light and fluid: asana and todoist compared

copyright Ozengo 2014Some 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.

Okay, that was fun. Down to business now: today I’ll be comparing two slender high flyers:  Asana and Todoist.

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managing a high volume of tasks in omnifocus 2

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.

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asana goes from strength to strength


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.

If you want a walkthrough of asana basics, you may want to read my earlier post first. If you are ready to explore what is new, just keep reading. Continue reading

ten great apps for getting things done

podium2This 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

set up a ‘waiting for’ perspective in omnifocus

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

track your time and billable hours with office time

OT logoOfficeTime 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

pagico launches version 6 for desktops

Okay, I confess. I have had a serious case of blogger’s block. As Shakespeare (almost) wrote: ‘I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth [interest in productivity apps]’. Maybe the Christmas pudding was too heavy. Maybe it was quitting my job and setting up a little business of my own. Maybe it was Leo Babauta’s zenhabits injecting a healthy dose of productivity agnosticism into my life.

So what spurred me on to put mouse to wordpress again? An email from Ryo, my software developer pen pal in Japan, who politely enquired how I was going with my review of Pagico 6, the latest upgrade of their productivity flagship for desktops, which was launched on 20 February 2013. Now I have never met Ryo, but the persona emerging from his emails is a kind one, with a commitment to excellence — not the sort of person I would want to disappoint. ‘Lift your game, Ozengo’, I thought, and share the news about Pagico 6 with the bloggerocracy.

I decided to start things off with a one–minute brainstorm about features that matter to me in selecting an app for managing complex projects. I came up with these: structure, ease of use, flexibility, reliability, informative, completeness, collaboration, portability, tracking, visually attractive. There was one more, but I cannot read my own handwriting… I am happy to give Pagico 6 a ‘tick’ against all of these features (except handwriting recognition). So let us have a look at a screenshot. Continue reading