Some task management apps seem inspired by steampunk: bells and whistles, lots of brass, faux leather, wood veneer and plenty of levers to throw. Others are light and fluid, almost zen–like in their barely there simplicity. Do not underestimate these ethereal apps, dear reader, for they may have a lot of potential bubbling away under the hood, ready for you to unleash.
The first principle of David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) approach to task and project management is that you should capture every task or project that comes into your head in what he calls a trusted system.
For me, Omnifocus has provided that trusted system since 2009 and the rollout of Omnifocus 2 for iMac in June 2014 has further strengthened what was already a powerful, versatile and reliable app. The two most compelling features of Omnifocus 2 for desktops are the review function and the Forecast view—both adapted from the groundbreaking iPad app.
The downside of following the great GTD™ guru’s advice to the letter is that you end up with a lot of ‘stuff’ in your trusted system. My Omnifocus file typically holds around 700 entries in some 60 projects. Not all of these are to–do items in the narrow sense: some ‘projects’ contain lists of books to read, movies to watch, places I’d like to travel to. Including these makes the file bigger, but also ramps up the fun factor: I do not just fire up Omnifocus when there’s another bill to be paid…
So read on if you are interested in the strategies that I have developed to manage a high volume of tasks in Omnifocus 2.
In October 2012 I first wrote about asana, praising the browser–based task management app for coming close to delivering on the developers’ vision of frictionless productivity. Since that first review, asana has gone from strength to strength, refining its user interface and adding tons of new functionality.
This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first time, in a quest for ‘objectivity’, I got bogged down in a treacly mix of scoring apps against criteria that were of my own choosing anyway. This time around I am opting for an unashamedly impressionistic approach: these are the task management apps I like best.
They are all compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, capable of supporting basic to complex project management and with at least one mobile app (iPhone or iPad, ideally both). Despite meeting those criteria, Things, asana, FacileThings and several other pretty solid apps did not make the grade. Only ten apps will fit into a top–10 after all (I was reasonably good at maths at school).
My ranking is exactly that: a personal top ten, reflecting my preferences (I like a nice UI), my approach to productivity (David Allen’s GTD®), my hardware (I am a Mac user), my needs (as a sole operator I have no need for team collaboration features or enterprise–based software) and my experience (I have tested ~30 task management apps over the past two years).
Granted, my illustration is a bit of a spoiler, but please read on if you want to find out which other apps made it into my top ten. Continue reading
Early in 2012 I reviewed Nozbe and Zendone, two browser–based task management apps that are steeped in David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology. Since that time, both apps have continued to improve. Nozbe has added new functionality and overhauled the user interface of its suite of apps. Just today they rolled out version 1.8. Zendone, which was still in beta at the time of my first review, has gone gold, produced apps for the iPhone and Android and added significant new functionality and polish to what was already an excellent tool.
Nozbe and Zendone are very similar. They are both developed by software developers with a clear commitment to GTD® and to ongoing quality improvement. They lead the field in terms of integration with Evernote. For what it is worth, I have tested 28 task management apps over the past two years and Nozbe and Zendone both figure in my virtual ‘top–five’. This is a gentle review therefore, a comparison of two very capable tools.
Your effectiveness in getting things done is not determined solely by your own productivity—it also depends on the work of others and on your ability to manage and track their contribution. Not surprising then, that David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ methodology recognises ‘waiting for’ as a distinct work ‘context’. It is used to flag tasks that you are not able to complete yourself because you lack the technical expertise, the mandate, or simply the time or the interest. Whether your project is planning your gran’s 90th birthday party or delivering a major urban renewal initiative, it is crucial that you have a clear overview of all project tasks that have been delegated to others.
So how can you achieve this in Omnifocus, the legendary desktop–based task management app for Mac? I have been using Omnifocus since 2009 and I keep finding new ways of making the app work better for me. I also know from experience that newcomers can find user–defined views, which Omnifocus calls ‘perspectives’, daunting and hard to set up. This post explains how to set up an Omnifocus perspective that enables you to keep track of the tasks that you have delegated. Continue reading
David Allen’s Getting Things Done® is a broad approach to personal productivity that invites you to examine your aims and objectives at a number of levels. What is your vision for your life? What sort of a person do you wish to be? What are your long term plans? What about your plans for the next three to five years? Cascading down this hierarchy of priorities will eventually lead you to the level of projects and tasks: what action do you need to take next, in the physical world, to make your vision or dreams come true?
Many productivity apps that are inspired by David Allen’s GTD® approach conveniently ignore the broader dimensions of productivity and provide a tool for dealing with the mechanics of GTD: projects, contexts, tasks and, if you are lucky, a process that supports the weekly review, a key feature of GTD®.
You will find no such reductionism in Facile Things, the brainchild of Francisco Saez, a Spanish developer. Fire up the app in your browser and it will invite you to reflect upon your purpose, vision, goals. From there flow areas of responsibility, projects and finally, actions. The various dimensions of your planning can be accessed at any time by clicking the ‘perspectives’ heading in the menu bar. Continue reading
OfficeTime is a powerful yet easy to use time tracking application. It comes in desktop versions for Windows and Mac (build 1.64—$47) and a mobile version for the iPad and the iPhone (build 3.9.6—$8.49). While OfficeTime helps you keep track of billable hours and can generate invoices, it is equally useful outside a business context. You could, for example, use it to monitor how much time you spend on volunteer or club activities, hobbies or new habits, or as a study tool. Think of it as a pedometer for the brain.
This is an independent review. I have used the OfficeTime desktop version for Mac in my home office (OS 10.8.3) to track a number of commercial and private projects. While OfficeTime has the capacity to track work and billable hours across employees and teams, I have not explored those features. Continue reading
When I tried out Doit at the start of 2012 I liked the way in which it had incorporated David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, but the browser–based app ran so glacially slow as to be unworkable. Of late, I have come across so many positive comments about Doit that I decided to give the app another ‘go’ — and I am glad I did. Doit has matured into an attractive GTD–compatible task manager with email and calendar integration and supported by mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. While the free version is quite robust, the premium version gives you lots of extra functionality for just $20 per year, including subtasks, a unique review function and the capacity to track goals. Check out the full review and the screenshots… Continue reading
Let’s face it: if you follow David Allen’s sensible advice and collect all your tasks, notes and ideas in a single ‘trusted system’, you will be spending a lot of time interacting with that system, whether it be paper–based or centred around a productivity app. Ideally, accessing that system should inspire you to achieve things. It should be a favourite mental hangout, where you catch your breath, regroup and plan how best to spend the next hours or days of your life.
For many of us, the opposite happens: we dread opening up our task manager as we know we will be confronted with a seemingly endless list of tasks. It can be an overwhelming and disheartening experience. Many of the tasks (‘build cubby house’) seemed fun when you first entered them. Months later, here they lie, these bleached and broken dreams, shipwrecked on the cliffs of distraction, washed up on the shores of procrastination. When it gets really bad, it seems as if merely looking at your task list sucks all the life and energy out of you, like a Dementor in the Harry Potter novels.
So what can we do to keep motivated and energised? What can we do to keep our task list lean, informative, stimulating? We cannot complete all tasks quickly, so how do we prevent frequently deferred tasks from going stale? Continue reading