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Personal Productivity Book Review: “Creating Flow With OmniFocus” by Kourosh Dini

Personal Productivity Book Review: “Creating Flow With OmniFocus” by Kourosh Dini

Disclaimer: I am a Getting Things Done geek which is a productivity system creating by David Allen. This article assumes that you have a clue of what Getting Things Done is. If you don’t, check out David Allen’s site for more information.

    Over the past half a year I have reluctantly adopted using OmniFocus for my personal productivity system and core Getting Things Done implementation. I use the word reluctant because I don’t solely live in an OS X environment. I actually develop on a Windows machine so not having the OmniFocus client on my main machine has made me quite apprehensive in adopting this awesome tool. I figured that since I had my MacBook and iPad though that I could use these to make OmniFocus work in my life.

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    One of the main reasons that I have decided to use OmniFocus as my personal productivity tool is that it does a great job of automating my projects and next actions for me. To get this type of automation OmniFocus is a little difficult to setup and because of that it is hard to explain just how to do it. This is where the new e-book “Creating Flow With OmniFocus” by Kourosh Dini comes in.

    At first blush

    I first heard ramblings of “Creating Flow With OmniFocus” on the Mac Power Users podcasts as well as a few others and was intrigued to find out what it was about. The cost of the book is a hefty $30 but after reading some of Mr. Dini’s articles about implementing OmniFocus, I had a good idea that it was well worth the money.

    The book is huge. Coming in at 551 pages in the PDF version. It is stuffed full of tutorials and screenshots to show you just how to implement some of Dini’s techniques. The book is typeset beautifully and is extremely well written.

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    When I bought the book I was thinking that it was going to be all about implementation because of what Mr. Dini explains on his sales page. But after getting into it I found that this book was about the practical and even spiritual side of the Getting Things Done method. This was something that was welcomed and a bit of a surprise to me.

    What’s inside

    Like I said before this book is full of useful examples and information and Mr. Dini delivers a “full spectrum” solution to implement your productivity system in OmniFocus. Here are just some of the things that you would find inside:

    • Understanding basic principles like project and task handling, certain view modes, hiding tasks, filters and the Inspector, contexts, and the inbox.
    • More advanced project stuff like focusing, outlining projects, quick entry, creating templates, and using repeats and time information.
    • Setting up a “routine maintenance” plan and strategy, creating basic and advance perspectives, and using multiple clients (iPhone and iPad).
    • Advanced principles like implementing a “Core Design”, handling tasks done today, calendar review, dealing with calls and agendas, and even email workflow.
    • More advanced stuff like prioritization, GTD’s “Horizons of Focus”, attention and time.
    • 20 awesome pages that tie up all the loose ends of the system that is implemented throughout the book.

    Yep. There is a ton of stuff in this book and it took me about a week to get through it all. There was a lot of the basic stuff about OmniFocus that I already knew, but going back and looking at it even for the useful keyboard shortcuts was worth the time.

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    A few qualms

    If you are looking for a simplified approach to using OminFocus this book may not be the best choice. There is a lot to setting up the system that Mr. Dini entails and if you are happy with using simple projects and context of OmniFocus, the manual that ships with OmniFocus coupled with Don McCallister’s excellent tutorial videos from ScreenCasts Online will do the trick.

    Is it worth it?

      In one word?

      Absolutely.

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      This is by far the greatest tutorial on a piece of productivity software that I have ever laid eyes on. It’s concise and straightforward and it shows you just how to make OmniFocus become the most powerful GTD client on any operating system.

      After applying just 10% of what this book offers you will gain a much better understanding of how OmniFocus can support a variety of productivity system implementations and can help you automate your next actions on projects more effectively.

      Not only do you get practical advice in this book about setting up OmniFocus, Mr. Dini offers some excellent advice about productivity and creativity as well. In fact, some of his writings on the understanding of what David Allen means by a “trusted system” and making time for creative actions is the best that I have read.

      So, if you are an OmniFocus user and you have a portion of uber-geek in you, I highly suggest picking up “Creating Flow With OmniFocus” by Kourosh Dini.

      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 February 15, 2019

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

      Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

      Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

      So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

      Joe’s Goals

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        Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

        Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

        Daytum

          Daytum

          is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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          Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

          Excel or Numbers

            If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

            What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

            Evernote

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              I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

              Evernote is free with a premium version available.

              Access or Bento

                If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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                You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                Conclusion

                I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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