Kickstart Your Resolutions with OmniFocus and a Brain Dump

by Derek Reiff on January 8, 2018

This is a guest post by Amanda McLoughlin, co-host of a few podcasts, host of a youtube channel, somehow a full-time job, and more. She’s busy. Here’s her recipe for a new start on the new year.


What do you want to accomplish this year? Start a new project, or make progress on an existing one? Maybe you hope to achieve better work-life balance or start down a path to a new career altogether.

Whatever the resolution, let me recommend…a Brain Dump. (Yes, it’s a funny name. Stick with me.)

Notecards on a table.

The point of a Brain Dump is to capture the full picture of everything you need and want to do. Once you have all of your projects, goals, obligations, and dreams down in one place, you can prioritize better and get more stuff done.

So, how do you start? Set aside one calm hour—first thing in the morning or after dinner once you’re home from work—and gather your materials. You can use paper, notecards, a whiteboard, a Word document; any medium that will let you get ideas out of your brain as quickly as possible. I like using index cards that I can move all around the table, but do whatever works best for you!

Now, start writing everything down. That means all of your to-do items, work projects, housework tasks, texts to return, “wouldn’t it be nice if I…” ideas—everything! Even include things you’ve put on hold or are waiting for other people to work on with you. Write it all down.

Let your brain jump around! Don’t worry about going from “return library book” to “figure out new payroll system.” Walk through a typical week in your mind and let your routine trigger you to write down new things. What do you need to do at home? What do you think about on your commute? When you get into the office, what stresses you out that you might be able to change? What do you keep apologizing for not having gotten done?

Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, take a break. Go about your day while add items as they come to you on a notecard or a note taking app. As you go to work, come home, or visit your studio, these locations will trigger your brain into remembering more tasks. Carry the list around for a day or two and add things as they come up, but don’t read or review it.

A list of things in OmniFocus after a brain dump.

Next, it’s time to group your items. Take a look at everything you’ve written down and start to think about what groups make sense for your tasks. You may change these groups over time, so just choose the simplest ones to begin with. Mine include work, podcasts, personal administration, housework, friends/family, and relaxation/hobbies.

Of course, OmniFocus also allows you to assign contexts to your tasks, which is a handy feature that allows users to sort tasks based on where/how you do them. You might have contexts for work vs. home, pen & paper vs. computer, or online vs. offline. My contexts sort my tasks by location (neighborhoods in NYC), states of mind (“detail,” “writing,” “long term planning”), and tools needed (“online,” “phone,” “audio” [reviewing + editing podcasts]).

And… congratulations! You just finished a Brain Dump!

It may initially feel overwhelming to see everything you need and want to do spread out in front of you. But, I promise, you’ll also feel accomplished and in control. Once you understand the full picture of your life, you can start to prioritize and set goals in a smart and informed way.

Good luck!


Amanda is a co-host of several podcasts including Spirits, Join the Party, and Waystation. She’s on Twitter and Medium, and lives here.*

OmniOutliner 5.2 arrives with Omni Automation

by Derek Reiff on November 16, 2017

Yesterday we released an update to OmniOutliner for Mac. It has a few performance and export improvements, but also features a bigger thing: Omni Automation. Omni Automation, you’ll remember, is cross-platform scripting with JavaScript. OmniGraffle arrived with it on both platforms first—Mac and iOS—and OmniOutliner is nearly there; OmniOutliner 3 for iOS is in Public Test, and we’re getting closer to a release!

Check out the OmniOutliner Automation Discourse thread, or join us in our OmniOutliner Slack Workspace to talk automation specifics.

In addition to Word, Powerpoint, and Excel exporting improvements, HTML exports now include inlined PDFs with capable browsers, and we fixed a crash some customers were seeing on Touch Bar MacBook Pros. This release requires macOS v10.12. Full release notes here.

It’s available from the Mac App Store and directly from us.

Sal demonstrating Omni Automation at MacTech conference

by Derek Reiff on November 9, 2017

In this session, Sal will show you Omni Automation — a technology developed by The Omni Group to tackle this problem. Omni Automation delivers dual-platform automation through scripts, plugins, libraries, menus, and user-assigned action triggers. Based on JavaScript Core in WebKit, Omni Automation will ultimately automate all of Omni’s suite of productivity applications for both iOS and macOS with real object-model scripting support rivaling the traditional automation tools of macOS.

There’s a lot of other great talks at MacTech this year that go deep into the system administration side and, of course, scripting and automation. You can still register for the full 3-day conference in Los Angeles.

For those that don’t know, Sal has been providing invaluable advice on our cross-platform automation project for nearly a year now!

The Omni Show Debuts

by Brent Simmons on November 8, 2017

Our new podcast The Omni Show begins with two episodes: an interview with Kristina Sontag, Omni’s Test Manager, and an interview with Curt Clifton, OmniFocus engineer.

The Omni Show’s tag line is “Get to know the people and stories behind Omni’s award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS.” It will be interviews, mostly, since we have such a great group of people. From time to time — after an Apple event, for instance — we might produce a roundtable or other kind of special.

Your host is Brent Simmons, engineer at Omni and podcast veteran, whose experience means he can tell a microphone from a pizza, which makes him eminently qualified (though somewhat hungry for pizza).

We aim to keep episodes around half-an-hour or shorter, with no commercial interruptions, and we plan to publish every two weeks, though not strictly.

You can find The Omni Show on Twitter @theomnishow. Let us know what you think!

Testing Begins for OmniOutliner 3 for iOS

by Derek Reiff on November 3, 2017

Yesterday, we put OmniOutliner 3 for iOS in Public Test. We’ve spent a lot of time getting it to this point, and we’re looking for feedback specifically about new Pro features.

This is a major upgrade for OmniOutliner for iOS, and while the final version will have a focus on simplicity—3 will be the first version to include Essentials for iOS—right now we’re finishing up work on the Pro feature set.

So what’s new in 3? Omni Automation is the biggest addition: cross-platform scripting, using JavaScript, to automate nearly everything in OmniOutliner for iOS. If you’re familiar with the language and could stand to automate common tasks, try writing a script! Sal Soghoian’s website gives a great overview, and OmniOutliner provides an in-app API reference.

This version also includes support for Drag and Drop, encrypting documents with a password, a brand new implementation of our sidebar and inspectors (with major work ongoing for the filtering tab of the sidebar), row focus, section lists, printing, and PDF support.

Check out our signup page to learn about the latest features.

Putting OmniOutliner 3 through your paces

So what are we looking for input on?

  • How’s Pro working, on your iPad and iPhone, as your central repository for how you outline, write, and manage your ideas?
  • What doesn’t it have that you think it should?
  • How’s it working with your keyboard, your shortcuts, and everything that you’ve come to expect from the Mac?

Submitting Feedback: Use the Send Feedback button under the Document Browser’s Gear Menu. Or, say something on Twitter, via an email here, or talk about it on Discourse. (Or join our Slack Workspace! It’s brand new.)