Like Peas & Carrots: OmniFocus and Siri

I am quite the fan of OmniFocus, the GTD app for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, because it’s helped me sort out all of the crazy things in my life. After all, I’m not just the editor of this very site, I’m also a writer for other places, a father and a husband, so there’s quite a bit of things that need doing throughout the day that if I don’t capture somehow, I’m just going to forget. It has absolutely changed my life for the better.

But when the iPhone 4S came out complete with its own Reminders app with Siri integration, I wondered if I was going to have to work that into my system, and how the heck that was going to happen. Turns out that I didn’t have to think about it for too long, because now OmniFocus and Siri can work together in harmony. I’ve been using the system for a month or so now, and I’ve got to say, it’s super sweet. Let me walk you through the process so you can get an idea of how it works.

The Setup

Before you go full hog on this, you first have to make sure you have an iCloud account. They’re free, and chances are you already have one, but let’s just make sure you do before you proceed.

OK, got that covered? Now you need to have OmniFocus for your iPhone, but you’ve already got that, right? Of course you do.

Tweak Your Settings

Pop open OmniFocus and let it do its thing for a bit, syncing with the server if necessary. Then tap the gear in the bottom right of the screen, then scroll down until you see the following screen:

This section is at the bottom of the screen, so scroll down.

This section is at the bottom of the screen, so scroll down.

Now tap on iCloud Reminders under Capture until you get to this window:

Just enter in your iCloud info and get going.

Just enter in your iCloud info and get going.

You want to turn on your iCloud reminders, then you enter in your iCloud info and tap Connect. Once that’s done, you’re connected and ready to go.

Putting It Into Practice

With OmniFocus now syncing with your iCloud account, making a note with Siri is pretty easy. Just hold down the button as you usually would, and then add your reminder. When you’re done and you’ve confirmed the task, the magic of iCloud takes over and your reminder is now synced with the Inbox of your OmniFocus account.

Now all this is well and good, but what about the added location reminders that come with the Reminders app? Isn’t part of the coolness of the feature being able to get a reminder right when you pull into your driveway? Turns out that OmniFocus can do that too.

Adding Locations

To add location reminders to the system, it’s back to OmniFocus you go. Location based reminders in OmniFocus are under Contexts, so tap on your Contexts and then tap on Edit to pull up the delete buttons to the left of each context. Tap on the context you want to make a location.

Turning contexts into locations is easy.

Turning contexts into locations is easy.

There’s a location part at the bottom, so tap that and make it whatever location it needs to be. This tends to be easiest if you’re at that spot, because you can just use the built-in GPS to pinpoint your location. Once the location is set, now you’re ready to use that with Siri. Seriously, it’s that easy.

Why This All Matters

As a devout follower of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, one thing that I always struggle with is capture. The goal is to take whatever it is you need to do out of your head and put it into your notation system, whether it’s a pad and pencil or an application such as OmniFocus. This process isn’t difficult for me when I’m in front of the computer, because I always have OmniFocus open on my desktop. But if I’m out on the road, or maybe driving somewhere, having a way to just talk into the phone and get it noted down is just so much easier.

Here’s an example: Last night, right before I fell asleep, I’m thinking about what I had to do today for the site. I think of this very column and say to myself, “Oh crap! I’ve got to remember that for tomorrow!” I had a few options for how to proceed.

  1. Get out of bed, walk to my office and type in the entry into OmniFocus.
  2. Pick up the iPhone and type in my entry into OmniFocus, and then hope I remember to sync the Mac version when I wake up (otherwise, I won’t get the notice on my Mac, which is my primary version).
  3. Hold down the home button and tell Siri what to do.

Laziness is the enemy of my productivity, and if I had to get up to take down the note, then it just wouldn’t have happened. It was cold, I was nuzzled up under the blankets and I had a dog on my side — would you get up in that situation?

By integrating Siri, I now have everything perfect. My reminders pop up when they need to, everything is in harmony with OmniFocus, and life is good.

If you want more info on this process, check out The Omni Group’s blog post on the subject.