I recently wrote a post on how great it is to create tasks directly from selected text in Drafts. This is a great way to quickly capture action items before getting up from a meeting. However, the process does require a few steps. What if you didn't have to select text and then hit a menu item in Drafts? Well, you don't have to with a service called Taskclone. Taskclone connects with your Evernote account and will create a task in most task managers for each line with a checkbox in Evernote. One of the great things about Evernote has always been the little checkboxes, but these boxes have also been a problem in that they are stuck in the note itself without the manual process of harvesting them into a task manager. Even Evernote's Reminders functionality does not solve this problem because Evernote forces one “reminder” per note. Taskclone extends the functionality of the lowly checkbox by creating a task for each checkbox in most major task managers including such popular ones as Omnifocus, Remember the Milk, Asana and IQTELL. Read on to learn how I have integrated TaskClone with Evernote and Omnifocus to automate action item capture directly from my notes.
Taskclone is a service that connects to Evernote and is able to convert individual check-boxes to tasks and have these tasks automatically added to most major task managers. Taskclone directly integrates the following task applications. What direct integration means is that Taskclone supports many additional functions like sync'ed tasks, i.e. when you complete a task in your task app it is completed in Evernote and vice versa. Taskclone also supports note linking where a task created from Evernote creates a link back to the original note in Evernote. Check out this overview of how closely TaskClone works with Remember the Milk (RTM).
Unfortunately for me, Omnifocus does not have the same integration capabilities as RTM and the others noted above. However, Omnifocus does support the creation of tasks via its email task system. It is via Omni's email system that TaskClone is able to create tasks from Evernote Notes. In summary, the workflow is to take notes directly in Evernote placing a checkbox next to each action item and then once the note is saved TaskClone will search the new note for checkboxes a create the necessary tasks for each line with a checkbox. The only problem is that TaskClone requires you to take notes directly in Evernote which I stopped doing some time ago due to an overall sluggishness of Evernote on my iPad 2. Evernote is great to find and review notes on the iPad, but it is not ideal for taking quicks notes on the fly. This is exactly why applications like FastEver and Drafts were created in the first place.
If you are in the same boat as me and prefer not to type directly in Evernote one option is FastEverXL. FastEver like Drafts is extremely fast and designed to allow for instant note-taking on application launch. Additionally, FastEver allows you to set a notebook and tag prior to saving a note. This is particularly important if you have setup Taskclone to took for notes with checkboxes in a particular notebook or tag as recommended by TaskClone during setup. The workflow for FastEverXL would be to take notes, add checkboxes as needed and then save the note from FastEverXL directly to Evernote. TaskManager takes care of the rest once your note is saved to Evernote.
To summarize, TaskClone makes Evernote even more indispensable as a productivity tool by harvesting action items from your notes. With TaskClone you no longer need to review/edit your notes for action items because this service will do it for you. As mentioned above, there are a few caveats in that TaskClone does not support all task-managers and TaskClone's integration capabilities vary from one task manager to another. However, if your task manager is included on this list you to can leverage the power of TaskClone.
Have you tried TaskClone yet? Would the service improve your productivity?
P.S. Stay tued for future post on automatically meeting template creation and checkbox references using Drafts!
DISCLOSURE: The links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a few cents if you click the link and purchase the app. This costs you nothing but it helps me keep this site running.Read More
I have said it before that typing on an iPad is the single biggest productivity improvement for those with iPads. So many people get an iPad but never use it for work. Why not take a risk and start leaving the notebook at your desk and then typing on your fancy tablet. Once you get over the awkwardness of being electronic rather than old school you may find yourself saving a whole bunch of time later as well as becoming a more valuable team member. What follows are ten reasons that typing on your iPad will make you a whole lot more efficient.
I bet there are many more reasons that typing on an iPad is better than writing notes. However, I think the ones documented above should be enough to convince you to take a leap by trying to type on your iPad rather than leaving it home or in your briefcase. Heck, I think it may be time to start a whole iPad Typing Movement to convince other iPad users of the wondrous productivity gains afforded those willing to take a risk with their fingers!
What other reasons can you think of for switching to typing on an iPad?
I love to have a clean desk which is free of paper. But, try as I may paper just follows me around. For these times when I have a few pages to process I have lately been using a great scanning app from Readdle called Scanner Pro. This app has made the process of digitizing documents a whole lot easier for several reasons, first Scanner Pro does a great job finding the edges of the document to scan and second the quality of the scanned documents is excellent. There are several other features which set Scanner Pro apart from the large number or PDF apps in the App Store, read on to learn more.
Scanner Pro's process of finding the edges of a document is excellent. This is one of the most important functions of an iOS scanner as this defines what the document will look like once it is scanned. Additionally, if an app does a poor job of finding edges you will spend valuable time adjusting the edges on the small iPhone/iPad screen to correct issues. Scanner Pro worked well enough that was able to scan an 11 page document a matter of minutes.
Scanner Pro's image quality is extremely clear, in fact I see very little difference in quality between a document scanned on my iPhone vs. my multi-function Canon. Take a look at the difference between a scan from Jotnot and Scanner Pro. Here is a zoomed section from within Evernote from Scanner Pro.
Here is the same scan in Evernote from JotNot Pro;
a pretty obvious improvement in quality.
Scanner Pro has the best integration options I have seen in any scanning app. Scanner Pro can seamlessly upload scanned documents to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and WebDAV. In addition to these services, Scanner Pro has the option of using iCloud to sync scanned documents across iOS devices, i.e. if you have the app installed on your iPhone and iPad. JotNot Pro does provide similar integration options including to Evernote, but JotNot does not automatically upload/sync. PDFpen Scan+ integrates with Evernote and many other services as well, but its interface is not as easy to navigate, you have to navigate to your chosen notebook/tag structure whereas Scanner Pro and JotNot both utilize a more email-like interface which selects your default notebook in Evernote eliminating the need to select a location each time. Here is the interface from PDFpen
vs. the interface in Scanner Pro.
Scanner Pro can be setup to automatically upload to one of the integrated services. This eliminates a step if you prefer to store your scans in one of the services noted above. In fact, I discovered this feature by accident when I noticed that my scans were duplicated in Evernote. What could be simpler than scanning a few pages and having them automatically appear in Evernote without having to press a button. Just scan the document, update the name of the scan and then exit back to the main menu; the document will be sent automatically to your chosen service which is Evernote in my case. Here is a view
of my setup in ScannerPro. An additional feature is that ScannerPro automatically appends additional pages to previously uploaded scans rather than creating a duplicate note in Evernote or one of the other services.
I am extremely happy with Scanner Pro. I have been using it now for almost a month and have not been disappointed with its functionality or performance. Give Scanner Pro a try if you are looking for a solid PDF scanning application for your iPhone or iPad.
Title photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/michelhrv/
DISCLOSURE: The links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a few cents if you click the link and purchase the app. This costs you nothing but it helps me keep this site running.
Over the last few posts I have been writing about how I am using Omnifocus on my iPad and iPhone. What I have not written about is how I use other applications to drive my task capture workflow. Today's posts will detail how I capture tasks using Drafts as I document meetings that I either attend or lead. Using Drafts I am able to very quickly capture my tasks as they are identified without having to review notes and minutes later. Read on to learn more.
Drafts is one of the most useful Apps in the iOS ecosystem. I have written about it here and here, and others have written extensively here and here. I find the app so useful I use it multiple times every day to document meetings. The beauty of Drafts is its built in and customizable workflows. Two of the out of the box workflows include integration with iOS Omnifocus. The first workflow will send the entire text of a note to Omnifocus as a new task. This is useful if you use Drafts to capture quick thoughts and text. The second workflow allows you to send selected text to Omnifocus, i.e. if you have a whole document of notes with action items sprinkled throughout. This is the workflow I use given that I capture tasks directly from meeting minutes.
Using the workflow in this post, I have a TextExpander Script that creates a meeting agenda/minute template. This template guides me through preparing for and documenting meetings. The workflow is simple. I create an agenda and minutes using my agenda template, document the meeting live with my iPad, select/highlight an action item, and click on the “Selection to Omnifocus” to capture each task that I need to track. That's it!
So, how do you setup Drafts to accomplish this workflow? The first step of course is to download Drafts from the iOS bookstore. You then have to “install” the Omnifocus workflows, I would recommend that you install both workflows. Here are the steps to get configured.
- Download and install Drafts
- Open Settings in Drafts
- Scroll down until you see the Visit the Actions Directory link under Custom Action
- Select Drafts on the site
- Search custom actions by entering Omnifocus in the search screen at the top of the of the screen
- Click on the Install button for each of the Omnifocus Actions
- This will add an entry in the URL Action List
- You access your new actions by clicking on the Share button on the upper right side of the Drafts Screen
- That's it!
Have you integrated Omnifocus with Drafts? What apps do you use to “help” your Omnifocus workflow?
Three weeks in and I am still on the iOS-only Omnifocus bandwagon. I have not tired of the app and I continue to be surprised at how my task management confidence has improved. I am forgetting less stuff and looking forward to checking off my tasks. As I wrote here, here and here, I have embarked on a science project with Omnifocus to see if it works for me and also to see how it works iOS-only. I have read posts about how people generally like the iOS versions more than the desktop, but I also know there are things you can only do on the desktop. So far I have proved my theory that iOS-only Omnifocus will work with little compromises in functionality. In this post I will review my workflow with Omni and describe how it is helping me stay on top of my work.
- I review my Omnifocus inbox at least every morning and then throughout the day whenever the count of Inbox items gets above 4–5. The inbox is the location that all new tasks are routed to that have been emailed in or have not been categorized with a Project and Context. This is the Inbox as the catch-all pile that will stare at you until you do something. As with a physical inbox the risk of course is to just pile “stuff” up and then respond to the growing list/pile as panic sets in. I have found that I need to work the Inbox regularly so that I can define each of the five variables including Project, Context, Start Time, Due, and Flagged. More on how these variables can be tailored for any individual workflow or productivity methodology.
- After working the Inbox I move onto the Forecast View on either my iPhone or my iPad. This view is one of the most powerful features of Omnifocus because it combines the power of the calendar with the non-date/time specifics of your tasks. The beauty of Forecast is that it is configurable to show as much or as little information as needed. I find this functionality the very best way to not forget anything that has not been processed. Forecast view is mostly concerned with two of the five variables including Start and Due Dates. Along with displaying tasks according to dates, Forecast integrates with your calendar and displays all meetings for today allowing you to get a complete view of everything you have for today on one, scrollable screen.
- I have multiple ways that I keep track of topics for meetings with individual people. The first is by creating individual tasks assigned to a particular person defined as a Context in Omnifocus, i.e. an Agenda task. When I run into this person I navigate to that person's context in Omnifocus to see the list of tasks/topics that I have to discuss with that person. If I have a meeting with a person like my boss I create an Agenda task that lists all topics that I want to cover. I name the task with the meeting date and the person's name and then include the topics in the notes section. This is a hold-over from my Evernote Task Managementdays. For these date-specific tasks I Flag them in Omnifocus which allows me to access them quickly from anywhere in either the iPad or iPhone versions. This is a great way to quickly find a tasks amidst hundreds of other tasks.
- In addition to Forecast View, another key differentiator I see with Omnifocus are the five variables it uses to organize tasks. I believe the variables and the flexibility are also key reasons why Omnifocus is more complicated to configure than most any other task manager. As I mentioned above, the variables include Project, Context, Start Time, Due, and Flagged. Project and Context seems to be taken directly from GTD. As defined by GTD, a project is work that requires more than one task/step to complete and spans everything from a large, complex project to a series of steps. Context as defined by David Allen includes things such as availability of tools like phone, computer, internet connection, office, etc. I have setup the following contexts: I would say that my system is somewhere between the original recommendations from GTD but is probably more influenced by this excellent post on SimplicityBliss. As you can see from the picture above my contexts vary from traditional computer/location contexts to energy-based contexts mentioned by SimplicityBliss. In his post Sven mentions that some of the old contraints like online and computer are less relevant now than they were when GTD was first written in the late 90's. However for me there are still things I can only do while working on my work computer like connecting to my office's network, working on a large spreadsheet or even writing a large document. For these, I like the ability to narrow my list of tasks down to the computer are useful.
- The final step is the Review workflow on my iPad. Again, this is another key differentiator that I have not seen with other, simple task manager solutions. Review walks you through all of your projects one at a time displaying each task attached to each of your projects. Once I have reviewed all of my tasks making changes and adjustments as necessary like changing Start or Due I then decide if the project status is still accurate, Dropped, Completed, On Hold, Active; and finally I click Mark Reviewed. In the past, I was always aweful at doing weekly reviews but Omnifocus on the iPad makes this step easy and I can definitely say that I notice things in my task lists and my projects that need adjustment which is a really important part of having a trusted system, one where you know you won't forget stuff.
I would love to hear comments from the more seasoned Omnifocus users as the workflow described above is from my own testing and hacking versus taking time to read some of excellent resources on the web dealing with Omnifocus. However, I have been able to get more productive on my own devices which to me is an indication that Omnifocus is not that hard to grasp. Overall I am pleased with what I have seen and I am reluctant to go back to some other system. However, a true test will be to see if I can mimic some of the productivity gains I have made with a tool like Evernote or even another app like Things, Todoist and the like. Sounds like I have a couple more posts to write!
What do you think of my workflow? Am I missing anything if you are a seasoned Omnifocus user? Or, if you are not using Omnifocus are there things I mentioned that make you want to try Omnifocus?
After two weeks of using Omnifocus on just my iPad and iPhone I continue to be pleased with my ability to stay on top of my burgeoning task lists. As I wrote in this post and then updated in this post, I have moved away from using Outlook Tasks/iOS Reminders to manage my tasks. I did this partly to have something to write about on the blog, but more importantly because I had been having trouble keeping track of all that I need to do without getting discouraged by too long lists. Given my Microsoft-only, locked-down work setup, I had always avoided Omnifocus until iOS7 and Omnifocus’ new iPhone 2.0 update. I am glad that I gave Omni a try because I feel more productive and less stressed about forgetting something than I have in a long time. And, for me I proved that not using the MAC version of Omnifocus is definitely possible with the help of the iPad and iPhone versions. Read on to learn more about my setup.
Because I do not know what I am missing, I see no issue NOT having a MAC to manage Omnifocus. In my research for this series I ran across this great post. I use options 1. through 3. from the post, all of which are key to my setup. The key ingredients include my iPad situated prominently between and below my two monitors (see title picture) with my Adonit keyboard close at hand. The additional benefit of this setup includes the plug to a set of external speakers for playing Pandora, listening to Podcasts or streaming NPR. Beyond the iPad, I always have my iPhone for adding and manipulating tasks. The coolness of the iPhone App allows me the capability of processing tasks just as efficiently on the iPhone as I can on the iPad.
In addition to my iPad, I consistently route tasks to Omni either by forwarding emails from my work Outlook or by entering new tasks using the Outlook Shortcut Ctrl-Shift–1 (setup to default to the last email address used which is usually my secret Omni email address). I then send with the Alt-S shortcut. As the post from asianefficiency notes, “frictionless” task capture is critical to making Mac-less Omnifocus work. In addition to email task entry, I rely heavily on Siri to get my todos into Omni as I mentioned on Item 4 in this post. The beauty with Siri is that it brings native options like reminder creation in iOS to a 3rd-party app like Omni. How many times did you remember to do something while driving but do not want to manually type a task, pull over or create a note? Siri+Omni works great!
In researching this post I did come across an interesting web solution for Omnifocus called Spootnik. This application evolved from a tool to allow team members to sync Omnifocus with the project management app Basecamp. Spootnik appears to be a great option for those that are not able to access the web via their iPad or iPhone at work. However, for me I see no benefit given my ability to have my iPad setup on my desk. And, for $36 a year ($3 per month) I will stick with my iPad and iPhone.
In summary, there is nothing magical or even hack-worthy in my setup. I simply rely on out of the box functionality in Omnifocus, Siri and email. If you have an iPad and iPhone, Omnifocus is an amazing option for managing tasks if you are looking for something more robust than Reminders and more failsafe than Evernote.
Are you using Omnifocus iOS only?Read More