OmniFocus: task manager of my dreams?

After my last post, I was talking to my husband about my failure to find a new digital task manager that could replace my old-fashion planner. Once I was done explaining my requirements especially the sticking point that I wanted some kind of calendar interface as well as check lists, my husband suggested taking a look at OmniFocus. He had been thinking of checking it out himself and since we share an iTunes account we could share the app across both our iPads.

This app is a bit on the costly side at $40 (when less robust apps like Taskify from my previous PIM post was only a few dollars for the full version). However, I believe that if you want all I want from a task manager without having to compromise or hack the system then the high price just might be worth it.

Now after a week of use, I think I may have found the task-manager of my dreams. OmniFocus is based on the Getting Things Done philosophy. Now I’ll admit my use of OmniFocus totally ignores this philosophy because I am using it solely to track and plan out my school work. GTD is all about different contexts for tasks and well, all my tasks fell into one context for me — school. So I can’t really comment on this feature. However, I can see it being extremely useful if I started working while still in my MLIS program. I could have a context for work (or multiple contexts for work) and one for school. This way I could easily compile lists for one context and ignore the other.

For me the big selling point of OmniFocus was the breakdown of folders, projects, and tasks and the forecast mode. I made top level folders for each of my classes then within these folders each module (or week) is its own top level project and within each project I list all the tasks (articles to read, discussion boards to post on, assignments due). I also love that my quarter long group project can also be made into its own top level project in my LIS 550 folder. Here is what it looks like on my iPad:

From the OmniFocus app on iPad

Of course another selling point of OmniFocus is the “Inbox” feature which you can see on the upper left. You can quickly add “to-do” items to the inbox like “buy milk” or “send Joe an email” and then you can sort through these quick tasks later when you have the time. Now I really should take advantage of this feature more. For example, yesterday at the end of my PIM class we were discussingwhich articles to read for our next class session. I had a few articles I was interested, but we ran out of time so I didn’t get time to decide which one to suggest. Well I should have quickly created a task “send email with article suggestion” into my inbox, but I didn’t and only remembered to send the email around midnight (on the verge of forgetting it all together).

Now the other part of OmniFocus that I really love is the forecast view. This is the integrated calendar mode that I missed with Evernote and Taskify. I can easily see the number of tasks I have slated for each day and I can easily click on each day to see what I have in store. Also the little boxes on the far right of the tasks are check boxes that give one a nice feeling of accomplishment each time you get to check off a task as “completed”.

My Tasks for Monday

The forecast view also has a “future” selection at the end of the week that will show all of one’s long term projects. This is great for long term assignments that are due in few weeks or even at the end of the term.  Here is the view of my future tasks.

Hooray for long term planning

This is where OmniFocus even outshines my own planner system that I’ve stuck to for over a decade. I can clearly see all my long term assignments all in one place. With the limits of my physical planner I had to flip through pages or look at a cramped “month” view to take a look at the due dates for my long term assignments, projects, and papers.

Now as I have admitted several times during this post, I have not explored all of the views and uses of OmniFocus. Since my iPad is WiFi only I can’t add location reminders. I also haven’t run across a useful way of taking advantage of “flagging” tasks.  I also know that many people do not like to invest in applications that tie them down to one operating system (in this case Apple) and OmniFocus even ties one to a certain platform (my OmniFocus app is only for my iPad and I will have to purchase OmniFocus again for a laptop or iPhone). This does not bother me since I take my iPad with me anytime I think I might get work done, however, this handicaps my ability to use the app for quick reminders like one would stash in the inbox. I also don’t foresee abandoning my iPad anytime soon.

Is OmniFocus my dream task-manager? I just think it might be. I’m sure I’ll keep using it for the duration of this school year. I’ll see how it holds up when I begin my summer internships and it morphs from being a school planner to a work planner.

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1 Comment

Filed under Library School, PIM

One response to “OmniFocus: task manager of my dreams?

  1. marc connolly

    I need to be more detailed based on the most excellent example you provided…I like how you adapted it you your needs…GTD is like TAO ….a bit obscure…I use it to track OODA loops from John Boyd’s theory….great for adapting to things.

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