Using OmniFocus

I’m a big fan of OmniFocus for iPad.  Teaching classes, running an academic department, performing research, blogging, not to mention leading a large family and being active in my community, I keep busy.  And I’ve tried a lot of different organizers.  I’ve tried hand organizers (I had two Palms), cell-phone organizers (terrible), Windows programs (I like Outlook), online organizers, and too many iPad organizer apps to count.  In my humble opinion, OmniFocus is by far the best.

OmniFocus accommodates almost every part of my FTF/GTD system.  I can sort my tasks by project, by due date, or by something called context – when or where I can complete a task.  I can also sort my tasks geographically.  (This feature should be helpful for a delivery man, but not for a college professor.)

I can flag tasks that are especially important, or that need to be identified in a certain way.

I usually work from the “Forecast” page.  This sorts tasks by their due date.

One of my favorite features of OmniFocus is the “focus.”  I can limit my screen to just a specific project that I am working on right now.  This keeps me from getting distracted or overwhelmed by other tasks.

Another great feature is “review.”  I can systematically go through my entire to do list, project by project, identify tasks that I completed, reprioritize unfinished tasks, and change due-dates (so I can to procrastinate).  At the same time, I can mark projects as “active,” “on hold,” “completed,” or “dropped.”  Funny, the icon for “review” is a coffee cup, and I quite enjoy sitting down for a cup of coffee, listening to music while “reviewing” all of my projects and tasks each week.

I also use the “inbox.”  Here you can quickly enter new tasks, without worrying about sorting them into projects, due dates, etc.

If you have a Mac (I don’t), you can sync between your iPad and Mac.

You can forward web links from Safari to OmniTask.

OmniFocus has its shortcomings.

Overall, I have to admit that it is quite complicated.  It took me several weeks to figure out, and after a year, I’m still trying to figure out the difference between “projects” and “folders.”

OmniFocus doesn’t have a separate field for assigning priorities to tasks.  For example, early in my accounting career, I learned the “ABC” system.  Assign every task a letter.  “A” means to do it as soon as possible.  “B” means do it when you have a chance, and “C” means put it in a drawer and wait for someone to ask for it.  If you are meticulous, you can also use A+’s, A-‘s, etc. I don’t use this system anymore, but still keep “C Drawers” all over my office and home study.  You can use the “context” field for these priorities.

First Things First Four-Quadrant technique
Wikimedia Commons

OmniFocus isn’t designed for First Things First.  I’ve adopted some of this technique into OmniFocus by simply flagging Quadrant I activities (Important and Urgent).  However, OmniFocus does not easily accommodate the full four-quadrant technique, or even the more important goal-setting process that helps you identify what is important.  (Maybe I should flag Quandrant II activities instead of Quadrant I’s.)

I haven’t mastered backups of OmniFocus yet. I think there is a way to back up to the Mac.  (I wish I had a Mac.)

I wish I could print out multiple tasks, so I can see them on a sheet of paper.

I also wish I could somehow forward e-mails to OmniTask.  I can cut and paste them, but it would be much more convenient to be able to simply forward some tasks directly from iPad Mail to OmniFocus.

A big drawback is the price.  It costs $39.99, probably the most expensive planner/organizer for the iPad.

That said, OmniFocus is a remarkably flexible organizer, that will give you more use out of your iPad.

If you’re interested in OmniFocus, or other personal productivity tips, visit my new blog, http://www.freakingimportant.com.

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