~Nozbe and Evernote, A Marriage Made In Heaven

I’m a died-in-the-wool GTD’er, and have used GTD applications to get things done for well over two years.  What I’ve found during that time is that as good as many GTD applications are, they just don’t cut the mustard when dealing with notes.

The Nozbe GTD application has a lot going for it, simple interface, ease of use, web-based availability to all platforms, a great calendar and multiple integration with the likes of Jott and Twitter.  But recently they’ve raised the bar for all other GTD applications by integrating their GTD with Evernote, the defacto standard in web-based note taking applications.

This was an incredibly smart move on the part of Nozbe developers.  Instead of trying to build a note taking feature into their application, they integrate their GTD application with  the best of breed note taking application – the ultimate mashup!

Evernote Integration with Nozbe

I’ll leave it to the founder of Nozbe to provide the details on the simple process of integrating Evernote with Nozbe, including a video tutorial, and leave you with some examples of how I use notes with my projects.

The best part is that Evernote can handle any kind of notes I throw at it, and by simply adding a tag that matches your project name with the note, they are immediately available right alongside your Nozbe projects.

There are many flavors of useful project notes.  Here are some examples I use most everyday.

Project Notes

These are notes that expand on the project name and give it context and more detail.

Action Notes

This type of note is added to a task to clarify the details of the needed action or result.

Information Only Notes

There are often occasions when I want to capture information about a project, even though it calls for no action.   This type of note often comes from email messages and is more convenient when stored in my GTD with the related project.

Web Clippings

Many projects start with some research.  This type of note is useful to capture information obtained from web searches, or documentation of some activity on the web.

Screenshots

Since I write a lot of documentation, screen shots are a big part of my life.  There are times when I’d like to just capture some screen shots and store them in my project, so they are quickly available when I begin writing.

So there you have it, a great new addition to Nozbe integration.  We’re excited to see Nozbe grow and continue to provide leading edge GTD capability.  And stay tuned in to the blog for upcoming posts on the new Nozbe iPhone app currently under development.  I’m sure its going to be great!  Thanks for reading, John.

~Inbox to Zero with GTD

After reading some questions recently in the OmniFocus forum, and having read many articles discussing Inbox to Zero over the past couple of years, I thought it might be helpful if I discussed my workflow for taking inbox to zero, which may differ from other application-specific methods out there.

Since I’ve primarily used Nozbe and OmniFocus as my GTD applications, I will discuss how I’ve handled my email inboxes with both of these apps. The procedure I use is generally common to both, and is likely supported by the GTD application that you use.  If you are new to GTD you may want to start here.

Background

For those that might be new to the premise of “Inbox to Zero”, let me provide some background before moving on to the details of my workflow. The concept was popularized by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders fame, in a series of articles he posted on the subject in 2006, though by Merlin’s own admission, David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology which predated his articles certainly contributed to his ideas on getting your email inbox to zero. You can view a great video of Merlin speaking to Google employees in 2007 about processing email.   And Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe, also provides some really simple ideas on processing inboxes on his Productivity Show.

My Workflow

I definitely use GTD methodology and my GTD application to process my inbox to zero.  However, I must admit that my idea of processing to zero is a bit different than what most people might think.  I’m one of those folks that don’t like to throw anything away.  So for me, getting my inbox to zero means that while there is nothing marked “unread” in my inbox, it is never really empty.

While this method requires a very strict adherence to the “read once” rule, and is perhaps less satisfying than an empty inbox, it works for me, and provides a backup in case I’ve missed something.  So my inbox is really two things in one.  An inbox for unread messages, and a searchable archive for later use when needed.  Many would advise me to move the read messages to an archive folder (in fact this is the advice given by Merlin) however to my mind this involves extra effort, which is unecessary if you follow the “read once” rule.

How Often?

The most important thing I’ve learned about email is that in order for me to stay productive, I need to stay away from my email inbox as much as possible.  The only effective way I have found to do that is to schedule several times during the day to specifically process my email, and to turn off the alert that tells me new mail has arrived.

There is one big exception to this rule, there always is, isn’t there?  If the message originates from my Senior Management (note the upper case), then I don’t wait to read and process the message.  I have made this easier by setting up a rule in my email application that automatically forwards any messages from those individuals to my iPhone as an SMS message.  This allows me to stay out of email, except when scheduled, and keep other alerts off, while not worrying about missing important messages from management.

Processing Email

Processing my email inbox requires a simple and seamless way to quickly act on email right in the inbox, without switching applications or dragging messages to other folders.  And I need to process email from several different types of applications.  At work, I use GroupWise on a Windows machine, at home I use Apple Mail, and while on the run I use my iPhone.

While OmniFocus, and no doubt other GTD applications, have scripts or commands for processing mail directly from inbox to GTD, I’ve found it easier to use the more ubiquitous mail forwarding to handle this task.  Most web-based applications like Nozbe provide an email address that can be used to forward mail directly to your GTD inbox.  With OmniFocus, a rule can be set up in Apple mail to do the same thing when a message is forwarded to the mail account accessed by your Mac.

The Workflow

My workflow is quite simple, and works on any computer or smartphone with access to email, and will work with any GTD application that provides a special email address, rule or script to handle messages sent to it.

What is it?  I start by looking at the first unread message in my inbox and ask  the following questions, which will determine the action taken.

  1. Is it actionable?
  2. If so, how long will it take?
  3. Does this message belong in my GTD?

If the answer to #1 and #3 are No, the message is marked read (automatically since I clicked on the message) and will be retained in the archive, (remember, my inbox is my archive, so I do nothing more).  In fact, in many cases this determination is made by simply reading the subject line or noting the sender’s address (think junkmail).

If the answer to #1 is Yes, then I immediately ask question #2.  If the answer to #2 is less than 2 minutes, then I do the action, and move on.

If the action will take more than 2 minutes, then the message is immediately forwarded to my GTD inbox.  At times, there will be a combination of an action and sending to GTD, e.g. a simple reply, which is sent to both the sender and my GTD inbox for additional action; or delegating a task, which is forwarded to the delegate and to my GTD inbox to provide followup action on the “waiting for” task.

I also receive messages that, while they don’t require an action on my part, I want to keep with a project as documentation or notes.  In these cases the answer to #1 is No, but the answer to #3 is Yes, and I simply forward the message to my GTD inbox.

Remember the “read once” rule and read each message only one time, answer each of the three questions and take the appropriate action on each read message.  If you run out of time before reading all mail, don’t cheat.  Instead, come back to your inbox later and begin where you left off.

Processing the GTD Inbox

While processing my email inbox, I don’t worry about any of the GTD details, e.g. in what project the message will be filed, or the context, due dates, flags, etc.  None of those details are necessary while processing email.  Yes, I know that many apps let you place syntax in the subject or body of the message to automatically file messages with a specific project, assign a context or due date and the like.  But for me, that would significantly slow down inbox to zero.

One or two times a day, I will go to my GTD inbox and process all of the messages sent there, along with tasks that are manually entered in the inbox throughout the day.  I assign all the proper GTD elements at that time to bring my GTD inbox to zero.  This helps me get email done quickly while in my email inbox, and provides real focus on projects and tasks when I’m in my GTD inbox.

Sending Email to GTD

The details of how to forward email to your GTD will vary depending on the application you use.  Check your GTD application’s help files, blog or forum for more information.  For those using Nozbe or OmniFocus, I’ve provided some details for those applications here.

Nozbe

Details for sending email to Nozbe using Nozbe email account.

OmniFocus

You will need to start by enabling the rule in OmniFocus Preferences by following these steps.

  1. Open OmniFocus Preferences from the main menu.
  2. Click on the Mail button in the toolbar.
  3. Check the box for “Add Mail Rule to create OmniFocus actions”.
  4. Enter the filter for mail processing (I use – – at the beginning of the subject line).
  5. Enter the approved addresses from which an action can be added to the inbox.

After setting the mail preferences, you can send or forward any message from your email account to the email account processed on your Mac using Apple Mail.  As long as the subject starts with – –  (or your filter method), it will be added to your GTD inbox.

Final Words

If you don’t already have a system to get inbox to zero, perhaps some of the techniques I’ve detailed in this post will help you develop a workflow of your own.  When you do, you will find, as I have, that processing inbox to zero is the perfect complement to GTD, and will enhance the liberating affect that GTD provides.  Thanks for reading, John.

~iPad – the Perfect GTD Solution?

A New Way to GTD

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I usually write about technology that I have used and am excited about.  And you also know that I am absolutely sold on the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology.

However, this post is not so much about what I am using now, as what I began imagining the day the new Apple iPad tablet was introduced.  Caution: Dreaming Ahead.

Let me first get something off my chest.  The naysayers out there have already started their whining about the iPad and it isn’t even available for sale yet.  Does this sound vaguely familiar?  If not, then you must not have had any interest in the iPhone just before it was launched.  I was there, purchasing the original iPhone on the day it was released, and while there was much hype, there was an equal amount of outcry from the press and blogs about what was wrong with the iPhone.  And it didn’t stop until months after the version 1 release.  Funny, but you don’t hear much complaining anymore, and the masses are grabbing up iPhones at an alarming rate, overwhelming the already abysmal AT&T network.

Wew – now I feel better.  Back to dreaming.  For the past year, I’ve been using OmniFocus as my GTD application and am loving life with all it has to offer in both its OS X client and iPhone applications.  It is hands down, the best GTD available for the serious player.

Only one problem with OmniFocus – it has no Windows client or web-based application.  That means, if you want to use a real keyboard and large screen for your GTD, you have to have a Mac computer.  And since most of the business world is still hamstrung to Windows, if you want to use OmniFocus for serious projects at work, you need to purchase a MacBook.  Pretty hefty investment for one application, though from experience I can tell you it is well worth it.  But I understand that not everyone can make that kind of investment in GTD.

With Apple’s new iPad announcement this week, I believe that is about to change.  Instead of laying down $1000+ on a MacBook, how about $499 for an iPad.  Just today, macnn reported that OmniGroup has already begun development of several applications, including OmniFocus, for the iPad tablet.  And you can read more details on their plans for iPad development on the Omni Mouth Blog.  Think about the difference this would make in your work life.  Carrying your GTD on a 9.5″ screen would be nearly the same experience of carrying a MacBook at a fraction of the cost and size.  What about a planner design that holds your iPad on the left side and note pad on the right.  While in most meeting environments, laptops are considered intrusive to the exchange of ideas and information, an iPad within your planner would likely cause more envy than raised eyebrows.

I know your iPhone already has your calendar, email, contacts, and GTD, but think about it, wouldn’t a large screen be a major advantage?  And while typing still might be taboo during a meeting, just having your GTD tasks and notes available without squinting  and constant scrolling the screen would be way cool!

Since we’re dreaming – here’s another thought.  I was so excited when I thought of this that I immediately fired off a post on the OmniFocus Forum.  What about incorporating handwritten notes into OmniFocus, via the iPad and a stylus.  During a meeting, open your project, start a new note entitled, “Weekly Status Meeting” and then hand write your notes on your iPad tablet.  You now have all of your notes from all of your project meetings in your GTD without having to retype them.  Later, you can create tasks right from your meeting notes.  No more paper (think Green), and no more transcribing or scanning to get your notes into your trusted system.

Wow, I better stop – now I’m thinking about all those Excel worksheets I can have at my fingertips, turn the large screen sideways and everyone can see the numbers.  And Gantt Charts, Metrics, and WBS – oh my !    To the naysayers out there, let’s give Apple a chance to prove itself once again, they do have a pretty good track record of late.  And to all the new iPad developers, especially the OmniGroup – get to work !!!  Thanks for reading, John.

~Archive with OmniFocus, or maybe not . . .

As you know if you’ve read any of the posts on this blog for the past six months, I am a fan of OmniFocus, and use it everyday as my primary GTD for my professional life.  I use most of its available features (which are many) and have customized it to provide a very efficient workflow.

There is, however, one feature of OmniFocus that I have had to work around, and that is the archive.  While archiving data can be done at any time, the start of new year is a great time to consider and plan moving old, no longer used tasks and projects from your GTD.  So let’s start with some background on the OmniFocus archive feature, and then I’ll discuss my alternative just in time to implement an archiving strategy at the beginning of a new year.

The OmniFocus Archive

If you’re using OmniFocus on more than one device, and most of us are, as you continue to add and maintain projects, tasks, notes and attachments to your OF Document, the wait while the document loads and synchronizes will inevitably increase.  Syncing all devices on a regular basis can reduce some of the crawl, but moving unnecessary data will decrease the size of the document and provide the greatest increase in speed.

OmniFocus has a very efficient and easy to use archiving feature that can be performed at any time using the following procedure.

  1. Select File | Move Old Data to Archive from the main menu.
  2. Enter a date before which completed and dropped tasks will be moved to the archive.
  3. Click Move to Archive.

Using this procedure the first time creates an archive document and moves the completed and dropped tasks from the main OF document to the archive along with all project information and task notes.  And you can continue to move completed and dropped tasks to the archive on a regular basis.

WARNING – make sure you always use this feature on the same computer.

If you use more than one computer to access your OmniFocus document, (I have my document synced between iMac and MacBook), and don’t heed this warning, you will end up with part of your archive on each machine.

Opening the Archive

Opening the archive for access to completed tasks is very easy.  Just  select File | Open Archive from the main menu, and all of your projects containing archived tasks will be available.

OmniFocus Archives Tasks not Projects

Notice that archiving “moves old items” (tasks) into the archive, and herein is the rub.  Since it is only moving tasks, and not entire projects, searching for, reviewing or printing all tasks within a long-term project will not be easy.  It will require searching, viewing and printing from two different documents.  While this may work for a purely task-focused workflow, it breaks your projects apart into two documents.

Many users can take this approach to archiving and will find it quick and easy.  However, I want a more project-centric focus for my GTD, and have chosen an alternative to the OF archive feature.

Archiving Completed and Dropped Projects

With my project-centric alternative, instead of using the OF archive feature, I started with a copy of my main document, removed all tasks and projects from the copy, and then move entire projects into the copy when completed or dropped.

Creating the OmniFocus Completed Document

Here are the steps I used to create my OmniFocus Completed document.

  1. Make sure you have synced all devices and have an up-to-date backup of your OmniFocus document before  beginning.  (Don’t skip this step!)
  2. Quit OmniFocus on all devices.
  3. Using Finder, open your user account/library/application support/omnifocus folder, on the computer on which you wish to maintain your completed projects.
  4. Copy the OmniFocus.ofocus document within this folder to a new file, e.g. OmniFocusCompleted.ofocus, making sure that you maintain the file extension.
  5. Create an alias on your desktop to the new file, e.g. OmniFocusCompleted.ofocus
  6. Use the alias to open the new file.
  7. Select Perspectives | All Items from the main menu.
  8. Select All projects from the sidebar.
  9. Press the Delete key.

You now have a new empty OmniFocusCompleted document.

Moving Projects to the Completed Document

After creating the new document, periodically review your main document for completed or dropped projects and move them to the OmniFocusCompleted document using these steps.

  1. Make sure you have synced all devices and have an up-to-date backup of your OmniFocus document before  beginning.  (Don’t skip this step!)
  2. Open OmniFocus – the main document will open.
  3. Use the alias on your desktop to open the OmniFocusCompleted document.   You will now have two OmniFocus windows open.
  4. Arrange the two windows so you can drag tasks from the main document to the OmniFocusCompleted document.
  5. From the sidebar in the main document, change the project filter to “Completed”.
  6. Select a project in the sidebar.
  7. Click on the project title in the main outline window and drag it into the sidebar in your completed document.  (It is very important to drag the project from the main outline window and not from the sidebar.)
  8. Verify that the project is present in the completed document.
  9. Select the project in the sidebar in the main document and press Delete.
  10. Change the project filter in the main document sidebar to “Dropped”.
  11. Repeat steps 6-9 above to move dropped projects to the OmniFocusCompleted document.

Yes, I realize this is a lot of steps, and this workaround may not be desired or necessary for most OmniFocus users.  If you fall into this category, just follow the steps at the beginning of this post to use the simple and quick “Move to Archive” feature that the Omni Group has provided in the application.

For those that want to maintain their projects in tact in a single document, this workflow will become very easy once you create the OmniFocusCompleted document and use it a couple of times.  Just remember to verify that you have an updated backup before starting to copy projects, and if anything goes wrong, just click the fabulous “Undo” key, CMD+Z, one of my favorite features of OmniFocus.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!  John

~Customizing OmniFocus – the Pathway to Power

I’ve been promising many readers that I would provide some details on my customized OmniFocus setup, so that is what post #8 and the wrap up of the series entitled, An Advanced GTD User’s Paradise, will be all about. If you’ve missed any of the eight-part series, links to each post in the series are available from part 1.

The OmniFocus Toolbar

The toolbar, as in many other Mac applications is the first stop for customizing your GTD interface. You can choose from a variety of commands and features that are already part of the application by following these steps.

  1. Control+Click (or right-click) any toolbar button.
  2. Select customize from the menu.
  3. Drag the commands (icons) from the dialog box to the desired location on the toolbar.

Note that you will see buttons for a variety of default OF commands and perspectives, the perspectives you’ve created and any scripts added to OmniFocus. Here is a screenshot of my customize dialog box. Remember, I’ve added a lot to the default set, so your options will vary.

Customize the OmniFocus Toolbar

Most of the buttons in my personal OF toolbar come from customized perspectives. Perspectives are a snapshot of the current view settings, and should be saved for any frequently used views you want to have available from a toobar button.

To setup a new perspective, follow these steps.

  1. Choose the mode (planning or context).
  2. Click the View button to turn on the view bar.
  3. Select the desired sidebar filter, e.g. all, active, remaining, etc.
  4. Set each of the main view options as desired, i.e. Grouping, Sorting, Status Filter, Estimated Time and Flag.
  5. Expand or compress notes (Cmd+Option+’ will toggle all notes open and closed).
  6. Expand or collapse all rows as desired (View | Collapse or Expand All) from the main menu.

To save the new perspective, follow these steps.

  1. Select Perspectives | Save Window As | New Perspective from the main menu.
  2. Enter a name that describes the perspective, e.g. “Urgent”.
  3. Press Enter.

Note that your perspective settings are also available within the Perspectives dialog. You can reach the dialog box shown below by selecting Perspectives | Show Perspectives from the main menu.

perspectivesettingsEvery aspect of the view (perspective) can be changed using the perspective dialog box as pictured above, including the image desired for the toolbar button, quick key, and whether or not a new window is opened when the perspective is used.

Quick Print Tip

Here’s another great tip about using the Show Perspective feature. If you click on the sprocket wheel button under the perspectives sidebar (right next to the + add perspective button), you can choose to print the perspective without even opening it. This is a great way to get a quick printout of a perspective before leaving for a meeting.

Selecting Images

You can use any of the limited set of images available in the application for your toolbar buttons, or use your own images using the image settings available in the perspective window.

Follow these steps to select a new button image.

  1. Open the Perspectives window (Perspectives | Show Perspectives from the main menu).
  2. Select the perspective in the sidebar.
  3. Click the list button (arrow) in the lower right corner of the image selector.
  4. Click on an available image or . . .
  5. Click the Choose . . . button to select an image previously saved to your computer.

Selecting a button image.

Note that it is best to save images as jpg in 32×32 pixel size. You may need to experiment with the size that works best for you.

Where to Find Images

I have used a variety of sources for my images, some free and some purchased. A google image search using the name of the perspective will often yield good results, e.g. “waiting”. I’ve also found iconfinder.net to be particularly helpful locating GTD images.

Changing the Button Text

The text for perspective buttons is the name of the perspective, so keep that in mind when naming perspectives. The more buttons you want on the toolbar, the shorter the perspective names should be.

Toolbar Settings

Since many have asked about my personal toolbar, I am including a table that details the settings for each of my toolbar buttons in the table below. I have also included a pdf, OF Toolbar Details, for those that might want to download it for easier reading.  For a description of the purpose for many of these customized perspectives, see the post entitled, Perspective is Everything with OmniFocus .

Toolbar Button Details

So there you have it. Customizing OmniFocus with your own perspectives and scripts, really sets this GTD application apart from all its competition. And one click access to those power features, through the OF toolbar, will make using the advanced features of OF quick and easy, qualifying this app as the Advanced GTD User’s Paradise, that I promised from the start of this series.

I hope you’ve found this series of posts helpful, and thanks again for reading, John

~Which Search is the Best Search

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. George Moore

It is in the hope that you will find what you are looking for before searching the world over, at least as far as your GTD is concerned, that installment #7 of An Advanced GTD User’s Paradise is presented.

One of the deficiencies of my early forays into GTD applications was the ability to locate information once it had sunk into the depths of my trusted system. This was especially true when I was looking for information contained in a completed project. Consider OmniFocus the “home” in the above quote. Unlike some other implementations of GTD, you really don’t have to leave home to find what you seek.

I sense the need to take on the expected objections at the start, so let me first say that I understand that the GTD paradigm is not meant to be a storage medium for the completed. Its clear goal subsists in the here and now – or pending task, hence its moniker, Getting Things Done, and not Things I’ve Done.

With that being said, and with an understanding that much of what I am about to describe may not follow the letter of classic GTD, lets look at a variety of techniques that can be used to plumb the OmniFocus depths.

Why the Need to Search

There are a variety of reasons that search capability should be included in any complete GTD application – here are but a few.

  • Your boss or project manager asks you when a particular task was completed.
  • You need to locate some reference information that you previously stored in your GTD – the topic of last week’s post entitled, What To Do With All That Information.
  • You need to repeat a project similar to a project completed at some time in the past, and want to see the task list and timeline for planning another project.
  • You need documentation and details about a completed task or project.
  • You need to provide a list of tasks or projects completed during a specific range of dates.

Search and Destroy

For many years before GTD, I was a Franklin Covey planner user. Not the electronic version mind you, but the “two page per day” paper planner that was in vogue during the last few decades. This provided me an area for my daily task lists and a journal, and worked, but when I needed to find something I had done in the past, it was a painfully arduous task. In fact, at one point I began keeping a worksheet in Excel with all the tasks that I thought I might need to find later. Talk about destroying time with your planner. I think that is much of the reason I love GTD, its always there, and given the right application, it is searchable.

So how do I search with OmniFocus. For Mac users, we expect to be able to search via a search box located in the upper-right corner of the main window in just about any application, e.g. mail, calendar, address book, browser, etc., so it isn’t surprising that OmniFocus provides the same functionality, and in the same place.

Searching for Projects

The first step, before beginning to type in the search box is to set the context for the search in the main outline window. Do you want to search “active” projects within your “work” area for both incomplete and complete tasks? Follow these steps.

  1. Select Active from the Project Filter at the top of the sidebar.
  2. Click on your Work Project folder in the sidebar.
  3. Change the Status Filter in the view bar to “Any Status”.

Now you should be looking at both completed and uncompleted tasks for the active projects in your Work Project folder in the main outline window. Just start typing search text into the Search box, and a few seconds later, only projects containing the search text will be displayed. Be careful to understand that all tasks for a project containing the search text will be displayed, not just tasks containing the text.

Find and Seek

So how do you quickly locate the search text among all of those projects, notes and tasks. Use another feature that should come as no surprise, though you may not have used it in OmniFocus. Pressing the key combination, CMD+F will bring up the Find and Replace box. Enter the same text into the box and click the Next and Previous buttons to navigate to the search text. The text will be located in complete or incomplete tasks, and when used in project titles and any project or task notes. Here is an example.

search and find

Weh, that was a lot of steps. But of course there is a quicker way. Can you think of it? Yes, that’s right, the perspective feature of OmniFocus comes to the rescue once again. I have created a perspective called “Search All” and assigned it to a toolbar button. So all I have to do to search is click the button and enter text into the search box. If there are a number of projects displayed, I just press CMD+F and start navigating through the hits.

Search All Perspective

Here are the settings for the “Search All” perspective so you can build one of your own.

  • Project Filter (sidebar) = All Projects
  • “Library” folder selected in sidebar
  • Status Filter (viewbar) = Any Status

This perspective will search all projects, including completed projects, so it may take a few seconds to load. This perspective has helped me find information that would have otherwise been impossible to locate, or not worth the hours of effort demanded by my earlier planning systems. Thanks OmniFocus for giving us the ability to locate all of the information we have entered into our trusted system, even though it may not be perfect GTD technique.

Next post, I will be identifying all those customized toolbar buttons you’ve seen throughout earlier posts. Thanks for reading – John.

~What To Do With All That Information?

Part VI of An Advanced GTD User’s Paradise involves a discussion about what to do with all the information that, while related to a GTD project or task,  really doesn’t qualify as a task or project.

The first thing I do is ask the question, “do I really need to keep this”.  If the answer is yes, or maybe – it might be needed for later reference, then I’ll store the information with the project in my GTD.  If the answer is no, then I throw it out or delete it.

Choices

Its all about choices isn’t it, and there are certainly a variety of methods that can be employed to handle the information we receive about our projects and tasks.  Here are some common methods for storing all that project related information that you might want to keep handy for later reference.

  • Use email features such as categories, tags or folders to identify the information as belonging to a specific project.
  • Save a scanned document or other electronic file in a folder on your computer, naming the folder with the project name or identifier.
  • Print out the information and store it in a manila folder with other project related information, in classic  GTD fashion.
  • Store the information in the project notes or task notes within the GTD application itself, if your GTD supports this function.
  • Use another application like Circus Ponies Notebook or Evernote to organize project related information and clippings.

All of these choices are certainly valid and I’ve tried them all.  In fact, for major projects I still save project information in electronic and physical folders.  And I love Evernote for clippings –  you can see how I use it in an earlier post entitled Clip and Save with Evernote.

But since moving to OmniFocus, I have developed an altogether different workflow for reference information related to a project.  I have come to realize that I can store information in my GTD just like a task, but with a special context, that makes locating and retrieving the information quick and easy.

Setting Up The Mail Rule

Most of the information (non-tasks) that I receive about a project arrives via my email inbox, so I will be describing how I apply a workflow to get information from my email application into the Omnifocus inbox.

This process makes use of the OmniFocus Mail Rule and Apple Mail, which will have to be setup by selecting OmniFocus | Preferences from the main menu, and following the  steps in the image below.  Setting an archive location is optional, but I use it so I have a backup copy of all information sent to my GTD in one location.

mailrule.jpg

Forwarding Information to OmniFocus

Once the mail rule has been setup, you can forward messages from any mail application to OmniFocus by simply forwarding the message to an address that is received on your Mac (Mail app), and adding the mail rule prefix at the beginning of the subject line.  In this post we’re discussing forwarding messages containing reference information, however, I use the same technique to turn an email message into a task or project.

Here is an example.  Note that I use “– ” as my mail rule prefix, as its unique, quick and easy to type.

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When the message arrives in Mail, assuming its running, the message is immediately placed into your OmniFocus inbox with the subject as the task line and the rest of the message in the task notes.  Then the message is automatically moved from your mail inbox into the designated archive folder.  No action on your part is required and you won’t even see it happening.

Storing Information as a Task

At least once a day I process the tasks and information waiting in my OmniFocus inbox.  I use the following steps to process this information into the appropriate project and context.

  1. Switch to the OmniFocus Inbox.
  2. Enter or select the project for which the information is needed.
  3. Select “Information” as the context.  (If this context doesn’t already exist, click CMD+Enter to create it.)
  4. Check the project as completed.  Note that I will leave  information that I believe will be needed imminently unchecked (incomplete), but for the most part project information is checked complete at the time it is entered.
  5. Click the CleanUp button in the toolbar to move the information from the inbox to its project.

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Now that you have the information safely tucked away with the appropriate project, its time to consider how we can quickly retrieve the information when we need it.

Creating an Information Perspective

Getting project information into your GTD is only half the battle, and of little benefit if you cannot quickly locate that information.  OmniFocus comes to the rescue once again with its wonderful perspectives feature.

I use a perspective called, you guessed it,  “Information”.  To create this perspective, switch to context mode, set up the view bar as shown below, and save the perspective.  Note that most of my information has been completed, hence the completed status filter.

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Locating Project Information

Now that we have an Information perspective, whenever we need to locate information for a project, we simply select the perspective, and voila, the information for your projects is on screen organized by project name.  Instead of scrolling through many projects to find the information, you can use another great feature of OmniFocus – the Search Box.  Just type part of the project name into the search box and the display will be limited to showing information for only that project.

When you find the note you’re looking for, just click the note button to open the message.  Here’s an example.

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So there you have it – a great way to save and quickly retrieve project information stored right alongside the tasks for a project in your OmniFocus GTD.  You might be asking, what if I don’t remember the project name, or what about locating notes in completed projects.  We’ll leave those questions for the next post when we’ll discuss some powerful search routines built into the OmniFocus application.  Thanks for reading, John.