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May 9, 2022, 7 a.m.
How Kaitlin Salzke Uses OmniFocus

On today’s show, we talk with Kaitlin Salzke. Kaitlin’s a tax accountant, mother, plus a computer science student, who just happens to be moving two hours away (all while coding OmniFocus plug-ins in her spare time!)

Show Notes:

In this episode, Kaitlin details the mindset and practice behind her ability to keep multiple complex projects moving at once. She’s given her OmniFocus setup superpowers by taking maximum advantage of Omni Automation & plug-ins. You’ll love how easily she balances the theory of automation and plug-in coding with honest, real-world task execution.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned in this episode:


Andrew J. Mason: You're listening to The Omni Show where we connect with the amazing community surrounding the Omni Group's award-winning products. My name's Andrew J. Mason. And today we talk with Kaitlin Salzke about how she uses OmniFocus.

Andrew J. Mason: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Omni Show. My name's Andrew J. Mason, and today we have Kaitlin Salzke. And if you don't know her, I'm very excited to make this introduction. I honestly can't do a better job than the intro on her website. So permit me to read this. She says, "I'm the person that tries to represent everything in Venn diagrams and flow charts, uses too many emojis, and has an OmniFocus automation set up for managing my laundry. And if that doesn't tell you enough about me, then I really don't know what will." She's a rockstar in our community. Kaitlin, welcome. Talk to us about where you find yourself, what you're up to in an average day. And hi.

Kaitlin Salzke: Yeah, sure. Thanks Andrew. Thanks for having me. It's really exciting to be here. I love to talk about OmniFocus and I don't get a chance often in my day to day life. So really appreciate the invitation. A bit about me, I live in regional Australia. I'm here with my partner and my one year old who keeps me pretty well on my toes most of the time. As far as work goes, I'm an accountant by training. I'm actually in between jobs at the moment. So I've just finished off, I've been working for the last eight years or so in tax, as a tax accountant.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I'm just about to move into an executive role in local government in a couple of weeks. So I'm in the middle of packing up my house and moving two hours away and starting a new job. So I'm in a bit of an interesting period at the moment. And at the same time as that I'm also studying a bachelor of computer science, which I've about halfway through now. So that's just for something extra to do just for fun.

Andrew J. Mason: Kaitlin, I really feel like you need to pick up the pace. It feels like you're falling behind to me.

Kaitlin Salzke: No. I feel like I've got quite a lot going on at the minute, but that's all right, because I've got OmniFocus to keep me under control.

Andrew J. Mason: Well, grateful for that. And a great segue into your history. There was a time when you didn't know about the Omni Group or OmniFocus or any of that. Can you wind back the clock and just tell us about, do you remember when you first saw OmniFocus or saw the Omni Group, or anything of that nature?

Kaitlin Salzke: I was trying to think about this and I don't remember where I first came across OmniFocus and the Omni Group. I had a look back and it looks like I purchased it in August 2014. So coming up on probably eight years since I've been working with OmniFocus and I've been using it pretty well all throughout that time. I would've come across getting things done and the broader productivity community, for lack of a better word. Probably a lot earlier than that, probably about 2005, 2006, and played around with a various other software tools and things over that time. And I think was pretty common around that era while stuff was being built. That was back in the day when you had to plug in your IPod at the time, just sync up calendars and things.

Kaitlin Salzke: We've come a long way since then. I do have a memory of downloading and installing OmniFocus and playing with it for about five minutes thinking, "Oh, no. This isn't for me. It's a bit expensive." I wasn't totally employed at the time. I was probably still in high school. Well, no. I don't think this is for me. And I think I went back to remember something or whatever I was using at the time. I don't have many regrets in my life, but not persisting with that a little bit more. Probably would've benefited me at the time if I just stuck to it for a little bit longer. But I did eventually get there. I eventually got on board with OmniFocus. So I've been using it pretty well consistently since I purchased it back in 2014.

Kaitlin Salzke: So it's taken me through all of my accountancy studies. I did all of my undergraduate and then postgraduate studies. And now obviously I've gone into the computer science degree as well. And for some of that, I was studying full time at the same time as working full time. So I needed a good system. I'd used it when I was overseas working in Spain as an English language teaching system for a while, and traveling around Europe for three months. And then I've used it all the time I was on maternity leave after my son was born and making sure I remembered to wash my hair and things that... Those were actually tasks that are in my OmniFocus because you've got three children. You probably remember what that's like.

Kaitlin Salzke: So it's definitely held a wide variety of tasks for me over the years, but I'm glad that I did discover it in the end. And I eventually came back to it because the Omni Group, they're just fabulous. Anyone that's interacted or sent a support email would know that already. But also the wider community is fabulous as well. As well as just being great software.

Andrew J. Mason: Absolutely. And we did mention these larger sweeping 30,000 foot projects. Were you getting a degree? You're a mom, what areas of life do you use OmniFocus to manage and how does that pie slice up for you?

Kaitlin Salzke: Yeah. So basically the answer to what areas of my life am I managing with OmniFocus the answer is all of them. Realistically, work obviously is a little bit up in the air because I'm in between jobs. So at my previous job, I did use OmniFocus. I probably didn't need to, but because I was so invested in it anyway, I wanted to use it. So I did. I probably could have gotten away with not using it, to be honest, just because we had our own systems and things there. So I guess it's a bit of a wait and see with the new job as to how much of a role it plays and what the external systems and collaborative systems and things like that look like there. I don't know that yet, but yeah. As I said, it really runs the spectrum from everything as small as wash your hair, drink a glass of water, remember how to function through to the much bigger staff, the work projects, the university assignments moving house.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I know that approach is not necessarily for everyone. It obviously does add a bit of overhead in terms of maintenance. And it took me a while to get to a point where all of those smaller tasks... They basically run on autopilot in the system now for me. So I'm not in there making tasks every day to remind me to drink water or wash my hair, but they're there and they pop up automatically and I tick them off as they come along.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I don't have to manage them really very much at this point, but it's been so worth it when chaos happens. Be that a newborn or a sudden move two hours away to have some of those reminders there when something unexpected comes up just to make sure no, you still need to go for a walk. You still need to get out of the house and get some air. You can't just pack all the time. You still need to do those things.

Kaitlin Salzke: And even if that's looking at some of the tasks that I would normally do in skipping them, that's just as valid, but at least I'm consciously making that choice. Basically everything is in OmniFocus for me, there's not much that isn't. I do keep someday maybe style lists outside of OmniFocus. And I haven't really got a great way of dealing with those at the moment. They're just dumped into city and then I'm not really getting to them because I've got enough on it anyway. So I'm just happy that they're sitting somewhere, but yeah. As far as actions, as soon as I've committed to doing something, it's pretty well in OmniFocus in some way, even if it's just an empty project as a placeholder to remind me to come back to it later.

Andrew J. Mason: Kaitlin, I love asking this question and I know you'd be well positioned to answer it. I love that you said that your particular way of doing things may not necessarily be for everybody. Totally understand that. And everybody does have their own way of doing things for the person that is in that inflection point where they realize they're getting more and more responsibility in life. They may have accidentally or intentionally committed to more than they can consciously hold in their head. They've got this sneaking suspicion that I can do it all. I can't keep it all in my head. I need some system to help me out. And let's say they open OmniFocus, what would you suggest somebody does first? You open it up. You're looking at the screen. Where do I begin?

Kaitlin Salzke: I don't really feel that qualified to offer advice, but I guess I would say somewhat in our position to what I've just said, you probably don't start with anything overly complex. So you probably don't want to start, if you're just coming to OmniFocus and just coming to task management and this productivity space, you probably don't want to start by putting tasks in your task manager that are brush your teeth. It's probably better to start with the bigger picture stuff, the bigger rocks, I guess, and start small start with the basics and add things in as you need them, rather than trying to invent a whole system from scratch and think about what you might need. Wait until you actually can see what's missing and then go from there.

Kaitlin Salzke: So don't start by looking at my system or someone else's system and going, "I'm going to implement that and do exactly the same thing as what they're doing." Because it probably will collapse. I did a workflow session over at learn OmniFocus. Would've been about a month ago now. And I thought about adding a don't try this at home disclaimer on that session, which I didn't just because of time, but I don't think that's the place to start. And it's not to say that you can't look at other people's setups or workflows and things like that and get some ideas of where you might go, what direction you might take things in. But I think starting simple is probably the way to go.

Kaitlin Salzke: And there's some really good... As I said, I don't really feel like I'm qualified in this to really be advising anyone, but there are some really good resources around. Obviously you've got this podcast. The OmniFocus is another really good resource. Creating play with OmniFocus is a brilliant place to get started. And even if you're familiar with OmniFocus, both of those resources still probably have something to offer. And I would highly recommend both of those. And they're certainly not the only resources that are out there, but there's plenty around.

Kaitlin Salzke: And the community's really great. So if people are getting started with OmniFocus, I would encourage them to jump into the forums or the Slack channel. And there's always people in there that are willing to help out with advice and tips and troubleshooting if needed and the OmniFocus support team as well. They're just the best support team I've ever seen. So certainly wouldn't hesitate to reach out to them.

Andrew J. Mason: Yeah. Absolutely grateful for that. I think the hallmark, one of the coolest things about this community is just the willingness that people have to help. I've seen you in the discourse forums or the Slack channel, just jumping in, somebody's trying to work on some code for Omni automation and just asking, "Hey. What do you guys think?" And you jump in and say, "Here's a line or two that could be written differently that might help." And for everybody that's not familiar, Omni automation is just this extendable way to give Omni software superpowers, just extra stuff that can happen, that wasn't originally planned in the program.

Andrew J. Mason: You're able to install plugins that are community created and people can stand on each other's shoulders to be able to add extensibility to the software. And it's really cool to see because your use case might have something where it's, man, I really need to know how to schedule appointments and would love it if this software had that ability built in. There's just so many use cases that people can use to extend the functionality of Omni software, OmniFocus included. Including Kaitlin, I know that you've done a lot of plug-ins yourself. Do you mind walking people through some of the use cases that you've created plug-ins for just so they can get an idea for what's possible.

Kaitlin Salzke: Sure. How long have you got? No. I've been a little bit busy and in the Omni automation space with OmniFocus in particular. I've not ventured into the other Omni applications, which is probably for the best because I don't have time to cover as overboards I probably have with plugins in OmniFocus. So I guess I would start, I did mention earlier that I did a learn OmniFocus session recently, and I did demonstrate a whole bunch of Omni automation plugins that I'd written over there. So if people are interested in seeing them in action and actually being able to visualize what's happening on the screen, which is probably better than me trying to describe things in audio, in a lot of cases and it's a little bit more in depth. That's where probably where I would point them, if they wanted to get a clearer view of what I've done with some things there.

Kaitlin Salzke: I do have a directory of plug-ins that I've built up on my website as well, where I try to share things that I think might be more general use to people. So that ranges from smaller plug-ins that do pretty quick simple tasks. So like I have an app-end or pre-end text action where you can select some tasks and add some texts to the beginning or the end of the selected tasks. One where you can defer the instance of a task. So obviously if you have a recurring task in OmniFocus and you change the defer date, it will be changed for future instances of that task as well. So this is a plugin that you can instead of deferring that, and then having to readjust it later, you can just defer that one instance. And then the future instances won't be affected.

Kaitlin Salzke: I have some that estimate total time of tasks that are selected, tag tasks that are due today, all sorts of things like that. One that I don't think I've actually published anywhere, but seemed to be of interest to people after I did that session was this idea of switching modes using Omni automation. So I have, and I'll try and describe this in audio the best I can without any visuals. But I have two tags that represent different modes. So broadly, I talk about them being focused and not no focus, which is not a great name when you're talking about OmniFocus, because that actually means something. But nevertheless, that's how it ended up in my system, because I couldn't think of anything else to call it.

Kaitlin Salzke: So broadly the focus mode is when I can concentrate fully on something. So in terms of my life, that typically means when my son is asleep, I can really get stuck into something. And I know I won't be distracted as opposed to when he's awake and I have no focus, basically. I can still sometimes get some things done, but there tend need to be things I can put down and come back to or do while I'm watching him or whatever the case may be.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I have those two tags set up in my OmniFocus starter base. And then I have an automation that allows me to put one of them on hold and make the other one available. And that means that any tasks that fit that current mode that I'm in are visible and any that don't, they aren't available anymore. So if you've got a perspective that's showing available tasks and they don't show up, they get out of the way. And again, I don't think I explain that particularly well in audio. It requires more of a visual probably to get, but I think that was quite a popular idea. So I probably need to write that one up in a little bit more detail with some better examples, somewhere as well.

Kaitlin Salzke: But in terms of bigger plugins, I've got a whole bunch. And again, some of these I did a bit of a demo of in that learn OmniFocus session. So I have a dependency plugin. So that means that you can make one task dependent on another across projects and things like that. A scheduling plugin. So you can... I use that to determine what day I'm planning to do particular tasks. So it's not necessarily a deferred date or a due date, but it's what day to actually plan to get this done. And I use that quite a lot with uni-work and things go, "Okay. Here on Wednesday, I've got to watch this lecture. On Thursday, I've got to watch this lecture. On Friday, I've got to work through this practical thing. And then on Saturday I've really got to do the assignment because it's you on Sunday."

Kaitlin Salzke: And I use that to make sure that I'm on track even though I could leave all of those things to Sunday if I really wanted to, but it's not typically a good idea. So I use that one quite a lot. I have a completed task report that I run at the end of every day that just dumps all of my completed tasks into a pretty report in day one. The templates plugin is the other one that's probably fairly popular as well. So that allows you to use set up templates within OmniFocus. I'd used a few other systems that allow you to set up templates in say drafts or something like that in a task paper format.

Kaitlin Salzke: But I'd found that they've probably settled down a lot more now, but my projects and tags and things were always in a bit of a state of flux. So as soon as change the name of a tag or you decide to add an emoji to the start of it or anything like that, things would break because in that task paper format, it's just text. Whereas I found that by moving them into OmniFocus I was able to use... If I renamed a tag or deleted a tag or whatever the case may be, it was really easy... To didn't break anything.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I added in some flexibility there as well. It was inspired a lot by, I think it was Kirk Clifton's had an Apple script that did something similar which is still available and still works. I imagine, I haven't used it obviously for a little while. But it started off as a recreation of that and built a little bit from there. It does a few other three things. Now I think that original script didn't do, but yeah, I used that one quite a lot and I think that's one that's been quite popular as well. So there's definitely more there, but I think that's probably more than you wanted to hear about Omni automation.

Andrew J. Mason: Not at all. And education about this is honestly half the journey. People don't realize, "Oh my gosh. I can have something that puts a daily report directly into day one. That's amazing. Let me do that. So thank you for sharing all of that.

Kaitlin Salzke: There's so much potential there to do so many things. I had someone contact me recently because on my side, I have the option to contact me to create a custom. Omni puts plugins because obviously not everyone wants to go away and learn [inaudible 00:17:21]. It's probably not viable for most people to do that, just to make that one automation that they want to have. But just recently, for example, I've been building an example, someone contacted me and they said, "I want to be able to tag tasks or projects and have them become available only when the weather in my zip code is above 70 degrees, Fahrenheit and not raining."

Kaitlin Salzke: So I've just built that for them and they haven't tested it out yet, but that's the thing that's possible because you can interact with any... You can use APIs that are available and it's not a lot of code. So if people have, and you could probably do the same thing in shortcuts or anything like... I know APIs are probably a step beyond where a lot of people are comfortable with potentially, but if you are comfortable in that space, it's not difficult.

Kaitlin Salzke: And as I said, it's the thing where the community is more than happy to help out with most of those things and point you in the right direction. So I didn't write it myself, but someone, and I apologize for not knowing their name off the top of my head, but someone has built a GitHub integration for anyone that's using GitHub, which is more for programmers typically or developers. But it syncs. GitHub basically pulls all of your tasks in from GitHub and if they're marked as complete on GitHub, it updates the OmniFocus, which I'm not using anymore. I decided it was better just to track that in GitHub. It's already got a system for it. I don't need to duplicate all of that, but the fact that it's possible just blows my mind a little bit.

Andrew J. Mason: That's so crazy to me though. It might just be me, but the integration that's nuts. Being able to have it talk back and forth between different software in API. I do want to shift gears. Let's talk about your perspectives. I know again, perspectives is one of those things not for everybody, but being able to hear how you do it and just say, You know what, the way that I slice and dice data, this just really works for me. These are my go-to perspectives from day to day."

Kaitlin Salzke: Most of the time when I'm looking at OmniFocus, I have six custom perspectives open on the screen at once in a tiled view, which I think of as like a dashboard. I'll just quickly run through them just to give a bit of a sense of them. So the first one is anything that's due soon. So that's anything that's remaining in due today in case it's hidden for some reason that I've missed. It's blocked by another task or something and it's due today. I still want to know about it. So anything remaining that's due today pops up in there as well as anything that's due in the next three days. So that's using OmniFocus as due soon perspective rule. And that comes to the top. That's my first perspective that I look at because obviously there's some urgency involved with anything that pops into there.

Kaitlin Salzke: Then I have my habits perspective and I try to work through these roughly in order generally. And that's not a hard and fast rule particularly, but that's how I think about it. So habits is those things that we were talking about earlier. So the wash your hair, the brush your teeth, the drink a glass of water, clean the bathroom. There's a woman called, I think her name's Gemma Bree. And she runs a site called the Organized Mom. Basically, it's a cleaning road, but the way that she frames the cleaning tasks for cleaning her house is she thinks of it in terms of level one, level two and level three tasks.

Kaitlin Salzke: So level one is the things that have to happen in order to keep things functional. So that's cleaning the bathroom, because if you don't clean it every week, it gets in a state and it's the disaster. It's washing the clothes because if you don't wash the clothes, you don't have anything to wear. And it's the like, it's almost the emergency mode. It's this has to happen no matter what. There might be a little bit of flexibility in that, but basically it's, this has to happen.

Kaitlin Salzke: And then the level two, she thinks about more in terms of... So that's your weekly cleaning of your house. So she divides it. She assigns each room of the house to a day. So on Thursday she clean the kitchen and you wipe any benches and you scrub your stove and you wipe down your oven and things like that. And obviously those are the next level up. So if you miss scrubbing down your kitchen thoroughly one week, it's not the end of the world. You can skip it.

Kaitlin Salzke: And then the level threes are the more deep cleaning things. Cleaning out your entire fridge or the tasks that you don't ever want to do. Cleaning out the wardrobe for clothes that are too small or deep things like this. So to bring it back, that's what I think about when I'm putting something in this habits category. Is it something that needs to happen or I really want to make sure happens as opposed to something that would be ideal if it happened. So I try and keep only the essentials in there, but they tend to be those smaller tasks and that keeps them separate.

Kaitlin Salzke: I think in talking about earlier, how having everything in the system is not necessarily for everyone. I think the biggest problem with having everything in the system is that the potential for the bigger stuff to get lost. You don't want to have, "My assignment's due today. And also I have to wash my teeth, brush my hair and drink a glass of water." So I cordon them off into that perspective there, and also another perspective that comes up. But it has a bit of a visual distinction in terms of when I'm looking at that dashboard. They don't pollute the view that I'm looking at. So that keeps them a bit separate.

Kaitlin Salzke: And just quickly, because I've gone off on a bit of a tangent there quickly run through the others. So then I have the today perspective, which is things that I've explicitly said, "I want to do this today." Or for example, on Saturday. I might have said, "I want to do this on Wednesday." And then on Wednesday it pulls into that view again, with the help of that scheduling plugin that I've got going on. And that's just flagged tasks basically, but it's all managed automatically in the background typically.

Kaitlin Salzke: And they tend to be bigger tasks. The UD work and at the moment I have a task in there recurring every day to spend at least one hour packing up my house. So that project keeps ticking along then. I've got the fifth perspective is ASAP. So that's things that are time sensitive but not necessarily due. So for example, if someone sent me an email and they have, I don't know, say that they've asked me to write a custom OmniFocus plugins for them or something like that. It's not a case of, I need to get back to that person. It's something that I do on the side and more for fun than anything else. So it's not a urgent and something else might be, but that will go into the ASAP. I'd like to get back to them as soon as I get a chance kind of thing.

Kaitlin Salzke: Routine tasks, different to habits, they're a bit more flexible in when they can happen. So things like the classic one, I always think of is always backing up my computer. It doesn't matter if it doesn't happen as soon as it pops up and becomes available, it can happen in another week's time. It's not really going to make any difference at the end of the day. And then I also have a start perspective. So that's anything that has a little star emoji in the title, basically in the name of the project. And I tend to pick a couple of projects that I want to be focusing on at the start of the week. And usually that's things that, because I try not to bite off too much if I can possibly help it.

Kaitlin Salzke: So when I'm scheduling, I'll say, okay, I need to make a particular amount of progress on my university work, for example, and that needs to happen. So that typically gets scheduled. Whereas if I know that I'd like to sit down and I'd like to work on building some OmniFocus plugins, for example, that's something that I'd like to focus on, but it doesn't really matter if I don't. So I often won't put that in the today view. I'll just put a star on it so that if I get time, that will be the project that I go to. But it doesn't feel like something I have to do.

Kaitlin Salzke: Whereas if I put it in the today view, it feels like I try and clear out those first three perspectives, the due soon perspective, the habits perspective and the today perspective, I try and get them clear pretty well every day. They're the six perspectives that run everything for me. And a lot of that's to do with not having one huge long list with all of those different tasks mixed together it's possible, but it I've tried. It doesn't work at least not for me and the way that I think.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I do have a lot of other custom perspectives as well. And I did in the lead up to that low OmniFocus session that I did. I have posted some more details of those over on my website as well, if people are really interested. But to be honest with you, I think they're fairly common generic. There's nothing particularly spectacular about them. There's a couple, I have that probably slightly more interesting. One is that I do have particular custom perspectives that are set up that basically replicate the project's perspective that's built into OmniFocus, but they filter it down so that either they exclude all of the routine and habit tasks that are in the database so that I'm only seeing the novel stuff or it's only the repeating stuff.

Kaitlin Salzke: So that helps a little bit with having everything in there if I want to look at what have I actually got going on. And the other one that I quite like mostly, because I like the name. And again, this is another idea that's stolen from the Organized Mom method is this idea of the perspectives called future friend, the idea of being your future friend. So for me, that perspective shows any tasks that are available, that I could do that are either due in the future or they're scheduled for the future. So that I've planned to do them in the future. So if I'm ahead, if I've ticked off all the tasks that I want to do, I can jump into that perspective and go, "Well, what can I do that's going to make tomorrow easier or next week easier or next month easier rather than just, what else can I do?" I find sometimes.

Kaitlin Salzke: And you don't always want to jump into those tasks necessarily. You don't always want to get ahead on your uni or your housework. You might want to look in your list of fun, geeky things I want to play with and play with those instead. And that's fine but I like having the option there just to see what can I actually get ahead with, if I'm in a focused mood where I want to do something that's going to benefit me later on and be productive.

Andrew J. Mason: It's crazy getting to be able to hear people's stories of how they create something that is a system that becomes, this is how I want to focus during the process of my day. And for you, there's this plan of attack where it's these six perspectives are my personal dashboard and I'm able to look at this and just know what stuff needs to be focused on next. That's so cool to me. Do you have any idea where that originates for you? Where does that come from? Why do you find yourself passionate about being productive?

Kaitlin Salzke: I read this question, what makes you passionate about productivity? And I [inaudible 00:27:29] a little and I don't know why. I'm quite interested in that reaction of my own. I think it's because of, there is a little bit of that culture of productivity pool. This is my workflow and this is what I do. And you really getting anything done. I mean, I'm very tempted by that thing as you are probably aware, I could sit and talk about OmniFocus customer perspectives and automations and things for hours. I recognize that. And I acknowledge it as a hobby in that sense. I'm under no illusion that I've gotten back the time that I've put into learning Omni automation and building all of these plugins, but that's not really why I did it in the first place. So that's totally okay with me.

Kaitlin Salzke: But I guess coming back to really what the original question was, I think about it a little bit in terms of probably because of my accounting background and having studied a little bit of economics and things like that. I mean, an important part of economics is thinking about how you can allocate scarce resources to get the best outcome. And I think there is really no resource that's more scar than time. You can't make more of it. And particularly now having a one year old, it is only more and more true as time goes on. I'm literally losing time as you drop snapped.

Kaitlin Salzke: But I think it's valuable to spend the time to make conscious decisions about how to spend your time and how to spend your energy as well. Just because you've got time doesn't necessarily mean that you have energy or you can run it full all day. It's certainly not possible. And it's certainly not possible when you've been up six times in the night.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I think it's that idea and it goes back to getting things done and some of the things that David Allen talks about in there of choosing the, for lack of a better word, the right thing to do in any given moment and knowing that you can trust your system to surface the right things at the right time. Means that you're not stressed out about all the other things that you could be working on or should be working on. I know that my tendency certainly is if I know that I've got seven things to do when I don't have a plan of attack and I feel like I should be doing all of them all at once. My brain solution to that is, well, it must be time to take a nap. She doesn't really help anybody. It doesn't get me anywhere.

Kaitlin Salzke: And even going back to what we talked about before, in terms of, and as I said, I wouldn't recommend that someone takes my system and does exactly the same thing as what I've done. But I think the exercise of having sat down and thought through, "Okay. Well, if I'm presented with a list of tasks, what is the way that I should decide that I want to progress through those tasks? What determines what happens first?" Because it's not necessarily urgency and it's not necessarily importance either or necessarily even a combination of those two things. It could be any number of factors. So for me, I've tried to replicate something that it roughly approximates the order I want to tackle things. But even if you don't try and replicate that in your system, I think that just having some thoughtfulness and I guess intentionality in terms of how you want to approach your tasks, I think surely is beneficial. Even if you're not using any task management system that exercise of reflecting on it.

Andrew J. Mason: Well said, it's so funny. You mentioned the scarcity of time and this idea that life is limited. And I think that's one of the things sometimes that drives us is we're banking on that this initial investment will have dividends that it pays off on. When you systematize things in the right direction and that's mental energy that you don't have to spend rethinking things over and over templates become very useful. And maybe we can go further faster. I think that all of that's true.

Andrew J. Mason: Speaking of learning from the past, is there anything that you've encountered in your system or you've seen happen with other systems that for somebody just starting out, you would say that's a red flag. Maybe avoid that. That's a potential obstacle to walk around. Again, not saying anybody needs to create their system in your way, but you've seen enough to say, "Okay. This is a potential pitfall to avoid.

Kaitlin Salzke: Yeah. I think it's probably, I don't think there's anything that we haven't already touched on in terms of starting too complicated, trying to imagine what you might need rather than working out what you do need. And I know in terms of things that I'm susceptible to myself, if I had to give myself some reminders about what not to do, probably I know I've almost started from scratch and rebuilding what I'm doing a couple of times. And most of the time that's not necessary. Often I find, I end up coming back to what worked before and just making a couple of minor tweaks rather than actually, no, I didn't need to rebuild it from the ground up. It just needed a little bit of adjustment. And there's a little bit of fun in playing with the system as well.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I think knowing that, and not everybody has that tendency, but I think probably if you're listening to the Omni Show, you probably a little bit susceptible to that as well I would guess. So no, you don't need to rebuild the system from scratch just because something's changed. And sometimes it's worth taking the look when something changes substantially, whether things are still working and what needs to be changed, but not necessarily throwing everything out and starting again is probably one thing.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I think the other thing, and we've touched on it again, is just trying to make sure you leave that margin for the unexpected to happen. And I say that as someone that, as I said has just had quite a crazy couple of weeks with getting this new job. And then I went on a... I had a holiday planned right after I got the job off. So we were away for two weeks and then we came back and then my son was sick and then we're packing up the house and we're moving. And I'm still trying to do all of the union, keep the house almost clean. That's gone by the way side a bit, to be honest with.

Kaitlin Salzke: We're skipping those tasks with intentionality this week, because we know it still be, we're going to do a big clean at the end. So there's no point in dusting at the moment anyway, but I think, yeah, leave leaving that room because you can always fill it in the moment. You know what I mean? That's the wonderful thing about OmniFocus is it, I think people seem to worry when they have a backlog of things in OmniFocus. And to me it doesn't bother me at all to be honest, because I know that I can dip into that backlog at any time.

Kaitlin Salzke: And I think it's more about making sure that you're filtering it down in a way that the things that you're looking at and the things you want to be focusing on at the moment. It's okay if there's other stuff. If you actually dive into your projects perspective and there's 300 projects there, but if you are okay with not actively working on them at the moment, then there's no problem with the fact that there's 200 projects there that you're not touching right this week. It doesn't matter. That's like, it's a digital system and you still need to review them and you still need to make sure that none of them require action and they come to your retention when you need them. But it's the beauty of having it all there. It's basically like a big database that you can dip into as you need.

Kaitlin Salzke: So don't plan to do everything in your OmniFocus phase. And if you get to the end of your list, you can dive back in and pick out something that looks fun or that you think is the next most important thing. And as long as you're doing your reviews and keeping on top of, is there anything that I actually need to, I think of it almost as pulling it to the surface, like bubbling up to the top of those perspectives that I'm looking at all the time in terms of my system. Things rise through the levels as they require more attention.

Andrew J. Mason: That's so funny. That reminds me of a quote that I had seen earlier this week. Somebody had mentioned David Sparks Focused Podcast in one of the episodes. He said that the majority of complaints that people came up with when it came to OmniFocus, wasn't necessarily with the software itself, as much as it was with them, encountering their own inability to say no to things. And what they're looking at just makes them feel awful and they get stressed out about it. And if that's true for me, that's a really hard thing to confront about myself. You I'm looking at software, but then in looking at those lists I've created for myself saying, "This is what I want out of life or how to manage my time." You're like, "I'm seeing something I really don't like." And I love that you said that it doesn't stress you out being able to see this entire menu of all the, what ifs and say, "I think I'm going to take a nap right now."

Kaitlin Salzke: Yeah. I think a lot of it's too, because so much of my database is personal stuff, and particularly at the moment, and it's not work based. I'm probably coming from a position where it's not really fair for me to say that in some levels. If someone's looking at a whole list of tasks, that's work related that they may not have the capacity or capability to say no to necessarily depending on what context they're working in and what they're doing. It doesn't bother me if I want to build this plugin from OmniFocus that I'm going to share in my free time, and nothing's going to collapse if I don't do it. That's probably different to someone that's got someone hounding on their door saying, "When's that report coming?"

Kaitlin Salzke: But at the end of the day, I mean, if that's the problem that you've got, if you've got too much to do in the time that you've got to do it, then at least you've got that information in front of you, because you're going to need to make the decision. Something's going to have to go. And you better to know at the planning stage or the review stage than when it comes to crunch time thing. So I'm looking at my list now and I'm going okay. Yeah. I've got to pack up the house. I've got to do uni. I've got these assignments coming up. Okay. What do I need to do? What do I need to make sure I... What there's people I'd like to catch up with before I move two hours away and things like that. But do I have time to fit that in and do I have time to do these assignments? And when am I going to do them? Because when I planned my course load for the trimester, I didn't foresee going back to full-time work, moving two hours away, all happening so quickly.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I've got a couple of weeks overlap there where I am studying a halftime load at uni, I'm doing a full-time job and I will have just moved to towns. And my son will be at home with his dad on his own all day for the first time ever. I don't know how that's going to go yet. So I can't do a lot about most of those things. They are what they are, but at least I can brace myself for them and learn from that in the future to maybe leave a little bit more much. But look, I've got just enough space to deal with that because I've left that space there. And it's going to be full-on for a few weeks, but it's going to work. It's just going to be, I need to know that's what I'm committed to and I need to not commit to anything else is really what it comes down to.

Andrew J. Mason: Kaitlin, I feel like you've given us so much value within this time, especially being as busy as you are. Thank you for that value. Thank you for sharing. Not only just tips and tricks, but just some different ways of looking at things too. The idea of the future friend tag, my gosh, as likes in and of itself. And if people feel like, maybe I didn't get everything I needed. I wish I could maybe spend some more time diving deeper. How can they engage with what you're up to or connect with some of the work that you've done.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I have a very neglected website over at and because of everything we've talked about today, it's probably going to stay neglected in the immediate future, but that's okay. And I have an equally neglected Twitter account, but you're welcome to tweet at me. And I will probably see it, maybe not immediately, but I will. I do check in with that. Occasionally, even though I'm not actively tweeting, because I feel a bit like I'm shouting into this every time I tweet. Feels a little bit self-indulgent, but I am there if you are keen on Twitter. And I do have, obviously you can contact me by email as well and my email address is on my website and everything like that.

Kaitlin Salzke: So I'm more than happy to take questions or comments or feedback, or you can tell me that I'm doing everything wrong in OmniFocus and I should start from scratch and I will ignore you because it's all about what works for me. But no, always happy to connect with people and over in all the OmniFocus places as well. So I'm always checking in with the Slack, even if I'm not posting and the OmniFocus forum, I'm usually lurking. So I'll see things over there as well.

Andrew J. Mason: Kaitlin we are so honored to have been able to have had you as a guest today. Thank you so much for your time and just all the wisdom you've shared with us.

Kaitlin Salzke: Thank you very much for having me. It's been fun.

Andrew J. Mason: Hey and thank all of you for listening today too. As always you can drop us a line at the Omni Show on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you there. You can also find out everything that's happening with the Omni Group at