GTD: Email tasks to OmniFocus

November
23
2012


OmniFocus Mac IconUPDATE: OmniGroup has released a new feature called Mail Drop that makes all of this unnecessary! Check out this post for information about how to use it.

I’m a big fan of OmniFocus and use it constantly to Get Shit Done (the more überninja advanced form of Getting Things Done). I actually manage to live in a blissful state of inbox zero thanks to the ability to easily capture tasks into OmniFocus and process them later (I can do a post about my whole system if there’s interest — leave a comment below if you’re curious).

It does such a good job of keeping my life in order that I happily coughed up the $140 to buy it across all three platforms. Handy links if you haven’t:

Before you ask, no, it doesn’t work on Android. Or Windows. Or BlackBerry. Or on the web. OmniGroup is a decidedly Apple only shop and there seem to be no plans  to change that in the near future. So, what’s a GTDer to do when they’re on a different platform? Or, for that matter, what to do when you’re on an iPad or iPhone processing your inbox and want to move emails to tasks?

Send to OmniFocus

OmniGroup have introduced a service that kind of helps. You can forward your emails to send-to-omnifocus@omnigroup.com and you’ll quickly get an email back that now includes a “Send to OmniFocus” link in it. Tapping that link will open the item in OmniFocus on your device, adding it to your inbox. That works, but it requires you to forward it, wait for the email to arrive, tap, load OmniFocus, and save it. Clunky at best and really not in the spirit of GTD quick capture.

A Better Solution

There’s a much better solution if you’ve got a little time and patience to set it up. Once you have this working (and you don’t need more than about 30 minutes), you’ll have an email address you can send actions to directly and have them appear on all your devices. I use it, for example, to forward actions to from my iPhone and iPad, or when I have my Android phone and want to capture an action.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Mac that’s always on with a stable internet connection
  • A dedicated Gmail address
  • OmniFocus for Mac
  • Omni Sync Server account

Your specific setup may vary a little from mine, but generally speaking these instructions should get you to a happy email-to-task place.

1. Create a new Gmail Account

Go to the New Google Account page. You may need to log out if you’re already logged into a Google account. This is the account that you’re going to email tasks to, so you want to make to make the username something memorable (maybe your username + actions, as in jaygoldmanactions).  Complete the rest of the form. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget the username you used as you’ll need it later. Also, in case you read ahead, don’t add the “+omnifocus” when setting up the account. Google lets you add +anything after your username as a way of filtering mail later.

2. Add a Contacts Entry

Create a new entry in the Contacts app on your Mac for the Gmail account you just setup in step 1. I call mine “OmniFocus” so it’s easy to remember. Set the email address to the gmail account you configured above with +omnifocus after the user name (you’ll see why below — that would make my example above jaygoldmanactions+omnifocus@gmail.com). You’ll need to do the same on your iPhone/iPad/Android/BlackBerry/etc. if they aren’t all syncing together.

3. Add the Gmail Account to Mail

Setup the Gmail account in Apple’s Mail app on your Mac. I have mine setup as an IMAP account, which may require you to enable IMAP in Gmail. There’s a great page on Google Help that will take you through enabling IMAP and then configuring Apple Mail to access it: Get started with IMAP and POP. Send yourself a test message once you have it setup to make sure it’s all working properly. You don’t need to add this account to your iPhone or iPad — just to your Mac.

4. Install OmniFocus for Mac and Configure Omni Sync

If it isn’t already installed, you’ll need to install OmniFocus for Mac on that machine, which you can do from the App Store. Once it’s installed, open the OmniFocus > Preferences, go to the Sync tab, and configure Omni Sync. You may need to create an account if you haven’t got one already, which is free and pretty quick. Note that I’ve removed my username below but you should have one in the Account box when you’re done.

Omni Sync Server

You’ll also need to configure Omni Sync on your other devices, so go ahead and do that now and then try adding an item in one of them to make sure it appears in the others.

5. Setup Mail Integration

Switch to the Mail tab in the OmniFocus Preferences on your Mac (note that I’ve blurred my email addresses for privacy).

OmniFocus Mail Integration

Enable the rule by checking the Add Mail Rule to create OmniFocus actions at the top. Make sure that the option to process messages having +omnifocus before the @sign is enabled as per the contact  you setup in step 2. I like to have my actions archived in a folder I created called Processed, which helps debug any problems that might come up later.

6. Celebrate!

You’re done! You should now be able to send emails to your Gmail account (e.g. jaygoldmanactions+omnifocus@gmail.com) and have them appear shortly thereafter in your OmniFocus Inbox on all of your devices.

2 comments
Cecilia
Cecilia

i cannot believe i never thought to do this with a dedicated gmail account - awesome!! also I am so tempted to try to send you a task via jaygoldmanactions+omnifocus@gmail.com to see what happens :)

Dan
Dan

For implementing GTD you can use this application: http://www.Gtdagenda.com You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar. Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.


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