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an OmniFocus success story, perhaps inspiring for GTD beginners Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Here’s a longish post about how OmniFocus slowly but steadily invaded my life over the last several months. I’ve tried to make it fun, and I hope that some Getting Things Done beginners will find it helpful, and I also hope someone at Omni reads it and will feel ... well, proud.


PHASE I: Just another interesting app

I stumbled on the OmniFocus beta late in 2007, with no prior knowledge of GTD, and only a passing acquaintance with Omni’s other applications. But I was instantly intrigued by the idea of seeing to-do list items grouped by context — all my disparate errands in one view? cool! — and I spent a few hours over the holidays experimenting with the application.

I don’t think I kept anything I started with! OF was not integrated into my life yet. It was still just a toy.



PHASE II: All potential, zero implementation

After maybe a month of tinkering and boring my wife with spontaneous outbursts of enthusiasm about the awesome potential of my new toy, I started to really realize that OmniFocus was rooted in something, that it hadn’t just sprung from the imaginations of the folks at Omni. So I made an action: “find out about this David Allen character.” Actually, I think the app shipped with an action something like that already present in the database — good idea — and I just decided to take it seriously.

Y’know, when I could find some time for it.

Meanwhile, despite its obvious potential, OmniFocus remained almost perfectly unhelpful to me in this stage. Its icon seemed to pulse with power from my dock, constantly urging me to use it, yet it didn’t have its hooks in my life. All day, every day I had to deal with lots o’ stuff that was not yet represented in OF in any way, or barely. Its features remained exasperatingly obscure.

More time passes ...



PHASE III: All hail David Allen

Does your life kinda suck? Are you besieged by constant spasms of anxiety as you feverishly recall things you’re supposed to be attending to? Do you wake up at 4:00am thinking wonderful thoughts like, “oh, frack, I have to deal with ___”?

That was me.

After listening to the abridged version of Mr. Allen’s audiobook and beginning to think in terms of putting my agreements with myself into a well-designed "trusted system", for the first time ever in my career I started to feel like it might not be necessary to live like that. That single idea was worth ... well, a lot more than the price of OmniFocus and David Allen’s book.

This wasn’t just a productivity revelation for me: it was a major improvement to my total health and well-being, much more valuable than anything I have ever learned from a psychologist.



PHASE IV: Sharpening the saw

OmniFocus and the way you use it is that “trusted system.” Once I understood GTD, OmniFocus ceased to just be an intriguing tool with lots of potential, and rapidly became mission critical.

It took me a long friggin’ time to “capture” my life in OmniFocus and start really doing things the GTD way. It was not an afternoon project. It was like trying to replace a piston in a running engine, and it took the better part of a month to really get on board.

But it was a fun and inspiring month of sharpening my saw, the better to do my work with. Once I understood what GTD was, OmniFocus really started to sing, and I found that everything GTDish that I wanted to do ... OmniFocus was there to help me do it.

Almost half a year after I started, OmniFocus is now fully integrated into my life. Hell, it dominates my life ... in a good way. Consequently, it is now in my personal Software Hall of Fame. It is as essential to my work as anything has ever been.

A sincerely and heartfelt thanks, Omni. You’ve made something pretty neat!

Last edited by bigcloits; 2008-05-23 at 06:36 AM..
 
LOL. I really enjoyed reading your story, bigcloits. Very entertaining. In particular, I got a good laugh out of this remark:

Quote:
...boring my wife with spontaneous outbursts of enthusiasm about the awesome potential of my new toy...
This seems to happen in my household too. Fortunately, my wife has learned to be very patient and understanding of my childlike enthusiasm and overwhelming need to tell her about all the cool stuff I discovered in OmniFocus. In fact, even my 4-year-old daughter knows about OmniFocus and how Daddy has to add things to his list and check it before stepping out the door. She wants a list too, so I print her a simple OmniFocus project with some things to do on the weekend.

OmniFocus - fun for the whole family!
 
For me it went like this:

1) Started playing during beta.
2) Asked my family to buy it for me for Christmas to lock in the $40.
3) Played around. Got confused.
4) Got Getting Things Done for Christmas too. Read it in 3-4 days.
5) Dumped everything into OF. Really intense overwhelming feelings at first - like "OMG there's so much!". Then this weird relaxed feeling when my mind felt blank - there was nothing left to write down.
6) Take mac to work to record work Actions. Works well, too well...
6.5) Quick, tell anyone at work who will listen what your strange new Personally Productivity Method is. Strange looks.
7) Take mac to work everyday... uh why do I have two computers at my desk?
8) OMG. OF has taken over. I simply cannot operate at work without my mac anymore.
9) Must have OF on iPhone...
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blewis View Post
8) OMG. OF has taken over. I simply cannot operate at work without my mac anymore.
9) Must have OF on iPhone...
Oh yeah. I'm in the same place.
 
Well, this post is reassuring. I got the book first, although I had previously heard about OmniFocus (from husband, who got excited about it but had no intention of using it).

I set aside what I thought was enough time (one entire day at home with no one else there), bought some new office supplies, downloaded OmniFocus, got out the GTD book... and started.

Did I finish? Um, no. I discovered a few things.

First, when David Allen said 2 days, he meant 2 days. I always think that I have some special ability to get things done faster than others, despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

Second, 2 days means WITH A COACH. That's someone who says to you "that is taking more than 2 minutes", "lunch is over now," "put that in your read pile, don't read it now", "get off the web", "stop digging through the pile--one at a time", and "Earth to Stephanie, we're working here!". And perhaps someone to print out all the file labels. The labeler is great (I already had one but didn't use it much), but it does take a certain amount of time to print and stick all these labels. It would be quicker if someone else could do that.

So my day is gone. I now have to grab bits of time wherever I find them. I finished collecting, processed 25% of my inbox, and tore apart my existing filing system. Now I still have to get things done with a worse system than I had before! This morning I dug through the various piles to see if anything vital was in there. I just hope the cats don't sleep on the piles while I'm at work and mesh them together!

I felt like a failure, like I did it WRONG. I failed at GTD and made a big mess besides. Your comment about "a long time" is thus reassuring. I'm really hoping this system will "stick."
 
LOL, hang in there, Stephanie. It certainly does take some time. But the eventual benefits make it all worthwhile.

I started my transition to GTD and OmniFocus almost a year ago, and I'm still tweaking things here and there. But I was mostly settled in about 2-4 weeks.

I think David Allen's "2 days" is very optimistic. In my experience, it was only enough to get me started. :)

Good luck!

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sgiovannini View Post
And perhaps someone to print out all the file labels. The labeler is great (I already had one but didn't use it much), but it does take a certain amount of time to print and stick all these labels. It would be quicker if someone else could do that.
The best thing that happened to me while reading the book was I purchased a cheap label maker that did not work! Took it back the next day.

The quicker solution I came up with was to buy a pack of stick on address labels (self adhesive inkjet mailing labels). Just peel one off, write on it with a pen, stick it on. Painless, quick, cheap, and no batteries or power supplies and I can have some @Work and @Home.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
I think David Allen's "2 days" is very optimistic. In my experience, it was only enough to get me started. :)
Oh, yeah. I started listening to his audiobook, the abridged one mind you, at the beginning of an absolutely luxurious 6-day stay completely on my own in a house by the beach. I am quite sure I have literally never, ever, in my life, had such an opportunity for quiet contemplation and “getting sorted.”

I spent most of those days learning GTD, poring through my files, scribbling, muttering, eureka-ing.

Six days.

In a beach house.

Completely on my own.

And I wasn’t done.

Then I went home to the office and did another several days of highly focussed uninterrupted GTDifying of my life.

Yep, without a coach, waaaaay more than 2 days. But in spite of the seemingly bottomless process, I started reaping some serious rewards somewhere around day 7-9. If you have kids or equivalent distractions, maybe figure on twice that ... ;-)
 
 


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