capture everything: tasks

January 28, 2008

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!

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