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Battle of the Mac and iOS Productivity Apps: OmniFocus vs. Things 2.0

Battle of the Mac and iOS Productivity Apps: OmniFocus vs. Things 2.0

    If you are someone that likes to Get Things Done on a Mac, (and I do mean that in a GTD type of way) there have been two Mac apps that have been prevalent for most users in the past few years; OmniFocus by The Omni Group and Things by Cultured Code.

    Things sat on the sidelines for the last couple of years because of a lack of good cloud sync, that is, sync that didn’t require you to be by your Mac or on the same network, happened throughout the day as you were checking things off, and kept the Mac, iPad, and iPhone apps in sync. OmniFocus has had reliable sync for sometime through WebDAV and then with the new Omni Sync Server. But, with the release of Things Cloud and then Things 2.0, Cultured Code has proven that Things isn’t dead. But, how does Things 2.0 fair against one of the best, most powerful productivity apps on the Mac even after all its new features? Let’s take a look.

    Structure

    We are going to take a look at each app separately. There is no scoring or anything corny like that. This comes from my experience of using both apps for an extended period of time.

    OmniFocus

    OmniFocus for Mac by the Omni Group is now only $39.99 and can be had through the Mac App Store or the Omni Store. The iPhone app is $19.99 and the iPad app is $19.99.

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    Ease of use

    OmniFocus is not necessarily the easiest app to use, especially at first crack. This is mostly due to its many features and ways that you can customize it. The thing is that once you get over a tiny learning curve (there are a lot of great resources for this) you can create new tasks, outline projects, create powerful perspectives, and slice-and-dice your data easily. It’s worth diving into to get this added functionality.

    The iPad app may be the most straightforward of all of the apps on first use, but don’t let that fool you. You can basically do everything that the Mac app can offer, except create perspectives. In fact, many things on the app iPad especially reviewing your projects are super easy because of Omni’s infamous Review and Forecast modes.

    Features

    If you need a “professional grade” personal productivity app, OmniFocus has the features to cover you. Here are just a few of the features that you get with OmniFocus:

    • Quick add to your “inbox” with just a single tap on the iPad or iPhone and with a nifty user changeable keyboard shortcut on the Mac.
    • Actions can have names, project, context, due and start dates, time estimation, flagged (on or off), and even a note field where you can store links and many other pieces of media like documents, sounds, etc.
    • A free Omni Sync Server that you can use to sync several Macs, iPhones, and iPads (currently syncing three Macs, and iPhone, and an iPad.
    • Intelligent backup features so you don’t lose your data or so you can make a backup of your task and project “library” so you can start over.
    • The iPhone has integration with Siri by adding to your default Reminder list or to an OmniFocus list.
    • Ability to outline hierarchy of Folders, Projects and then groups of tasks (you can even have groups of groups if you want to get really crazy).
    • Powerful Perspective feature allows you to create different “views” of your data based on focus of a specific groups of projects or contexts. You can’t create perspectives on iOS and only context-based perspectives are available as of this writing.
      • An extensive AppleScript API that allows you to basically do everything that you can do via the app.
      • Location-based context creation via the iPad or iPhone apps allow you to lock a GPS location, search parameter, contact address, as well as a notification when you arrive or when you leave.
        Location based contexts
        • Review mode to keep you on top of your projects and deadlines. You can make your project set to review any timespan that you want like every week, month, year, etc.
          OmniFocus Review Mode on Mac
          • Project status of Active, On Hold, Complete, or Canceled.
          • In depth repeat functions of Repeat every day, week, month, etc., start again after a certain time, or even make something due again after a certain time.
          • A extremely geeky and fan-boyish community of people that love them some OmniFocus (that’s a feature, right?).
          • Excellent communication and support from developers and “Support Ninjas.”

          OmniFocus is a powerhouse when it comes to features. It sports pretty much every feature you may want in a productivity app for Mac and iOS.

          Cons

          I love OmniFocus but there are a few issues:

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          • Sync is entirely too slow, especially when you have a large database and attachments. You can rebuild your database, but the sync is still slow.
          • Not easy to use and could have “feature-overload”. OF is a great tool, but it can be extremely overwhelming for a new user.
          • The design needs some work. You can customize the Mac app to your liking, but there is a general blandness and boringness to the design.
          • Only context-based perspectives on the iPad. Also, you have to have a Mac to create perspectives.

          OmniFocus is definitely a staple of Mac productivity applications and is favorited by many, but with let’s see what Things 2.0 has to offer the user and if it can beat out OmniFocus.

          Things

          Things for Mac by Cultured Code is available for $49.99 through the Mac App Store. You can also purchase the iPad version for $19.99 or the iPhone version for $9.99.

          Things 2.0 was released and Things Cloud availability started on August 9th, 2012.

          Ease of use

          Things is a delightfully easy and beautiful app to use. The layout and design invites you to start adding tasks, adding tags, due dates, and assigning those to-dos to projects. Adding tasks is simple on all versions of the app by simply clicking or tapping the new todo button. Assigning due dates and tags to a task is just as simple. After you have added a new task you can fill out the information and the to-do is ready to go.

          Things also has an easy way to add project by clicking or tapping the new project button. Projects can have one flat list of to-dos with separate due dates or an overall due date for the project. Tags in Things makes it easy to assign different categories and “contexts” to your tasks. You can also assign more than one per task which is a nice and powerful touch.

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            Easily add to-dos or projects

            Things also stores your finished to-dos in the Logbook, a chronological list of what you have completed.

            Features

            Things isn’t as featured-laden as OmniFocus, but the features it was are well thought out and useful.

            • Quick add of to-dos via tap of new To-do button on Mac and iOS, or the quick add keyboard combo on Mac.
            • Tasks can be added with a name, due date, tags, notes, and can be made repeating.
            • Projects can be added with a name, due date, tags, and notes.
            • Tags allow you to tag your to-dos and projects in multiple ways so you can view your data in different perspectives. Allows for multiple tag selection on Mac but only one tag on iOS.
              Multiple tag selection
              • Projects can have multiple to-dos associated with them and can have their own due dates.
              • Focus views give you a Today view, Next actions, Scheduled, Someday, and Projects. You can view your tasks that are due or scheduled for a certain day as well as tasks that you may want to do sometime later via Someday.
              • Things Areas are a way to segregate projects and tasks by Areas of your life, or simply by subject. It’s basically another organizational unit outside of projects.
              • Daily Review on Mac and iOS gives you a handy list of tasks that were scheduled to start on the current day. You can then assign them to do today or dismiss them until tomorrow.
                Daily Review on iPhone
                • Extremely fast and reliable sync through Things Cloud. It’s free too.
                • Ability to only see a certain number of tasks for a project in your Next list to help keep you focused.
                See only the to-dos you want
                  • In depth schedule and repeat functions. Can set repeats to almost any daily, weekly, monthly, bi-weekly, yearly, combo that you can think of.
                  • Excellent new scrolling calendar view for adding a due date.
                    Scrolling Calendar

                    Cons

                    Things is so gorgeous that I don’t want to say anything bad about it, but there are some glaring issues.

                    • Inconsistent experience across platforms. Sorting by multiple tags can be done on Mac but not iOS. Adding a Contact to a task can be done on Mac but not iOS. You can’t add repeating to-dos to a project on iOS nor can you convert a to-do to project easily.
                    • Adding projects to a new to-do can be tough when you have a lot of projects because of the lack of smart autocomplete on the project field. You have to choose from a list.
                    • Can only see single to-dos or projects in an Area, not the to-dos that are assigned to a project.
                    • When having multiple projects (25 or more) Things starts to get cluttered under Active Projects. Areas help, but Folders would be more appropriate.
                    • Lack of communication amongst Cultured Code and their customers.

                    Conclusion

                    First things first. Things 2.0 and OmniFocus are both terrific apps that are out there helping people get things done every day, even as you read this. Things has been behind in the last couple of years and with the addition of its stellar Cloud Sync and new Daily Review it has started to bridge the gap in features, but is still behind OmniFocus.

                    Sure, OmniFocus is a very complicated and sometimes difficult app to use, but it has all the features that Things has (aside from some implementation details) and is constantly and consistently being updated which is a killer feature in and of itself. Things 2.0 is good now, but The Omni Group is working on OmniFocus 2.0 and it will assuredly add new features that Culture Code will be behind in once again.

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                    So, the winner?

                    While I would say that I recommend Things for the “novice” GTD and productivity user out there, it wouldn’t make sense to recommend a product on shear ease of use and attractiveness. Things is definitely nice looking and feels light and bubbly to use, but after a new user gets passed the initial phase of getting used to OmniFocus they will find those extra features extremely useful and eventually require them in their workflow.

                    I highly recommend taking the time and energy to learn something a little more complicated that will be useful in more situations and for a longer time. Despite the great improvements to Things 2.0, OmniFocus is still the pick if you want to be king of your productivity.

                    More by this author

                    CM Smith

                    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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                    Last Updated on September 17, 2019

                    How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

                    How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

                    All managers and leaders must master the art of delegation. Understanding how and when to allocate responsibility to others is essential in maintaining a high level of productivity, both on a personal and organizational level. Knowing how to delegate is also essential for an effective leadership.

                    To learn how to delegate is to build a cohesive and effective team who can meet deadlines. Moreover, knowing when and how to delegate work will reduce your workload, thus improving your wellbeing at work and boosting your job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many leaders are unsure how to delegate properly or are hesitant to do so.

                    In this guide, you will discover what delegation really entails, how it benefits your team, and how to delegate work effectively.

                    The Importance of Delegation

                    An effective leader knows how to delegate. When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more on a daily basis. Effective delegation also promotes productivity within a team by drawing on the existing skill set of its members and allowing them to develop new knowledge and competencies along the way. The result is a more flexible team that can share roles when the need arises.[1]

                    When you are willing to delegate, you are promoting an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Your actions send a clear signal: as a leader, you trust your subordinates to achieve desired outcomes. As a result, they will come to think of you as a likeable and efficient leader who respects their skills and needs.

                    Delegation isn’t about barking orders and hoping that your staff falls in line. A manager’s job is to get the very best from those under their supervision and in doing so, maximizing productivity and profit.[2]

                    Here’s an example of bad delegation:

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                      Careful delegation helps to identify and capitalize on the unique strengths and weaknesses of the team members. Delegation also boosts employees’ engagement as it proves that the managers are interested in drawing on their talents.[3]

                      The Fear of Delegating Tasks

                      Delegation boosts productivity, but not all managers are willing or able to delegate.[4] Why? Here’re some common reasons:[5]

                      • They may resent the idea that someone else may get the credit for a project.
                      • They may be willing to delegate in principle but are afraid their team won’t be able to handle an increased degree of responsibility.
                      • They may suspect that their staff is already overworked, and feel reluctant to increase their burden.
                      • They may suspect that it’s simpler and quicker just to do a task themselves.
                      • They dislike the idea of letting go of tasks they enjoy doing.
                      • They fear that if they delegate responsibility, their own manager will conclude that they can’t handle their workload.

                      Delegation vs Allocation

                      Most people think that delegation and allocation are synonymous, but there is an important distinction to be made between the two.[6]

                      When you allocate a task, you are merely instructing a subordinate to carry out a specific action. You tell them what to do, and they do it–it’s that simple. On the other hand, delegation involves transferring some of your own work to another person. They do not just receive a set of instructions. Rather, they are placed in a role that requires that they make decisions and are held accountable for outcomes.[7]

                      How to Delegate Work Effectively (A Step-By-Step Guide)

                      So what’s the best way to delegate work so you can fight the fear of delegation, build an efficient team and work faster? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

                      1. Know When to Delegate

                      By understanding how much control you need to maintain over a situation, you can determine the best strategy for empowering workers. There are 7 levels of delegation that offer workers different degrees of responsibility.

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                      This brief video explains these levels and offers examples of when it’s appropriate to use each one:

                      Delegation occurs along a spectrum. The lowest level of delegation happens when you tell other people what to do. It offers little opportunity for employees to try new approaches. The most empowering form of delegation occurs when you are able to give up most of your control over the project to the employee.

                      Knowing how to delegate work helps you understand how to connect people with tasks that make the best use of their talents. When done properly, it ensures that you will get the best end-result.[8]

                      When you’re deciding how to delegate work, ask the following questions:

                      • Do you have to be in charge of this task, or can someone else pull it off?
                      • Does this require your attention to be successful?
                      • Will this work help an employee develop their skills?
                      • Do you have time to teach someone how to do this job?
                      • Do you expect tasks of this nature to recur in the future?

                      2. Identify the Best Person for the Job

                      You have to pass the torch to the right team member for delegation to work. Your goal is to create a situation in which you, your company, and the employee have a positive experience.

                      Think about team members’ skills, willingness to learn, and their working styles and interests. They’ll be able to carry out the work more effectively if they’re capable, coachable, and interested. When possible, give an employee a chance to play to their strengths.

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                      Inexperienced workers may need more guidance than seasoned veterans. If you don’t have the time to set the newer employee up for success, it’s not fair to delegate to them.

                      You also have to consider how busy your employees are. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone by giving them too many responsibilities.

                      3. Tell and Sell to Get the Member Buy-In

                      After you’ve found the perfect person for the job, you still have to get them to take on the new responsibility. Let them know why you chose them for the job. [9] When you show others that you support their growth, it builds a culture of trust. Employees who see delegated tasks as opportunities are more likely to be invested in the outcome.

                      When you’re working with newer employees, express your willingness to provide ongoing support and feedback. For seasoned employees, take their thoughts and experiences into account.

                      4. Be Clear and Specific About the Work

                      It’s critical to explain to employees why the project is necessary, what you expect of them, and when it’s due.[10] If they know what you expect, they’ll be more likely to deliver.

                      By setting clear expectations, you help them plan how to carry out the task. Set up project milestones so that you can check progress without micromanaging. If your employee has trouble meeting a milestone, they still have time to course correct before the final product is due.

                      This type of accountability is commonly used in universities. If students only know the due date and basic requirements for completing major research papers, they might put off the work until the eleventh hour. Many programs require students to meet with advisers weekly to get guidance, address structure, and work out kinks in their methods in advance of deadlines. These measures set students up to succeed while giving them the space to produce great work.

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                      5. Support Your Employees

                      To see the best possible outcomes of delegating, your subordinates need resources and support from you. Connect them with training and materials to develop skillsets they don’t already have.[11] It may take more time up front to make resources available, but you’ll save time by having the work done correctly. For recurring tasks, this training pays off repeatedly.

                      Sometimes employees need a help to see what they’re doing well and how they can improve. Giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of delegation. This is also a good way to monitor the delegated tasks as a leader. While you can keep track of the progress of the tasks, you are not micro-managing the employees.

                      Throughout the project, periodically ask your employees if they need support or clarification. Make it clear that you trust them to do the work, and you want to create a space for them to ask questions and offer feedback. This feedback will help you refine the way you delegate work.

                      6. Show Your Appreciation

                      During periodic check-ins, recognize any wins that you’ve seen on the project so far. Acknowledge that your employees are making progress toward the objective. The Progress Principle lays out how important it is to celebrate small wins to keep employees motivated.[12] Workers will be more effective and dedicated if they know that you notice their efforts.

                      Recognizing employees when they do well helps them understand the quality of work you expect. It makes them more likely to want to work with you again on future projects.

                      Bottom Line

                      Now that you know exactly what delegation means and the techniques to delegate work efficiently, you are in a great position to streamline your tasks and drive productivity in your team.

                      To delegate is to grant autonomy and authority to someone else, thus lightening your own workload and building a well-rounded, well-utilized team.

                      Delegation might seem complicated or scary, but it gets much easier with time. Start small by delegating a couple of decisions to members of your team over the next week or two.

                      More About Delegation

                      Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

                      Reference

                      [1] BOS Staffing: 5 Benefits Of Delegation – Empower Your Team
                      [2] Brian Tracy International: How to Delegate The Right Tasks To The Right People: Effective Management Skills For Leadership Success
                      [3] MindTools: Successful Delegation: Using The Power Of Other People’s Help
                      [4] Fast Company: The Three Most Common Fears About Delegation: Debunked
                      [5] Leadership Skills Training: Delegation
                      [6] Abhinav Jain: Delegation of work vs Allocation of work
                      [7] Anthony Donovan: Management Training: Delegating Effectively
                      [8] Management 3.0: Practice: Delegation Board
                      [9] Focus: The Creativity and Productivity Blog: A Guide to Delegating Tasks Effectively
                      [10] Inc.: 6 Ways to Delegate More Effectively
                      [11] The Muse: The 10 Rules of Successful Delegation
                      [12] Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: The Progress Principle

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