OmniFocus: about turn!

Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying my return to OmniFocus. Yet today, I find myself back using ToDoist.

If I’m honest, the OmniFocus experiment only lasted a couple of weeks.

What’s wrong with OmniFocus? Nothing. It’s a superb app. But after using it intensively for work and personal projects, I realised that all its amazing functionality was slowing me down. I was spending too much time setting up custom perspectives and trying to figure out how to set it up ‘just so’.

It’s complexity was – for me – its downfall.

I took an evening to get slip back into ToDoist and (cliche alert!) it was like stepping into a favourite – and comfortable – pair of shoes. While ToDost doesn’t have all the whizz-bang of OmniFocus, it makes life easier for me.

And isn’t that the point of these apps?

I’ve realised that I need a quick and simple task management app, not an app that can launch a thousand ships. I’ve also realised that I really like sharing projects, something that isn’t possible with OmniFocus and is just a couple of clicks away with ToDoist.

In fact, last week I upgraded to ToDoist for Business, so that I can use it with colleagues on a project-by-project basis. Great for delegation!

Another difference that I really noticed was that OmniFocus uses tags very differently. I’d built up the habit of assigning multiple tags to tasks in ToDoist (e.g. ‘phone’, ‘5mins’ and so on) which allowed the task to appear in various perspectives. OmniFocus forces you to chose a single tag and I realised this was causing me to slow down and spend time considering which was the most appropriate tag.

Really counterintuitive for a ‘productivity’ app.

In ToDoist, I use tags (or ‘labels’) with abandon, so I can understand the perceived difficulty of a task, what tools I’ll need, where I’ll need to be and who else is involved. I work in various locations and with a lot of different people, so this is very important to me.

Flicking through the labels column allows me to see what I can do where I am or who I’m with. This gives me incredible flexibility and is the very opposite of a static ‘to do’ list on paper, where tasks appear based on the order in which you thought to write them down.

So, while OmniFocus thoroughly deserves all the accolades it’s received over the years, it’s just not for me. ToDoist helps me get more done and it’s only by trying another app that I’ve realised it. A slightly inefficient and time-consuming exercise, but worth it in the end, I think.

All of which for me means that there is no one, perfect task management app. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. And when considering which one to use in 2016, maybe try a few different ones and see how they work for you. On top of all the apps’ functionality, there’s one very important metric: do you want to use it? If you don’t, it’s going to sit unused on your computer/smartphone and you’ll fall back on your memory.

Which is never a good idea.

6 comments on “OmniFocus: about turn!

  1. Oh what to do? what to do? I’ve been doing the paper thing for yonks, but it’s stopped working for me – so I was looking at an electronic alternative and had all but settled on OmniFocus… then along comes this post and derails me. There are just so many possibilities – at the moment I’m using a text file based approach but it has its limitations and is terribly manual, just that bit more flexible than paper in a Filofax. All at sixes and sevens!


    • Well, from my perspective, OmniFocus is a big outlay when you’re not 100% positive it’ll work for you. If you’re interested in going ‘more digital’, then maybe a free solution like Todoist might be a place to start? Then if you don’t like it, it’s cost you nothing and you’ve learnt what it is about a digital platform that you like and are more likely to use. Just a thought


      • I do get your point – what annoys me slightly, though, is that according to the Todoist website the labels functionality isn’t available in the free version… so a major facility which I can see myself needing, can’t be tried before buying. 😦 Ah well. No need to decide immediately…


  2. I left OmniFocus for a project I was working on for that reason. I had too much crap to sling and the fiddling was making me want to avoid THE PROJECT. Oy!

    I (gasp) ended up using the new, improved Notes app on my phone. I’m embarrassed to even admit this but it worked PERFECTLY–for this project. I mean as perfectly as possible. For your work? No. But for this month-long prohect, there’s formatting and ability to add more assets. It worked.

    Still prefer O for some things.


  3. Just a quick question. How is collaboration through Todoist working for you? I am becoming more and more convinced that tasks are difficult to share – and delegating them even harder. I have found that sharing goals work better. But I haven’t come across any service that focuses on sharing goals.

    I left OF2 because I spent more time fiddling with the system than getting actual work done. It may be king in the number of features – but I think OmniGroup should have been paying more attention to designing a good work flow. I think Cultured Code really did a stellar job there. Todoist have too in their own way by being available on so many platforms and by adding natural language recognition.


    • Just starting out on sharing tasks with others, but it’s working well so far. One key benefit: it forces you to be specific when writing tasks, which I find very useful. You can also attach files, which adds to context.


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