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OmniFocus needs to pester more Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I just sent this feedback, I thought maybe people might be interested in discussing it too:
This is going to be vague, but I hope it will be useful because I think this barrier for adoption of OmniFocus for me, will also apply to many other users.

I've been trying to use OmniFocus as part of my general workflow since I received an invite months ago, and I just can't.

I've thought hard about why this is, since rationally OmniFocus is almost everything I always wanted in a GTD app.

Despite having the option of using OmniFocus, when I need to make sure I do something, I find myself either setting an appointment at a vaguely suitable time in Google Calendar (my calendaring solution of choice, which will email, SMS, and/or pop up a notification), or sending myself an email and refusing to read it until I've completed the task.

I think the basic issue is that I don't trust myself to poll OmniFocus frequently enough to ensure that I complete a given task. Sure, once OmniFocus is already part of my daily routine, this isn't an issue, but its a serious inhibitor to the initial trust required to make OmniFocus a part of my daily routine.

I therefore tend to fall back on far from perfect mechanisms that either prod me (Google Cal), or which I do poll on a very regular basis (email).

I would urge you to think about how to make OmniFocus better at nagging the user to perform outstanding tasks, even if OmniFocus isn't necessarily running, or if the user keeps it minimized. Until I can put a task into OmniFocus, and *know* that I will be pestered in a reasonably effective way until I have completed the task, its never going to become my primary repository for outstanding tasks.

I know OmniFocus has some kind of review process for tasks, but frankly I don't understand it, and if I don't, many other users probably don't either - since I'm no idiot.

I hope you take this feedback in the sense I intend it, I would love for OmniFocus to be a part of my daily routine, I just can't see this happening until I can trust it to pester me to "get things done". This may be achievable with scripting, or with configuration, but something so fundamental should be easier to achieve than that.
As a counterpoint, let me set out the reasons why OmniFocus should not nag us to get things done.

The habit of regularly reviewing action and project lists is essential to GTD. Anything that can only be done on a given day, or at a given time, goes into the calendar as "hard landscape." Other tasks or projects may have a deadline (due date) but can be done any time before that date.

Since GTD emphasizes capturing your open loops, rather than depending on your memory to capture them, you might well end up with a whole lot of them. I have over 50 active projects in OmniFocus, some with fixed due dates, others without. If each of these projects nagged me to get something done, I'd spend a lot of time being interrupted by nags instead of concentrating on getting something done.

It's better, I think, to deliberately focus on acquiring the review habit. Every day I aim to spend the last half-hour of my day reviewing: I review my actions by due date and flag those that need to get done. I then review projects and flag anything that needs my attention because otherwise it will become urgent (since it's best to work on things before they're urgent!). The next day I look at flagged items and determine what I need to do and where (or with which tools). Once those are out of the way, I can use my context lists to decide what to do next, filtering by available time if it's limited.

If something absolutely has to get done, I can set a QuickSilver or iCal reminder for it. But the review habit is crucial.

Thanks for the response.

An important rule for designing consumer apps: Build your app for how people actually behave, not for how you think they should behave.

A corollary to this rule is that, except for very rare exceptions, any application which relies on users changing their behavior (or "acquiring" a "habit") is doomed, regardless of its other merits.

I have the time and inclination to poll one app and one app only, and that is email. Even then I rely on it to notify me when there is something new. I'm simply not going to poll OmniFocus, why should I need to remember to consult it, when it can so easily remind me of when things need to happen?

I'm not suggesting that these notifications can't be turned off by people who don't want them, but they should definitely be available to those that do.

If Omni is only interested in selling OF to loyal acolytes of the GTD doctrine, then they should listen to you and ignore me. If they are interested in selling to the rest of us, they should consider my experience, because I don't think I'm an isolated case.

Last edited by iancjclarke; 2007-10-01 at 07:26 PM..
ian, I'm going to agree with brian on this.

I think it has to do with a misunderstanding of GTD vs. what you'd like the software to do. And I get that - you've seen how good the other Omni Software is, and you're ready to look at this, and add it to your collections of purchases from Omni. Bonus, you're trying to accomplish stuff, and you'd like to see Omni succeed.

But, I think you're looking for Nag software, not GTD software. And OF isn't just GTD, its essentially "David Allen's Getting Things Done."

Omni is trying to hit a solid GTD product, and not necessarily an 'everyone product' (at least through 1.0.) Why? There isn't a solid GTD product on the market (and believe me, I've tried all of them)

The mantra of GTD is: the only thing that truly belongs on your calendar is stuff you have to get done at that moment.

GTD depends on you to decide what's the best thing to do. Goof off? Sure. Software that's intrusive, that keeps throwing you Alarms, isn't helping you get things done, it's being big brother. "Are you working yet? Are you working now?"

I'll throw my suggestion at you: I use 3-2-1 (a countdown widget) and have it set to 10 min. I try to work on a single project for ten minutes. Even if I'm goofing off, at the ten minute mark, it chimes in; and I have to make the decision - do I want to continue goofing off?

I take a short break and take a look at my context(s), to see what the next best thing I could be doing. I have two windows all the time open: my flagged (of every context) and the actual context I'm at.

It's the idea of focus on one thing, work at it, review and again, see if it's the best thing you should be doing.
Imagine if Blacktree had made an app for how people actually behaved, and didn't create Quicksilver, which requires you to rethink how you interact with your computer.

There are a few tools and workflows you can use in email to make it a capture-and-act tool. Mail Act On and Mail Tags are two I use and recommend. It's certainly possible to build a good workflow around mail.

GTD requires a certain level of commitment, one I'm still struggling to make. I don't do my reviews as regularly as I should, for example, and I don't always get my various inboxes to zero. But I'm working on it. I don't want a tool that nags me to do something at a certain time. There's just no way for it to know that “now” is a good time to bug me. If I'm not in a place where I can work on that particular project, being nagged about it doesn't move anything forward, and causes stress. One major point of GTD is to eliminate stress.

The Omnigang has stated that their goal is to make a great GTD application that can be used by non-GTD adherents, and will add features that are not strictly GTD; when a feature directly conflicts with GTD canon, GTD will win out. I think nagging directly contradicts GTD canon.

OmniFocus will do rather well in the market for those looking for a tool to help them implement GTD, as well as those willing to adjust a little to what OmniFocus can do for them outside of strict GTD. Many people will come looking for OmniFocus because they are interested in GTD; others because it scratches a particular organizational itch; the rest will either use it or use something else. You can't get 100% of a market, and anyone who tries is doomed to failure (or being legally deemed a monopoly).
I resisted any tech implementations of GTD until now because fooling around with software and hardware was the cause of much of my wasted time. It's fun, and I didn't do other things I should be doing. I only broke down and tried out OmniFocus because it's from Omni, and OmniOutliner is an application I use a lot.

So up until now, I've been a folder and label GTD guy. I think OmniFocus is simply implementing GTD as it was intended to be. With the low-tech system, you have to check your folders everyday. No difference with OmniFocus. You need to do something like make a Perspective in Contexts with Sort:Due, put it in the Menu, and click it everyday.
Originally Posted by iancjclarke View Post
An important rule for designing consumer apps: Build your app for how people actually behave, not for how you think they should behave.
Omni are doing this - it's just that the customers they're aiming at are people who are implementing Getting Things Done and want an app to support that. It's common sense that OF won't suit everyone's workflow: we're all different, which is why there are so many task-management apps about!
I think I suggested a solution elsewhere, but here we go again.

For me, the simplest solution is for OF to assign alarms to each task that can be passed onto iCal when we synchronize OF with iCal.

In other words, alarms will go off in iCal, but not in OF (thus not violating the sanctity of GTD, which I think should be viewed as a tool, not a unbreakable rule), but folks who need reminders (for those of us who manage multiple projects, tasks, and roles in our lives) will still get reminders.

Seems like a win-win solution to me.
I just want to point out that there are different levels of "nagging." I certainly don't want OF popping up alarms and stuff regularly. However, suppose, if OF is running, it showed a badge on its icon in the dock that showed the number of due-today and past-due actions, similar to the way Mail shows the number of unread messages in the inbox? That would be a simple way to prod people like the OP to check OF on a regular basis.
I think showing actions-due-today/past-due actions as a badge could work, as long as it wasn't always there (i.e., a dreaded preference). I say this because when I can actively complete the items enumerated (e.g. I have 50 emails), I know I can *act* on those in some reasonable timeframe.

When those numbers represent things I can't complete (even though I *should*), I just get stressed. Journler has a feature where you can show or hide the badges for number of items in a folder; I turn it off because I knowing I have 20 items in my "Stuff to Buy" wishlist isn't useful to me.

(I wish Journler actually allowed the badge on a per-folder basis, and if Omni considers this, they do it per-folder.)

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