Article: Why Simple Wins in This Complicated World

The biggest reason why I want from my digital task management app (in my case, it was OmniFocus) to a paper-based workflow for 4 months was to try to simplify my workflow. My overall productivity system is made of bits and pieces from different productivity systems such as GTD, Workday Now, Agile Results, and a few others. I built a Frankenstein monster and tried to adopt too many workflows all at one time.

OmniFocus can get complicated when I created dozens of custom perspectives that looked cool, a bunch of rarely used contexts and too many active projects and checklists.

Paper forced me back into simplifying and stripping out all the bells and whistles. I identified the important workflows and rebuilt each workflow individually. I took out some workflows that I experimented with but ultimately gave up on because it didn’t fit my individual needs.

Using the Zen-To-Done idea of adopting one habit at a time, I worked on individual parts of my workflow and slowly added each piece. I worked on an Administrative Tasks workflow, a Big Rocks workflow, a Review workflow (here and there) and a Today Dashboard workflow that I’m currently working on (coming soon).

Using OmniFocus can become overwhelming when I have the ability to create bunches of custom perspectives, contexts, and projects. It’ll get a lot more complicated when multiple tags gets introduced in a OmniFocus 3.

Simplifying means reducing the number contexts or tags in my task management app to as few as I need and no more. Simplifying means breaking down the workflows and deleting any custom perspectives that I haven’t really used in a long time. I created some custom perspectives that were suitable for a different time and purpose in my life. When I no longer need it, I deleted it. I might take a screenshot of the custom perspective settings if I ever need it in the future but that’s been rare. Simplifying means looking at other productivity systems such as GTD, Workday Now, Agile Results, or [insert new task management app or system here] and replacing the small workflows that don’t work with something else.

Solve one problem at a time instead of trying to work on everything at once. A contractor would first work on the foundation of a new house. Then they might start working on the walls and figuring out the layout of electrical wires and plumbing that needs to be installed. Then they’ll work on other parts of the house. They can’t put the furniture in yet because they’re still putting in the plumbing. Work on one piece of the productivity system and document it. It becomes easier to dissect and deconstruct a workflow when it’s been documented. I’ve publicly documented my workflow on the Productivity Guild and have re-arranged things from time to time. I’ve made my workflow simpler by returning to paper and then reconnecting back to digital. It can be done with any task management app. A task management app is only as good as the workflow that you use. It can have all the bells and whistles but if it doesn’t have a solid workflow, it’ll just cause friction and make us want to jump from one task manager to the next (or to paper) in the search for the Holy Grail. No particular task manager will solve everything. But it can be used as a part of the workflow to facilitate different needs. I’ve been able to use a mix of paper and digital to accommodate my needs. I finally understood that OmniFocus or whatever task manager isn’t the ultimate answer. It’s just a tool to fix a particular problem. It can’t fix everything but it does get a particular job done.

Let’s see if you can document your workflow and watch it evolve over time. I encourage everyone here to show your productivity system here on the Productivity Guild. Then we can learn from each other and build a workflow that works for you. Go Guild! :muscle:

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Here’s to admitting I rarely ever do this. I’m getting better though!