There are a lot of task management applications out there. I’ve tried Streak, a Chrome extension that allows you to divide up your emails into categories according to what tasks they are related to.
However, I found it too time-consuming to constantly rearrange my inbox, and reverted to a combination of notebooks, a digital calendar, spreadsheets and reminders to help me break down projects into tasks, allocate time to each one, and figure out which to prioritise.
I’ve been looking for a system that’s easy enough that it doesn’t need constant updating and complex enough to handle all the different areas of my life, from shopping lists and non-work-related goals to tax returns and scheduling my day-to-day work.
Finally, after a couple of weeks playing about with OmniFocus 2 for Mac, I feel like it might be the one.
Like most task management apps, it’s essentially a to-do list combined with a day planner. You can add projects, and break down these projects into tasks, then assign a start date, due date, estimated time length and a flag for urgency. What’s clever is that you can also add a context, such as “home”, “boss” or “car”. Contexts are the places, people or things you need to get a task done; this way, you can instantly block out any information that’s not relevant to the situation you’re in at that particular moment.
OmniFocus’s other piece of jargon is the “perspective”. Contexts are one perspective from which your to-do list can be seen. You can also view your to-do list by project, by tasks flagged by urgency or by date: the “forecast” perspective is a nicely designed calendar that allows you to see what’s coming up later in the day, week or month.
The last perspective is the review: you can assign a date to check in with each project and see what needs tweaking: an important part of long-term task management.
OmniFocus 2 for Mac costs Dh147.99 and you need to buy separate apps for mobile devices. While there are free alternatives out there, for me, the payout will be earned back in no time by the increased efficiency the app allows.
q&a an organisational asset
Jessica Holland expands on the uses of OmniFocus 2 for Mac.
Isn’t it more time-consuming to maintain a system like this?
It’s really not. The idea is linked to the “GTD” (Getting Things Done) system of productivity, which involves noting down every stray thought that might be useful, organising these and turning them into bite-size tasks with a deadline, getting them done and crossing them off.
Is it designed for incredibly stressed businesspeople?
It’s just as handy for someone who needs to keep on top of groceries or travel plans as someone planning their IPO and eventual world domination.
Is it hard to learn?
It’s incredibly intuitive, especially for long-term Mac users, and there are lots of video tutorials and blog posts from users. The difficult bit is figuring out what your goals are and breaking them down into actionable chunks.
Do I need to buy the iOS version too, for my phone or tablet?
As I use the app primarily for work, I’m fine with the Mac version, but it would be great for running errands and crossing off tasks as you go. The Apple Watch will even alert you when you walk past a grocery store, if buying bread is on your to-do list.
Is there just one version?
No, you can upgrade to Pro for double the price, but it’s only worth it for hardcore fans of the app. It allows you to create custom perspectives and sidebars, and create automatic workflow processes using AppleScript.
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