Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Get things done on the Mac and/or without Outlook

The dark side of the Mac:  personal productivity systems


As some of you may know from following my escapades on this blog, I have been a big proponent of the Getting Things Done (GTD) and Mastering Your Now (MYN) as personal productivity systems. At one point, I was pretty good - and very productive - using these systems.  A couple of years ago, however, I switched to the Mac and I lost a lot of momentum.

You see, I used to use Outlook as my "home base" for processing my inbox and managing tasks, and I relied heavily on ClearContext for managing my mail volume.  On the Mac, Entourage, OS X Mail, and Outlook don't even come close to the power of Outlook on Windows.  To make matters worse, Outlook on the Mac is not extensible so there is no way to do anything like ClearContext on the Mac.

I tried OmniFocus and a number of other tools, but never could find one that became a habit, so they all fell by the wayside (usually after a couple of days).

I found a personal productivity system I like on the Mac!

I have good news - I've found a personal productivity approach that is a) familiar, b) works well on the Mac, c) has a mobile approach that works.  This one comes from my old friend Michael Linenberger (creator of the Mastering Your Now (MYN) system - that's him in the video freeze frame).  A few weeks ago, I found out Michael had created an online offering for Master Your Now ToodleDo Video Training.  He has done a lot of work to apply his MYN system to a pretty powerful cloud-based task management service called "ToodleDo."

I bought Michael's video course (as I write this, the price is discounted - not sure how long that will last), and I have been using ToodleDo and MYN as my new home base for tasks.  I really like the system.  Not only does it work extremely well on the Mac and my iPhone, I find that I actually check in on my tasks regularly

It fits well with inbox processing, as I can send emails to ToodleDo to automatically add them as tasks on my list.  There are also some intuitive "commands" you can add to your subject line to adjust the priority, start date, and more on the task right from your email (I'm using OS X Mail).

This MYN/ToodleDo system will work with pretty much any mail system on pretty much any OS - a big plus in my book

ToodleDo customized for MYN

I'd used ToodleDo in the past, but it didn't flow well for me. Now, Michael Linenberger has collaborated with ToodleDo and has implemented a quick setup method that optimized the settings to support MYN.  That made a huge difference by reducing clutter in the UI and making it simple for me to understand and use.  There are also instructions in the course on how to configure your mobile client to work in this new way with ToodleDo (the mobile instructions are manual, but short and easy to follow).

With this setup in place, all your sorting, columns, default values, and so forth are set up as they need to be to make MYN easy with ToodleDo.

Why do I like MYN?


MYN is very similar to GTD, but I find it to be a bit more prescriptive - just enough to make it work better for me.  The philosophy with GTD is "Do what you need to do for the system to work for you" which doesn't alway work as well for a distraction-prone guy like me.  GTD also relies heavily on "Contexts" to drive what you do - do the thing that matches the place you are.  I had a tough time with contexts, and never felt effective in that aspect of GTD.

In contrast, MYN is more of a "Do it this way" kind of system, which is what I need when it comes to time management.

For example, MYN cares a lot about when you want to do things, and less about where you want to do them.  The diagram on the right illustrates what I think of as the "MYN Zones" for when you want to get things done.  The Critical Now tasks are ones that must be done today (they are the "If I don't' get these done I've gotta stay late" tasks).  The Opportunity Now tasks are ones you'd like to get done within the next 10 days.  The Over the Horizon tasks are analogous to the "Someday Maybe" list in GTD - you want to get them done someday, but if they don't get done it's not the end of the world.

Limits are good

Within these "MYN Zones" it gets even more structured - you should have no more than 5 Critical Now tasks on any given day, and no more than 20 Opportunity Now tasks.  Everything else should be in the Over the Horizon bucket, which can be as big as you want it to be.

I find this budgeting method to be a great forcing function as a safety valve against over-committing (that's a big problem I tend to have).


I'm just scratching the surface here, but my summary is this:

  • After years of frustration I've found a personal productivity scheme on the Mac that I can actually use and stick with.
  • I am a big fan of Michael Linenberger's Master Your Now ToodleDo Video Training.
  • Using ToodleDo with the Master Your Now ToodleDo Video Training is really powerful.
  • This method will work very well for those of us not using Outlook, and/or not using Windows.
  • The ability to use this consistently on my desktop, from a web browser, and on my iPhone is very powerful.

Would love your feedback and war stories regarding productivity on the Mac - particularly if you're a distractible type like I am.