Post Omnifocus Task Entries to Your Calendar

Sven Fechner has written at least twice on the idea of scheduling tasks.[1. http://simplicitybliss.com/blog/scheduling-tasks-with-omnifocus] [2. http://simplicitybliss.com/blog/scheduling-omnifocus-fantastical2] It’s a good idea, especially when you have some open time on your calendar and want to be at your most effective. Sven is a user of Omnifocus — as am I. In each of Sven’s examples, he writes about dragging and dropping tasks from Omnifocus onto a calendar window. Doing so can give you a calendar item with the right duration and a link back to the Omnifocus task if you use Fantastical. While dragging and dropping is okay for one or two tasks, I prefer using an Applescript for this type of scheduling.

To try it yourself, go to this forum discussion (https://discourse.omnigroup.com/t/how-to-send-a-task-to-ical-apple-script/13239/7) at Omnigroup and go about 2/3 down the page to a post by user “aeryn”. You will find a short Applescript macro there that takes a selected task or a group of selected tasks and creates calendar entries for each of them. The calendar entry will begin on the date and time found in the “Defer Until” field of the Omnifocus task. The calendar entry duration will be based on the “Estimated Time” field of the Omnifocus task. Install the Applescript in usual the location for Omnifocus (if you forgot where that is, then click on the Help menu in Omnifocus and then select “Open Scripts Folder”. I have customized my Omnifocus toolbar so that the Task to Calendar macro is easy to access. You may want to assign a key combination and trigger it that way.

This macro is great because it allows you to schedule a batch of tasks on your calendar with one click rather than dragging and dropping a number of tasks one-at-a-time from Omnifocus to Calendar or Fantastical (if that’s your calendar app of choice).

Forget Productivity. Think, Change and Create Instead.

The moment you ask yourself “How can I be more productive?” you may have asked the wrong question. Forget productivity, time management and better tools. None of those things will help you. You will get sucked into the swill of self-help, activity pathos and self-loathing. It’s not a place worth visiting given our short lives.

Productivity is for corporations and economists.

Get real about yourself and think about how change really happens. Can you really lose 55 pounds in 8 days? Do New Year’s resolutions effect lasting change? Did you accumulate the sum total of your life’s experience by the time you finished kindergarten?

IMG_2875-1

Things take time.

Great ideas, great minds, great bodies, great satisfaction come from commitments that are deeper than passing fancies. What you ultimately need to do is focus on actions and results. Everything worth doing can be done better. And everything done well is the result of considered thought, the exercise of the brain and a determination to practice.

Here’s a question worth asking: “How can I be more effective?”.

What’s the difference between increased effectiveness and increased productivity? Effectiveness is all about success while productivity is all about output. This differentiation is key to understanding yourself and your life. Success is not about how others measure your life after you die; you will not have the ability to care at that point. Success is about how you measure yourself and your contributions to community and the world while you are alive. Success is the true metric for satisfaction and growth. When you have achievable goals that you attain, you can rightly claim success. That gives you a new platform upon which to draw strength, comfort or resources for other goals. Productivity is all about the accomplishment of more and more tasks. Productivity serves itself. At times the dogged pursuit of productiveness leads to poor quality, waste and dissatisfaction. This in-turn leads to feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing or pessimism. Suddenly your goals are further away and your “system” has failed. You will begin to talk about how your tools failed or how you spent all of your time working on task lists rather than work.

Do you think Shakespeare really cared about “distraction-free writing environments”, the Pomodoro technique or which context list was the most appropriate to use while traveling by wagon to the next performance?

Not that he’s any Shakespeare, but I do not think David Sparks spends any time wondering about that either. He’s a real live example of a creative professional who uses tools to serve his creativity. Merlin Mann learned that the study of tools does not make you creative. If he can do it, so can you.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not denigrating or dismissing any specific task-based techniques or ideas. I use some of them myself but I do not need them. Neither did Shakespeare. Nor Einstein nor Steve Jobs for that matter. What you need to understand is that your brain, not the latest or greatest piece of software, will get you where you need to go. There are no “5 greatest tips for always performing at your best” or “10 hidden secrets that will make you rich”. Stop consuming empty thought calories and start thinking. When you do that you will realize that you have the ability to create and that is the greatest skill you can have.

Now start!

Time Management and the Perpetual Motion Machine

I was at an airport convenience store the other day looking nostalgically at all of those things they call “books”.

And then I saw it.

A paperback with the incredible words “Time Management” on the cover. I don’t know who wrote it. I did not pick it up and I’m certainly glad to inform you that there is no link to Amazon here urging you to buy it.

Can you do something for me? It will only take 4 minutes.

In the first minute think of a number of things you can do in 1 minute. In the second minute do nothing – just sit there. In minute 3, do all of the things you thought of in the first minute. In minute 4? Reflect. What was the difference between minute 2 and minute 3? Did you “manage” the third minute better than the second? Did time transmute itself? What really got managed?

I know that people think they experience time variation; heck, I think I have felt that way. You know… “Time stood still”. “Time flew by”. And so on.

Here’s the thing:

Time on earth is immutable. It does not shift or vary. Until you or I experience the twins paradox time will not be a variable in your life. Time will be a constant.

You cannot manage time. You can manage stuff like tasks, relationships, possessions… Yourself.

On the productivity graph of things vs. time, you can only vary the things axis. Anybody who talks about “time management” as if it exists, ought to be selling miracle cures, perpetual motion machines or time shares on Baffin Island. I never felt productive until I got past this concept. It’s not that you are wasting time or making the best use of your time when results go poorly or go well. It’s that you did less or did more in a period of time. People who go on vacations are not better time managers than people who don’t go on vacations; they just value vacations more.

So in the realm of hackneyed truisms; “Time marches on”. To which I would add, “… at the same rate”.

Workflow and Omnifocus

I have been moved to action by the stuff I have been reading at MacSparky, practically efficient, Macdrifter and Brett Terpstra’s blogs over the past few months. Of this bunch, a couple of them are strong on Omnifocus. David Sparks has been a long time Omnifocus advocat and bon vivant, while Eddie has been a recent convert.

I started with Omnifocus on the Mac in 2009, added the iPhone edition quickly, then completed the trifecta with the iPad version when it was released. In all of that, I often felt Omnifocus was more of a tonic than a tool. So I cruised the forums, finding tools and scripts, downloading everything. What I ended up building was a home handyman’s equivalent of the perfect workshop. All tools and no talent.

Once I purchased Creating Flow with Omnifocus by Kourosh Dini – a must read for any Omnifocus student – I finally realized how to make the base Omnifocus programs, the add-ons, the workflows and the philosophies work for me. (I ended up using a derivative of Dini’s start date based system and the flag based system.) I was already a secular devotee of GTD – relax I am not going there – so I had a pretty structured set of contexts for personal and career life set up. Being an engineering manager, stuff in my life was already one big list of projects. Most engineers understand GTD instinctively.

A Tip

Here’s something that I synthesized from all of the collected wisdom around Omnifocus; once you get projects set up in a way that works for you in Omnifocus, take a look at the file structure on your main work machine. I created a “Projects” folder – it’s essentially my new “Documents” folder. If you establish a file structure in that folder that matches your Omnifocus project folder structure you will have a system that will complement your workflow. It doesn’t take a lot of time, just go to the Nicola Vitacolonna modified scripts in this forum entry and you will be able to build the file structure as you need to (warning: geekiness level is above moderate on this). The scripts also provide a quick link between Omnifocus, Omnioutliner and the file system. Should that kind of functionality be baked into Omnifocus? Maybe, but the power user crowd that use Omnifocus also appreciate that it is highly customizable while not being full of feature bloat.