No matter what line of work you’re in, what your schedule’s like, and what kind of devices you rely on, you need to have a getting things done app on your phone. Getting things done, or GTD for short, is the productivity methodology envisioned by David Allen. In it, he describes the system he created to organize your life and get tasks done. The GTD system is very popular, and there are many iPhone apps built around it. OmniFocus, a personal favorite of mine, is one of these apps. Now like any category of iPhone apps, there are ones that are minimalistic, and there are ones that are hardcore. OmniFocus is probably the most hardcore of them all, and really goes over the top in terms of features and functionality. Let’s take a look at what it has to offer.
When you first open up the app, you’re asked if you’d like to sync your tasks (don’t worry, this can always be changed later in the settings). You have the option to sync with Omni’s free Sync Server, with a MobileMe account, or with your own WebDAV server. You can also choose to not sync at all, and keep everything on your iPhone. That’s cool too. After choosing, OmniFocus recommends doing a mental sweep, which is where you set aside several minutes and try to think of all the tasks you’d like to accomplish, regardless of size or importance, and enter them all into the app. This is a big part of the GTD system, and I believe this should be done every week or so. Once a task is out of your mind an inside the app, you’ll no longer be bothered by it, and you’re one step closer to completing it.
When you add a new task to OmniFocus, it goes into your inbox. Your inbox is where all your tasks that haven’t been assigned projects or contexts are stored (more on those later). Whenever you think of something that needs to get done, stop what you’re doing, and add it to your inbox. This way it will be off your mind, you can always fill in the rest of the details later. If a task is time related, you can set a push notification to remind you at a specified time. Additionally, you can also add a photo or audio file to your task.
OmniFocus provides you with several different ways to sort your tasks. The first is by project. A project is where multiple tasks that all share the same goal are grouped together. For instance, if you were planning a trip to New York, and you had several things that needed to get done in order for this trip to happen, you could name the project ‘Trip to New York’. Then you add in all the relevant tasks, like ‘book airline tickets’, or ‘find a hotel’. Projects are great because at times when you have many tasks in your inbox, they allow you to focus on what’s important without any distractions.
Another way to sort your tasks is by context. Contexts are where the task takes place, like ‘home’, or ‘email’. You can add contexts to a task regardless of whether it’s in a project or not. Contexts are really useful because you can see all of the tasks that need to get done In a particular area. So if let’s say you’re checking your email and you have a few spare minutes, you can get started on your tasks that have the ‘email’ context, without having to manually look for them in your inbox and projects. For me, this has become a deal breaker. I’ve become so reliant on using contexts that I can’t even consider using a GTD app if it doesn’t use them.
When a task is due soon, it changes colors so that you can easily notice it when you check your inbox (you can define what ‘due soon’ means in the settings). While this is helpful, OmniFocus provides a much easier way to not only check what’s due today, but throughout the whole week- the Forecast view. Forecast is like a calendar, it shows you how many tasks are due over a five day period, how many are overdue, and how many are due in the future. When you click on a certain day, it shows you all of that days tasks, and even calendar events. I check the Forecast view every morning, because I prefer seeing what’s coming up over the next several days, not just today (as I assume most of you would too).
There are several other useful features as well, like being able to sort through your tasks by location (as well as being notified when you’re near one), and having a search bar to find specific tasks quickly. You can even add new tasks via Safari and Siri. OmniFocus for iPhone is a fantastic app for getting things done, but theres still one thing that’s probably bothering you: the price tag. At $19.99, OmniFocus isn’t exactly on the cheap side things. There are cheaper alternatives, many of which are even free, but I’m still inclined to say that OmniFocus is worth the money. As great as the alternatives may be, I have yet to find one that’s as feature packed as OmniFocus. If you’ve got the twenty bucks and want to spend it on the best, go with OmniFocus. Besides, isn’t twenty bucks worth eternal peace of mind?