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OmniFocus 2 For the Mac: GTD at it’s Best


At the Daily Mac View we’ve covered GTD and programs designed to support GTD (it is assumed that GTD is understood for the purposes of this article). In a recent article by Alain Latour titled “IS DAVID ALLEN’S GTD TOO COMPLEX?” he discussed how GTD can be either interpreted to be complex or implemented in an overly complex fashion defeating the intended purpose of the methodology.

At the outset this article will start with the premise that GTD, when implemented appropriately, is not complex. It supports you in your efforts to organize things, save time and reduce stress. You will Get things Done.

OmniFocus as the Most pure of the GTD Programs

GTD can be as complex as you’d like to make it or hopefully, implemented properly, it will prove helpful and thus simple. With the development of GTD came numerous software task management programs intended to support the model. Of those, some are more pure to the model and some are loose in terms of their interpretation and implementation.

Although there are many programs that you can choose from to support your efforts to Get Things Done there are really a few key programs that are both the best and the most well known. They are:

  • OmniFocus
  • Things
  • The Hit List
  • Taskpaper
  • Firetask

and then there are programs such as:

  • Todo
  • 2do
  • etc

the latter of which are really very loosely considered GTD programs if even that.

Of all these programs listed though, OmniFocus is considered the most pure of the GTD programs. If you want a program that adheres as closely to David Allen’s GTD as you can get then OmniFocus would be your choice.

OmniFocus as the Most Complex

Not only is OmniFocus, as we know it, considered the most pure of the GTD programs it is considered the most complex. Add to that, people can make the program incredibly complex to the point where they’re accomplishing nothing other than creating projects and tasks.

OmniFocus 1 for the Mac though lives up to this reputation as a program that is very complicated. It is a dated and unintuitive. It seemed you either liked (I can’t imagine anyone loving the program) or you hated it. I fell definitively into the latter category.

To Make Matters worse…

OmniFocus 1 does not have to be excessively complex but you can still more than dislike it. The problem many users have is they take David Allen’s GTD to the extreme and creating a multitude of tasks and projects to the point where nothing does get done. You could easily find yourself paralyzed just looking at your lists of activities to do.

In essence, if people sort of remained reasonable even around such a complex program they would have had a different outcome. There’s a lot you don’t need to do with your program to remain productive by just by ignoring a lot of functions. The result of this has been a view that the model is too complex and unhelpful. People will just give up at this point swearing the model to be more than just useless. Really, at the end of day, reason must prevail entailing a very different outcome and viewpoint.

OmniFocus 2 Is Excellent

If there are pitfalls in OmniFocus 1 because a user wants to overuse function and this is carried over to OmniFocus 2 then there’s going to be a problem from the get go. However, putting that aside, the new program OmniFocus 2 is excellent. It is feature rich but it is a modern, easy to understand program that is both pleasant to use and delight to look at it.

OmniFocus 2, used in the right way, lends itself to expand the OmniFocus line in a consistent and logical fashion. All the core principles of the OmniFocus line are fully in tact in OmniFocus 2. The data architecture of OmniFocus is superb and it lends itself to consistent data transparency and sync across the product line regardless of how product looks.

OmniFocus 2 is Modern, Fresh and Approachable

The best aspects of OmniFocus 2 can be summed up by saying it is:

  • Fresh
  • Modern
  • Approachable

The first two aspects of this simply means the product looks great. The third aspect is the most important. Since OmniFocus 1 was so dated and complex it wasn’t easy to approach and figure how to use it at all. OmniFocus 2 is just the opposite. It’s a great looking program and a delight to use. Add to this that it is something that you simply want to use.

OmniFocus 2 Blends In and Fills the Product Line Ideally

There are many things about using a computer that can make it a bit of a jarring experience but one of the worst things is when there is a product suite on OSX and IOS and every program is different. That is, when a product has a suite of products that span the Mac, iPhone and iPad, and what is referred to as the User Interface between products is inconsistent this makes the product difficult to learn and use.

In GTD, there is another principle and that is of flow. Things should flow as gracefully as possible from one thing to another. It just increases productivity simply due to the way we learn and then follow through. With the new OmniFocus 2 for the Mac the product line is beginning to look very consistent. OmniFocus 2 for the iPhone and the Mac are looking the most consistent. However, even the iPad, regardless of its vintage, is not as inconsistent as things were when OmniFocus 1 was around.

The iPad

That then brings us to the iPad, the one product in the line that is working under older UI principles. Regardless, since it was built so well and OmniFocus’ data architecture is so robust, the product remains a great product to use.

However, I’ve been told by the Omnigroup that this product will be refreshed along the lines of the other two products. This will then produce a perfectly consistent suite, something which is hard to do more due to the nature of IOS than that of OSX.

The GTD Program that can Provide Productivity without Complexity

I can easily say that OmniFocus remains the most true of the programs to the principles of GTD. It now is probably the nicest of the programs to use also providing a great deal of function and flexibility. My one caveat here and it is nothing to do with OmniFocus but because it is so powerful it could lend itself well to unnecessary tinkering and literally a scenario in which all you’re doing is creating tasks and projects. No matter whether you know David Allen’s theory of Getting Things Done it stands to reason that if all you’re doing is the aforementioned you’re not going to get anything done.

Yet the new OmniFocus 2 will lend itself incredibly well to being an assist in Getting Things Done. It’s an excellent program with the right mix of features plus flexibility to allow you to work the way you want.

Use what you need and only what you need in your GTD efforts and try to avoid the overuse scenario. You’ll find that GTD and no program can make you the perfectly performing machine. However, with that said, both an understanding of GTD and the use of a program such as OmniFocus 2 will help remarkably in your efforts to be more productive and less stressed. That will naturally lead to a sense of control by being organized, managing activities and Getting Things Done. You should then find you have more time to invest as you want in either more work or leisure pursuits.

GTD doesn’t happen overnight and David Allen himself talks about falling off the wagon. However, overall its impact can be significant. OmniFocus 2 can finally join the ranks of an acceptable Mac productivity program. Further, it substantially improves the OmniFocus line to the degree the you definitely feel like you’re working with a product suite.

Since it is a delight to use it is easier and far more approachable in just working with the program, by using the program you will definitely notice a real difference in outcomes. I use what I need of OmniFocus and only what I need. My perfection with the program is not in every little tweak I can make or new function I can learn. It is in the doing with the program so that it is assisting and guiding me not controlling me that the results are positive. As such, it and GTD work well for me.

I like everyone will fall off the proverbial wagon. It’s inevitable. There will be that moment when so much is coming at you that it’s almost impossible to even record the slightest task let alone what did I just agree to do. The best you can do at this point is pick yourself up, dust yourself off and never get annoyed that you might have fallen off the wagon. By getting going again, you will never fail.

Honestly I couldn’t be more delighted that OmniFocus 2 is out. I worked on the original iteration of the product and it was great. I personally could never stand OmniFocus 1 and thought of it as almost an embarrassment to a company with such a fine reputation in the Mac market. The new iteration of OmniFocus 2 builds on the first yet incorporates more of the Jony Ives minimalistic model he envisions at Apple and that OmniFocus viewed as correct. In this view our content is prime and the interface should recede so the content steps forward unencumbered by the interface. The OmniGroup has done an excellent job with OmniFocus 2 for the Mac meeting the above noted criteria in such a fashion that as long as you let the interface recede so your content is front and center you will find yourself definitely more productive as you Get Things Done.

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