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The Omni Group

I tried, I liked, I bought… $79.95 later I am the new owner of the OminGroup’s Task Mgmt application OmniFocus and let me tell you, it is worth every penny.

My List Obsessive History

I’ll admit I haven’t tried 100 different task management tools, so this review will not be coming from that extreme point of view.  However, I have been a “LIST” guy for as long as I can remember.  I used the pen and paper approach for years, before going digital and building my own lists using MS Word and Excel.  I then transitioned to MS Outlook for my task management needs until recently when I bought a Mac and once again needed a new system. I took the trial of Things for Mac, which I wrote about in an article last week [Things Task Mgmt Review: ‘Gets Thumbs Down’], before taking OmniFocus for a spin.

First Impressions: Mmm…That’s Nice.

After installing the trial, it didn’t take me more than ten minutes before I was comfortable with the system and was managing tasks efficiently.  OmniFocus is extremely easy to use, intuitive and beautifully simple. It can handle personal tasks bagged and blindfolded with ease, but for me OmniFocus’ real value lies in its ability to handle heavy lifting.  Currently, it smoothly manages the 100+ tasks and growing, that make up my life (personal, multiple businesses, and goals).

THE PROS & HIGHLIGHTS

  • Get Things Done: OmniFocus is built on David Allen’s Get Things Done (GTD) system for task management.  Not only will OmniFocus organize your stuff, it will also help you get stuff done (kind of the objective here right?).
  • Inbox for Mental Relief: The application has an “inbox” for the first part of the GTD system, Collection.  It’s quick, it’s dirty (in a good way), and makes it easy to process the inbox and sort them into action items and projects.
  • Stay Organized: You can organize all action items into folders, single-action items, projects, and tasks.  The final nail in the coffin for my unhappy trial with the Things App was the inability to create sub-items.
    • Creating Sub-Items: With OmniFocus you can add in sub-folders and sub-tasks.  This was a must-have for me.  I have many irons in the fire and need the ability to break things done without having to make new projects for everything that requires more than one step (as with Things).
    • Drag & Drop: All items in OmniFocus can be dragged and dropped into other folders, projects, or tasks (as subtasks).
  • Color Coding: Uses in-line color-coding to differentiate between contexts and items due.  Also, colored icons are used next to projects in the navigation panel, signifying what projects have pending tasks that are past-due, due today or due soon.
  • Expand/Collapse: With the ability to expand or collapse any item with sub-items, OmniFocus handles navigating quantity with ease.
  • Views for Quick Navigation:
    • Projects: View shows everything broken down into folders, projects, tasks and sub-tasks.
    • Contexts: Context view is extremely helpful.  Context describes the means of getting a task done. For example “Pick up Groceries” would fall under the context of “Errands”, where “Write Saturday’s Blog Post” would fall under the context “Mac: Online”.  Therefore when running out for errands you can view the just the errands list, print it out and take it with you.
    • Due: View and print everything Past Due, Due Today, Due Tomorrow and Due Within the Next Week.
    • Flag: Sort tasks by anything you’ve flagged for review.
  • Shortcuts: One of my favorite features is the inbox shortcut.  From anywhere on my Mac, say surfing online, I can hit [Control+Option+Space] and open a small entry window to enter a thought or task directly into the inbox without having to break my concentration.

    Direct to Inbox: Shortcut

    Direct to Inbox: Shortcut

THE CONS:

  • Price: I’ll admit I was a bit shy of the price at first.  $80 seemed like a hefty price to pay for a list and for the first week, I was on the fence; “it’s awesome, but is it $80 awesome?”  I think that if OmniFocus lowered their price a bit, to say the $50 range, it would beat the pants off of the Things Application.
  • No Sorting in Nav. Panel: You cannot automatically sort projects within the navigation panel.  If you sort them by name it will sort projects in the main view, but not in the navigation panel.
SUMMARY

In summary, the task management application OmniFocus rocks, and is a superior tool for those of you that have a lot on your plates.  I’ve personally got over a hundred tasks in my list so far and OmniFocus makes managing them cake.

If you have any questions, comments or your own thoughts on OmniFocus, leave a comment and I’d be happy to get your feedback.

Other relative posts that may interest you:

Things Task Mgmt Review: ‘Gets Thumbs Down’

This morning I read the following quote by Henry Ford on a blog that I follow, called the Rat Race Trap, and wanted to share:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

This holds an important truth for all entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are by nature, dreamers and goal setters.  Even at the far end of the spectrum, some entrepreneurs just simply don’t want to work “the Man”.  On the other end, a couple of ambitious entrepreneurs might have a friendly wager to the first one to net a billion.  But wherever you fall on the spectrum, the quote above holds true.

LESSON LEARNED: Set ambitious goals, live Big, and dream BIGGER, but remember there can be a vast difference between “what you are going to do” and “what you’ve done.”  You’re the man Henry!

Brewers PitcherHaving been involved in a handful of ventures, I learned quickly to take advantage of every opportunity I had to practice “the pitch.” For any entrepreneur pitching their business can be a daily routine.  Most probably practice their pitch everyday, without even knowing it.  Talking to a friend, answering the “how are you” question at work, and making small talk at family gatherings are all opportunities to practice your pitch when the topic surfaces.

I want you to understand the importance of recognizing that these are all opportunities, so learn to PAY ATTENTION and take advantage of them.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

As an entrepreneur and in business, we should all be aware of how much we use our pitch.  Not only in presenting to an investor, but in all sales.  You pitch your ideas to your suppliers, partners, coworkers, bosses, clients, customers, everyone.  In some form or another, you have to answer their question, “what’s in it for me” and “why should I care?”

Not only do you need to “pitch” everyday, you better get good at it if you want it to be heard.  When pitching you will be challenged with a lack of time, distractions, questions, your own nervousness, or the headache you cannot kick.  Anything and everything will be clawing at your focus and can kill your effectiveness in appealing to your audience.  On the other hand, take every opportunity to practice your pitch, over and over again, until it is programmed deeply into your brain, and you will be able to pitch in your sleep.

THE 15-SECOND PITCH

I recently read an interesting article by the founder of Weebly, in which he describes his experience pitching to the Y Combinator out in Palo Alto, CA.  As founder David tells the story, he had about 15 seconds to pitch before being bombarded by questions.  The questions escalated to the point where he was actually carrying on two totally different conversations in the same room with different investors.

Wow, it seems you are going to want have this pitch second nature and know your stuff right?  Well it sounds like after a 15-minute push and few back-end hours, David ended up with the financing he needed for Weebly (Yay for him). But are you ready to be thrown into the lion’s den?

STEPPING UP TO THE PITCH

Currently, I am preparing to woo investors this year for my startup RentUpdate.com.  My partner and I are revamping the business plan and are preparing to start pitching to investors by mid-year.  Today, I had stopped by the office quickly to drop off some paperwork and I found an opportunity to practice my pitch.

While at the office, I ran into a co-worker who had asked me if I was still working on RentUpdate.  I was busy trying to get out of there and wanted to give him the 10-second spiel (thanks to Scott on the correct spelling for ‘spiel’).  Anyway I hesitated for a second, before deciding to take the opportunity to pitch him the business.  Pending my upcoming year I thought, “Hell, might as well start practicing.”  So I did, and about 10 minutes and a few questions later, he was interested and told me I should pitch the idea to my boss as a possible investor… Interesting.

PITCH TIL IT HURTS

Over the years what I’ve noticed about myself as a salesperson (the same that anyone should notice), is that I get better every time I make my presentation or pitch.  Different people, different responses, different environment, different questions, are all things that change with each new prospect.  Thus, with each new prospect and every pitch, I become more confident, refined and prepared to answer questions before they become questions.

PITCH TO EVERYONE

Take the opportunity to make your pitch to anyone that will listen.  Start with your significant other, your buddy, your parents, coworkers, whomever.  And you don’t have to give them the “FULL” presentation with slides, handouts, and special effects, but just give them the raw pitch.  Explain to them what you’re working on and why you think or “know”, it will work.  Practice changing it up and morphing your pitch to suit your audience.  Mom might not be so tech savvy, so dumb it down a bit (sorry Mom) so that she can visualize the concept and see its potential.  Your buddy on the other hand might be a techy geek, so get into the sweet Ajax features that you’ve got incorporated into the application.  Bump into the marketing guy at work, talk to him about your plan to spread the word and ask him if he’s got any ideas.

ADDITIONAL POINTS

  • Ask: Ask for questions, feedback and ideas. It’s amazing how outsiders can often see more and tell you more about your business than you can, because there on the outside looking in.
  • Embrace Perspective: Perspective is your friend.  Someone in a hole can tell you with great detail every aspect of the hole, but it’s probably a good idea to ask other people who are not in the hole what they think the hole looks like.
  • Get feedback and Pay Attention: If something is extremely difficult to explain to someone, then perhaps you’ve over-complicated it or perhaps you’re over-complicating the business itself.

Lesson Learned: Take advantage of every chance you get to discuss your business and practice your pitch with others.  See them as the small jewels of opportunity that they are.  These mini-pitches are helping you get ready for the big game.  So when the time comes and you have your 15 seconds to shine for that million-dollar investment, you can knock it out of the park.

Does your company have a story to tell?  If yes, are you taking full advantage of that story to build your brand?

Federale with Leather Briefcase

Federale with Saddleback Briefcase

I recently put “Be a Good Story Teller” on my list of ideas for this blog.  It was a topic that I felt I wanted to address because it was something that I hadn’t heard much discussion on.  So what does telling good stories have to do with building a successful brand?

We should have all figured out by now that the purpose of branding is to capture attention, engage interest and leave a memorable message with the recipient.  The more refined and well crafted the brand marketing, the more clear and understood the message will be received by the targeted market.  This in turn, will result in more sales, traffic, etc.

Coincidently a good story must contain these same elements, “to capture attention, engage interest and leave a memorable message.”  If your business has a story to tell then by all means use it.  Incorporate your company story into your business the same way you do with branding.

7 Reasons Why Story Telling is Good for Business.

  1. Everyone likes a good story.
  2. Stories show personality.
  3. Stories have the ability capture and hold our attention.  (We’re all a bunch of ADD’ers)
  4. Stories build brand loyalty, by creating an emotional connection between business and customer.
  5. Stories are easier to remember than facts, and being memorable is the objective in branding.
  6. Stories are unique, and…
  7. People like to share stories.

“They’ll fight over it when you’re dead.”

The Saddleback Leather Company

The Saddleback Leather Company

There is really no better way to show the value of a good story, than to look at a perfect example of a company that has an amazing story and has used it to build its brand.

I was introduced to the Saddleback Leather Company’s story from the SAMBA Blog (article by Jon Dale, They’ll fight over it when you’re dead) and it inspired me to share the value behind good storytelling.  Dave Munson, the president and founder of the Saddleback Leather Company invites his site visitors in and shares the unique story behind the company’s founding.  Even their prominent Call to Action on the homepage draws you into the story of the brand more than the products themselves.

Now following Saddleback’s example, let’s examine how we can tell a good story.

How to Tell a Good Story:

  • Be Yourself: The personality of your brand will in many ways match the personality of the entrepreneurs who build them.  From the tight-laced professional to the fun-loving hipster, our businesses and brands tend to reflect their owners.  So embrace the your uniqueness and what it brings to the table.
  • Be Interesting: Remember, just like branding, telling your story must capture attention, engage interest, and leave a memorable message. Be descriptive, use pictures, and paint the picture of your amazing product or services journey.  Where did it start?  Who was involved? What did you struggle with?  How did you overcome challenges?
  • Be Honest: Fairy tales are great, but if you lie to your customers they will find out and it will ruin any work that you put into it.
  • Be Proactive: Don’t stop creating your story.  How do you want your business and life to be remembered?  Be adventurous and bring your brand with you.
  • Involve Your Customers: Just like the Saddleback Company created a photo contest for its customers and received responses from Africa to Antarctica, involve your happy customers and everyone wins.  You build brand loyalty and advocates for you company and your customers get to be a part of the story.

I’ll admit that not all businesses will have a compelling story to tell, and therefore should not try to make one up. However if your business has a good story then by all means tell it and use it to sell your brand.

conversationAs we prepare for the release of the new Facebook, and its Twitter-style real-time updates, I think it is time for a quick reminder.  Listening to the conversation online is no longer just recommended, it is critical to the success of entrepreneurs.

The real-time connection to that conversation, made possible by Facebook and Twitter, makes it impossible to ignore.  As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the Facebook blog Wednesday;

“As people share more, the time line gets filled in more and more with what is happening with everything you’re connected to. The pace of updates accelerates. This creates a continuous stream of information that delivers a deeper understanding for everyone participating in it.”

The reminder to pay attention and listen to the conversation is both an EXCITING and SCARY one for entrepreneurs.  On one hand, good news and positive conversation can and will spread faster.  But on the other, if you screw up or piss a customer off, that negative conversation will also be carried farther faster.

Seth Godin brings up a great point today in his blog Direct from Consumer Marketing, “Angry phone calls are your friend. They’re your friend because the alternative is angry tweets and angry blog posts.”  How true.  This is a powerful statement that MUST resonate through the entrepreneurial community.

It is truly a new era when companies welcome angry phone calls.  Not necessarily out of the desire to provide excellent service to their customers, but out of FEAR that if they don’t tell us they are pissed, they’ll tell a million that will listen.

Allen Young has an insightful post titled The Startup Myth, on the often mislead perception that building a Startup is the same as building a Business.  He offers great truth on the distinction between the two and how an entrepreneur’s understanding of this distinction will inherently affect his or her approach to their business.

“[For] the first-time entrepreneur who has bought into the Startup Myth. His romantic vision of startup life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and he is destined to struggle with a small “startup” because that’s what he wants.”

Many people might wonder how the startup life filled with late nights, Ramen Noodles, and constant struggle can in any way sound appealing.  But it is an odd fact that for many entrepreneurs this odd combination has a powerful allure to it.  (Ah…the life of an entrepreneur.)

Enter Allen…“Dump the warm fuzzies. Entrepreneurship is not about startups. “

As Allen reminds us, don’t be disillusioned by the appeal of a startup.  A startup is only the beginning to a much bigger and longer story.  Focus too much on the beginning and take the risk of losing in the long run.  Realize that approaching business and entrepreneurship as a Startup, is shortsighted and destined to struggle or fail. Entrepreneurship is not about the startup, “entrepreneurship is about growth and value.” A business will not measured by the “Story” behind the Startup, but rather its ability to create and grow value.

Lesson Learned: Build a Startup and have a Great story to tell, but Build a Great Company and others will tell it.

Thanks Allen.

With an heaping plate of To-Do’s piling up, I recently decided to start looking for a good task management application and recently downloaded a free trial for the Things Application for Macs. I was originally attracted to the Things application for its simplicity in design, the good online reviews, and admittedly the price ($49.95). I used the application for about a week trying to test out the advantages of the features modeled after the Get Things Done (GTD) method made popular by David Allen. The following is a review of what STOPPED me from buying Things.

Here is a screenshot for the Things Application:

Things App. Screenshot

Things App. Screenshot

The Fallout: No Sub-Folders, No Sub-Tasks!?!

Things is a sufficient tool for simple task management and probably a decent system for some. However, after a few days of using Things, I noticed that I could not make sub-folders or sub-tasks. Perhaps it is only a personal preference, but I am big on organization and want to use task management software to not only organize my personal tasks, but also my thoughts, upcoming events, business tasks, and all my entrepreneurial irons in the fire as well. Not having the ability to break tasks down into its counterparts was a big turn-off.

The ‘Get Things Done’ System (GTD)

I believe that the developers of the Things application were trying to follow the GTD system as close as they could and this is the reason that they set Things up this way. In the Get Things Done system, tasks are defined as single-action items. Anything requiring more than one task is considered a project. Therefore, a task could not have a sub-task because then it would be considered a project and a new project would need to be set up.

Things ‘Gets Thumbs Down

But for me, I have quite a bit of ‘things’ going on in my life and many projects that I am working on. I am in need of a task management application that can help me with some heavy lifting and organize not only my personal life but my multiple businesses as well. With so much going on, I can’t create a new project for anything I need to do that requires more than one step because I would have over a hundred projects going on at one time. This would make Things very difficult and cumbersome for me the way it has been set up.

Conclusion on Trial

If you are looking for a Task Management application for only limited personal use, Things may be a sufficient option for you. But if you have a FULL PLATE and will demand more of your task management tool I suggest you look elsewhere.

Right now I am testing a trial version for The Omni Group’s OmniFocus Task Manager and for an extra $30 ($79.95 Total) so far it is definitely worth it. I’ll be writing a review for the OmniFocus application in an upcoming article.