The process of being productive

by Linda Sharps on February 5, 2007

I have to admit, I've never been a particularly rabid fan of individual/organizational be-the-best-YOU-you-can-be methodologies.  Maybe because on the surface they kind of remind me of diet books, where people can take some fairly basic concepts—“Don't eat fistfuls of lard!”—and wrap an entire industry around them.

Also, they always seem to involve so many Productized Buzzwords™, after a while they all start sounding the same. Fish: Who Moved My 7 Habits of Mythical One-Minute Management?, or something.

I did like Getting Things Done, although I'm not religious (at all) about adhering to its principles. I like the ideas, and I like the relatively non-annoying language it contains (exceptions: “uh-oh bell”, “interruptitis”). I was stupidly dumbstruck by the simplicity and SHEER GENIUS of the Next Action concept, which has saved my butt on numerous occasions when I've struggled with how to make headway on a project (Me, talking to myself: “Pick up the phone and get a quote on the printing! Also, don't eat lard!”).

Still, I'm kind of lazy about getting organized and the idea of using specialized software to do so seemed a little daunting. I worried I'd find myself thinking, “Oh, I should really send that email but first I should write down that I need to send the mail so I'm reminded to send the email.” Which seems kind of . . . needlessly complicated?

As I learn more about what OmniFocus will be able to do for me, though, I'm starting to see a lot more benefits than getting reminded about email to-dos. There's the Quick Entry feature, for one: from within any app, you'll be able to use a key command to bring up a window (like Quicksilver), in which you can jot down text and file it in the appropriate context and project. So you could build a whole project, or quickly capture ten unrelated things and have them all land where they belong—then move on with whatever you were doing.

Having something that stays out of my way until I need it, then provides me with an easy, superfast capture? Okay, I'm officially on board. I'm both easily distracted (that dog has a puffy tail!) and living with many distractions (I have a 17-month-old toddler, it's a wonder I'm even upright and typing right now instead of singing the Blue's Clues theme to myself, over and over and OVER), so I really could use a method of gathering together my scattered, feeble neural flickerings and making some sense of them.

I should note that since OmniFocus isn't tied to a specific productivity methodology, it's flexible, and doesn't require you to adopt a particular way of thinking in order to use it. It's designed to work for the GTD crowd as well as the rest of us.

I'm most excited about the loftier goals of OmniFocus, I think. At its most basic, it will be easy to use OmniFocus to keep track of things you need to do, but I can imagine that its combination of information capture and processing might yield all kinds of amazing results. How much more headway could it help you make into a tough project? How many great ideas might you be able to save?  How much more could you accomplish, if you had the right tool to help you?

Why, it's enough to make me want to be the best me I can be, and I never thought I'd type that sentence without including the word “BAAAAARF”. Or possibly “HOOOORK”. 

So as we collectively, impatiently wait for OmniFocus to reach a coveted State Of Beta-Dom*, tell me, if you tend to use tools to help you be more productive, do you have any success stories to share? Things you were able to get done that you might not have otherwise? I'm interested to hear from you, and maybe get some tips.

* I have no update yet on this timeframe, I'm sorry to tell you—I can say that there's currently a lot of work being done on the UI. There are lots of challenging issues over how to present information in the best possible stay-out-of-your-face-but-be-intuitively-accessible style, but if anyone's up for the task, it's Omni's team of UI brainiacs.