07 Jan How a productivity app helped clear my mind so that I can run a business.
In running SwipeStation, I have to not only keep on top of what I’m doing but everyone else too. I run three teams, each one with different objectives and different regular meetings. There are many spinning plates on many different sized sticks and in a startup, there’s no where to hide when even one comes crashing down.
As they say, ‘a workman is only as good as his tools’ and in this respect I have tried to optimize my digital armoury as much as possible in order to be as effective as possible in capturing and achieving tasks. I tried numerous productivity management tools out, from Google Tasks to BaseCamp, Trello to WunderList and even some medieval pen and paper. None of which I could make stick.
Finally after much trial and error I landed on the undisputed heavyweight champion of the productivity world, OmniFocus2.
As I need to oversee various teams, I use the OmniFocus Project tool to segment by department (sales, marketing, accounts, tech, admin) and with each task add a context which is where things get really interesting.
Contexts add a whole new angle to your task management enabling you to drill down into detail through the natural way your brain logs tasks. For me, by leveraging contexts I can keep a watchful eye over other peoples To-Do lists with scary ease, deferring it out of my day but reminding me when I need it.
Let me explain;
I’m waiting on a Sales Report from my Commercial Director. Quick entry straight to OmniFocus and punch out a detailed title (this is important for searching later) with the relevant name or team. Then add the context, ‘Waiting On’ and defer until when you need it.
This achieves two things. Next time I meet with the Sales team, I can search their name/team within the Waiting On context and quickly see what I’m waiting on in relation to which project (often naturally creating the agendas for meetings). And two, also acting as a reminder when these tasks are due to help ensure your core dependencies are delivered on time.
Other typical uses of contexts are ‘Phone’ or ‘At Home’, allowing you to quickly drill down to the jobs you can do first depending on your location. (So if I want to book a two hour slot of phone calls I need to make, I can switch context to see my agenda all there.) Once I add names of staff I’m waiting on I can quickly and easily chase them up next time we’re in a catchup. So between us, we never miss a beat.
Once everything is captured, I live day to day in the Forecast tab — deferring tasks around and only setting due dates when I have to. This way you’ll really listen to an alert when you get it.
As well as that functionality, OmniFocus is also natively embedded in Mac these days so a keyboard shortcut can bring up a quick entry dialog wherever I am and even link off from an email (we use Gmail for Business apps) so this works really well. MailDrop is also a great way to get emails from anywhere into your OmniFocus inbox so next time you’re online it’s their for you to categorise and clear down any pesky tasks floating round your mind.
Lastly, worth mentioning is the app for iPhone which integrates with Siri. So, when I’m driving and things spring to me, as they often do, I let Siri know and the reminder populates to my OmniFocus inbox so the task is waiting for me to add a project, date and context on when it’s next convenient.
The essential things with kit like this is that it’s your one-stop shop otherwise it will never stick. Get it on all devices and use it for everything — from life admin like booking the dentist to films you need watch, books you need to read, gifts you’ve seen for people, food shopping, DIY projects the lot.
As long as everything is captured and then ready to be pigeon-holed, I’ve found you can sleep easy knowing that somewhere along the line, OmniFocus has your back.