Everything in its right place

I once chided my med school roommate for entering dozens of numbers into his landline phone's high-capacity speed-dialer. After programming a few frequently-dialed numbers, I argued, you'll end up wasting more time entering digits than you could ever save through speed-dailing - the effort outweighed the benefit.

He had a lengthy response, that appealed to a sense of order and touted the less-tangible benefits of reducing cognitive load. The phone is for calling people. By having people's numbers in the phone, instead of in a half-dozen notepads and desk drawers scattered about the apartment, he could make calls without much fuss. He didn't have to remember whose numbers resided where. He could unburden his mind to focus on other (presumably more involved) tasks.

I was still a little skeptical (why not keep a list of numbers by the phone?) but saw his point. And it's colored my organizational decisions ever since - especially since Allen's Getting Things Done places such high priority on reducing the mental stress associated with reminders - to improve clarity, creativity and fulfillment.

So for years I've used organizational schemes, mostly centered around smartphone apps like Remember the Milk and Evernote, and email management tools like Mailbox. When I heard about other folks spending substantial amounts of cash for things like OmniFocus, which had a huge instruction manual, I shook my head. It was my roommate's old problem - investing too much in organization, for little actual measurable benefit. These people were shelling out money and spending hours on discussion forums and blogs ... to talk about reminder lists? Optimize their organizational software? Why not use that time to, you know, get stuff done?

Well, things change, and work got hectic, and my system was growing unwieldy. I had switched to Apple's iOS Reminders, because I could quickly ask Siri to remind me about things that occurred to me, and her transcription was usually good enough to give me the gist, later. And it would sync with other Reminders, in the cloud. As far as systems go, Reminders was pretty basic - but I didn't think that any other system could tap into Siri.

Things had come to a head - then I heard OmniFocus had a workaround for Siri. I was ready to take the plunge.

It's been as engrossing as I've feared - but kind of exhilarating, too. The software is slick and well designed, especially the mobile apps and the new OS X OmniFocus 2. And as I've learned the experts' opinions on Contexts vs Perspectives, Deferring vs Due Dates, well, I've rationalized that complex problems often require sophisticated solutions.

I do feel more on top of things, or at least, unstressed enough to indulge in some blogging for the first time in ages. And while I haven't commented on any discussion forums - yet - I do find myself browsing them for tips and insights.

When Extensions for iOS 8 was announced, I found myself hoping there'd be a quick way to generate OmniFocus tasks from Mail or Mailbox on my phone (and no, Dispatch doesn't count, and the existing mail-to-OmniFocus feature isn't ideal). And I'm waiting for the Mailbox desktop version (wouldn't that be so serene? where's my beta invite?)

Alas. Like many things, it's easy to go overboard. Better to remind myself that these tools exist to serve a purpose, and are not an end unto themselves.