When you find your To-Do list spreading out of control, and throwing everything into a calendar just turn the future into a unbroken lump of red, then it’s time to reach for something more powerful. OmniFocus can’t pick up your dry cleaning for you. But it can sort your priorities so that you don’t find yourself doing that when you should be meeting with the bank manager or attending to that leaky roof.
OmniFocus is available in there’s distinct versions- for Mac, iPhone and iPad. You can use one without any of the others, and getting the full set is quite pricey (£13,99 for each iOS app, £27.99 for Mac). It’s worth knowing though that if you do use more than one devices, then you can keep the apps in sync via a number of routes, including the Omni Group’s own online service and over your own network. While the Mac version is nowhere near as slick at the iPad version, it does offer a 14-day demo you might want to try even if you plan to get the iPad version, just to get a feel for how the series handles things.
The strength of OmniFocus is that it enables you not just to list tasks but to organise them too. You can start with a basic To-Do list (your inbox), but then you can tag tasks in various ways. Does this task form part of a large Project? Does it belong in a particular Context – Work or Home, for example? Does it go with a definite location (whether it’s the venue for a meeting or the shop that stocks an item on a shopping list)? Once you link a task with a Project. Context or place, you can start to get your life sorted.
Tap and hold, then select Focus to show only those items relevant to particular places or resources. Use the time-based Forecast view to see what’s due in the week ahead (or overdue). Use the Map view to see what’s relevant to your current location or your next stop.
The more you add to OmniFocus, the more you’ll see what a difference it can make – from putting your tasks in context or providing at-a-glance updates to automatically repeating key events. You don’t have to use OmniFocus like this, of course. If you just want lists it’s happy to provide those, too. You’ll soon find that digging a little deeper will make you much more efficient, though, and here’s how to get started doing just that.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT OF CONTEXT
1. Shorting by task > Contexts are essentially categories, with the most basic split being Work/Home. You can get more specific than that, though, with OmniFocus also allowing for context within context Works, for instance, can hold both “meet with boss” and longer, ongoing projects.
2. Sort by person or project > A context can also be an individual person, which could be handy if, for example, you need to discuss several different matters with the same colleague. To bring things together, you can also create “Projects”, grouping all related tasks.
3. Sort by location > Finally, a context can be a place,or simply linked to one, with a map view. If you have a 3G iPad. OmniFocus can use location reminders to ping when, for example, you get close to a shop you’ve tagged as stocking something on your shopping list.
HOW TO BRING YOUR OMNIFOCUS UNDER CONTROL
1. Clear your contexts > OmniFocus creates a few basic contexts to get you started. To get rid of the ones that you don’t want or need, tap the arrow next to Context, followed by the Edit button, and delete any unnecessary ones. Tap the arrows to drill down to specifics.
2. Recreate your life > Still in Context, tap the + sign to create a new one. If you’re looking at a specific Context, the new one will be created as a sub-Context within it, like Work/Birthday Party To create a new main Context, you have to go back to the main list before tapping +.
3. Add a To-Do > OmniFocus is built around its Inbox. Throw a task in when it arises, then categories or sort it only if necessary. From any screen, tap the + sign to create a Quick Entry, give it a name, hit Save, and you’re done. “Phone Bob” for instance is fine without anything else.
4. Fill the Inbox > The Inbox shows a list of what’s waiting. Tap a box to mark them as done, or swipe to the right and tap to delete one. Completed items will vanish automatically from view. If you make a mistake, tap the eye icon and view All to untick them.
5. Drill into tasks > More complex tasks can be configured with a tap. You can assign items to a Context (see opposite), group them under the heading of a Project, or link them with a location. You can also choose whether you want to flag any of them for more direct attention.
6. Assign due dates > Task with set start times and deadlines, or any that repeat on a regular basis, can be set up by tapping Dates. Choose + 1 Day, Week or Month, or a specific time. You can set a start date some time in the future to hide it from the standard view until it’s relevant.
7. Forecast the future > You can’t directly combine Tasks with the iPad Calendar, but you can see events in a weekly view by tapping Forecast. Every day is labelled with the number of tasks, with the bar at the bottom showing events. Tap Future to see beyond the week.
8. Map your tasks > As already mentioned, you can attach items to locations and see everything on a map view. Double-tap a Context from the list and you can set it as your current location, as a contact, or as a specific place. Pins and reminders will be added to the map.
9. Bring it under control > If you’ve added a lot of tasks, things can look overwhelming. There are ways to filter… For example, you can organise your tasks into tap the eye icon and choose Next Action to show only the next thing you have to do.