capture everything: tasks

January 28, 2008 | 5 Comments

This is part 2 of 5 in a series on capturing everything. Other entries:

My mind rarely seems to stick to one thing very well. Dang, this coffee is good. I need to work this Coldplay album back into my rotation. My foot is falling asleep. I wonder whatever happened to that ventriloquist dummy I had as a kid.

See what I mean?

When it comes to capturing everything, I want it to be quick and painless. When I’m trying to focus on a project, I just accept that at times, my mind is going to wander, and often to a task I need to remember…and then it will just drain mental energy. When that happens, I want to be able to get it noted and then forgotten about in the shortest time possible. Having a quick and reliable system allows me to recapture my focus with the least amount of effort and give my brain the space to get back to being creative.

OmniFocus is my task manager because it is ridiculously versatile in the ways I can get my tasks tucked away for future reference. Here are a few examples of how I can quickly add something to my task inbox:

OmniFocus has built in integration with Quicksilver. Using Quicksilver, I can add a task to my OmniFocus inbox without ever leaving what I am working on. All I have to do is type -space to activate the Quicksilver window, type a period followed by the task I need to do, tab over and hit ‘S’ for Send to OmniFocus, and then hit enter. It’s only five keystrokes, plus typing the task to remember. Then, I’m done and back to whatever I was working on. The task is now off my mind and patiently waiting in my OmniFocus inbox while I’m back to creating. Here’s a peek at the simple Quicksilver window that pops up:

I also try to keep my inbox at zero by converting email messages that require a thoughtful response into tasks. A simple (and free!) little script known as Mail Act-on, combined with a few mail rules, allows me to rapidly convert an email message into a task to be completed when the time is right. The rule looks like this:


Hitting ‘/-i’ in Mail activates a third-party script that I downloaded to create a task out of a mail message. After I activate the inbox rule, a simple little screen pops up that will let me assign the message a project, context and dates if I desire, so I don’t even have to see it in my task inbox:

The rule that is pictured above also moves my message out of my mail inbox and off my mind. Thanks to the wonders of gmail, I don’t archive any email on my machine. But, because OmniFocus will link back to a message when I’m ready to reply, the rule also moves the message out of my inbox and into a local archive so it is available to me when I’m ready to reply. All I have to do is click the link that is attached to my OmniFocus task and the email pops back up, ready for a response.

If you are a Mac user, I hope these tips can be immediately useful for you. Some of these tricks work not only with OmniFocus, but with other GTD apps like iGTD and Things. If you are a Windows user, I hope this can inspire you to research similar techniques. (And if you are a Windows user who has some techniques to share, please contact me if you’d be willing to do a guest post.)

Next up in this series…capturing thoughts. Until then, happy capturing!

  • good stuff John. i’m personally diggin Actiontastic for the Mac. it’s free and has a Quicksilver plugin and interfaces with Mail.app as well. not as slick, functional, or pretty (very important) but for the time being, the price is right.

  • matt spiel

    Hey John, I have been trying to figure out how you integrated OmniFocus with quicksilver… was it a separate plug in? The comman followed by period isnt doing it for me…

    Also, where did you get that sleek looking skin (the black one… top picture) for the quicksilver interface?

  • John

    Matt,
    Good questions.

    In Quicksilver, when you tab over to the second box and start typing “send…” does “Send to OmniFocus” not show up? I don’t have a plugin for quicksilver, but there is a “Send to OmniFocus” script in my /library/application support/quicksilver/actions folder. I don’t remember installing it there…I think OmniFocus did it automatically. Let me know if you don’t have it…I can send it to you.

    The Quicksilver interface was designed to showcase some Leopard features, so it requires Leopard. It comes from here: http://www.mygnu.com/julius/proj_qs.html

  • John

    Just an update for those who are finding this page from search engines…

    My comment above is inaccurate. The Send to OmniFocus script was downloaded from a third party, and I have updated that information in the original blog entry.

  • Okay, there is a MUCH more efficient way to use Quicksilver to send a new task to OmniFocus! Here’s what you do: Set up a new trigger in Quicksilver, and make it do Send to Omnifocus.scpt, Process Text…, then leave the last field blank. Now set up a keystroke for this trigger.

    Now, instead of -space to activate the Quicksilver window, typing a period followed by the task, tab over and hit ‘S’ for Send to OmniFocus, and hitting enter, you can just hit your trigger, type the task, then hit enter. Much easier, don’t you think?

    Andys last blog post..1943–2008