Jason Atwood is COO and one of the founders of Arkus, Inc., a Salesforce consulting partner. He returns on this episode to provide some tips and tricks for the new year...direct from his OmniFocus system.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned:
Andrew J. Mason: So I listened to episode 54. I was quite proud of myself for catching this. How was your 50th birthday party?
Jason Atwood: It was great because it's in two years. Yeah. Sadly, I'll be celebrating my 49th in 2021. So you'll have to wait until 2022.
Andrew J. Mason: That's awkward. We'll keep it in.
Andrew J. Mason: You're listening to the Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind the Omni group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. My name's Andrew J. Mason, and today we talk with Jason Atwood, COO of Arkus Incorporated, who uses OmniFocus to get things done.
Andrew J. Mason: Welcome everybody to the Omni Show, and welcome to a brand new year. Since we do have a new year upon us, we thought what better way to kick off 2021 than to talk with Jason Atwood? Now, if you've been listening to the Omni show for any amount of time, you'll recall that Jason did join us once before. It was on episode 54. He's been a long time OmniFocus user, and everybody at his company uses OmniFocus and we figured, "Hey, it's a new year. People might be capitalizing on that fact to take a fresh look at their task management systems, give their productivity a little bit of a boost. So let's talk to the guy that's been playing this game for a while and dive deeper into what can make a successful practice with OmniFocus."
Andrew J. Mason: So, Jason, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jason Atwood: My pleasure, my pleasure.
Andrew J. Mason: We're so grateful you're here. And maybe people didn't get to listen to episode 54. We wanted to dive deeper into your specific system this episode, but for folks that missed that part one, can you maybe give them a thumbnail sketch of some of the gaps that I didn't quite fill in on that introduction?
Jason Atwood: Sure. So you already mentioned the title and the company. We are a consulting firm, just under 40 people. From my GTD history, I bought and read the book in 2004, have been practicing pretty strongly for, I think, well, 15 years plus ish as an OmniFocus user. I was in there and I always love it when someone brings up the Kinko's GTD because I was in there with OmniOutliner and Kinko's GTD and searching for a tool. So I've been a OmniFocus user before OmniFocus existed, and was in the beta when it first came out, going back and forth with Ken about it. So I think I had a sneaky peak on May 17th, 2007. Yeah, I captured that. So there you go.
Jason Atwood: And currently I'm obviously a massive OmniFocus user on the desktop and mobile. And as a company it's we are a company that follows the GTD practices. Everybody gets trained in GTD, reads the book as part of their onboarding process, gets trained. In fact, I just did GTD training for three people at Arkus an hour ago, three new employees. And we give them tools. So we like to make the analogy of, "Hey, when you arrive at a company, you get email, you get a calendar, you get your CRM, you get your whatever else tools, you get your laptop, you get your phone. And OmniFocus is just one of the tools you get." And we also then train people on OmniFocus. So it's a little unique because it's not something I know a lot of companies do, but something we feel is extremely important in our industry anyway.
Andrew J. Mason: Well I wanted to lead with this question. I thought it was so interesting listening to episode 54, hearing you talk about Salesforce, and since you help move businesses to the digital space using Salesforce, you know the issue of there's just infinite points of data that people can get bogged down in, versus having that focused dashboard of metrics that really, really matter the most? And part of your job, I see, is helping to pare that down for companies. So I guess my question is: How do you go about doing that? How do you decide, "Hey, this data doesn't matter, but this over here, we really need to pay attention to that"?
Jason Atwood: Yeah. What I do is start with just numbers, right? We know is, our human brain and listening to all the experts on how many things we can keep in our brain and how many things we can focus on, is really just saying, "What can you take as a human being, as an organization, in terms of the numbers?" Right? If I said some big company, Arkus, we need to focus on these 3000 key things next year. People would be like, "Wait, what? You can't focus on 3000 things next year." Of course not. So that's why most people, and most organizations, and humans, I think haven't really figured this out as much, but they try to break it down to a sizeable chunk of things. What can we realistically do? What are the key metrics we need to think about for that next year? That's why people don't make 150 goals for next year for the company. They make five, or three, or seven. Here are the seven things.
Jason Atwood: How many times do you walk into an office, and I walk into a... Or I used to walk into a lot of offices. Not so much. And you see on the wall, the "Here's our five key principles." They get you to break them down and only have a smaller list because honestly we can only remember so much, and we can only focus on so much in any given year. I think it's fun if you take that into a human aspect, and that you, as a human on this planet, can only focus on so many things in a given year.
Jason Atwood: David Allen talks about having this many projects and this many next actions. And part of what I do and train people on to think about is: You do have a limitation. We only have 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and maybe 90 plus years on this planet. You can't do everything. So what is your number? How many can you get done? How many can you focus on? And that's where I start people off. And that's how we get down to something more manageable to prioritize. Because once you can get that list of three, five, 10, 30, now we're doing something that we can walk through and turn into something actionable.
Andrew J. Mason: Yeah, and I do feel like that makes sense. And I guess what I'm getting at is: Is there anything instructional that people can use for their own lives and their own OmniFocus system? I mean, there's infinite options expanding in front of us. And how do you decide that, "You know what? These are the metrics that matter my personal Omni focus system"?
Jason Atwood: Yeah, for me, I break down my function in OmniFocus in terms of numbers, and I've done this over, well, I guess the last 10 years or so, because I have learned that there is a limit to me as a human being. I can only have so much on my plate. What is stress to people but having too much on your plate, not being able to get enough done, not being able to live up to your commitments? That's the stress. Well, most people are just poorly over committed. Most people are over committed because they don't have a list of all of their commitments. I use OmniFocus and the GTD methodology to say, "Okay, if I've captured everything, put it in front of me." Now I can say, "Here's the number that I can sustain. Here's how many active projects I need to have in order to not feel overwhelmed."
Jason Atwood: And it took me years and years to figure it out, to go through: "What is my capacity level? How much can I keep on my level?" And I used to do it... I actually do it in my weekly review. I built it in years and years ago to look at how many active projects I have. And it used to be "Get your active projects under a hundred." And then I said, "Okay, well, do I feel good?" I'm like, "Nope. Still stressed." Okay. Get it under 80. "Nope. Still don't feel good." And I kept lowering the number over weeks and months until I got to a point where I now look at my OmniFocus, and it's built into my weekly review, as like, I know that the number for me is between 20 and 30. That's my number. That is where I feel good and not stressed. Over 30, I've got too much and I need to renegotiate commitments with others or myself and say, "Look, there's too much."
Jason Atwood: Under 20. I'm going to my on holds right? What's on hold? What's in my someday maybe? What's on my bucket list? What can I take on? Because I have more capacity. It's hard to do because it's not easy to kind of like, "What is your capacity?" But it allows me to think of things as a very easy set of numbers. And when someone comes to me and says, "I want to throw that 33rd project on your plate," it makes it much easier to say, "Maybe I can't do that." Or, "What else am I going to give up if I take on that project?"
Andrew J. Mason: That's really useful to think about this idea that we have limits as human beings. So what is that capacity number for you as projects go? Do you mind sharing what is your definition of a project though? Is it move the office? Or the traditional thing that's anything that requires two or more actions is considered a project?
Jason Atwood: Yeah. I'm pretty by the book. I will tell you there's very few things that I'm not by the book when it comes to David Allen. And I do think of it as, and when I train people and talk about it, I'm like "Pretty much everything is a project." Because if you can't just do it... Like vacation to Hawaii, you don't just do vacation to Hawaii. There's no checkbox for that, right? There's a series of actions that take to get there. So I'm pretty by the book in terms of what equals a project. It is a series of little things that are physical, visible actions that I can do that at the end, when all of them are done, the main thing is closed off. Right? So if it's as simple as, watering the plants, or doing my taxes, or daily health routine or something, the tasks are very physical and visible, and then the main thing is the project itself is done because those things were done underneath it.
Andrew J. Mason: That's really interesting. And I'm actually curious about this because I think sometimes when people's hear from the outside looking in, "Oh man, that must be great that he has this portion of his life together and is kind of holding it up as this model for other people to work by." But it really is possible. And one area that really shines for you is weekly reviews. I know that you are adamant about weekly reviews. Do you mind talking a little bit about that?
Jason Atwood: Yeah. I mean, again, I stick to the big thing: Get clear, get current, get creative. So I stick to the concepts of it. I have done one every single week. I did the calculation and wrote a blog post called Eight Tips After 800 Weekly Reviews, because I figured out roughly when my 800th weekly review was. I do stick to it as pretty much a practice. The way I do that is: Every weekly review doesn't have to be the greatest weekly review, right? Sometimes, because I'm on the road or doing something, it might be 15 minutes in an airport lounge and I power through and just check the boxes or do as much as I can. Other times it's two to three hours on a Saturday morning with a cup of coffee, and I really dig into lots of stuff.
Jason Atwood: But for me, it's like breathing. I can't imagine not doing it at this point. I always make the analogy of: If you don't brush your teeth for a bit, they feel fuzzy or they feel like they have socks on. I don't know where I wear that. But then you feel like "I got to brush my teeth." Well, that's the weekly review feels to me. If I go beyond that seven days, or eight days, I would start to feel this icky, out of control, stress like, "Oh, what is that feeling?" "Oh, you don't feel like you've completed the week. You've gotten in control of your things. You know what's in front of you. You know what's ahead of you. You know what your next couple of weeks look like." That feeling is so bad for me that I would never skip my weekly review.
Jason Atwood: From what's in it, it's a lot about going through all my inboxes. What are the things that are coming at me? Physical inboxes, digital inboxes, checking through those, seeing what's there, clearing them out, literally clearing them out, inbox zero, get my mail down to zero, review stuff everywhere that's something that could be something waiting for me. There's stuff that I go inside of Salesforce because there's things inside my work there that are sort of inboxes. We use Slack, which is actually now owned by Salesforce. I have certain tasks that go in there because again, there's inbox-y type places that I need to look at to, "Did I miss something?" I mean, a lot of the weekly review for me is making sure that nothing slipped by, that I didn't miss an important Slack message, or an important email or a document or a comment to me.
Jason Atwood: I mean, you know the amount of stuff that we're pounded on it with information. And I just try to make sure that nothing slipped by. And then a lot of it's going back and going through a lot of things in OmniFocus. Looking over upcoming projects, seeing what my calendar piece is. One of the things that I would never not do. If you gave me two minutes to do a weekly review, one minute would be open up OmniFocus and the next would be to do the calendar. I'd go back three weeks and go ahead three weeks. And that'd be my weekly review, if I had a two minute week review. So those types of things are cornerstone to the practice.
Andrew J. Mason: Excellent. I thank you for breaking that down. This show is airing at the start of a fresh year and we all had great plans for 2020 and it happened. So let's say people are feeling some fresh motivation to just kind of ramp up their productivity habits or GTD or routines or anything along that route. What advice might you have to somebody that's kind of looking to turbocharge their system for the new year, and maybe even some specific routines that you engage in, any advice in that route? Like, "Hey, it's a new year, let's get things started."
Jason Atwood: Sure. There's definitely lots of things that I do on a yearly basis. I've learned, part of what I do in OmniFocus is a lot of things that repeat, but there are definitely things. Maybe it's this closet that needs an emptying once a year, or some financial tuning up at the end of the year of. Running a business, there's a lot of end of year stuff. And then there's some, "Hey, what's the next year look like?" One of the things, again, harder to do it now, but maybe 2021 will offer this, but look at my travel calendar. What do I want to do this year in terms of travel? Do I want to go someplace? Is there a place that I've always had on my list that I want to go do? Let's turn that from a someday maybe into a reality. Let's make a project OmniFocus and let's activate it so I can set up a budget or save money or put it in my calendar. Things that I do from that perspective.
Jason Atwood: From a getting started from a, if you're using the New Year's resolution as a way to bolster your GTD life and get back on the wagon as it were, I always give people the advice and try to stick to not overdoing it. Don't bite off more than you can chew. It's pretty much every one of these New Year's resolutions, the ones that don't get kept or the ones that are too big, right? They're like, "Oh, lose 50 pounds." Like, "Well, how about not go for the big gusto?" So saying like, "I'm going to implement full GTD and become a GTD master." It's too much, and a higher rate of failure. I say, start with something smaller. Start with one or two habits from GTD and try to master those.
Jason Atwood: Take like two months, or a month, and say, "I'm going to master the two minute rule." Let's say for January, "I'm just going to focus on that. I'm just going to focus on thinking, 'Hey, can I do this within two minutes? If so, yes. If not okay, great.' Maybe in February, I'll take on capture, right?" Charles Duhigg and the power of habit. If it takes 30 to 60 days to create a keystone habit of doing something every single day, well, you have to do things tons and tons of times over to make them stick. So it's actually why I think the weekly review is one of the harder to habits to solidify, because if you had to do it 30 to 40 times, well guess how long that is. That's almost a year. You have to have practiced it every single week for a year to have it really kind of become a habit. That's where I say, "Don't try to take off everything. Don't try to do every little piece."
Jason Atwood: And then the other piece of advice I give people when they're trying to get back on is start with some new content. Yes, you can go back and reread the book. I've read the book four times and listened to the book probably another eight. Sometimes I do use it as a way to put me to sleep if I'm up. But find the new content. There's great content out there with lots of different people and different voices talking about GTD, talking about weekly review, talking about capturing or whatever. Find that different content. Maybe it's YouTube videos, maybe it's podcasts, maybe it's books or papers or websites, blogs. And kind of reinvigorate yourself by seeing how others are doing it. And that I find really helps people kind of say, "Okay, they're doing it. I can do it." And then they get caught up and hopefully build the habit that sticks.
Andrew J. Mason: Now, what about your perspectives? What go-to perspectives do you use to really get control of your surroundings?
Jason Atwood: As you might start to see, I'm pretty much a keep it simple person, right? My system and OmniFocus is a simple system. It might feel complex, but it's not. So the same thing with perspectives. I don't have 300. I have maybe 20. My whole thing is, look, if you're going to buy a new pair of shoes, can you recycle or donate the last pair? Same thing with perspectives. It's like, "Hey, you're going to build a new perspective? Are there three that you don't use? Maybe you should delete them to get them so they're not creating cruft in your system." My main one, I basically stick between two main perspectives. One is called Arkus, which basically gives me a view of all my active projects that are within Arkus. If I need to focus on that for the workday, boom, show me that.
Jason Atwood: And the other one's home. And it says "Here's all your home stuff." Basically everything that's not Arkus, right? My friends and family folder, my health, my finances, fun and travel. That folder has been empty for a while now. And allows me to focus in on that so I can kind of shift my brain back and forth if I want to. I rely heavily on the Forecast View. Not really a perspective, but I guess partly a perspective. That is where I am every single day, all day. I would say up there with my calendar in terms of how much I look at it during the day. And then I actually love the built-in projects that just shows you everything, right? Show me all my projects and all the things so if there's something I need, I can pick out. Is there something I can dig into today and get done?
Jason Atwood: And then during my weekly reviews, when I use the most perspective, I have one called upcoming projects. Just like I look at my calendar and I looked three weeks in advance, let me look at my upcoming projects. Let me look at stuff that's coming up, that's literally set to start next week or the week after. I almost always find something that either, "Ooh, maybe I don't want to do that." Or "Let me push that out further." Or maybe I've already done it. Waiting. Waiting by project. Show me everything I'm waiting for. And I capture everything that someone says they're going to commit to me for. Let me see. Did I get any of those things? Did they come to me? Or is there more things that I need to look at?
Jason Atwood: Another one I use is called Recent Additions, which is: What have I added to OmniFocus in the last, I don't know, week and a half? Is there anything in there that I just put in that makes sense or that I need to update? So it kind of shows me a little bit of the, "What have you done in focus in the last week?" Because it usually sparks something like, "Oh, I added that. Ooh, that reminds me I need to do this." Capture in the system.
Andrew J. Mason: Now, what about tags or contexts? How do they come into play?
Jason Atwood: Yeah, it's funny because reading the book eat, he talks originally about calls and internet and things like that. Now everything is blurred, right? Everything is one thing. But I still use Context pretty consistently. I think of it... Two years ago someone sort of put it in a way that just made my brain explode the right way. And it was actually something he doesn't talk about it in the book, but it was using context, especially with software like OmniFocus, which allows you to filter, use context as a way to show you what you can't do. Right? I don't want to see errands if I'm sitting at my desk. I just need to see the stuff that I can do right now. So context can filter out things as well as show you what you can.
Jason Atwood: He talked about his show your calls list, show your internet lists or your computer list. How about just show me the things I can do. I don't want to see things I can't do right now. So filter out those contexts. And that was a big aha moment for me. So I'm pretty typical. I use them for software. So definitely if I have to go do something in Salesforce. Yeah, Salesforce is on the internet, but it's a specific place that I need to go to. So I use that. We use a lot of the Google Suite. So I'll use those. I'm big into perspectives about people. If I want to talk to a business partner, I have a perspective for that person. I have a perspective for my daughter, for example, if I need to talk to her about something, so I'll capture her. And that allows me just to say, "Ooh, let me see. What do I got to talk to you about? Oh, here. Three things that I thought of last week."
Jason Atwood: It's really application people specific because again, the applications are now everywhere. So I don't typically say "Computer" or "Internet." It's more "Slack" or "Docs" or "Salesforce" or "Email" or "My daughter's name" or "My partner's name" or something like that.
Andrew J. Mason: Ever since I heard your first interview, I thought about this. Since you do onboard a lot of people with Arkus, you sort of have this mini test lab of user behavior that's super valuable. And when people are struggling, specifically with implementing OmniFocus or GTD or some combination of the two, where, for you, to most problems occur? Because you have this kind of closed environment where you get to see the same behavior over and over again.
Jason Atwood: Yeah. Definitely. There's definitely some stuff that I see, and I have like 40, 50, 60 people at this point. I spend a lot... Again, I just got off a call where I did the GTD 101 with three new employees, and the next one we're doing is OmniFocus 101 next week. So it's definitely happening. It's real. The thing that actually, I think, we make harder for people is that we implement both at the same time. Right? Most people aren't coming to us as GTD people who then need to learn OmniFocus, or OmniFocus people who need to learn GTD. They're generally coming with no knowledge of either. And they are, one's an application and one's a methodology. And yes, they work great together, peanut butter and jelly, but they are both pretty difficult. And one, GTD, is about changing habits. It's about creating new habits, getting rid of bad habits, creating new habits and making them stick in your daily existence, in your work and in your home. That's massive. That's a lot, right?
Jason Atwood: Then, here's this tool. Extremely powerful, lots of configuration, lots of features, lots of ways to do things. But difficult, right? It needs some work. You need to pay attention to it. So, where I see people get caught is that they have to do both. And so what we do now is we try to break them apart a little bit. I go for the GTD, get them to read the book, get them to go through sort of the 101. But as I teach people, as we bring up concepts like trusted systems, I talk about your calendar. "Here's your calendar. Here's your hard landscape. Where is everything else in your life? Where are all those other next actions, those tasks? Where are they? They're not in your calendar. They shouldn't be in your calendar."
Jason Atwood: Well, they go in and then I say, "OmniFocus. We'll talk about OmniFocus next week. But for now, that's where they go. So when you capture, you're capturing to OmniFocus." And so I think in some ways it makes it easier, but it is a lot. It's not only that. They're also learning all the Arkus stuff. I mean they're learning a lot at the same time. That's why our onboarding program is like 90 days, is because it's a lot to learn. But my real hint for people and the thing that we've learned over years and years and years is: Not everybody learns the same way, so it can't just be like, "Here, go watch this video. You're ready to go." Or "Go read this getting started with OmniFocus document and you're ready to go."
Jason Atwood: So I even just got off this call and I said, "Here's the resources. You have to understand how you learn. Maybe you learn with hands-on. Great. Here's three people. Go set up meetings with them and get a hands-on view of their OmniFocus. Have them walk you through it. Maybe you learn by video. Great. Here's five recordings of me talking about OmniFocus that we've done internally, where I go over all the different aspects. Maybe you were learned by listening. Great. Here's 17 podcasts that we've done about all the different... Maybe you learn by reading. Great. Here's three PDFs and a book and something else." So the thing that I try to tell you is: It's not just one thing. You can't just say for training, "It's just this PDF," or "It's just..." You have to say, "A, how does the other person learn?" And B, it has to be all of it. And you have to reinforce it and keep reinforcing it. It's not just these one and dones.
Jason Atwood: So as part of our program, or as part of our onboarding, as part of the things they have to do, one of the misses sit with three different individuals at Arkus and talk about their weekly review. Because now that's a human aspect. "How do you, John, how do you do weekly review? Great." Then you go to somebody else next week. "How do you do yours?" So learn by others. Learn by show and tell. Learn by having conversations. Then there's "Go read these three blog posts on weekly reviews." Right? Then, "Go listen to this podcast on weekly reviews." So it's the enforcing through different media, I think that seems to be the best because not everybody learns from one way and it can't just be one and done.
Andrew J. Mason: You just did a personal soap box there. I just ran across a company a few years back called Kairos Cognition. And they have this survey you can take that will determine the inputs that you're best at assimilating information through. So we've all heard auditory learner or visual learner, but it even breaks them down into sub modalities, like sequential, or branching. And I found out that I'm a high mover and high talker and I can actually input information. High talker. That's a surprise. Imagine that. But it's a very personal process.
Jason Atwood: And it's individual. We talk about... People, ask me, "Do you separate out your OmniFocus work and home?" And I always say "No, because my brain doesn't separate out work and home." I don't keep tasks for work in one system and tasks for home in another system, because my brain doesn't work that way. Buy milk and respond to client is in the same second. And I don't want to have my brain then have to go, "Ooh, capture buy milk. Ooh, go to this system. Oh, respond to client. Ooh. I have to go to this system." I want it to be ubiquitous. I want it to be able to one place.
Jason Atwood: I actually find, I know when somebody, and I think I might have said this in the last one, but I know it's somebody at Arkus has truly got it, the big quote unquote "Got it," is when they implement their personal life. And when they see their life and the things in their life, like renovating the sunroom or going on a trip or doing a birthday party for their kid, when they see those as projects in OmniFocus, then I know, "Oh, you get it. It's all one place. It's one trusted system. It is part of your other brain." And then everything else clicks. When they just use it for Arkus and just for work, I'm like, "Eh, now you're just using it as just a tool. And you're not really going deep on it."
Andrew J. Mason: You mentioned in one of our emails before this interview, that the real power, like the real power of OmniFocus, is automation. This idea of deferring, and perspectives and repeating behavior. And you talk a lot about an automating your life with OmniFocus. So what does that currently look like? Or maybe from a beginner's perspective, how do you recommend somebody implements that?
Jason Atwood: Sure. I think it starts with the basic concept. Number one on the list is capture. I don't want to have thoughts more than once, right? I don't want to have to worry about getting the dog on a yearly... Get the pill refilled every six months for the dog, or that I have to water the plant. So automation starts with: What are all that things in your brain that you have to do that happen more than once, and that you need to stop thinking about or trying to remember and get OmniFocus to do it for you? So it really starts with just getting it out of your head.
Jason Atwood: The less I can store in my brain, the less my brain is worrying about all these kinds of things that happen in my life from filing my taxes to holidays or things that happen, all of that, my birthday or my kid's birthday. All this stuff is these things that happen every year. Why don't I just automate OmniFocus to be the holder of that information? Why not tell OmniFocus, "You remind me when it's important for me to start thinking about that. You have the things I need to do on it. You come up into my view at the exact time that makes sense. I'll set you up to do it. And then you do it."
Jason Atwood: Automating is just saying, "I don't want to worry about that stuff on a day-to-day basis. I don't even want to see it. But I want OmniFocus to come up and show me at the exact right time when I need to start thinking about Thanksgiving." Right? So maybe it's October 11th is when the Thanksgiving project has a deferred date of. All of a sudden it shows up in my view. "Oh, October 11th. Oh, Thanksgiving. That's right. That's coming up." Right? And then it has a whole bunch of tasks in it, stuff that I've done in the years before.
Jason Atwood: And this works over and over again. I have so many of these projects. You set them up, you give them a defer date, you give them a due date, you say, "Mark completed on the last action." You give them a repeating cycle that's super powerful in OmniFocus that you can have these very customized, every 10 days, every 30 days, every three months, every 90 days, put them in OmniFocus and then forget it. One of my ones that it actually always surprises me that it's in OmniFocus, but I love it every time I see it is to check the fire extinguishers. It shows up and I'm like, "Oh, check the fire extinguishers. Right? Because you have to check them every, whatever, six months to make sure that they're still working." You go over them, you look at them. But if I don't automate that, then my brain somewhere, when I'm taking a shower or falling asleep, goes, "Fire extinguishers." Right?
Jason Atwood: I don't want that in my life. So there's so many things. All your financial commitments. Automate them. Put them in OmniFocus. Even your personal life, with check-ins with people. There's people in my life who I've automated OmniFocus to have a cadence to check in with them. How about building better habits? A lot of people want to build better workout habits or self-maintenance habits like brushing your teeth or flossing or doing yoga. Well, have OmniFocus be the impetus to do that for you and to help build that. So just automate it in OmniFocus, get the project in there, set it up to repeat, and then boom. Then it shows up in the right time, reminds you, and then you can do it.
Jason Atwood: I added one the other day, a very simple one. I have a Christmas tree, I set it up. And the instructions said, "You got to water this every day." I'm like, "Ugh, every day, really?" And it was like "Every day." So I quickly went in, built a little project in OmniFocus, it's due every day, repeat every day, with two things like "Water tree." And I don't know. "Look at tree." Water tree and do something. Then it shows up every day. "Oh yeah. Right. I got to water the tree today because I don't want to have to remember that." So that's what I mean by automating. I think it's extremely powerful and it gets so much out of your head and I can put in stuff that's due in 2028 into OmniFocus and know it'll be there for me when 2028 comes around.
Andrew J. Mason: I think that's exemplary. But at the same time, I can hear somebody just pushing back saying like, "That might be great for you, Jason, but that's just way too far beyond where I am or where I want to be in my life." But why would you do that? Thy do you feel like the effort is worth the output?
Jason Atwood: My theory is I want to be really good at forgetting. And I think I'm really good at forgetting, because I don't want to try to remember these things. I don't want to try to remember when I'm supposed to pay that tuition bill or to do that other thing. I don't want to remember that. So my job is to let this tool do that for me. And the more I can get out of my head... Again, it's the basic principle: Get it out of your head. But now I have a way of getting out of my head and making it so it just shows up when I need it to show up. And that's the power, is because I don't want to have to think about it. I don't want to have to ever have that thought of, "Uh oh, I forgot." The more I automate it the better.
Jason Atwood: And I would say, it's more of like, "What else can I put in there that makes my life easier?" Because every time I do this, it allows my head to be clear. It allows me to be more present with my friends when I'm sitting there with them or out for a drink. We used to do that, go out for drinks. Now we don't do that anymore. But you have those friends. You have those friends who you're sitting with and they just have thought, thought, thought show up and they have to interrupt and get on and "Oh, I forgot to do that. I forgot to pay the babysitter. Oh, I forgot to do... I got to go take out the recycling. Oh..." And it's like, why do you want to live like that?
Jason Atwood: David Allen, I think one of his famous ones... He actually came and talked to Arkus internally after we did the interview as a favor, which was really nice. And we had a bunch of questions internally and he called somebody out and he's like, "Why are you addicted to stress?" And I know we said it before, but I love it. And I use that with people all the time. We see these stressed out people and they got so many things flying at them, these hundreds of commitments that are just all over the place. And I'm like, "Why do you want to live like that? That doesn't seem like a fun place to live." So that's why I do it is because I don't want to live like that.
Andrew J. Mason: The weekly review is big for you. Managing by the numbers for stress levels is huge. Is there anything else that man, you wish people would know?
Jason Atwood: I like to talk to and sort of work through why we need this now. And I just did this presentation where I show a slide, and the slide is a hundred years ago to today, in terms of like stress levels and what you have. And on one slide I bring up, I'm like, "Okay, a hundred years ago, you were a farmer, or you were a factory worker, or you were a teacher, or you were a doctor. You worked in an office. How many emails did you get? How many text messages? How many meetings? How many interruptions did you have? How many notifications?" Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. "What was your commitments? How many things you were committed to?" It's low. It's five to 10 things.
Jason Atwood: And then I throw the one next to it and I say, "Okay, how about now? What's your life look like now? 50 to 300 emails, 20 to 30 texts, 150 notifications a day, commitments left and right. And everybody complains about stress levels and 'I'm stressed and I'm overly this,' and, and it's the why." Because I like to start with that when I get people into GTD. It's like, why do we need this? It's because our brains have not evolved in the last hundred years to deal with the amount of information flow coming towards us. We need different systems. We need different things to help us get there because our brains aren't ready for it. Maybe in a thousand years, when we're on Mars, our brains will adapt. But right now they're not adapted. They are overwhelmed. They could still only hold three things. They're not good at this. So we need other systems to help us, and that's where GTD as a methodology, and OmniFocus as a tool, are really, really helpful. And that's why we need them. It's not just a nice to have. It's a need.
Andrew J. Mason: Do you have any recommended go-to talks or books or audios for people to improve their productivity? There's Getting Things Done. I know you do a podcast Cloud Focus Weekly.
Jason Atwood: Well since you mentioned Cloud Focus Weekly. I mean, you brought it up. So what am I going to stop you? So I went and I looked and we did 15 episodes on GTD. We did 15 separate episodes on different aspects of it. We did a whole hour and a half on the weekly review. We did one on capture. We did one on commitments. We did one on all these things. So that is actually a great resource. On the book side, I mentioned the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Start With Why by Simon Sineck. Those are two of my favorites, and actually things we ask people at Arkus to read. The Dip by Seth Godin is amazing, really about a level of focus and getting to work, the things you need to do. I actually mentioned this on the call just an hour ago: GTD for Teens.
Jason Atwood: I love giving people GTD for Teens. I bought a stack of them and I just go to my friends who I think can't maybe handle GTD, but maybe can handle GTD for Teens. And I hand them the book and I say, "Okay, read this. It's not a baby book. It will help you. Pick some things out of it." So I love that one. And I'm a big fan of Jason Fried and his Rework. That one, and It Doesn't Have to Suck, which is totally true. On the podcast side. I really like the two GTD ones that are sort of the offshoots from the main GTD podcasts. So GTD Nordic and GTD by Next Actions. I think there's a good one-two punch of sort of different perspectives, and I like the way that they talk about things.
Jason Atwood: Again, I think it's really helpful for people to hear how other people do it. It's hard because it's so personal to you. It's like you can't watch someone on a video do GTD right. You can watch someone jump up and down or learn how to TikTok or lift weights or get on a Peloton. You can see that. But you can't see how people can GTD. So to learn it is kind of tough because the instructional videos just aren't there. So listening to people and hearing how they do it I find very, very helpful. So I like those two from the podcast series. Reading blogs, obviously the Arkus blog. There is actually a ton of GTD content up there. Like the Eight Tips After 800 Weekly Reviews. There's a lot in there. I do write blog posts about... There's one that I wrote a couple of years ago called the Weekly Review Tune-Up For the New Year. So that'll be a good one to read in 2021. Those are the ones I would suggest. But we put out a lot of content. Those are the ones that I like.
Andrew J. Mason: That's perfect. And how can people get in contact with you if they're interested in finding more about what you're doing or what you're up to, or just want to connect?
Jason Atwood: I would say go to Twitter. That's my one social channel of choice. So I'm JasonMAtwood on Twitter. From there there's links to the Arkus website where the blog and podcasts are. I pretty much tweet about Salesforce and GTD things pretty frequently. One of my things that we agreed with one of my business partners was his way of building his habit for GTD is he tweets every week when he's about to do his weekly review. So I've actually built that into my habit too. So it's a nice little tip is to make that commitment to do something, turn it from being an internal commitment like, "Oh, I've got to do my weekly review," to an external commitment. "Oh, I'm going to tell the world I'm doing my weekly review." And that we've kind of built in, and a lot of people at Arkus actually tweet that they're doing their weekly review as they're starting into getting into it. And as a way to make that into a bigger commitment.
Andrew J. Mason: Jason, you're awesome. Thank you so much for your time and just spending it with us today.
Jason Atwood: No problem. It's been a pleasure again.
Andrew J. Mason: And thank all of you for listening today. Hey, we're curious, are you enjoying the shows? Are you enjoying learning how people are getting things done, utilizing Omni software and products? Drop us a line @TheOmniShow on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you there. You can also find out everything that's happening with the Omni Group at omnigroup.com/blog.