GTD-OmniFocus-CoverDavidCo, the company behind David Allen and the Getting Things Done® methodology, has recently released their own ‘GTD® and OmniFocus’ setup guide. While the previous version, developed together with the OmniGroup, is still available for free on the OmniFocus product website, this version is exclusive to either GTD® Connect members or comes as either a Letter or an A4 size 10 US$ download from the DavidCo online shop. If you want to get the OmniFocus setup guide and other white papers for free and try out the GTD® Connect community for 14 days you can use the corresponding free trial offer.

GTD® and OmniFocus Setup Guide Contents

The guide is 27 pages and divided into four main sections:

  • Understanding GTD® Best Practices: Which gives a very high-level introduction to the Getting Things Done® methodology and the key elements of OmniFocus such as Inbox, Project and Contexts
  • Configuring OmniFocus: Helps you with a very basic setup of OmniFocus including a short introduction to “Clipping Services” and Email integration
  • Populating OmniFocus: Getting stuff processed in OmniFocus, including context and project assignment, grouping projects in folders, using notes and single action lists
  • Conclusion: There is not much to conclude after 26 pages of setup guide, but there is still one gem of recommendation in there:

Be careful not to overcomplicate your systems to the point where you can only maintain them when you are at your peak of mental clarity.

Target audience

The guide is clearly targeted at GTD® and/or OmniFocus novices. It is brief, easy to read and the best practices and setup tips are simple to implement. If you are setting up OmniFocus for the very first time, this guide gets you up and running in less than 30 minutes. But then again, the white paper on the OmniFocus product page at OmniGroup is free and will get you a similar outcome. Although the DavidCo setup guide is slightly better written and gets you and your setup ready without taking you through all features of OmniFocus.

Some of take-aways

Generally the guide is not recommendable for well versed users of OmniFocus and long-time GTDers. Key differentiating features of OmniFocus such as parallel/sequential projects, nested task lists, review functionality or perspectives are either only scratched on their surface or not even mentioned at all.

What is quite striking is the subtle difference if the software developer writes a white paper together with the methodology creator or if the methodology creator writes one together with the software developer (although I doubt the OmniGroup was actively involved in the creation of this white paper). Some examples:

  • DavidCo recommends to rename the standard Miscellaneous single action list into ‘---' to reduce the notion of a ‘project’
  • All projects should be ‘parallel’ projects by default and should not contain any actions that do not represent truly actionable next steps

Between the lines you can see that the author of the OmniFocus GTD® setup guide does not necessarily agree with every single detail of the Getting Things Done® implementation by the OmniGroup. However, we have all learned to customise the application to our needs and the great thing about OmniFocus is that it allows you to do just that.

Being written for new users there are also some great reminders for us advanced users in the guide. Simple things that we tend to forget over time such as

  • Just throw stuff into your inbox without any processing: It can be a simple link or even just one keyword; You can and should look at it later during processing and figure out what it means to you and what you want to do about it
  • Keep your project setup simple: One, the next, action is usually enough as projects nowadays keep changing all the time anyways
  • Stay clean: If there is no next action for a project it is either done, obsolete or needs to go back to the Someday/Maybe list/folder for further incubation

While 10 US$ is not a lot of dough, I would not spend it on this guide. In particular if you can get a free one of the OmniGroup website. However, if you get it for free as part of your GTD® Connect (trial) membership as you getting started with OmniFocus and GTD® it will be valuable.

And yes, renaming your Miscellaneous single action list into ‘---' has some interesting psychological effect.