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"The main point of OmniFocus is to hide things from you". Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
A tweet from the GTDTimes folks caused me to re-stumble across a great bit of writing that I hadn't read in a while. Linking it here so I don't lose track of it again, and because I think it could spark some great discussion.

How to Wrap Your Head Around the Finest (and Most Perplexing) GTD App on the Market

I feel like this article neatly captures the places where OmniFocus currently succeeds (being a trusted system, helping you hide things that aren't relevant, very powerful once you learn to use it), and the places where we need to do a better job. (The steep learning curve. Complexity. New folks don't enjoy all the setup required before they see the benefits and often fear missing actions they can't see.)

What do you guys think?
 
Excellent article! Yes, yes and yes.

However, I disagree with the 'complexity' of setting it up. It could just be me, and I understand there is a wide swath of experience out there. But OmniFocus is relatively simple compared to applications like Photoshop.
 
Photoshop may be a bit exclusive, although there are plenty of users who use it. But even compared to iPhoto, MS Word, Excel, Numbers, Pages... all of those apps are much more wide open and in my opinion more complex for users. Even for a user to set up Mac mail is more complex than setting up OmniFocus.

The trick for most users is to 'get it'. Changing their view of what a task list is. Especially with outlining, creating children, and what that means.

I find the easiest way to explain how to use outlining is...
If you can't complete an action, what steps would it take to move that action forward toward completion. Create these as children. Then when you get to the first child action, ask the same question, if you can't complete it, what steps would it take to move that action toward completion. Those are children of that action.

If a user does this enough, at some point they will hit the actionable items that are doable.
 
OmniFocus was extremely easy for me. In fact, it is the GTD app that I had wished for and had somehow not come upon yet. It may be more complex for people who are not comfortable with GTD, but I can't seem to put that genie back into the bottle in order to see things from their perspective.
 
I came back here looking for inspiration. This article is just what I needed. Thanks.

Quote:
The main point of OmniFocus is to hide things from you that you canít possibly be doing right now while still letting you track them. This way you donít have to freak out when youíre looking for a menu of things to do when you roll out of bed in the morning and a million stimuli are bombarding you all screaming for immediate attention. If you donít use OmniFocus with this end always in mind, youíre missing most of whatís useful about it. Otherwise, OmniFocus is just a weird-looking and pointlessly complicated list-maker.
I usually work on whatever the smallest Macbook available is (upgraded in December from a 12" whatever it was to the small MacBook Pro) and often in OF I feel like I just. need. a bigger. window. I have an big external monitor that I can go use, and I will when I get that feeling. I think now, I realize that that's just an indication that I need to refine my perspectives and look at less.
 
Quote:
The main point of OmniFocus is to hide things from you.
... at the risk of some actions may falling through the cracks.

It's not a bug, It's a feature! Creative advertisement strategy :)

No offense. As I explained in detail in another thread here, OmniFocus' lack of tags/multiple contexts worries me that I could miss some important actions because I can assign only one context to each of them which leads to not seeing them in other related contexts. The intimidating multitude of options doesn't help either.

Before reading the article I hoped that it would explain how to get around this problem. But it only discusses the basic mechanics that I already knew.

I think we will all agree on this: a major purpose of a task management app is to narrow down the long list of all of your tasks to a reasonably smaller list that contains only the tasks you need/want to do now. That's what is meant by "it hides things from you", show the important ones and hide the unimportant (important is defined by what you need/want/like to do now according to your current situation).

A rule of thumb: A task management app should show as little as possible and as much as necessary to help the user focus on just the important stuff.

Like OmniFocus, Things does also allow you to hide unimportant stuff and it does so by a tagging system that does this job imho much better (tags allow you to look at the same task from different points of view => tasks are less likely to slip through, because many "eyes" look at them).

Congratulations, so what? "Hiding unimportant stuff" is not an exclusive OmniFocus feature like this thread would like to suggest. As if this would be something special. Its just an elementary feature that every task management application has to have.

I see a danger (at least for the unexperienced user) that actions get buried deep inside project hierarchies ó like: "forget to flag a task and it is lost". Being able to nest sub-projects into projects (and sub-sub-projects into sub-projects and...) is a great organizational feature, but it is also dangerous that they become graves in that tasks get buried.

As I said many times OmniFocus is incredibly powerful (much more than Things), but not used right it can lead to disaster. That is the main advantage of Things: It is designed so simple and self-explanatory that it is virtually impossible for you to miss a task (one would have to try really really hard to do so or be really dumb). If you will, Things is foolproof - OmniFocus is not (because it is more sophisticated).

+1 for tags in OmniFocus. They would help a lot to make it foolproof, so that it is less likely for a task to "fall through the cracks".

I may have been a bit harsh, but I wanted to express some critical thoughts against the general hooray tone in this thread. Just to add a little constructive criticism to the party.

Well, in an ironic and twisted way the quote is quite right.
Quote:
"Indeed, OmniFocus does hide things from you..."

Last edited by zoisite; 2010-05-01 at 01:24 PM..
 
Yeah, but that's what reviews are for. You need to do reviews, on a regular basis.

Things can hide tasks, but again if you bury everything in "Someday" and never check it, they'll be lost as well. Having 400 tasks in your Next list and having to filter them using tags every time you want to get a subset is not optimal. Or at least, it's not for me, because you have to re-filter every time you do something, as the views aren't "sticky" and can't be defined by perspectives.

There are good and bad points to both products. I'd really like to be able to work in project mode 100% of the time in OF without regard at all to contexts, but that's not really workable at present.
 
One thing not mentioned in this thread is the ease of getting things into OmniFocus. I love the searching while I type and the ease for creating new projects and contexts. Not to mention tabbing around to different fields. For me, that is up top on the list. I shy away from applications that make me use a mouse for tasks that are better suited for a keyboard.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoisite View Post
As I said many times OmniFocus is incredibly powerful (much more than Things), but not used right it can lead to disaster. That is the main advantage of Things: It is designed so simple and self-explanatory that it is virtually impossible for you to miss a task (one would have to try really really hard to do so or be really dumb). If you will, Things is foolproof - OmniFocus is not (because it is more sophisticated).
I have a license for Things Mac and Things Touch and for a long time I used both in parallel. Not because I needed to use two task managers-doing so is the ultimate 'not low-drag, not GTD' solution. I like 'playing' with task managers, but I also expect the tool to work for me.

There is a lot to like in Things for the Mac but Things Touch-not so much. Think it's virtually impossible to miss a task in Things? If so, then create several repeating tasks with scheduled start dates in Things Mac and then go on the road for a few days with nothing but an iPhone as I did about a month ago. None of the scheduled tasks appear on Things Touch unless they are synced daily to Things Mac, and syncing is not possible OTA. I would have been totally screwed had I not also had the same tasks scheduled in OmniFocus.

Since then, for the first time since Things was launched, OmniFocus is the only task manager on my Mac and on my iPhone. I have no one to blame but myself if I miss a task in OnmiFocus-can't say the same for Things.

Last edited by Greg Jones; 2010-05-02 at 02:08 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatOne View Post
Yeah, but that's what reviews are for. You need to do reviews, on a regular basis.

Things can hide tasks, but again if you bury everything in "Someday" and never check it, they'll be lost as well. Having 400 tasks in your Next list and having to filter them using tags every time you want to get a subset is not optimal. Or at least, it's not for me, because you have to re-filter every time you do something, as the views aren't "sticky" and can't be defined by perspectives.

There are good and bad points to both products. I'd really like to be able to work in project mode 100% of the time in OF without regard at all to contexts, but that's not really workable at present.

I agree with CatOne. When you have too many tasks/projects and you need tags to filter your tasks/projects, then you need to do some housecleaning with the weekly review. There are a lot of people who forget about the weekly review or never bothered implementing the weekly review. Once I got the weekly review habit going, everything clicked in OmniFocus for me. The weekly review is the special sauce that makes GTD work.

If you don't review your projects/tasks, then you aren't seriously looking at your ever increasing workload and deciding what needs to be placed back on the backburner (set status to On Hold or Someday/Maybe), what needs to be activated again (change On Hold status to Active and out of Someday/Maybe), and what needs to be deleted (projects that are no longer relevant.

If you do't do the weekly review, you can no longer "trust" what is in your system. You'll have items still left inside that are no longer needed and just adds up to the junk. Our daily activities and bright ideas will keep adding more projects/tasks to the ever increasing backlog of stuff that interests you or things that you want to do. But sometimes you have to clear out those ideas. What you thought once upon a time was a brilliant idea no longer seems that great when you look deeper into it. It's time to just delete the project. There are projects that you'll get to eventually. It's time to put it on hold for you to review next time.

Like your house, you have to throw out old newspapers that don't mean much, toss out magazines with outdated articles, toss out or throw away old clothes that no longer fits, throw out outdated food from the fridge, etc.

If you can't do housecleaning in your projects/tasks, then you're not gonna look at your task list anymore because you don't trust it. The status of your projects are not updated and it's always in the back of your mind to do something about it.

Housecleaning (the weekly review) is the most important habit you can make. It will make tags not as important.

If you want to focus in on a context or just a project, then OmniFocus' perspectives is the tool. When I first started using OmniFocus, I didn't really get perspectives. But once I saw the screencast for perspectives, OmniFocus became so much easier. I have custom perspectives to zoom in on either a project or context for my most used views. I think using tags to zoom in on your tasks is an OK method but not quite optimal for me. If you can get a handle on perspectives then you'll find that stuff doesn't fall through the cracks. The only reason something falls through the cracks for me is when I neglect to do the weekly review or look through my different perspectives during my daily review.....

Last edited by wilsonng; 2010-05-02 at 02:09 PM..
 
 


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