From the outside, it admittedly looks a bit ridiculous when someone changes their to-do app or notes app every few months. Especially if this one new app is supposed to make everything better. I’ve dealt with the issue here on the blog in the past, as of course, it affects me personally. If not, I would not be writing this blog. The specific reason for this article is that I am using OmniFocus again after a long abstinence. In fact, I haven’t done so for well over a year. First I tried GoodTask, then I managed all my tasks in Obsidian, and most recently I briefly flirted with Apple Reminders. So now it’s back to OmniFocus.
On second glance, however, I think it’s less pointless or overkill than one might think. You just shouldn’t make the mistake of expecting a complete revolution in your workflow. But then what for? Why am I doing this? After all, I already went through a similar cycle with DevonThink: first I jumped into it, then I used it less and less, and finally, I tried to replace DevonThink with the Finder and HoudahSpot. A few months later, Devonthink was back again. And is currently an important cornerstone of my daily workflow.
The Hermeneutic Circle of Software
I see this kind of software use more as a form of circular cognition. In the social sciences, this would be called a hermeneutic circle. I’m Windows-socialized, and my journey on the Mac started around 2013, or about ten years ago. Then, around 2015, fuelled by various tech podcasts, my interest in topics like productivity, self-management, and the apps associated with them developed.
I quickly ended up with the flagships like DevonThink and OmniFocus, primarily because these podcasts tell you that these apps are the ultimate, that you can’t do without them. And yes, they are the ultimate, but you can also do it with other apps. In any case, I then had these incredibly powerful tools and actually had no idea how to use them. Then there was my enthusiasm for the subject and the desire to try new things, which ultimately led to the creation of this blog. It also shows well in my choice of text editor/notes/PKM app. There was quite a bit here before Obsidian, as I was never satisfied in the long run. Without claiming to be exhaustive, I’ve used the following apps over the years: Scrivener, Apple Notes, Ulysses, Agenda, iA Writer, Notion. Now Obsidian. DevonThink has been replaced by NoteBooks in the meantime. In terms of to-do managers, I’ve probably tried out the entire App Store Top 10.
Stay hungry, stay foolish
Why? Out of curiosity and passion, for one thing. And I think that’s okay. Most people have weird hobbies, and I like to try out new apps. And secondly, as part of a year-long learning process. The search for the best app coincided with my arrival in the workforce. During this time, I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, got my first jobs, and am now working on my PhD. So, of course, the requirements change. And often, you just can’t tell what you actually need to get ahead with your work; you have to try it out. That’s what I did. Extensively, and again and again. And more often than not, the path ended up being a circle. Except that without that path, I still wouldn’t be where I am. I’m in the same place but significantly wiser. I can better appreciate the merits of DevonThink, Obsidian, or OmniFocus because I know the competition.
You just shouldn’t make the mistake of associating your productivity solely with the supposedly right tool. As a rule, “work” can be done in many ways, and the search for the perfect app is often simply a reason not to do the actual work. It can still be instructive because of this. And with that, perhaps the most important lesson is: Stay hungry, stay foolish!