The following is a review of the website WorkingwithOmniFocus.com and the videos there. I received a complimentary copy of the product in order to write the review.
Joe Buhlig has been a solid voice in the OmniFocus and productivity community. He has been blogging regularly, has started a podcast, and has written an ebook on OmniFocus. Now, Buhlig has now transitioned the ebook into a series of online videos.
In short, Working with OmniFocus is an excellent online course to learn and enhance your use of OmniFocus.
The material is well done. He begins with a systematic examination of every component, starting with preferences. As he does, he describes and gives his own suggestions based on his use. A benefit to this approach is that a viewer can easily target problem areas or questions.
Buhlig’s individual approach really begins to show at “Organizing Projects”. In particular, I liked seeing his folder set up and even his individual template project of publishing blog posts. The latter gives the viewer a good sense of how detailed one can use OmniFocus, particularly for regular projects that could benefit from template conversion.
His presentation of contexts is also well done. He impresses on the viewer the realization that contexts can be approached proactively. They give you a way to go to the work when you are ready, rather than you having to react to it. Having that mindset in place can make a significant difference. He also presents something of a history of approaches to contexts and leads you through his thought process into how he has designed his own.
He notes the importance of pen and paper to his development process which I think is more important than may appear at first glance. The analog world can lend to a very different, (perhaps more organic?) type of creativity. Only depending upon the technological world to do our work of creating and shaping vision for ourselves is problematic, at best. It is useful to adapt our tools to us, rather than constrain ourselves to new and shiny tools.
Buhlig’s personal approach also comes through with his use of custom perspectives. While he uses a Dashboard perspective very similar to my own, how we go about its use is different. For example, he tends to clearly choose which specific tasks he wants to take on, adding them to the Dashboard by flagging. Meanwhile, I lean towards organizing work by regular sessions.
Of course, OmniFocus is a precision instrument. This means that people will find individual uses for it, and that it will take time to develop that use. I doubt that there are any two people who use OmniFocus identically. We can learn by examining how others use it and take that knowledge to adjust and develop our own systems.
As I watched, I would get various ideas for how I could augment and adjust my own system. I learned about some iOS 3D touch tricks as well some neat applescript ideas such as creating a Daily Task Report, which automatically creates a text file listing all of your completed tasks from the day before.
He also uses an interesting method of staggering his weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews that includes some scripting. Having different intervals of reviewing an entire system can be powerful. We can see our goals and interests differently when we attempt to envision them by week, month, or year. Doing so as routine can really help us develop steady momentum. Integrating the OmniFocus review system in this process is something I haven’t tried but I could see as proving beneficial.
Another area of inspiration has been to go through and give my system a serious pruning. Lately, I have had more than enough someday/maybe tasks and on hold projects just hanging around.
Another scripting lesson invokes the auto-parser, which automatically processes some items in the Inbox. For the moment, I don’t have an application for it. I imagine that he will present examples of use in future videos.
The book reading script is interesting. It will calculate how many pages you need to read a day based on the total number of pages and when you would like it completed. The script then lists those as individual tasks with corresponding defer dates.
The website itself is professionally done. Buhlig clearly knows how to put a website together. The access to the various modules is slick with bits of niceties thought through. For example, when you watch a video, you’ll see a marker switch to show that you have seen it. Meanwhile, in the video listing page, a checkmark will appear next to that video. That way you know exactly where you left off. The voice recording quality is solid and consistent throughout. Buhlig speaks clearly and at a good pace—not too fast, not too slow.
Overall, the videos at Working with OmniFocus are well done, and it looks like there are more is coming. The only thing I would warn a user of is that you’ll need to get through the description of the program’s settings and anatomy to eventually get to areas where you’d start building your system. But, I think the same qualifier could be added to just about any course. Likely, you’ll start to really be able to adapt things at the Project section.
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