Mind the Gap - OmniFocus is great, but...

As I’ve described earlier, I’m pretty much “all-in” with OmniFocus for my task management. Of all the apps I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a LOT of them), OmniFocus is the best at capturing tasks, managing personal projects, and focussing on specific tasks and next actions. I REALLY love how I can hide all of the stuff in the “future” and focus entirely on the tasks at hand. If I’ve a project that I am doing alone (and most of my projects are my own), you can believe that it's in my task-manager. And though it is expensive (compared to other task management apps, some of which are free), I have become convinced that one gets what one pays for.  

The Problem

But there’s a problem with OmniFocus that has proven (at least to date) insurmountable - there really isn’t a way to manage “shared” projects. OmniFocus is a personal task management system - it’s not designed for sharing tasks or sharing projects. This is actually a big problem, and leaves a significant gap that needs to be considered when selecting a task management system.

The gap is ubiquitous for OmniFocus - even OmniPlan (a project-planning app) doesn’t support managing tasks with delegates in OmniFocus. Even as the support forums continue to suggest that they are thinking about how to integrate OmniPlan and OmniFocus “someday,” there has been no development thus far.

Here’s an example of the problem…

I tried to use Trello to manage projects where I am collaborating with colleagues. In the case below, I shared a project with several colleagues as we wrote a grant together. As sections of the grant were drafted, edited, approved, and ready for submission, we were able to track where we were in completing the entire project. It’s a great way to communicate where things are in a shared project.

But if I am assigned a task in Trello, and my colleague Jennifer is assigned other tasks, there’s no way to integrate those into our OmniFocus systems. I’ll have to create a task in OmniFocus, and then when I have finished, go back to Trello and mark the task complete.

It’s double-entry - and in a perfect world, this is a problem we shouldn’t have. I’ve tried Basecamp, Podio, Trello, OmniPlan, and a whole bunch of other shared project services, and run up against the same problem. One has to go back and forth between the two platforms.

Solutions

  1. The least-elegant way to deal with this is to visit Trello, find out what’s been delegated to me, and enter the tasks in OmniFocus. When I’ve completed those tasks, I would return to Trello and mark them completed there. The same could be done with other shared task/project managers. Frankly, this is what I do for the few shared projects I have there. Not good - not good at all.
  2. For shared projects that have predictable (and recurring) tasks, Podio can be worth the investment of time. We have a program that students can sign up for, and their application requires approvals at a couple of different stages. We created a web-form in Podio, and use Globiflow to send tasks to the unique OmniFocus mail-drop. This really only works for predictable flows - any project that is ad hoc won’t be worth the time it takes to set up this workflow.
  3. If one has more shared projects than personal, it would probably be best to use a different task-manager app. Nozbe, Asana, and Todoist are really good at managing shared projects, and gives the user the ability to manage shared project tasks and personal tasks in one place. They are not nearly as customizable as OmniFocus (which is why project sharing works, I’m sure), but they can be quite useful for those who have a lot of shared projects.

I’m still in limbo when it comes to minding the gap between shared projects and OmniFocus. I do recommend that one consider this gap when deciding whether to choose OmniFocus, or another app that better manages shared projects.

Have YOU found a way to mind the gap between shared projects and OmniFocus? If so, share the wealth!!!

Posted on June 15, 2015 and filed under Task Management, GTD, General.