The Dynamic Duo: My OmniFocus and Bullet Journal workflow

The Dynamic Duo: My OmniFocus and Bullet Journal workflow
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(Wilson Ng) #1

In the Twitterverse, a question was asked about how we use OmniFocus and the Bullet Journal (BuJo) together.

@JoeBuhlig discusses his adventures in an all-analog world here:

Since that time, he has returned to OmniFocus 3 with a different OmniFocus structure. (Discourse topic available for Pro Guild members):

@JustinDiRose has a post that detailed his Bullet Journal workflow:

I had a previous post talking about using a mixture of analog and digital here:

TL;DR - I use OmniFocus to capture and store all of my projects and tasks. I look at my Dashboard perspective which shows a list of all my due tasks and flagged tasks. From this list, I write down 3-5 tasks into mynotebook. I hide OmniFocus on my Mac and get to work on those tasks in my notebook.

This was the beginning of my journey into mixing analog and digital. I’ve never really thought of my notebook as a “Bullet Journal.” But I can see the resemblance. I broke down and bought a Traveler’s Notebooks I saw it at my local bookstore.

I haven’t read “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll yet. But it’s already in my iPad reading queue. I’ll be experimenting with BuJo in 2019. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

https://www.amazon.com/Bullet-Journal-Method-Present-Design-ebook/dp/B07B7C4F9C/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1546063710&sr=8-1

I don’t use all of the Bullet Journal methodology (at least not yet). From my understanding, you can pick the parts that you want to use and slowly build it up over time. The Bullet Journal blog is a great place to start.

My experiments are slow and deliberate. I will take part of one workflow and incorporate it slowly. Over time, I’ll have enough pieces working for me. I don’t have to use every bit. Add bits that I need and practice with it until I am comfortable. Over time, it will become an essential part of my routine or it will be slowly phased out when I no longer need it.


Everything starts digitally with OmniFocus

**OmniFocus is where I capture and store all of my goals, projects, and single actions. **I wrote about my Big Rocks and Administrative tasks here.

A short summary about my OmniFocus structure

  1. My Single Actions Lists (SALs) and routine/administrative tasks are stored in an Admin Routines folder and a Single Actions folder. This keeps all the miscellaneous one-off tasks and repeating tasks inside its own folder.

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  1. Big Rock projects go into different folders that represents my Areas of Responsibilities such as Home, Office, Personal Development, etc.

Most of my Big Rock projects start in On Hold status (all projects that are grayed out. I set one to two projects in each folder (Area of Responsibility) to Active status. My Big Rock (active) projects are in white. Because I have a lot of Areas of Responsibilities, having one to two active projects in each folder can add up. I have to spend time on single one-off actions and routine maintenance tasks in addition to any active Big Rock projects in my life. Most of my projects are “on hold” because I am not actively working in them. In other task managers such as Things or Todoist, I might add a star (:star:) or fire (:fire:) emoji to the project title to symbolize a project that I am actively work on. I try to put the other projects aside and focus on these emoji-labeled projects.


The BuJo - Goals Notebook and MITs Notebook

My Traveler’s Notebook has three notebook inserts.

  1. Goals - a notebook that I can look to for inspiration and guidance.
  2. MITs (Most Important Task) - where my day is planned and executed.
  3. Freeform - I haven’t really found anything yet for this last notebook. I’m going to leave this open for awhile. After I finish reading the “Bullet Journal Method” book, I’ll have a better idea. But I am no rush to figure out what to use this for. If you have any ideas, feel free to post a reply below!

The Goals Notebook

I start off with a mind map or an OmniOutliner outline trying to form my goals. I have been experimenting with goal planning methods for a while now. I’ll be writing about goal planning in another post in the near future.

After I get a proper goal with it purpose (what do I want the future to look like in one year), I outline the milestones for each quarter and each year. After multiple drafts, I’ll finally transfer it from my mind map or outline to my Goals Notebook. I’m experimenting using pen and paper instead of just printing out my document and putting into the journal. I’ve been reading about psychology and the art of writing. Writing forces me to slow down and be intentional. I am being more thoughtful when I hand-write my goals. If my goals stay in a digital document lost in a folder somewhere on my Mac or iPad, I won’t look at it. Having a Goals Notebook in my hands is reinforcing my goals. I get to open my Goals Notebook and read it once a week. I can stay on track better when I have my goals in my hands instead of a bunch of letters on a digital screen.

I create a project for each Milestone in the Goal. Breaking up the goal into smaller sub-projects can bring me satisfaction as I hit each milestone. If I had one huge project for a goal, it would be a very long list and I would feel totally helpless at the beginning of the project. Seeing that I have made 5% progress towards a goal makes the goal feel impossible. But hitting each smaller milestone and completing the sub-project brings a sense of achievement sooner rather than later. Think of a long marathon. I’m only envisioning myself finishing the first mile. Then I’ll focus on the next mile. Over time, I’ll have achieve the finish line.

The MITs Notebook

At the end of the day, I go through my Daily Review.

I write down in my MITs Notebook any maintenance tasks that will be due in the next 3-4 days. I also look at my Big Rock projects and write down the next two tasks that I want to work on for each Big Rock project that resides in each folder (Area of Responsibility).

MY life is busy enough that my maintenance tasks and the small handful of MITs from the Big Rocks will easily fill the week. I need to keep some buffer space every day for appointments and Life. Life has a strange way of filling up my day. I have walk-in clients that will fill up my time between appointments. I also get a bunch of Honey-Do tasks from my wife or the kids every day.


OmniFocus + BuJo Workflow explained

  • I use OmniFocus when I am planning, reviewing, and curating my goals, projects, and tasks.
  • I mind map or outline my goals on my iPad or Mac.
  • I break the goals into monthly sub-projects or milestones.
  • I hand-write or hand-draw the mind map or outline into my Goals Notebook.
  • Refer to my Goals Notebook when I want to remind myself of the current goals and projects that I would like to complete in my 12 week year plan.
  • At the end of the week, write down all the maintenance tasks I want to do for the next week.
  • At the end of the week, write down the next two (or more) actions for the active projects (Big Rocks) that I want to make progress for the next week.
  • At the end of the day, look at tomorrow’s schedule and schedule one time block throughout the day for maintenance tasks and another time block for Big Rock MITs.
  • Work on maintenance tasks during my Admin time block. This ensures that I complete maintenance tasks that will maintain a quality of life.
  • Make progress completing Big Rock tasks by devoting a time block for projects that are important but not urgent. These Big Rocks will improve my life in some way.
  • I refer to my MITs Notebook when I am working. I stay away from my task manager when I am in Action Mode. Mark tasks as completed when I finish a task.
  • At the end of the day, return back to my task app to mark tasks or projects as completed. This keeps a historical archive that is easily searchable. Update the task app if new tasks need to be added.
  • Start again with end-of-day daily review and plan for tomorrow.

I don’t have the need to go exclusively digital or exclusively analog. I can have the best of both worlds. The digital parts of my workflow keeps track of all my projects. The analog parts are great when I want to focus on my MITs and to review my goals.

I haven’t gone through all of the Bullet Journal methodology. I’ll be slowly adding bits and pieces of the BuJo workflow over time. I’ll be reporting back to the Guild when I slowly discover new ways to incorporate BuJo into my existing workflow.

In this post, I used OmniFocus. But any task manager can still use the same principles.


A Digital BuJo?

I’ve also been contemplating a digital BuJo. Yes, I know a BuJo is supposed to be analog. But @Francesco has gotten me intrigued with the idea of using the Notion app as a form of journaling. I’m flirting with the idea of having a digital BuJo.

Some of us might not be ready to combine a digital and analog approach. There are users who prefer to work entirely in digital because their work life revolves around the digital.

I am also curious in seeing if the Agenda app could also work as a digital BuJo as well.

For now, I’m comfortable using my Traveler’s Notebook to hold my goals and my MITs while my task manager keeps track of completed tasks and upcoming tasks.


Do any of you use a mix of analog and digital for your task management system? Whether we use an all analog approach or an all digital workflow, find what works for you. Don’t brush off either workflows if you can find a way to make both analog and digital work for you.

I’d love to see if anyone has a different approach to BuJo and a digital task manager. I realize that I’m still evolving my workflow to fits new demands. I’m taking a slow and methodical approach to my experiments. Don’t rush into an experiment like a madman. It will be easier to learn what works for you and keep the parts that will stick.

I was going to put this post in the Pro Guild section but I thought I’d give this to our regular members as a belated Holiday present. This is just a hint of some of the deep dive experiments that I’ve been trying out. Sign up in the Pro section and participate in some Deep Dive discussions! We’re looking to expand with even more content in 2019.

If you have any deep dive experiments, please post it in the Guild. The Productivity Guild fosters experimentation where we can come together and build the village up from the ground up. No experiment is too small or too grand.

Happy New Year!

Wilson
Space Cadet