of getting rid of the inspector altogether but more to do with putting lots more of that control more cleverly inside the main window.[/QUOTE]

Did you know that almost all of the controls from the Inspector are already available in the main window, if you show additional columns using the View->Columns menu? The only controls that aren't available are the repeat controls, and that's simply because they don't easily fit in a small amount of space.

Toadling 2009-04-10 04:58 PM

[QUOTE=BevvyB;58329]I would love to see you knock OF just once Toadling. I'm starting to think you're an anti-troll bot, created by evil forces at OmniGroup :P[/QUOTE]

Ha ha. You never know. ;-)

Actually, I do have a few issues with OmniFocus, but they're all relatively minor. My biggest one is probably performance in switching between perspectives and doing searches across all items in big databases. Apparently it doesn't bother anyone else, at least not enough to complain about it here. It's not a huge issue for me either, but if I had to lodge a complaint, that would be it.


BevvyB 2009-04-10 05:03 PM

If you left the inspector only showing a cool pop up for repeating events and renamed it such, and forced us to access all the other options from the main window, I think you'd clear up years of bad habits from OF users. 'Clicking the inspector' is just something we've kind of got accustomed to from all kinds of apps, not just OF, and it makes people lazy who first come to OF. Well, me anyway. When I first started with OF I would look for stuff I wanted to do, and then find them in the inspector. And then think that was it. I would have preferred to have not had the option, and found the main window versions of doing things. That's my take on it anyway. I just don't like the [B][U]idea[/U][/B] of an inspector.

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