We all suspected it, but Derek Thompson has a nice article on The Atlantic confirming it: Nobody gives a hoot about your conference call.
I do many of them. In average three a day. Most of the time I am invited, but for those I host I use these simple tricks to keep people engaged:
- Keep it to 30 minutes, 45 minutes max; Focus on a few, selected topics only, but make progress or even better: decisions
- Start a quarter past or before the hour; This way you typically "buy" people 15 minutes before the next meeting or call which they can use to do the stuff they would otherwise be doing during your call
- Have an agenda & objectives defined before you get on, distribute them together with any reference material (some may even read it — better than none); Never (!) send empty invites with an ambiguous subject
- Follow-up with at least a short summary including agreed actions so people learn that you are serious about the subject
- Use (HD) video conferencing whenever you can; Force people to turn their camera on! It changes everything and you get nearly the same focus & attention like in physical meetings
Most conference calls are (still) time sinks, sadly. But remember those few that were well organised and really productive? Make sure your conference calls fall into the latter category, at least most of them.
In the first part of this OmniFocus Perspectives Redux series we looked at why Perspectives are actually useful, how to create and use them to plan your day by picking the actions that you need (because they are due!) or like to work on. This time it is about creating a Perspective which helps you focus and do these actions.
Way too many use task management applications purely for capturing todos, organising them into a certain structure and ... leaving them sit there. Capturing and organising feels pretty great already but nowhere as satisfying as checking an action off because it is done. One of the many reasons people struggle to use their task management system as the center piece of their "doing" workflow is that they get easily overwhelmed by just the amount of actions sitting inside of it, starring at them.
This is exactly where a good Perspective in OmniFocus helps: It will filter all these tasks and present you only those you need or decided to engage with for the day. The sense of focus and progress such a daily list provides is priceless. Even the biggest projects and goals are delivered one step at the time — just starring at the long list of actions will not get you there.
The 'Today' Perspective
All actions you really need and want to work on during a single day are available in one Perspective, suitably named 'Today'. The 'Today' Perspective assumes that actions you need to do — because they have a real (i.e. externally imposed) deadline — come with a due date assigned and that actions you want to do have been picked as part of your planning by applying a flag (⌘⇧L).
All that is required of the 'Today' Perspective is to filter actions for Available ones which are either Due or Flagged. If you like to see a visual differentiation between important (flagged) and urgent (due) tasks then group them by Flagged and sort by Due. As a consequence tasks that are important and urgent show at the very top of your daily list, followed by the important ones and finally the urgent ones. This order makes sure the urgent tasks do not overrule the important ones all the time as the latter are most of the time the ones that get you closer to finishing your big projects and achieving your goals.
In the 'Today' Perspective the sidebar shows Contexts ("Don't use project hierarchy") which are filtered for Active ones, i.e. containing available tasks. This allows further reduction of today's action list, if desired, by clicking the Context you are currently in or which is most applicable in the sidebar.
Say it is early morning and you have quiet time and high levels of energy: Select your 'Focus' Context in your 'Today' Perspective and get cracking on some of the more complex and hairy tasks that require creativity to get done. If 'Focus' sounds like an odd GTD® Context to you read my 'Fresh Take on Contexts' post.
Finally, the 'Today' Perspective is maybe the only Perspective where it is advisable to select the "Open in a new window" option. By hiding the sidebar (Menu > View > Hide Sidebar or ⌘⌥S), hiding the toolbar (Menu > View > Hide Toolbar or assigning a custom keyboard shortcut in the keyboard System Preference pane) and resizing the window you can create an non-obstructive companion that helps you get your stuff done.
On a productive day, after you have done your planning, you may use nothing else in OmniFocus than this small 'Today' Perspective window and the Quick Entry to capture new inputs as they arrive. Only when you get to the end of the day you may "unfold" OmniFocus' power again to review progress, process inbox items, organise and plan again.
The Forecast Perspective
There is also a place for OmniFocus' built-in Forecast Perspective when you are in the "Doing" mode. While the 'Today' Perspective shows all tasks that you can action, it omits those that are unavailable because they are "Blocked" or "On Hold". This mainly applies to actions you have delegated and are waiting for a response. If your sanity is worth something to you, you would have assigned them to a "Waiting For" Context which should be in an "On Hold" state.
Logically this is perfectly okay (and sane) as you cannot perform these actions yourself. However, once during the day you want to check your Forecast view for these "Waiting For" actions and see if you can check some of them off as people got back to you or whether you need to drop a reminding email or call to some of your delegates who are a little late with things. One way of addressing this is during the "Planning" phase of the day.
While 'Today' and 'Forecast' address 90% of what is needed to actually get things done, there are a couple of more 'Doing' use cases for Perspectives I will cover in the 3rd & 4th part of the OmniFocus Perspective Redux series: Working more project centric and dealing with people & meetings.
As OmniFocus 2 has a great design the need for themes does not really exist anymore and OmniGroup removed the feature. Customising your experience is now limited to custom Perspectives (Pro version only) and the icons you use for them. Having a great set of icons that helps visualising what the different Perspectives are about is a must-have and, to be honest, the standard icons shipping with OmniFocus will not get you too far.
Luckily "Icons & Coffee", a side project of Silvia Gatta and Federico Viticci (aka MacStories Editor in Chief), have just released their OmniFocus Perspective Icons 2 pack.
With the new pack they align the icon design more with OmniFocus' new UI design as well as iOS 7 and the changes we can expect to see in iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite soon. With 100 great icons available in five different colour styles, standard and Retina resolution you can cover practically every Perspective you can think of.
Remember that Perspective icons sync across to your iOS devices and hence you get the pleasure of these beautiful symbols on all your OmniFocus versions.
The icons also fit nicely in mind maps or other places you need a symbolic representation, e.g. for Alfred workflows. Get this well designed icon set while it is available for 9.99$ (regular price 14.99$) and build some great Perspectives!
I have been following Shawn Blanc's "Sweet Mac Setup" series when it was still part of shawnblanc.net and pretty much from the first post. As for many I find it interesting, inspiring and sometimes intriguing how others have setup their Mac or iOS working environment.
The resulting popularity of the setup posts has led Shawn, together with a number of good and well-known friends, to create at dedicated site and expand the concept to include The Wirecutter-like Mac & iOS app recommendations and lots of helpful little tips.
As with many things that you follow and admire for a long time, you are humbled and honoured if all of a sudden you make an appearance. Thanks to Shawn Blanc and Stephen Hackett to have me and my Mac on The Sweet Setup.
I am really honoured that Nathan Lucy took the time to drawn up my OmniFocus GTD® Contexts from "A Fresh Take on Context" on a chart with OmniGraffle.
Check out his accompanying post and download the OmniGraffle source file.