OmniFocus and Evernote working together

Sometimes life gets so hectic that you're forced to ignore your carefully defined productivity system and just go with your gut.

OmniFocus and Evernote Together

This happened to me last month. Instead of my usual morning routine (coffee > OmniFocus > Evernote > work), I had to drop my planned tasks to go put out some unexpected fires for several weeks. I missed 3 weekly reviews and didn't open OmniFocus once during that time. I knew what had to be done, so I just did it.

The fires were eventually sorted out and everything was back to normal. Or so I thought. I opened up OmniFocus to find over 50 overdue actions, a handful of unfinished projects, and an Inbox full of unprocessed stuff.

That, my friends, is seriously overwhelming.

Fortunately, I keep most of my commitments organised using a combination of OmniFocus and Evernote, so getting back on track required nothing more than a clear head, several espressos, and a few hours going through those two applications.

Here's how I use OmniFocus and Evernote together as the core of my productivity system.

OmniFocus manages Projects and Actions

At it's core, OmniFocus is where I keep track of my tasks. It gives me a quick way to decide what I need to do at any given time. But I don't just dump every task in, I could use Apple's Reminders for that. No, I'm a bit more methodical.

At the root level, I have a folder for each area of focus. These are the high level themes that are most important to me and I've chosen to actively keep an eye on.

OmniFocus Library

Inside each folder are the relevant Projects, which in turn hold Actions. That way, I can quickly zero in on anything I need to focus on at any given time.

For example, when I'm working on a strategy document for a specific client, I can quickly find all relevant tasks by opening the Career/Work folder and clicking on the relevant project. Or if I'm planning an upcoming SCUBA diving trip, I just need to go to my Recreation folder and there it is.

As a side note, once I find the project I'm working on, I just hit cmd-ctrl-F (or hit the Focus button in the Toolbar) and everything else disappears. That's one of the beauties of OmniFocus. It's great at letting you, well, focus.

So that's what goes into OmniFocus. But what's arguably more important is what I keep out of it.

Evernote manages Reference Material and relevant Notes

If it's not an actionable task, it doesn't make it into OmniFocus. Ever. If it's not something I need to do, but I want to keep for some reason, it goes into Evernote. Conversely, if it is an action, I won't put it in Evernote.

In order to maintain consistency across both applications, I have a notebook (or stack) in Evernote for each Area of Focus, mirroring the structure in OmniFocus.

Evernote Library

Essentially, Evernote is where I keep all reference material and project related notes.

Using OmniFocus and Evernote together

Smarter people than me have figured out ways to automate certain aspects of using OmniFocus and Evernote together, but I like to keep it simple. I don't use any additional software or scripts to connect them or any fancy stuff.

For me, it all starts in OmniFocus. If an action needs to refer to anything that's in a note in Evernote, all I do is paste a link to it in the notes field of the OmniFocus task.

OmniFocus task with link to Evernote note

This way, when I'm looking at the task in OmniFocus, all I have to do is click on the link and Evernote fires up and opens the specific note.

OmniFocus and Evernote Copy Note Link

To get the link, just select the note, option-click (or right-click) and choose Copy Note Link, then paste it into the notes field in the OmniFocus task.

Examples of using this OmniFocus/Evernote system

I have a notebook in Evernote for this site. It contains all sorts of notes that relate to disturbancesinthewash.net in one way or another. One note is a list of article topics that I want to write. Every time I have an idea for a post, I add it to the list. In OmniFocus I have a recurring task that just says "write article for ditw" with a reference link to this note.

When the task becomes available, I click on the link and go through the list in Evernote, pick one, and write the article. When I finish, I remove it from the list in Evernote and mark the task as complete in OmniFocus.

Once upon a time, I used to create a new action in OmniFocus every time I had an idea for an article. At one point I had hundreds of these action "tasks" that were only ideas for posts. Nothing actionable in itself. It quickly got out of hand and became just noise. To the point that I ended up ignoring everything because it was too much.

Another example is SCUBA diving. It's one of my hobbies. I have a Notebook in Evernote dedicated to SCUBA diving that holds notes about places I want to go diving, equipment I'm researching, manuals of dive computers, and pdf's of underwater signs, among other things.

Most of these notes aren't related to any OmniFocus tasks, but some are reference material for when I do have an active SCUBA diving project.

As you can see, these two apps work great together and are arguably the best at what they do. The trick, for me, is to use each for what their best at in a complementary way and not to fall into the trap of mixing uses across both.

By the way, the best and quickest way to learn Evernote in depth is Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials ebook. I highly recommend it.