Soon, it’ll be time for that annual ritual we call spring-cleaning. When we open all the windows in our home to allow the spring weather to flow through, and attempt to throw out some of those unused items that have accumulated since the holiday season, maybe even from last spring.
I’ve always enjoyed spring-cleaning around my home. Not only do I find it physically and mentally refreshing when I partake in these uncluttered rituals, but they help me stay on top of other projects and to-do activities that keep my task manager’s inbox, OmniFocus, extremely busy.
Spring Into Action with Omnifocus
Since most are accustomed to the concept of spring-cleaning around this time of the year. I figured as a productivity geek, why not add that last item to the list?
After all, doesn’t my favorite task manager deserve its own share of tender loving care?
So, every year, when the smell of spring is in the air, I automatically think about popping the hood, looking inside, and performing the following actions:
Caution: I wouldn’t recommend following what I’m suggesting if you’re in the middle of a productive sweep. You may end up focusing more on the tools than actually producing work. But try to make the time when you can. To fine tune your skills or maximize the tools that help you meet your goals, you should always consider it a wise investment of your time.
1. Get Rid of it, Throw it away, Delete it or Trash it!
The concept of what I’m sharing with this post should be the same as performing any type of deep cleaning session around your home. Envision ending up working in an environment that is clean, uncluttered, organized, comfortable, and provides easier access to other things within that environment.
The only difference is applying some of these same principles and techniques to working with the OmniGroup’s, OmniFocus task application.
OK? Let’s get started.
- Start by taking an inventory of your files, folders, projects, actions, perspectives, and contexts.
- Then, sort through everything, taking a very close look at each one.
- Decide to drop or delete anything you honestly are not using, or, won’t for the rest of the year.
This sounds simple enough, right? I have to admit I often fall short of this goal and end up turning into a context hoarder if I don’t perform these purging tasks from time to time. Now I’m not saying I’m against making added context to your personalized workflow, or even dislike working in a multilevel nested filing structure.
But be aware if you find yourself getting lost due to scrolling down to many long lists. Or are even spending more time than you intended on finding things within your system. Now should be the time to reconsider all the possibilities and tidy them up.
Doing this immediately unclutters your interaction with the application and makes room for those things that need your up-most attention.
Adding to our goal above and continuing along with our cleanup, here are some of my tips with respect to the way I work with OmniFocus.
2. Get Uncluttered
Once you start getting rid of all those things you thought you needed, start deciding what you really need to keep. Next time, you’ll probably think twice about even including it. Personally, I’ve learned over the years working in OmniFocus that I don’t need to input every task or project into it.
For example, a reminder to: “drive to the bank and deposit check” every Friday, is not really necessary. It’s a repeated task my human brain is well aware I need to do. So be careful and try not to fall into this behavior. The best way to get uncluttered is to not allow to get cluttered.
3. Minimize and Simplify
I have to say I’m not a big advocate of keeping the infamous, GTD: Someday/Maybe list. Instead, I try to include these types of tasks and projects into my active workflow, vs. filing them away inside a folder that’s kept on the sideline and periodically looked over.
I’m finding that what I do now helps me be more effective staying focused on carrying out those projects that would have ended up as part of this never-ending list. Plus, it also minimizes what I see on my screen by preventing me with having too many files and folders.
An example of this would be if I have an indecisive project during the year.
Let’s say I’m planning a family vacation trip. I’ll set up a single action reminder, or a project with some detail actions and label it, “Family trip to Spain. Are you ready to take action?” I then give it a start date and choose a later time when I’m not too busy to consider it and send it on its way.
Later, when it pops up if I’m ready to take action, I act. If not, I move it again to a later start date. After the second move, if I’m still unable to properly plan the action, I delete it. At the end of the year, when I do my yearly review and this is something I think is still of an interest, I’ll reinstate it back into the new calendar year and follow the same action plan.
This method may sound too straightforward, but I find this method helps keep me on my toes.
Here’s another example. I use to keep a running list of restaurants my wife and I talked about visiting some day. However, I found that simply making this list and periodically looking over, it really didn’t bring us closer to going out to those places.
Now, with the concept of Minimize and Simplify, I look over all our celebration dates throughout the year that we might need a reason to go out to those places like birthdays, wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day, etc. I then convert the list into a project labeled, “EATING OUT” and group the list of restaurants together.
Then, this project is set to start four days before the first event, which, in turns, gives me the option to not only be informed of the upcoming event but also have some ideas, to which I can act on. Moving along, when my next weekly review is due, I can decide to update this list by simply dropping or adding more selections and moving it to its next event.
Again, this is a practical solution that is designed to nudge my brain to make a decision and act on it to minimize things.
4. Get the Omni Makeover
As an added bonus to our clean up session, and one of the things that usually happens when you finish these type of massive project, you find out you now have some breathing room to move things around. Not only is this a great sign you’ve been successful at accomplishing your task, you now can have fun redecorating or making over how your clean space will look. Some of the ways that you can do this with OmniFocus is by:
- Changing the default icons on your perspective.
- Customizing and re-styling how OmniFocus looks.
(Go to Preferences and select “Style”. Here, you can choose a style from the table on the left and adjust it with the controls on the right).
- Or, by being adventurous, and uploading a new theme from the Omnigroup’s website. This tutorial post over on the workenplay website will get you going on the right path.
Remember to keep your OmniFocus, clean, uncluttered and well-organized.
To read more about my OmniFocus workflow see also: Mail to OmniFocus for iPad
How do you keep your task, projects, and folders organize in OmniFocus? What rituals or methods have you discovered to stay uncluttered? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
*Photo credit: Chiot’s Run (CC BY-NC 2.0)