using omnifocus and evernote to keep track of literary awards

findlay alley, melbourne, 2008 (image: ozengo @ purplezengoat)

Does this sound familiar: you subscribe to a newsletter because you are interested in a topic; the newsletters start arriving in your inbox, brimming with superbly relevant information, yet after a while you feel overwhelmed rather than stimulated. You face a forest of factoids, a twirl of tweets, hystËricÅl hyperlinks – you feel like abandoning your 1,274 facebook friends and retreat into the cave of caveats. You, my friend, may be suffering from informatosis.

This post describes how I am trying to turn the tide of information overload and chaos in one area of my life by using evernote and omnifocus to keep track of literary awards that I learn about via twitter or newsletters. How can you capture snippets of information, regain an overview and build a platform that you can use for action? If literary awards are ‘not your thing’, you may still be interested in the principle of storing information in evernote and tracking associated tasks and deadlines though omnifocus. Continue reading

set up a project template in omnifocus

No matter how varied our lives, most of us can probably think of a series of tasks that we need to repeat from time to time. This could be a standard process for providing information or a service to customers, the steps required for making your favourite recipe, or even just a list of things to pack for your next trip or holiday. A ‘project’, after all, is nothing more than a group of related tasks.

In this post I want to show you how easy it is to set up a project template in omnifocus. Once you have mapped out the tasks that make up your project, you are only one right-click away from turning it into a template that you can use over and over again. Continue reading

what do you want from a to-do app?

Fools rush in, they say, where angels fear to tread. I thought I would create a diagram, using XMind, a free mind-mapping program, to ‘shortlist’ selected task management programs from a couple of user perspectives.

There are no winners: most of the listed apps have the capacity to boost your productivity enormously. Choosing a productivity app is largely a matter of personal preference – you have to feel comfortable with how data are entered, with the views on offer, with the workflow and the colour scheme. Some of that takes time; an app that dazzles you in the first week may feel suffocating and uninformative once it needs to handle a couple of hundred tasks.

You can question many aspects of my diagram. For example, most of the listed apps support various degrees of customisation; I have only listed omnifocus, gqueues and toodledo as being extraordinarily versatile in that area. For ‘bug free’ I have set the bar equally high.

There are also gaps in my diagram. I have not included apps that I have never explored (call me traditional), nor apps that are primarily geared towards note taking (such as evernote, that swiss army knife of productivity) or team collaboration (such as basecamp or flow). I have not included other parameters, such as whether file attachments are supported. There is only so much that will fit on a page.

My aim in posting this is not to provide complete or authoritative advice, but to provide a couple of pointers for people who are trying to find a task management app that may work for them. I would appreciate constructive feedback!

eloping with firetask

Firetask is a promising GTD-based productivity app with the simple ‘feel’ of a traditional to-do list. It has a well-designed beautiful interface and enough functionality to give well-established apps like things and omnifocus a run for their money. I have reviewed the mac desktop and the ipad apps (both version 2.2); there is no windows version.

While firetask is not perfect, it has almost done the unthinkable: prised me away from omnifocus. It has been like a suitor in a jane austen novel: maybe not the most sensible and respectable choice, but irresistible because of its colour and freshness. I want to spend time in the app, and that is a feeling I haven’t had with omnifocus for a long time. So, after a brief stint with the trial version, I decided to throw caution to the wind and to elope with firetask. Will it end in tears? Continue reading

living in the shallows, or the importance of blogging judiciously

Walking past the city square last week I noticed the message someone had scribbled in white chalk on one of the grey granite blocks defining the square’s boundary: ‘be yourself – everyone else is taken’. Mulling over that gem of urban wisdom as I made my way to flinders street station, I started thinking about the importance of finding your own ‘voice’ when writing.

That led me to thinking about how difficult it is for a writer’s voice to be heard in an era of undifferentiated publishing. We are all authors now, as our blogs, tweets and status updates may reach thousands of readers. We are always ‘on’ – and increasingly on edge, it seems.

Like a body-boarder standing in the shallows, we are waiting for our wave. The wave that will lift our blog up on a glorious ride. As the energy of a new blog post dissipates all too soon, we wade back out again behind our iPads, scanning the waves for those about to crest. But the water is too crowded and we are all vying for the same wave. Maybe the answer is to turn your back on the spectators on their beach towels and to go further out to sea where you may find deeper swells, less foam, greater mystery. Continue reading

toodledo: weird name, solid app

In my student days, back in belgium, the citroen ‘deux chevaux’ (two horsepower) was known as the ‘ugly duckling’. It was weird and quirky (with the gear stick in the dash rather than on the floor) but it was cheap and reliable, a solid workhorse.

Toodledo is the 2CV of productivity apps: not much to look at, but it won’t let you down and has a lot of surprises under the bonnet.

To start with, toodledo is fully compatible with the ‘getting things done‘™ (GTD™) approach developed by david allen. Projects, contexts, priorities, tags, status, due dates, filters, locations – it is all there. It is also highly customisable: if you want to run toodledo as a simple task list, you can. If you want to track the time a task is due rather than just the date, or track how much time you have spent on a task, it will let you do that too. You just choose in ‘settings’ which fields you want to use and you can always revisit those decisions. Continue reading