OmniOutliner is a great organizational tool

Aug 21, 2005 03:05 · 459 words · 3 minute read

I’ve been reading 43 Folders for a while, and I really dig the whole GTD thing. Until today, I was keeping my next action lists in TextMate. But then I read Keith Robinson’s How I learned to stop worrying and love my schedule and it’s companion How I Schedule Actions and Tasks.

Spreadsheets are a great generic tool for keeping track of lists of things, adding stuff up and the like. (I hear there are some potential applications in financial fields as well, but I’ll believe it when I see it.) I’ve been looking for a decent Mac OS X native spreadsheet for a while, and just couldn’t come up with anything short of splurging on Microsoft Office.

Keith’s post highlights a workflow where tasks are kept in OmniOutliner and then scheduled in iCal. What Keith’s posting showed me was that you can have columns in OmniOutliner, and those columns can be tallied. It’s like a hierarchical spreadsheet. I’ve only just gotten started with it, but it’s a beautiful package.

When reading the articles, even though I loved what i saw about OmniOutliner, I could see a problem that I would have with the iCal part of the workflow. Keith alludes to it as well: it’s hard to rearrange big blobs of scheduled stuff if something comes up and forces its way into the middle of your schedule.

My thought: OmniOutliner to the rescue! I put estimates on my tasks the same way that Keith does. Then I create a “Schedule” outline with a top-level entry for each day and drag tasks from my various todo outlines onto each day. Most tasks don’t have to be done at a specific time of the day, so this works well. Just drop the tasks on the day and make sure the total of the tasks doesn’t go over the total time available in the day.

Outliners are naturally very good at selecting many nodes and moving them around to appropriate places. If something squeezes into my schedule, I just use this natural facility of the outliner to move things from one day to the next.

The only thing left is to figure out how to make appointments that do have a fixed time make it into iCal, which does alarms and all that good stuff. Maybe it’s not such a big deal, if I’m always just working off of the outline.

OmniGroup managed to get a bit of extra money out of me today, because OmniOutliner met these organization needs I had and it just happens that I have some diagrams that need making, so the bundle with OmniGraffle, etc. turned out to be a good deal. This is particularly true given that OmniGraffle is about to have a price increase.