Key Insights from OmniFocus Workflows with David Sparks Session


David Sparks (aka MacSparky)Last week renowned blogger, author and podcaster, David Sparks (aka MacSparky) was a guest on Learn OmniFocus LIVE. Thanks to everyone who joined live and for all the great questions and sharing. A free recording is now available if you missed the live session or want to revisit what MacSparky had to share.

I’ve been a fan of David’s work for years and have been listening to him, Katie Floyd and a wide variety of guests share Mac and iOS workflows on Mac Power Users ever since this podcast first sprung to life back in 2009. I’ve also had the honour of adding my voice to the proceedings. Just over a year ago I was a guest on MPU (Mac Power Users 196: Holistic Productivity Workflows with Tim Stringer) and I’ve authored a couple Home Screens posts on David’s popular MacSparky blog over the years.

I’ve heard David talk about OmniFocus many times and this session created a unique opportunity to delve more deeply into some of the intricacies of the workflows he relies on to keep on top of his many Mac and iOS-related projects while also running a successful private law practice and enjoying an active family life.

Here are some key insights from what David shared that stood out for me:

  1. Weed the Garden Regularly – OmniFocus, like a garden, needs to be tended regularly or quickly becomes overgrown with weeds. Establishing a habit of regular OmniFocus reviews and maintenance helps build and maintain trust in the system and makes OmniFocus a genuinely useful and relevant tool.
  2. Daily Action List – David makes using of a “Daily Action List” to help ensure regular system maintenance and to reduce the chance of important things following through the cracks. Among other things, this list prompts him to regularly process what he’s collected in Pocket, to review his calendar and to process his inbox.
  3. Project Reviews – The Daily Action List also prompts David to review any projects that are up for review. He finds that daily reviews are more effective and less tedious than going through all projects in OmniFocus once a week. Some projects are set to be reviewed weekly, while others are reviewed less frequently.
  4. Get Off the Fence – As David Allen says, “You can do anything, but not everything.” Throughout the session David Sparks emphasized the importance of being decisive. In his own words: “So much of this is making hard decisions. You have a limited amount of time and resources to get things done and you just have to decide which ones are going to get that priority. If you make the hard decisions the night before or in the morning, you’ll have a productive day. And if you don’t, you’re going to feel defeated. It’s really that simple”.
  5. Peace of Mind – David shared that, even if he can’t do everything today, it brings him great peace of mind knowing that everything is managed. And if unexpected things come up during the day, OmniFocus’ defer feature allows him to clear the decks and respond to these unforeseen circumstances, knowing that the work he previously planned to complete will resurface at the appropriate time.
  6. Pat Yourself on the Back – It’s important not to beat yourself up if you’re not doing this (task management) perfectly. If you’re using OmniFocus you’re very likely far ahead of the curve when it comes to task and project management.

This is just a taste of what David Sparks had to share. Watch the session recording to explore these insights in more depth and for details on the contexts, perspectives and workflows that David Sparks uses to keep his ducks in a row. He also shares some sage advise on what to do when OmniFocus becomes unwieldy, for example when returning from a vacation.

Thanks again to David Sparks for being a guest on Learn OmniFocus LIVE and be sure to check out his MacSparky blog and the Mac Power Users podcast. You can also follow David on Twitter @MacSparky.

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