Two weeks with Omnifocus

After continued frustration with the lack of joined-up syncing in Things, I decided to take the plunge and buy OmniFocus from The OmniGroup. (If the preceding sentence means nothing to you, it’s probably best you skip this blog post and look at something cute instead). If you’re still with me, you’ll know that both Things and OmniFocus are basically “to-do” list managers for the Mac.

For those of us with sub-perfect memories and lots of things to do every day, some form of task list is essential. And for those of us who find simple paper and pen limiting (hi there), some form of electronic solution is required. I’ve been a Things user for a couple of years now, but you’ll see from my previous posts that it has some limitations, particularly in its lack of over-the-air syncing between devices. After a particularly frustrating couple of days on the move, I decided to give OmniFocus a chance.

I should point out that, as multi-device syncing was what I needed, I installed OmniFocus on my Macs (iMac and Macbook Air), iPhone and iPad. I needed to see that this would work for me, regardless of which device I had access to or where I was. I should also point out that having the application on all of these devices was far from cheap – but for me, the stakes were high enough to try something different. There’s no need to be as impulsive as me, as you can try OmniFocus for free for a couple of weeks and see if it is for you before spending anything.

Both my initial and subsequent reactions to OmniFocus have been extremely positive. It just works. It’s built to replicate the “Getting Things Done” productivity methodology (GTD), which emphasises getting your various tasks and projects out of your brain and into a trusted system. Organising your various tasks allows you to stop worrying about remembering and forgetting and just get stuff done.

Synchronisation is courtesy of MobileMe, if you have an account, or OmniGroup’s own servers if you don’t. I set up a MobileMe sync between all my devices in under five minutes and it’s worked perfectly since. This means I can have all my projects and tasks up to date on any and all devices and updates them remotely at any point. So no matter which screen I’m looking at, it’s up to date.

Online sync aside, I’ve found the OmniFocus interface more intuitive and easier to use than Things. Put simply, I just click fewer buttons to get the same things done. Tasks go into my iPad when I’m on the tube, as I think of them, in seconds. It’s less of a chore to make a note of things and OmniFocus seems to respond much quicker than Things on the iPad. I find the review process much easier on OmniFocus too, which helps me stay on top of things and allows for easier prioritisation.

The real proof that OmniFocus is working better than Things (at least for me) is that I’m getting more done each day and forgetting much less. The projects structure within OmniFocus really makes you think ahead and organise your thoughts in a more structured way. For me, this makes project planning much easier.

If you’d like top dip your toe in the OmniFocus world, I can recommend the following resources that made Omni a lot more accessible for me:

How I use OmniFocus to organise my life

OmniFocus: The GTD System on Steroids

OmniFocus for iPad reinvented my workflow

OmniFocus, GTD, and You (A PDF doc)

In summary, I think Things have lost a customer because they’ve taken so long to get their synch up and running. On the other hand, this has given me the chance to experience a whole new level of productivity, courtesy of OmniFocus. If you just need an app to remind you of what to buy at the supermarket, OmniFocus is not for you. There are many, many free apps out there for Mac, iPhone and iPad that will do just that for you.

If, however, you manage multiple projects at work and home and want to experience the comfortable feeling of knowing things are “in hand”, I’d suggest to take OmniFocus for a spin and see what you think. It has definitely worked for me.

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