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OmniFocus: My Refined To-do Strategy

Back in January I discussed my thoughts in re-evaluating my to-do and calendering strategies. While my basic principles have remained the same, I have switched my to-dos over to OmniFocus and adjusted my calendering strategy.

To-Dos

If you read my previous post, you know I switched from Remember the Milk (RTM) to Wunderlist. While Wunderlist is great if you just want simple lists, I missed some of the more advanced features from RTM. While RTM is free on the web, if you want to be able to sync to their mobile apps more than once every 24 hours, you must be a pro member ($24.99/year). While more expensive to start, OmniFocus is OS X ($79.99/$49.99 eduation) iOS ($19.99 iPhone/$39.99 iPad) software, so you aren’t stuck paying a yearly fee.

OmniFocus

After reading Shawn Blanc’s article on why he loves OmniFocus so much, I decided that I had to give it a go. I’ve had an OmniFocus license for a long time (I got a really good deal because I was involved with the beta) so I was able to test it out without having to find room in my grad student budget.

On the surface, OmniFocus looks a little underwhelming. If you are familiar with software from the OmniGroup, you should know from experience that this is never the case. For those of you who aren’t, everything the OmniGroup makes is top notch and extremely powerful. While there is quite a big learning curve, the app has a great manual (gasp…read the manual?) and there are many great web resources.

After using the app for about two weeks, I feel like I have a good grasp on many of the advanced fetures. One of my favorites is the amazing control you have over the views in the apps. I am not only able to look at my projects and contexts, but I also have created custom views for work, home, and for when I’m on the go.

The iPhone app also has a really powerful and unique view — forecast. The forecast view pulls in the next five days of due to-dos and items from your calendars and lays them out along with options to view the past and future. With my calendar events and to-dos all in one place, it makes it easy to get an overview of my day.

Calendar

Since I recently upgraded from the original Droid to an iPhone 4S, I decided to make the plunge from Google Calendar over to iCloud calendars. While my setup remains the same (Fantastical on my Mac and Agenda on my iPhone), I have adjusted my strategy a bit.

Since switching to OmniFocus, I have started putting only things that have to be done on a certain day on my calendar — the change here is that if a task can be completed before it’s due, it goes in OmniFocus rather than my calendar. The start date feature in OmniFocus is extremely useful for this because I can hide events from my views until they are able to be actively worked on. This keeps things from getting too cluttered, part of the reason I previously put more on my calendar.

This quote from Shawn Blanc is a great way to sum up my search:

Finding the right tool to keep track of your projects sometimes feels more like a journey than a destination. Many task-management apps have come and gone (some of us have tried them all). But in the past few years, as task-management software has increased its footprint on the Mac, the one app which has stayed in active development and which continues to grow and improve is OmniFocus.

I feel like I have settled in for good at this point, but you never know! I’d love to hear what tools you use!