OmniFocus for iPhone – a GTD application reviewed

A simple Google search for omnifocus is revealing more than 220.000 results (as of October 2008), which, for a personal task manager application, is a lot. And I would say that this popularity is well deserved by OmniFocus. Not only because it won the Apple Awards for Best iPhone Productivity Application in 2008, but because is a really useful piece of software. OmniGroup, the makers of OmniFocus, are well known in the Mac world for their OmniOutliner and OmniPlan products. I used OmniOutliner a lot until I shifted to mind mapping but I still use it from time to time even today. As for OmniPlan, it was a key factor in big projects, when I used to run my own online publishing business.

But from a large structure planning application to a personal organizer implementing GTD there is quite a gap, and one cannot expect to apply the same knowledge in both areas. Maybe this is why OmniGroup made some very interesting moves back in 2006-2007, bringing into the development team of what they called at that time Omni Fu the icon GTD blogger Merlin Mann, and the maker of a popular GTD implementation called Kinkless, Ethan Schoonover. I dare to say that OmniFocus wouldn’t be what it is today without the advices and know-how of those GTD gurus.

But enough with praises, and let’s start reviewing OmniFocus for iPhone. I expect this post to be rather big, so put aside some time to read it. Also, I must say that the intended audience for this goes from the unexperienced iPhone user who wants to increase personal productivity to the moderate GTD follower, so if you fall between these categories, give it a read.

GTD with an iPhone

The first and the most important thing about OmniFocus is its compliance with the GTD methodology. For those of you unaware of this concept, GTD is a methodology invented by David Allen, which can dramatically boost one’s personal productivity. In short, by using GTD you are doing stuff (Actions) grouped together (Projects) in specific locations (Contexts) and by taking one step at a time (Next Actions). OmniFocus lets you add your Projects, fill them with Actions, assign them to Contexts, and see when and where you can do them. But a picture is worth a thousand words (have I already said that?) so here is how the home screen of OmniFocus looks like:

OmniFocus for iPhone home screen
OmniFocus home screen

Projects and Contexts are just usual handles for task management, so these are pretty self explanatory, but what you can see at a glance in the home screen is also the time constraint for your activities. Being able to see on the home screen how many tasks are due soon, how many are overdue and how many important (flagged) tasks you have is such a time saver. Another noticeable thing is the lower sidebar, which features icons for nearby contexts, syncing, and quick add an action to Inbox. That lower bar is available all over the application. Simple and clear interface.

Read moreOmniFocus for iPhone – a GTD application reviewed

My Top 13 iPhone 3G Applications

My iPhone journey started before the iPhone was even born, at the time when all we knew about it were rumors and suppositions. That didn’t stop me to imagine what could we have if we’ll combine an iPhone and GTD. Apparently, this is one of the most read articles from my blog, by the way. Several months after the official iPhone launch I managed to get my own iPhone (and learned how to jailbreak it, of course). Weeks after I got used to it, I wrote a description of my top 13 applications for iPhone. Time flies real fast, and now I replaced my first iPhone with an iPhone 3G, a device which, together with AppStore, changed the rules of the game pretty big. So, it’s time to write my new list of top 13 applications. For iPhone 3G, this time.

iAdd

<shameless self promotion>

iAdd is my own productivity app, it was just launched June 30 and I thought it would be relatively relevant to put it here too. Since this is actually the list of apps which I’m currently using, and since iAdd is really an app I’m using, I don’t see why not. So, in short, iAdd take its name from Assess – Decide – Do, which is my own life management framework (click on the link to learn more) and it aims at integrating your day to day life with your productivity requirements. If you do GTD, iAdd will feel like a breeze. đŸ˜‰

Although iAdd works on an iPhone 3G it is in fact an iOS4 app, one of the neat things about it being the ability to add and manage local notifications. Just read the launch post to learn more about this productivity app.

iAdd is available on the AppStore for only 2.99 (for a limited time). Get a grip on it here.

</end shameless self promotion>

Calendar

With the latest 2.1 firmware, the iPhone Calendar is now a mature application. Now you can have all your Mac calendars synced, or you can choose from within iTunes which ones do you want only on your iPhone. You can see events from all calendars if you want, or you can chose only one calendar to focus on. I started to use iPhone Calendar for much more than simple events or reminders. For instance, the second event you see in the screenshot above is in fact an exercise for my personal mission statement. After working several days on my personal mission statement I thought it would be interesting to put a daily reminder early in the morning that will list that personal mission. I’ve been doing this for two weeks now and the results are very interesting. But I plan to write more about this way of using tools in a larger post about the Law Of Attraction.

Notes

Surprisingly rising up, Notes is one of the easiest way for me to capture ideas. I use it whenever I don’t have my computer around, because of it’s interface simplicity. Also because of the “email this note” capability, which I found it extremely rare across other similar applications. What you can see in the screenshot above is a typical idea brainstorming. These are barely scaffolds for my posts, or for things I want to do. Usually, a scaffold like this is totally transformed in 6-7 or even more iterations. Some of the ideas are just going to thrash, but most of them are integrated into my daily work routine.

Mail

Widely recognized at the most important improvement in the 2.x firmware series, Mail is finally a very robust tool for online communication. I can use it for PUSH email, like the yahoo mail, for POP accounts, like the one on the mirabilis.ro domain, and for IMAP like Gmail. There is another extremely important improvement in the latest iPhone Mail App and that is the ability to select multiple messages for deletion. I get easily over 100 messages / day and deleting them one by one is more than I can accept, in terms of email management. Also, viewing attachments is so much easier now. Really an asset.

Read moreMy Top 13 iPhone 3G Applications

Manage Your Time As You Manage Your Money

Time is money, that’s one of the oldest English sentences I learned. I guess I wasn’t even in school, and I remember I knew the meaning of this. And keep in mind that English is not my primary language, I was born and raised Romanian. Years after, I still surprise myself thinking in these terms. There is a common understanding that your time is one of your most precious assets, so you should take good care of it. Interestingly enough, this happens mostly in Western cultures, Eastern cultures seems to have a more relaxed attitude towards time.

But even more interesting is the fact that, despite the ubiquity of this saying, almost everybody tries to avoid its message. Don’t get me wrong, people are still putting a high value on time, making it a very precious asset, but almost nobody really treats time the same way they treats their money. People are eager for free time, they are making a lot of effort to gain some extra time, but once they get it, they are wasting it instantly, in a way they will never do to their money. In this post I’ll try to share a few simple and easy ideas for really keeping your time safely in your wallet, the same way you do with your finances.

Keep it clean

If you are a person moderately rich, I bet your wallet looks like a pharmacy. It’s clean and ordered and you know in less than a second where to find the ten dollar bill, as well as the Mastercard you use for shopping only. And even if you are not a moderately rich person, but you have a positive attitude towards money, I bet your wallet is clean and ordered. I know mine is. And I know I have quite a positive attitude towards money.

So why don’t we do the same with our time? For me, that translates in a very clean and ordered working routine. If time will be sliced into ten, twenty and fifty dollars bills, I would know instantly how much do I have left, and where I find the needed bill every time I need it. Slicing my time in ordered pieces, the same way I did with bills and cards in my wallet helped me a lot. And is such a simple yet powerful analogy: keep your time as your wallet.

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Journaling versus Blogging

Back in 2004 I started to keep a journal. It was basically a folder on my Linux powered laptop, with a bunch of unorganized files floating around. Everything was written hastily using vi, an editor which may be considered somehow cumbersome by the average computer user. Those were the days when my programming skills were … Read more Journaling versus Blogging

New blog theme, alltop featured and more

Well, it’s been a busy week-end for some of us, and yes my friend, that includes me. There were some important changes on this blog, some of them quite visible, some of them just starting to bloom. But the bottom line is that we are moving in the right direction.

First of all, as you may already noticed, there is a new layout for eDragonu.ro. I felt that it was the moment to make the step toward a professional implementation of a wordpress template. After searching the net several days, I finally decided to stay with thesis, a highly customizable, yet surprisingly stable wordpress theme. Installing it was a little bit time consuming, but in the end it really paid the time. I am satisfied with the new look, and, as I already told you, you are only seeing the top of the iceberg. There are more subtle options that I really like at this theme, and I plan to write a more detailed description of them in a couple of days. Oh, and when I said “professional”, I said also “commercial”, thesis is a paid theme and it is on the highest scale amongst the paid template systems.

OK, so now you wonder why I paid for a wordpress theme. The answer is really simple: because I want to focus on writing, not on customizing my blog theme every week. And because with this one I have more than a theme, I really have like a small publishing system. For instance, the picture you see on the right of the page, well, that multimedia box is a highly customizable content placeholder. I can assign to it a fixed image, a video box or custom code (like advertising, of course), and I can do that globally, for each post, or for each page. I already assigned to the pages top posts and downloads special images, just do a quick click to test. And I can do all of this from within wordpress dashboard, without digging through code, how about that?

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It’s Not About Them, It’s About You

One of the most important parts of our lives is social interaction. Is the way we act and, most of the time, react to other people. And, from my personal experience, is the part which can create most of our bitterness and sadness, which can carve the deepest guilts and seeds the most ferocious fears in our life. And why is that? Because most of the time it’s about them. The others. Peoples who hurts us, who makes us suffer, who break our hearts and our wings.

Well, guess what? It’s not about them, it’s about you.

In this post I’ll share my personal experiences about social interactions. I’ll also try to synthesize some simple ways in which you can try to avoid all the negative manifestations that relationships can create.

The lesson

The first, the most important, and, to be honest, the only lesson I’ve learned from social interaction is: it’s not about them, it’s about you. It took me a lot of time to learn this and also some paynful experiences. I’ve been through a lot of denial and defensive attitudes, I’ve cast tons of guilt to other persons in my life and tried to escape all the abusive situations in which i’ve been put. But in the end, I learned that this is the only healthy way to deal with others. Understanding that you are the person responsible for everything is happenng to you it’s the cornerstone of a fulfilling social life.

Because you actually have the power to attract, maintain and seed all the positive interactions you need. But the reverse of this meddal is that you also have the power to attract all the negative, consuming or humiliating relationships into your life. Although is hard to accept that, this is the truth. You may think that you’re not responsible for the stinky job you have, for the broken marriage or for the complete emptiness of your life, but it’s true.

The only person who can live your life is yourself. Nobody else, just you. Blaming others for your current situation puts you in a surrendering situation. It actually takes your life out of your hands and put it in their hands. Making them responsible for your life actually empowers them. It’s like going to a person you don’t like and saying:

Please, make me miserable! I’m so bored and irresponsible that I need somebody to blame for that! Would you be my blaming mate? I’ll even call you my husband, my wife, my girlfriend, my parent or my kid? How about that? We can have a deal on that one? Coz I really, really need a blaming mate and I think you’d be perfect for that: you want to control everything, you’re insecure, dominating, my god, you got them all? So, can we get married now?

Although you smiled reading this, you did exactly that at least once in your life. We all did it. We put the blame for our broken marriage on our parents shoulders, on our so-called friends, on the dentist with whom she ran, on the stripper whit whom he quit, on her, on him, on the other guy, on everybody. On everybody except us. Why? Because it’s simpler. It’s easier and relieves the pain for the moment. We feel better, get over it for now, and try to have a life. Until next time, when we do exactly the same mistake, and blame exactly the same person.

You may ask now: but what’s the mistake? My situation was so special, I had a bad childhood, I grew up in a poor family, I had an abusive parent, I had a difficult time in school… In fact, although they seem different, all the situations comes to only one: the choice. You have the power to make a choice. And, despite your expectations, this is the easiest choice you can make: you can chose to react to the person, or you can chose to act. You can chose to stay happy when somebody is hurting you, or you can chose to be sad. You can chose to feel humiliation or you can choose to manifest power. You can control everything. You have the power to create whatever response you want in your interactions. Of course, you won’t be able to do this instantly. Or if you are able, I bet you stoped reading this post from the first paragraph, because you’re already past this, and you learned the most important, valuable, and, to be honest, the only lesson about relationships: it’s not about them, it’s about you.

But if you are still reading, that means you can use some advice. Let’s see how we can stop the process of reaction and start acting, moving the power flow towards us and harmonizing our social life.

Read moreIt’s Not About Them, It’s About You

Raw Food Diet Update: Two Months After

It’s been almost two months since I started the raw food diet and I thought it would be a good time to share some of the effects this diet had so far. For those of you unfamiliar with this type of eating I’ll just say that raw food means eating uncooked and unprocessed food, exclusively fruits, vegetables and seeds. I’ve been on this type of diet before, but now I do it much more strictly, while monitoring its effects more closely. First and foremost, I have to say that there were several exceptions from this diet, all of them because the events were out of my control.

It’s about the trip to New Zealand, which in itself counted as almost 4 days from the total amount of the last month. And two of these days were literally on air, the flight from Bucharest to Auckland is more than 22+ hours. So, on the plane I had to eat some cooked food, but I limited myself only to some bread now and then, some cheese, and the rest of the meals were just the salads, fruits or juice. The stewards were most of the time puzzled by my choice – and I have to admit that I could organize the trip a little better, by informing the airline company in advance about my culinary preferences – but they did their best to accommodate my appetite. So, with a little compromise from my part, I managed not to starve on the 4 transcontinental flights, and still keep the cooked food at a minimal level.

Another exception was an experiment. After reading a lot about B12 vitamin deficiency I decided to incorporate some B12 fortified food in my eating routine. I experimented with some cheese and then settled for B12 fortified cereals. I intend to eat twice a week a plate of B12 fortified cereals with plain water. It’s a compromise I need to make until I have a better understanding of this situation. The vast majority of raw food gurus seems to agree on the B12 necessity, while some other part claims that B12 can be found in seeds, especially sesame seeds. Will see more about that…

Read moreRaw Food Diet Update: Two Months After

What You Know Is What You Get

They say you cannot really enter a Universe, without modifying it. This sentence is especially frequent in quantum physics and it witness a very simple fact: whenever you go, whatever you do, you’ll be influenced in your perceptions by whatever you already know at that moment. Every Universe you enter will be shaped by your prior knowing about what a Universe should be. If you think the Universe should be round, all the Universes which you will explore will have the roundness property. If you think the Universe is flat, all the places in the known world will have just one dimension for you. At least, this is what they say…

This is very important especially when you translate it to personal development. If you think at the next level of your personal development like a Universe you want to explore, then you have already an approach for working with it. You’ll know that every level of your personal development will be actually shaped by your prior knowledge about it.

I take this in 2 ways:

  1. there is an intrinsic limitation of the Universes you may explore, because your knowledge is limited
  2. there are no limitations whatsoever to the Universes you may explore, as long as you first know them, or you have the power to imagine them.

There are decent arguments to sustain both approaches.

Most of the skeptics would go with number one, and prove that your experience is fundamentally limited because your knowledge is limited. Your knowledge is fed within the current world, so the next world should be more or less identical with this one. As long as your input is limited to this environment, it’s impossible to expand it to new, completely different environments.

Those left after the skeptics have spoken will attach to number two, and state that you can actually imagine everything and then experience it. I must say that I lean more towards this part of the world. The part who say that you have unlimited power to tune your imagination for unlimited Universes and then experience them physically, because you already knew them in your mind and made them possible.

I wrote this small and somehow abstract introduction because I recently experienced something related to these concepts. It’s a series of encounters and logical deductions which strongly pushed me to accept the second way of experiencing the world. Let’s start the story first, and then the revelations.

Read moreWhat You Know Is What You Get