How to get started with OmniFocus

Initially I had thought that OmniFocus was far too expensive to buy and I was getting by quite nicely with using the application Wunderlist. Wunderlist is a good application and is great for making lists and most certainly was much more within my price range. Then I had some money available on my iTunes gift cards and I decided to get the iOS version of OmniFocus . I was disappointed to see that it is not a universal application, so that I can also use it on my iPhone, I just had the iPad version. Never mind, I started using it with a little bit of gusto and I found that I liked it.

I should say at this stage I also bought the Mac version of OmniFocus because I liked the iOS version. To be honest I found the Mac version disappointing, because it looks nothing like the iOS version. You don’t get the familiarity of using the same application but on a different system, even though you do get synchronisation of the data. There is a new version of the Mac app coming and it is not before time. So I was struggling with the concepts of getting things done with OmniFocus but in two totally different looking applications. I was delighted to be able to apply a theme which came from Asian Efficiency. This is because my visual brain responds to seeing things colour-coded. It seems that the new Mac version will take the iOS version as inspiration for look and feel.

OmniFocus – A sledgehammer to crack a nut

The thing with any version of the OmniFocus applications, the iOS version or the Mac version is that it is extremely powerful in terms of the facilities available within the app. Obviously this is not a bad thing, but when you are a new user it can seem quite confusing regarding how to start using and get the best from the system. As it is often times said, with something like this, you want it to function and then effectively get out of the way so that you can do the things that you really need to be doing. I did read some information about how to get started and I also looked at some of the videos by David Sparks about OmniFocus. Yet I still did get a little bit confused with the projects, actions and contexts that you use to get things done. Naturally, I wanted to try to use all of the facilities available and because of that, things did get a little bit mixed up and kind of thrown into the air. Maybe what would have been better, would have been to forget about using the contexts and concentrated on using the projects and actions. Maybe I should have organised my tasks, putting them into folders and separating what was home stuff and work stuff, but I tried to fly before I could really walk.

And then I found Asian Efficiency

At some point in time I found a website called A Better Mess and on one of the emails that were sent to me as a subscriber there was a link to another website called Asian Efficiency . Now this, is the real deal concerning what you need to be able to learn how to use OmniFocus. There are a number of articles on there about task management and a load of stuff on how to set up and use with maximum efficiency the OmniFocus application on the Mac.

OmniFocus tutorials

There is a whole 10 part series of OmniFocus tutorials. The first two of them deal with getting started with the application. What is also so good about this is the fact that it gives you a theme that you can use to, not just make your OmniFocus app look pretty, but gives it some colour coding to make it extra useful. On top of the excelent advice to beginners.

Using Omnifocus

A fictional character

What made the tutorial so much better was the fact that they introduced a fictional character with a fictional life and fictional tasks. The tutorial showed how such a person would organise themselves using OmniFocus. This was exactly what I needed rather than an article about the best practices to use, or just a simple description that just said what went where. Like I said, I am a visual type of person and to be able to see diagrams and screen captures of how it was all working, made a huge difference to me.

Capturing the ideas and organising them

I had already worked out that the way to do this was to do a brain dump and capture the ideas and plans from my head and just throw them into OmniFocus. It is fairly easy to do that, putting stuff into the inbox before having to start dealing with the tasks, projects and actions. What I needed to understand was the next stage of the game, which was to turn all of these ideas into those projects, actions and a fully organised system that would help me get things done. Seeing how the fictional character did it, helps me to realise that I needed to understand my own workflow tasks and requirements. I have had to work out what things are projects and what things are actions within those projects. Really what I needed to do, was to learn how to break things down into smaller items so that I could be specific in terms of saying what had to be done.

Working out how to use the data after it has been captured

On account of the fact that I had originally made a poor job of categorising tasks and not splitting them up into small enough sections, I then found it difficult to get the information back out in order to use it. I have set up a Keyboard Maestro macro which opens up OmniFocus for me on weekdays in the morning and also the last thing at night. What I have to do now is to look into that system I have created, to tick things off as they are done. I also need to work out what it is that I need to look at within the application, so that I can have a manageable list of the next set of things that have to be done. Some sort of prioritisation within that list would be great also.

IOS Omnifocus

I am still learning how to use OmniFocus

It seems now that I have a good basic start organised for the use of OmniFocus. I also have a number of these tutorials from Asian Efficiency to work through and I will be cherry picking the best workflows and hopefully turning them into my own good habits. I know for sure that I really do need to do this, because there are some days when I get a huge amount of work done, then there are other days when I am left with a feeling of disappointment. I don’t know if I want to turn into a mechanised robot efficiency machine, but something close to that would be quite good. I already have things in place such as the use of DragonDictate to be able to write quickly. I can edit articles and have them published on my websites in no time. The process that I use for creating the screencasts for the VideoMagical , NoStylus and Mac20Q websites is working quite nicely and just needs a little bit of tweaking. So now I’m going to dive into this little bit more, learn some more stuff and I will report back and tell you what I find is working best for me.