OmniFocus (review) is promoted as a best-of-class task management system. It is supposed to help keep you organized and on top of things in every way possible. And just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about OmniFocus – there’s more. I’m going to show you how to use it to manage your dating life.
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OK, so the title of this article is a bit misleading. It’s not just going to show you how to use OmniFocus to manage your dating life. It’s actually going to show you how to use OmniFocus more than just your romantic prospects – how to use it to manage your co-workers, your boss, your employees, your family, your contacts… and anyone else you can think of.
- Some things to keep in mind about networking, and how people-based projects and contexts differ from your standard GTD-style OmniFocus projects and contexts.
- Method 1: Using projects. Using limited-time projects to manage people.
- Method 2: Using single-action lists.
- Method 3: Using contexts. For managing multiple people across multiple lists and projects.
Things to Keep in Mind
The first thing to keep in mind, is that you’re using OmniFocus. Which means, you use either a Mac, or an iPhone or iPad – and this automatically makes you sexy.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you want to remember that these are people you are managing – not projects or items. Why is this important? Well…
- People have feelings.
- People behave irrationally.
- People tend to be the weakest spots in all systems (and everything is a system).
Even though they will appear as action items, projects or contexts in OmniFocus, you must always remember that these are other human beings you are interacting with – and treat them as such.
The one really important mindset to take away from this section is this:
There is nothing wrong with using technology to manage your social interactions.
For some strange reason, our culture (the Americanized West) seems to promote the idea that social skills are something we are born with (or not), and that improving or augmenting them through study or technological means is something that just isn’t done. Case in point.
There is some scientific credence to the idea that human brains are tribal in nature – that is, we can only hold information for about 150 people in our heads. To expand this number, we need to augment that capacity through technology and systems.
If you’ve read some of the more popular books on networking, like Never Eat Alone, Love is the Killer App or How to Win Friends and Influence People (review/notes), you’ll note that they all refer to networking and managing the people in your life as a skill. Using OmniFocus is simply one technological way to help you do that.
Think of it as taking an organized approach to networking – it’s a skill, you need organization to get value out of it, it’s best done efficiently, and what seems like strategic planning in the beginning becomes organic and second-nature over time.
Now the ideal way to use OmniFocus for managing contacts would be to have some sort of script or process that integrates OmniFocus projects with the Address Book on your phone – but that doesn’t exist (yet). Instead, we can use either projects, single-action lists or tasks.
Any and all the methods described below are valid – you simply have to find the one that works well with your OmniFocus Setup.
A friendly reminder from AE Thanh: Appointments with people go in your Calendar. Actions related to people go in OmniFocus.
Credit for the idea of using projects comes from Dr Ngo, who uses projects to manage his uh… business contacts.
The best use of projects is when you have a follow-up sequence of actions to do with a single person. Think of it as an OmniFocus-based CRM system.
For example, say you’re at BlogWorld, and by chance you bump into AE Thanh, and decide that you want to network with him. You would start by creating a project called “Thanh Pham” in OmniFocus, with action items designed to further cement that relationship.
What you are essentially doing is being strategic about your networking first, with the aim of dropping the OmniFocus project once you’ve become friends.
As you can see, I’ve created a folder for Networking, and a project for each person (or date) I want to network with. Example actions in this case would be:
- Ping on Twitter.
- Email again.
- Set up Business Lunch.
These actions can be considered “events” that happen in your interaction with this particular person. They can either be short-term (as will likely be the case with a new contact) or further reaching.
Using Single-Action Lists
Unlike OmniFocus Projects, Single-Action Lists are better suited to help you manage people who you already have an established (and ongoing) relationship with – think boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s), spouse, co-workers, business or JV partners.
There are two different approaches here.
The first is to use 1 single-action list per person. This differs from using a Project in that a Project has a defined end-date, whereas a single-action list does not – it’s just a list of things to do or follow-up with a particular person.
In this case, you can see how the actions are not sequential, but more general discussions or interactions that need to happen.
The second approach is to use the Agile Results method, which I described in passing here. What I did in that article was create a single “Social” single-action list, to represent that are of my life.
The last and most GTD-like way to manage people in OmniFocus is by using contexts.
It is usually the easiest to implement for most people who have already used OmniFocus for some time, as the addition of contexts is easy to do, and doesn’t require much reorganization of actions. Most clients we’ve worked with usually have tasks across multiple projects relating to one person.
For example, “email document XYZ” and “call about ABC” may appear in one work project, while “set up meeting time for DEF” and “Organize business lunch for Friday” appear in a different project – but they all relate to the same person.
The recommended approach for using contexts is to create two umbrella contexts – Waiting For, and People. This looks as such:
- Waiting For: Thanh Pham
- People: Thanh Pham
Waiting For means that the person has to get back to you about something. People means that you have to initiate the action.
Note also that you don’t have to limit yourself to just people in this case – you can also assign Waiting For and People contexts to business or other entities.
Or for groups of people (command-click to select multiple perspectives):
If you don’t remember how, Perspectives are easily created by first setting up the window the way you want, then going to Perspectives > Save Perspective As.
- Realize that it’s OK to augment your memory with technology when it comes to managing contacts.
- Pick an approach – and implement.
There are several ways that OmniFocus can be used to make your life and business activities more productive. We’ve outlined several on our OmniFocus page, and will feature more “specialty uses” in our upcoming OmniFocus product.
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Photo by: seanmcgrath
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