SmartPerspective for OmniFocus

Screen Shot 2013 08 15 at 3 47 56 PM

I have an order to the tasks I work on. If something’s flagged in OmniFocus, it should be done first. If there aren’t any flagged tasks, then I move on to regular next actions. If there aren’t any next actions, (which is rare) then I move on to “someday” tasks. This AppleScript checks if tasks fit those conditions, and shows you the proper perspective.

Check out SmartPerspective here.

If you want to take it a step further, run SmartPerspective with Keyboard Maestro and have it run anytime OmniFocus activates. If there’s no front window, nothing will happen. If there isn’t a front window, then the proper perspective will open up.

Update: 2013-09-14

I’ve finally done it! (I think…)

I wrote up a little script called SmartPerspective for OmniFocus that smartly opens up different perspectives depending on whether certain conditions have been met. If tasks in my “Daily” project (all the junk that needs to be done every day), it opens the “Daily” perspective. If that’s clear, it looks for flagged tasks in every context and if any exist, it opens “Flagged”. After that, if any available tasks are left, it opens “Next Actions”. Lastly, if none of these conditions have been met, it opens up the “Someday” perspective and then you can look at stuff that isn’t blocked (by a start date) but isn’t in an active project.

The first version of the script stupidly closed all windows and then created a new document window. This was awkward and slower than just resetting the perspective name property for the document window. Now, if a front document window is visible, it resets the perspective name property. If one isn’t visible, then a new document window is created. This is faster and smarter. Also, this approach finally seems to make using Keyboard Maestro’s application trigger “when OmniFocus activates” open the right perspective every time.

The Evernote Tickler File

Screen Shot 2013 05 27 at 9 00 05 PM

The Best Electronic Tickler

When Evernote 5.1 launched, the Apple sites started crapping out “Evernote is a to-do app now!” posts because:

  1. They’re dumb
  2. People love posts about to-do apps
  3. Everyone’s dumb

Here’s the thing. A to-do app is a list of things you need to do. Evernote is not for lists. They may call them notes, but each note is a folder that consists of text, audio, images, PDFs, HTML and whatever files you throw in there. When you apply reminders to notes, you’re essentially turning Evernote into a tickler file system. To-do apps tell you what you need to do. Tickler files tell you when you need to act on something. That’s what Evernote is doing with reminders. Your notes need to be acted on. They’re not telling what you need to do. You can accomplish the same thing with OmniFocus by including links to Evernote notes in OmniFocus’ notes field, but using the Evernote reminders has its advantages.

The biggest advantage that I can see with Evernote reminders is that notes in a shared notebook will then sync over those reminders to everyone else who is in that shared notebook. Currently, I’ve got two notebooks shared with people I’m planning trips with, and I’m using reminders on notes with hotel information and shopping lists. These reminders will not only pop-up for me, but for my travel companion as well. When one before marks a note as done, that reminder will be removed and will make sure that other people know it doesn’t need to be acted on. I don’t use Evernote for Business, but I’m betting that this could be helpful in business situations.


While Evernote for OS X has great AppleScript support, the dictionary currently lacks reminders support. Until this is added, Reminders can’t reach its full potential, in my eyes. Automating the creation and modification of reminders is the ultimate end. Imagine a script that will create a note, populate it with some text or file attachment and then assign a reminder to it. You could do a lot with that. As for iOS, Evernote hasn’t done anything with fancy URL schemes, so automating reminders on iOS could prove impossible.

Evernote Camera Roll 20130527 210145

Lastly, the way reminders are displayed, in a list at the top of notebooks is kind of in the way at times. You can collapse the list, but that collapsed list is still always lurking at the top. I’d prefer a way to turn that list off and have it in it’s own separate sidebar item. A lot of my reminders are set for months ahead and I don’t need to see them in this list two months before they can or need to be acted on.

Finder Color Labels

Screen Shot 2013 05 13 at 9 15 05 AM

I’ve gotten into using Finder color labels again lately. I played around with OpenMeta tagging (and still use them in a limited capacity), but I’ve found that for most purposes, color labels are my best way of adding a bit of metadata to a file. Tags are great, but they don’t create the visual pop that color labels do. If you’re looking at a folder-full of files, color labels immediately show you something about the files. I use color labels in a very GTD sense.

Color Meaning
Purple Inbox Item
Orange Next Action
Green Processed
Blue On Hold
Yellow Starred
Red Problem/Delete
Gray Reference

OpenMeta tags (for me) had two purposes. On one hand, I tagged them depending what kind of file it was and what needed to be done with them. I have a lot of Hazel rules that auto-tag files based on what kind of files they are, so that they can be categorized and searched more easily, I find that actions that need to be done with files work better when I can see them quickly and Spotlight can recognized color labels and I have smart folders in my Finder sidebar for quick access to inbox items, next actions and other GTD-related lists. They function the same as a small set of OpenMeta tags, but the colors trigger a response in my brain, that tags don’t.

If you don’t use color labels all that much, I’d recommend integrating them with your GTD workflow and also match your OmniFocus color schemes in a similar way. The uniformity between the two can be useful.

A Tickler Folder System for OS X


Updated on 2013-03-14

I made some bug fixes to the “check” apps and now they are pretty fail-proof. I also altered the “maker” app so that it creates a “Tickler” folder and then puts all the other folders inside that one. It looks cleaner and makes it easier for the “check” scripts to see if the “Tickler” folder already exists or not.

I created a nifty little AppleScript that will build a 43 Folders tickler folder system. When you launch the app, it asks you where you want to build the hierarchy, and then proceeds to build a folder for every month and a folder for every day inside each month’s folder. You can then combine that with two more scripts I wrote for checking today’s tickler and tomorrow’s tickler. I’d recommend setting these two up as launch agents with Lingon or Launch Control and have them auto-open at certain times of the day so that you can see if you have any files coming up that need to be acted on.

Download the set of files here.

Quick Capture and Peace of Mind

Most GTDers will tell you that you should have one inbox and no more. I do agree that you should have only one inbox, but I would argue that the concept of an inbox is a two-step process. The first step, or the “reception desk” of your inbox is in your head. Before you fire up Omnifocus and tap the quick entry shortcut, you need to make that decision in your head of whether or not you need to be capturing the task into your trusted source. The first rule of GTD is: if you can do it in two minutes, now, then do it.

Let’s say you’re walking to work and you realize you forgot something. First, you have to decide, is this something I can act on now and finish in the next two minutes? No, of course not. You’re on your way to work, and the thing you need is at home. You pull out your phone and open up Omnifocus to enter in a task. You could enter in a project, a context, a start time and flag the task so that it only pops up after you’ve gotten home and you can act on it. I’d argue that it would be better to enter the name of the task and then just close Omnifocus. Quick capture is about getting the thing in your head out of your head and into the inbox. It’s not about processing the task. I have this problem where I want to process everything right away. I’ve realized that I’m better off just dumping things into the inbox and leaving them to be processed during a daily review. The term “daily review” might not be the best one though, because reviewing Omnifocus just once a day might not be enough. I probably need to do 2-3 reviews a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night before going to bed. Quick capture should be about peace of mind, not productivity, per se.

Interesting Links: August 22, 2011

Helpful for getting Lion just the way you want with minimal effort on your part.

If you have multiple iTunes accounts (like I do), this is a huge time saver! Be forewarned, I had issues of high CPU usage. Check Activity Monitor after running the app!

A wonderful post about keeping your quick notes in Omnifocus and later processing them into other places instead of putting things into a notes app you might not check as regularly as a task manager.