Is OmniFocus Fading while 2do Ascends

As I’ve written about more than once, task management programs tend to be a very personal choice. However, we’re all looking, more or less, for that which is the best. For a long time, OmniFocus tended to be held up as the B all and end all. That may be the case for some but for a growing number of users they’re questioning the approach taken by OmniFocus. Or, they might be questioning GTD itself.

OmniFocus is a complex program that that doesn’t have to be. Many people go overboard with the program and leading to an array of projects, tasks and contexts. 2do takes the approach it can be as simple as you want and it works to your liking but in actuality, 2do is a very powerful program that you can either tap into or not. If you just want a simple checklist for groceries say, it’s there whilst OmniFocus seems to imply that you have to write out a task for every aspect of a project or set of activities leading to something you want to get done.

I have seen this more than once with OmniFocus. I watched a Youtube video the other day with a fellow that spent so much time dotting i’s and crossing T’s in his OmniFocus use, I seriously wondered how he could ever get anything done. Yes, reminders are good. However, our brains aren’t as mushy as David Allen would like us think.

Am I Becoming a Heathen in the GTD Movement

I’ve advocated GTD extensively as a methodology to build a process around working towards your goals. In reality, it is the idea of a methodology that captures my attention to provide a structure to what we do to accomplish our work rather than chaotic thrashing about that can burn up time and mental energy.

GTD seemed to be a suitable methodology but not at the cost that you throw away reason and rationality for a dogma. When something, such as GTD, has us externalizing our brains in a system how much longer will it be before we should put our souls into that same external brain just for safe keeping. Might we not forget what we’re about.

The externalization of the brain into GTD is where the insanity starts. There’s nothing wrong with writing down a quick sticky note to self or a reminder here or there. Yet, when a system, such as GTD takes away rationality so that now you are writing stuff down you don’t need to or writing stuff down you can’t remember why you wrote it down, it leads to stress, more writing down and eventually your boss saying how’s such and such coming along. The answer: well I’ve got it under one goal, 5 projects with 2000 tasks and 8000 sub sub sub tasks so it’s coming along great. The retort: well I’ve yet to see even a draft proposal of what you’re thinking we should do and then of course the answer to this is “Oh yeah, I’ve had no time to do that.”

Externalized Brain Meltdown

There’s another serious problem with the above scenario, which is loosely spelled out but not far from some people’s reality. When you go to look at or do the tasks in something as outlined as the above the natural tendency is to freak and try to organize more so as to make some sense of what one should do.

There is a program called Swipes that tends to deal with exactly this problem by reducing the visual array one is presented with. If you’re looking at a bunch of tasks, in Swipes the idea is there is no reason to see all this at once so you swipe a task away to a future time or you complete it if it has been completed drastically reducing your visual overload.

Anything that puts too much in front of us will only confuse and cause a stall or it could actually lead to a “brain meltdown” wherein you have this sense of angst that the project can never get done. OmniFocus, with the direct help of the GTD model, does exactly this.

Only recently has it seemed to try to deal with the problem by filtering out tasks so you don’t need to see them before you need to. The problem though is the solution is so complex it’s not used effectively. You even have to buy the pro package to buy the “scripts” that help do this.

Our Brains are far more Powerful than David Allen Accredits

We as a species have been employing some very simple but very effective techniques to filter information without writing books to do it. The highlighter is a good example of this. It is impossible to study a whole text book come exam time so as you are reading you highlight the stuff that stands out removing the superfluous to our visual boundaries. Many a degree has been obtained by this alone.

However, as I said earlier, a reminder has it’s place. It’s perfectly natural to forget something. Write down a quick reminder as it hits you then get on with the task at hand. There is though nothing wrong with using techniques to grapple with the complex. Writing a book may require some outlining before starting; building a house requires forethought around numerous things. One just has to be careful that something is actually getting done instead of massive project and task lists that leave no time for anything.

OmniFocus’ non Frictionless System

When any system works against the natural inclination to move forward you have friction. If you are driving a car with one foot on the gas pedal and the other foot constantly on the brake not only will things move slower with greater costs, the natural braking system will likely give out. Such a concept is so simple to understand and tackle.

OmniFocus creates though similar friction when there are too many tasks in your visual field to grasp what is important and needs doing now. The trend towards the simpler, less complicated is underway due to the failure of false presumptions that lead to the barrage of tasks that one might naturally generate in OmniFocus. OmniFocus has not done a good enough job additionally to provide the tools to work against an overly stimulating visual field.

Frictionless Programs

This is where a Swipes comes in. However, it’s not quite enough and yet for many it probably is. However 2do is such a well designed program with a stated objective of make this for yourself. You could easily go down the OmniFocus road with 2do (in many ways it is more powerful) but it works against that.

It can be as pure a GTD program as any but when a community works against the absurd, friction melts away. There is no need to rest your foot on the break as the car is coasting at just the right speed.

2do’s flexibility is what is elevating this program while the OmniFocus crowd basks in the absurd. The idea that 10,000 tasks under 50 projects and 10 folders is productivity? Even if you had something like this in 2do, it’s ability through all its tools to reduce dramatically what’s in your visual field with a few mouse clicks is stunningly impressive.

Click just one list of items and your visual array is reduced to something completely palatable. 2do has smart lists which can be thought of as automatic views. They are based on previous saved searches. Click a smart list and it will give you instantly a refined view of a sub-section of the data in the task manager. This greatly reduces what’s in your visual field providing what we can refer to as very granular view.

Thus views, through a simple click of a smart list can be expansive or as granular as you like. In fact, the efficiency of views in 2do is one of the areas that has been majorly worked on with outstanding results. As the number of items to tackle becomes more reasonable, you will free your mind and suddenly things start getting done.

Priorities, Lists, Tags, Various Sort Options and More

2do goes steps beyond OmniFocus in that it provides you with the capability to prioritize your items in four levels. You can star the item and/or high prioritize to low prioritize the task and sort on this. The sort can be the full range of tasks as they fall into their Category to just a subset of the task e.g. show me only the starred tasks.

There are lists that you can assign your projects and tasks to generating a view based on this criteria. Further, you can tag items in such a way that they could represent your priorities of focus either as a context or simply as a tag. Sorting is very powerful and there are numerous sort options from the manual through to a full sort based on say show me all the items and their tags/categories and sort on this or sort manually, by date etc etc.

Finally you could create a project consisting two or more tasks. The project say “Balance Banking Transactions” could be in the list ‘Financial” and have subtasks to tell you what should be done to accomplish your goal. Doing this makes for a very clean field, focus and the application of resources to meet the goal.

A quick click of the financial list would give you projects under that. Then a click of your specific project would give you just the tasks to be accomplished in your system. A sort could everything by priority and on it goes making for a very energy efficient, focused task manager wherein you do get things done. They even have a “checklist” for something to assist with buy groceries as an example.

From Simple to well Fleshed Out

2do, though not specifically a GTD program, can be exceptionally good at that technique. It can be a simple as a straight reminders program to as a rich as a full GTD program all the while being cross platform.

There is nothing ideal or perfect as far as this product class goes but this one is getting extremely close. Due to its straighter design as opposed to fully hierarchical like OmniFocus it is fully compatible with reminders.

2do is a nice program to look at. It is extremely flexible. If you were to tackle the richer high end aspects of the program you’ll likely need to reference a manual to take advantage of all the functionality. If this program is for you, it would it would be very worthwhile to crack the manual to ensure you’re taking advantage of all that it offers and there’s awful lot.

There might not be the perfect task manager yet there is a task manager that is more or less perfect for you. 2do’s ascendency, I would say is happening as it does so much to appeal to abroad cross-section. It is a delight to use and it is therefore one program which hard not to give it a go.


  • Joshua Morgan says:

    Good stuff. This line resonated with me, “The problem though is the solution is so complex it’s not used effectively. You even have to buy the pro package to buy the “scripts” that help do this.”

    I’ve scaled back a bit because I was struggling to see just how helpful it really is. Kanban boards have been more helpful to me.

    I’ve been using Smartsheets to help me. Trying it out as a combination of business and personal. But it looks like I will give 2Do a look. Thanks!

  • ksdawson2014 says:

    Good stuff. I’m glad you found this useful. I think it is a bit a long the lines of simplifying somewhat as you can get so bogged down in the complexity.

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