Mac Power Users 451: Task Management Strategies


Tags – one thing not mentioned and is a danger is not being consistent in naming tags. Even adding an “S” to a word will create a second tag with a similar name (Pet - Pets) making you not remember which word or tag you created and not pulling every item that has the tag you “think” you gave it. It can drive you crazy.


The problem is though that I’m so deep in OmniFocus. I have been a user for about 5-6 years. I started out with David’s videos on OmniFocus and have been using perspectives and everything ever since. I just don’t have that much going on that I need a project-based system. Most of my tasks are individual. However, I do have a few projects and then it’s really nice to be able to set them up really granularly in OmniFocus. I know all the keyboard shortcuts and I’m so familiar with it. So its also a little daunting to start a whole new app although it might be better…


On the comment about “MPU being all about Omnifocus” it really is the Rolls Royce of task managers. So it makes sense for them to talk about it, especially as they use it.

This episode struck a fair balance between the specifics of OmniFocus and general thoughts. I enjoyed it.

But, of course, a few other task managers are nipping at their heels. I expected Omni Group to respond well to the challenges.


You mean overpriced and designed for snob appeal? :rofl:

Seriously, OF has long been the most thorough implementation of GTD on Mac and iOS, it’s popular with people for a reason, and its power derives from the GTD association, but it has had many criticisms, ranging from overcomplexity to missing features to ugliness in looks and clumsiness in UI. There are other task managers out there which compete strongly with it, but not for the GTD set.


Funnily enough, I don’t have an issue with Omnifocus’ complexity - and find it hard to understand why anyone does.


If you come from a project management background you will not find it easy, for others I think it takes some time to adapt from simple task managers that they’ve been using for years.


Neither did Omni at first… until its fora filled with complaints and it saw competitors’ products outselling it, and it realized it needed to make changes and reversals to its product.


I generally try to limit my use of defer dates to situations where I literally can’t do a task right now. Most of the time that tends to make the date I defer something pretty obvious. For example, “I’m not getting back from vacation until the 15th, so I’ll push this off to the 16th” or “the document I need to edit won’t be published until the 1st of the month”.

Where it does get a bit fuzzier is when I’m waiting for someone else to do something that may not have a specific date attached to it. For these “waiting for” tasks I usually just take a guess and if that person hasn’t done what they need to do by then I can defer it again.


GoodTask 3 is built on Reminders and Calendar. I’m testing it now and seems to have some of the extra features without being a full blown OF.


I’m not sure these are reversals, so much as additional capabilities. But I stand to be educated.


I dunno about this statement. Things and OmniFocus, like many other software companies, have usually been playing leapfrog with each other. Things 2 was stagnant for years while OmniFocus 2 made great strides. When Things 3 came out, it garnered a lot of the media spotlight with shiny and new features. OmniGroup just released OmniFocus 3 and a lot of the blogs are focusing on it now. The field will simmer down and both apps will occupy a special niche within the market.

I can’t say anything about Cultured Code because there is no forum or form of communication except for Twitter.

Each app will make changes and offer something unique to the market. Reversals and changes are quite common. A developer releases an app with a certain feature set. Customer feedback is important in determining future direction and new feature implementation.

Things has a nicer iPhone implementation and keyboard shortcuts for the iPad. They also finally got onboard with automation within the last year. They also just got an email to Things feature recently. OmniFocus has had the e-mail to OmniFocus feature and automation for longer. They are also adding a web app version to complement the iOS/Mac apps. Then they’re talking about implementing some sort of task collaboration feature as discussed on their roadmap.

This is called competition. It’s perfectly normal. Each company will respond with different features to distinguish itself from the competition. I like this because it provides a healthy environment for future growth.


I find it a petty that you didn’t even mention 2Do. I know it was a show about strategies, not apps, but OF and things got mentioned a lot and 2Do is just as powerful and belongs in that list.

A question I‘m chewing on right now is: Where is the border between an idea and a task. As a writer I‘ll come up with something like „an article about X“ which I‘d probably put in my task manager to later decide if and how soon I want to do this. But it could also be something like „a character in a story does X“, which would just be an idea and gets into Scrivener. But I have a lot of stuff in 2Do by now that wasn’t more than an idea. And maybe the other way around. How do you differentiate between task and idea?


We’ll also have to include Todoist in the list of the Big Four that are mentioned the most in the blogosphere.

I have an Ideas project that serves as a container. It’s almost like a Someday/Maybe list that I review once a week. Then I’ll move it to the writing app and mark it as complete in the task app. The important aspect is to make sure the inbox item is moved to the correct place - the writing app, the notes app, or elsewhere.


So you even put stuff there that’s more a note than a task?


I take a slightly different approach. I used to store EVERYTHING in my task manager but it got overwhelming looking at stuff that I wasn’t likely to ever do or at least not do soon. So I moved all of my ideas out to Keep It.

I differentiate like this:

  1. Does this item have clearly identifiable steps?
  2. Can I take action on it in the next month?
  3. Do I need to take action on it in the foreseeable future?

If the answer to the first or second question is no then it goes into Keep It.

If the answer to the first question is no but the third question is yes it goes into my task manager.

I have a weekly review that tells me to look at those lists and make sure none of the above has changed on them.


If I know it’s a project idea or a possible task, I dump it into my task manager. If it’s a writing idea or note that I’m still incubating, I usually stick it in Drafts until I’m ready to figure out which app it belongs in. The final destination could be devonthink, Ulysses, word, or another text app.

I might have a writing idea that starts out in OmniFocus. It is more often in the Ideas project. It’s more of a checklist with a defer date to start writing sometime in a particular month.


You’re assuming I was referring to a specific app. I wasn’t. There was a lot of discomfort with the OF2 update, and they rolled back a lot of the changes due to user response, and that affected new sales as well. Moreover, the slowness (or obstinancy) of the devs to not use tags, and to stick with an overly complex UI hurt them as well.

And they realized it, finally.


Wow. Long thread. Just came to post one point about OmniFocus Projects that seems to have been missed. The discussion was centered on whether or not tags were a suitable replacement for projects, and in some small cases, the are – I wanted to point out two meaningful differences for larger, more complex projects:

  • Serial vs. Parallel flows.
  • Task order and “next task”

I’ll have to test out tags to see if they support those, but had to get that off my todo list so i could keep listening to the episode :smiley:


Spoiler for you: tags are parallel, and have no concept of “next” per sae. You can re-order tasks inside a tag, but depending on your view this might not be visible. At least this has been the case in my OmniFocus tag experiments :slight_smile:


#spoileralert :joy: