Drew went on a cruise, and worked at sea. Joe did NOT enjoy the redesign of a certain productivity app. The two share computer horror stories (though one of them has frustratingly never had any real problems), and Joe reveals a major new ‘experiment’.
I applaud @joebuhlig’s steps towards going to a paper-based productivity system.
I’ve always believed that sometimes productivity apps are powerful tools that can become monsters. OmniFocus is one of the most powerful and complex task management app out there. But we tend to make our productivity workflows more complicated than it should be.
I will see users switch from task app to task app searching for that magical task manager that will motivate us to do more. But it’s not often about doing more. It’s about choosing the right things to do that will provide maximum benefit for the current state of our lives. They’ll switch from OmniFocus to another app then switch back. Then switch again to the newest task management app that was just released. But most of the time, the productivity app masks the source of the problem - the productivity system/workflow that is in place.
In the end, I think it’s the workflow or the system that matters. Doing it on paper takes away all the bells and whistles that we thought we needed. It’s back to the basics. Once we have a paper-based workflow cemented down and working, it can be easy to translate it back into the digital world if one chooses to do so.
I’ve gone back to paper to rebuild my productivity system as a way to reboot. It’s different from just deleting my OmniFocus database and starting from scratch. I actually had to find the workflow steps needed to get my life back in order.
Now that I’ve done that, I use OmniFocus just to warehouse all of the someday/maybe projects and tasks that are important in my life today or in the future. Then I will review those on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis/ When I am ready to work on a someday/maybe project, I activate it by committing it to my notebook (either the office notebook or the home notebook/whiteboard) to work on. Anything in the notebook or whiteboard is what gets done. Nothing else.
So I’ll estimate that most of my planning and reviewing is done in OmniFocus and most of my doing/execution is done in my notebooks. I think this is where my current balance is right now.
But of course anything can change, right?
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Wilson.
I think one of the main benefits of analog tools is the self-awareness you pick up in building the analog system. Because you aren’t restrained to a specific way of working, you get to custom-tailor it to yourself. That’s a really powerful thing to learn.
My concern (fear?) is that I’ll build out a paper system that I never leave for OmniFocus again. I may have to mourn that at some point. OmniFocus has served me really well and part of me would love to make it my home again. But I’ve also seen huge benefits of an analog task manager so far.
This is why I call it an experiment. I’m not fully committed to it yet.
@joebuhlig, RE your thoughts about when you have to switch books.
This is why I keep a Midori (Well Technically Two).
My passport Midori is is my daily planner. Do this today in the next few days. My standard Midori has three books one for PIT, the other for everything else not daily. I also keep a tracking book for Lists that I need to hold onto over long term:
- Daily/Weekly/Monthly Tasks
- Monthly Calendar Spreads
- End of Other Notebook Recaps
The downside to this is that your dailies and project books are usually only about 80 pages so you will go through those rather quickly. But this has really helped me make sense of using analog over a long period.
Yeah, I’ve played with the idea of multiple notebooks but I need to keep this as small and portable as I can. I really want it in a single notebook that can grow and then be transferred easily. But I’m not there yet. I’ll figure it out later.
That is why I do like the passport. It’s also my wallet.
Anything that happens during the day is usually recorded in my passport. I only use the standard while at my desk or when I’m doing my daily/weekly review.
But I totally understand your concerns. Also DOT GRID FOR LIFE!
When I was paper only, I kept two sets of notebooks - one notebook for the current and one set for the someday / maybe. I didn’t need the latter 95% of the time, so it stayed at home. If I had an idea that fit there, I could capture in the current or a notecard and just add it later.
The someday / maybe were separated out by high level topic into different notebooks - business ideas, day job possible projects, novel ideas, etc. It reduced the overhead and allowed for a focused review of the topic. When it was all mashed, I’d go look up an idea for a side business and see a day job project in the index, which would trigger a need to go work there.
It isn’t as elegant mentally as a single book, however it solves the problem of transferring if you tend to have more ideas than you’ll ever get to. Also, then you get to thoughtfully rub your chin as you ponder which tome to pull from your shelf.
Don’t mourn. It was a faithful companion during the time you needed I most. It’s like graduating from high school or college.
Remain flexible because life changes and you’ll need to find the tools to help you today. In the future, you can return back to OmniFocus if needed. There have been many users that have switched from OmniFocus 2 to Things 3 because Things 3 works for them at that moment. Later, they might find friction and eventually return to OmniFocus or another task app.
I arrived at a simple blend of paper and OmniFocus not too long ago. I used to rely heavily on OmniFocus because that was all I had. But now I spread my workload among the different tools - Apple Calendar, OmniFocus, DevonThink and paper.
I shake my head when I see feature requests to make OmniFocus become everything - a calendar, a digital reference warehouse, and a life coach. It’s better to find the right tools for the right job. A hammer for nails, a screwdriver for screws, and a saw for wood, I can’t use my wrench to drill a hole, right?
I ignored paper and focused on OmniFocus for a long time. Now I’ve invited paper back into my life. It is working in tandem with OmniFocus now.
When my life changes again and the duo of paper and OmniFocus doesn’t work as well anymore, it’s time for a change. But for now, I’m happy with what I have.
Very faithful for sure. But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss it just because I’m moving on. At the same time, I don’t want to be that guy that keeps telling stories about his one touchdown in high-school.