My Task Management Crisis

It started a few weeks ago. I don’t remember all the details. All I know is in the middle of a conversation where I was attempting to talk Robby into switching from OmniFocus to Things for task management, he somehow convinced me to give OmniFocus 3 a go.

The main thing I was interested in was OmniFocus’s ability to process TaskPaper input which allows easy templates to be made. Things can do something similar with JSON data, but it’s not nearly as user friendly to write.

In OmniFocus 3, the ability to always show tasks with a certain tag in Forecast view was added which meant items didn’t have to be marked as due on a certain day to be visible in that day’s forecast. I used Things’s Today view this way, so it was nice to see this capability in OmniFocus.

I spent a few weeks using OmniFocus, and finally decided to go with OmniFocus full time

Less than 24 hours after publishing the above post, I realized something. I was more stressed and overwhelmed at work than I had been in a long time. I felt like I was struggling to remember what I needed to do. I realized, to borrow a phrase from GTD, I wasn’t capturing my tasks into a trusted system because I didn’t trust OmniFocus.

I wasn’t sure of the correct syntax for adding a task via Siri. My system was also so dependent on tags and perspectives surfacing tasks I would need to see I didn’t feel comfortable adding tasks without taking time to tag.

I’m sure there are better ways to use OmniFocus, and some of this was my own preconceived notions and misunderstandings. But the fact of the matter is the system wasn’t working for me to relieve stress and help me keep up with tasks because I didn’t trust it.

This realization came right as iOS 12 was released to the public and apps were updating to include new features. With Things still installed on my devices, I noticed the update included really interesting Siri Shortcuts support.

In Things 3.7 you can create a task template and add it to Siri. It can automatically fill in the project, tags, and due dates for you all with one command. It can even use the clipboard as a variable to allow you to input certain pieces of the template every time.

This definitely helps with the template issue I mentioned earlier.

So I’m back in Things full time, and have never loved it more.

My time in OmniFocus wasn’t a complete waste though. After using a lot of tags to create custom perspectives, I realized ways I could be better utilizing tags in Things.

One of the perspectives Robby showed me while trying to indoctrinate me into OmniFocus was his Priority view. It showed items from the Forecast view which had been flagged so he could have a list of things that must be completed that day, and those that could be.

I really liked this idea, and have now recreated it in Things with a Priority tag. Now I can open the Today view and filter by that tag and only see my priority items.

Even better, I have created a custom Siri Shortcut I can use to open that exact view. So at the start of my planning period every day, I say “Hey Siri, show my Priority list,” and then get to work.

Things isn’t perfect. No task manager is. I definitely miss some of the features of OmniFocus. But with it’s balance of power and simplicity, it’s the right choice for me.

The Class Nerd @theclassnerd