OmniFocus as an Idea Trap

OmniFocus is a task planner and manager to devote an entire book to. In this post I will not try to grasp the immensity, but will only tell you how OmniFocus helps me personally catch and organize ideas and why its competitors, like Things, Firetask, Wunderlist, etc. are not suitable for this.

This article will not only be of interest to anyone trying to justify buying OmniFocus, but to anyone looking for ideas and inspiration in other people’s workflows.

OmniFocus versions

This planner came to my attention after the release of OmniFocus for iPad. It is interesting because it is designed specifically for the tablet, has a number of unique features and a very user-friendly interface that makes OmniFocus easier to get started with. The program turned out great. If you start to get acquainted with the OmniFocus family, now it is better to do it with it. True, the price is biting – 9.99.

Download OmniFocus: for mac / iPhone and iPad.

Which OmniFocus is Better

If I had to choose, I would be the first to buy OmniFocus for iPad. With its help, it is most convenient to process tasks and no less convenient to enter them there. Personally, this is the most used version for me, but of course it all depends on your goals and preferences.

If you like how OmniFocus works, then the Mac version is the next one to buy. Besides the obvious benefits, the Mac version is a real boon for advanced users. Just worth the plugin for Mail.app, which can automatically create tasks from incoming emails. Hosting bills, domains, services, etc. can automatically send to OmniFocus without cluttering your Inbox on your mobile devices.

As for the version for iPhone, it would be logical to use it to enter new tasks. Personally, it hasn’t caught on with me, and I add new tasks to OmniFocus using other programs and the Mail Drop service, which is described below.

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OmniFocus as an Idea Trap

Each has its own model for working with the scheduler. If you’re close to your computer all the time, then OmniFocus for Mac, or a simple free equivalent, can satisfy the most discerning GTD guy. But, in my case, fixing tasks and ideas is done on the go and in a wide variety of situations, for which it is more convenient for me to use the iPhone (adding tasks) and iPad (adding and processing).

Since the iPhone is always with me, it is perfectly suited to the role of a trap for an idea – a place where I quickly put all interesting thoughts, periodically review them and turn the best ones into tasks.

How the trap works

If something worthwhile comes to mind, I pick up my iPhone, launch the free Squarespace Note editor, and immediately start writing.

As soon as the idea is captured, I swipe up and down with my finger and it is automatically sent to the special mailbox that OmniFocus generates for you (Mail Drop function). You can configure it in the Sync Server control panel.

In the Sync Server settings, you can manage Mail Drop email addresses
The OmniFocus mail server processes the message and adds it to the database, from where the task goes into its Inbox on Mac, iPhone and iPad.

To make it easier to distinguish new ideas in Inbox from other posts, I’ve set up Squarespace to add the “Idea:” prefix to the issue title.

The advantage of this editor is that it takes a minimum of steps to create a note and turn it into a task, which is vital for your trap to actually work. Aside from typing tapes, Squarespace sends a note to OmniFocus with just one stroke.

Plus, with Squarespace Note, you don’t need OmniFocus for iPhone itself, as tasks are added via simple email messages.

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Great, isn’t it? As far as I know, other schedulers do not have this capability, which means that to capture ideas, you have to start the client itself and deal with its interface. And if on Mac the window for quickly entering a new task always hangs on some shortcut, then clients for iOS cannot do such tricks.

If you have an iPhone or iPad client and want even more flexibility, install Drafts (iPhone and iPad versions sold separately). This editor works in a similar way to Squarespace: you also just open it and start typing, without the distraction of creating a new document, its name and other tinsel.

The only differences between Squarespace and Drafts are that the export of the final text to other services and programs can be very fine-tuned. Drafts can not only mail notes to the Mail Drop server, but also directly add tasks to OmniFocus via technical links (iOS URL Scheme).

At a minimum, Drafts is interesting because it can organize several options for adding tasks via Mail Drop, while Squarespace has only one outgoing email template (the one with the “Idea:” prefix in the header).

As a net for ideas, Squarespace is closer to me, it’s simpler and free. As for Drafts, I will soon devote a separate material to it.

A little more about Mail Drop

But back to the OmniFocus mail server. The beauty of Mail Drop is that the ability to share something by mail is in almost every program and in iOS itself. This means that you can turn almost anything you want into a task.

For example, if I find interesting applications in the App Store, then I just tap the share button and send the generated letter to my Mail Drop address. Moments later, a task appears in OmniFocus’s Inbox with a subject heading (something like “Get Replenishment at Reduce”), and the comments contain a link to the App Store.

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Previously, I had to manually copy and paste titles and links, or send them to myself in the mail, which only made a mess and did not help in any way. It’s hard to convey how OmniFocus’s Mail Drop makes it easy to collect small tasks and free up time for interesting things.

It is equally easy to create tasks from regular mail messages. Just send it to Mail Drop and it will be in OmniFocus, with all attachments (!). A great opportunity, especially for practicing the Zero Inbox technique.

Treatment

After the ideas start to be caught, it is important not to forget about their processing. A written thought is fine, of course, but it is worth nothing until it is turned into a real task with goals and deadlines.

Since most of the new entries are sent to the Inbox folder, it is with its processing that I start a new working day. As I said, I prefer to handle tasks on iPad mini.

I go through all the ideas again, put them in order (often due to input on the go, they are poorly formatted and with autocorrect surprises) and put them in a separate Idea project. Then I move on to this project and start making new tasks out of the selected ideas.

In conclusion

As you can see, in the right hands, Mail Drop can work wonders. It gives OmniFocus users the subtle benefit of being able to create tasks using an iPhone or iPad, even without the client itself. If you grasp its principle, then you can easily adapt my method to your workflow. Well, in the next article I will tell you how this scheduler works with Mail.app and how it can be useful for home server owners.

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