Switching from Things to Omnifocus

I’ve been using Omnifocus for a little over 2 months now I believe, so I think it’s time for some details about my journey from Things to Omnifocus.

Let me start off by saying I tried both Things and Omnifocus at some point in the past and both got either uninstalled or stored away in the depths of the Applications folder for quite some time before I ever really used them. Omnifocus has a high initial learning curve which puts off many users including myself initially and truthfully I hadn’t gotten into task management enough to need it’s features or use it to it’s full potential. Things, on the other hand, is much simpler, loosely based on GTD, and looks pretty good too. As a newbie to GTD and a fan of well-designed apps, it’s no surprise that I found myself using Things.

Things is a beautiful app on the Mac {a bit dated on iOS right now until they release version 3 though.} I didn’t jump right into using Things. Instead I found myself gradually putting more and more into it – chores, tasks that repeated at intervals I was bound to forget, school assignments, etc. – until eventually it became habit for me to put everything into Things. You can read more about my early set up of Things here. As I began to use Things more, I began to readjust my system. Then came the day that I realized I trusted Things and Google Calendar enough to abandon my Filofax all together.

Sadly there came a time where no amount of readjustment to things would have solved my gripes with the app. I simply wanted more than it offered. Around that time, I discovered Mac Power Users, an amazing podcast that I listen to regularly each week. David Sparks, one of it’s co-hosts, is a huge Omnifocus advocate, and the more I listened to the MPU podcast, the more interested I got in revisiting Omnifocus.

Off I went to redownload the trial, but once again, I was immediately put off by the complicated interface. This time I perservered though. I knew Omnifocus had features I wanted that Things didn’t have like time-based or even location based tasks, and if “Mac Power Users” could figure it out, so could I. I watched a bunch of videos, read a ton of blog posts, and even read a few books, and Omnifocus finally clicked.

It took some time, and as with most Omnifocus users, I’m still tinkering {us digital planner people mess with our set ups as much as paper planner folks do if not more!}, but I couldn’t be happier I switched to Omnifocus. I’m currently in the test group for Omnifocus 2 which I’m incredibly excited about. Omnigroup plans to release version 2 in June.

I couldn’t possibly cover everything Omnifocus in one post, so I’m going to be breaking my Omnifocus journey up into a few posts that will hopefully include what I like about Things vs. Omnifocus, how I’m using Omnifocus {contexts, projects, and perspectives}, and some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about my journey from Things to Omnifocus.

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Going Paperless in 2014

As part of my goal to simplify in 2014, I decided to clean up my paper storage. Granted, at 23, I don’t really have that much, but I grew up in a house where as soon as you got a car, gadget, or pet, you started a binder or at least a file and that’s where everything and anything about that item went. With 3 cats, a car, and being the gadget lover I am, that’s a lot of binders and binders take up a LOT of space. More importantly, I have a bad habit of throwing things inside the binder/file with no regard to having to find it easily later, and that’s if they even get to the binders in the first place.

This of course, led me to my first simplifying project of 2014 – going paperless.

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First step – Go through the paper.

I went through everything quickly. Product manuals can usually be found online these days so no sense in keeping them. I set them aside and went online later to find PDF copies. Once I found them online, I tossed the originals. As I was going through papers, I found I kept a lot of things that I didn’t really need like packing receipts for Apple products when I had the actual receipt saved already. I even found an old newspaper clipping of the ad for the people we got Abu from. {He’s nearly 10 now, so I doubt that’s necessary.}

Second step – Decide how I want to store them.

I highly recommend doing this BEFORE you start messing with scanning everything. I started with Evernote, and later realized I didn’t care for how difficult Evernote made it to export multiple PDFs at once. Moreover, I never bothered to name my scans anything useful, so after spending an hour and a half moving things back out of Evernote, I had to rename them as well. Lesson learned.

I read David Spark’s Paperless Field Guide, and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s thinking about going paperless. He discusses a lot of things like file naming conventions, tools, storage options, and workflows that I never would have even thought of. Plus it’s loaded with screencasts.

In the end, I decided to adopt a folder based system rather than using some sort of software. David Spark’s file naming conventions were also really helpful, e.g. if I were to save an invoice for a vet appointment Chase had today, I’d name the file 2014–01–07 vet invoice chase. {Note: I’m not normally one to not use title case, but it really is nice to not have to worry about what should or shouldn’t be capitalized, and the goal of this really is to make things simple.} End result: I can quickly see files sorted by date AND name at once. Using the pets as an example, this was really helpful in seeing when they switched vets or had visits to the emergency animal hospital because they stood out. I can also see which animal(s) the receipt is for.

Third step – Get a scanner.

We’ve always had a scanner in our house whether it be part of a multi-function printer or a standalone printer. Either way, they were always a flat bed scanner {Great for pictures; not so great for scanning buttloads of documents.} I originally had my eye on a Doxie Go {which I may still get one day for quick scanning}, but when it comes to going paperless, you really do need a scanner with a document feeder. I know Fujitsu’s ScanSnap line is what everyone raves about and in a perfect world with unlimited resources I’d have gone with a ScanSnap iX500, but I actually got fantastic deal on a Canon P–215 for under $180. {I’m a Canon fan anyway so this was a no-brainer.} Even better, it’s small, so I can pop it in my bag or throw it in a drawer. If I’m honest, it’ll probably live on my desk though.

Fourth step – Start scanning.

My scanner is scheduled to arrive today. {Hopefully… It was originally supposed to be here yesterday.} Once it arrives, you can bet I’ll be scanning things left and right.

Fifth step – Develop a workflow.

In order for this whole “going paperless” thing to work, it really needs to become part of my daily routine. When I get home, mail needs to be sorted; junk needs to be trashed; things need to get shredded, and important things need to get scanned – immediately, no questions asked. Piles tend to turn into overflowing mounds quickly in my house.

Another thing I plan on leveraging is Hazel. Hazel’s been one of those things I’ve had on my Mac, but honestly never really found a use for. As part of simplifying, I’ve really been trying to be more mindful of the things I do on a regular basis. If I’m consistently renaming a file and moving it to another place, why not let Hazel do it for me. It’ll be like having my own personal secretary to file away papers for me. How cool is that?

So that’s project #1 for simplifying 2014. I’ll be back with updates on how this is working for me, things I’ve learned along the way, and any tips and tricks I discover.

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