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So by the title, you might think I’m not a fan of Macs. You’d be wrong. I converted from a PC over two years ago and have been glad every day that I did so. Macs do *almost* everything better, and without the headaches of PCs. And the fact that you can go into an Apple retail store and get all kinds of help, most of it free, just seems to make using a Mac a no-brainer. But notice I did say that Macs do almost everything better. The one thing that is harder using Mac-native tools is personal productivity. And being that this is my profession, that’s a bit of a big deal for me.

Your brain was not designed to manage the details of your life. So in order to be effective, you need a tool. And that tool needs to manage at least 5 things well: calendar, contacts, to-do’s (or tasks), email, and notes. I believe that everything in one place is best. If it can’t be one place, the fewer the better, in my experience. On a PC, this is handled quite effectively by Microsoft Outlook, and Outlook has the added advantage of syncing pretty seamlessly with most smartphones.

Mac’s answer to this challenge is 3 different programs, and those programs don’t work particularly well together (even though Apple claims they do): Apple Mail, iCal, and Address Book. It’s not easy enough to create a task from an email, so I had to install an add-on program called MailTags (and BTW, MailTags does lots of other things. I’m a fan).

[UPDATE: All of the problems outlined below have since been solved in new releases of iOS and OSX.  Namely with the introduction of iCloud and the Reminders app.  If you are using a version of an Apple operating system that is capable of connecting to iCloud, and has the app Reminders, you can disregard everything below.]

The next problem is that Notes and Tasks don’t sync to iPhone. I am not alone in my shock that Apple would ignore such basic functionality, but there it is. I went outside the Mac native tools for my notes, and chose Evernote, and it enables me to see my notes on my iPhone. My one complaint with Evernote is that my notes are not synced locally on my iPhone, so I need an internet connection to view/edit them. So now instead of one program for my productivity system, I’m up to four.

Until recently there was no good solution to take your tasks from iCal and get them to your iPhone (see comments on OmniFocus, below). There are plenty of simple to-do apps that are web-based, like Remember the Milk, Toodledo, and Jott. But what I wanted was one that would sync with my tasks from iCal, so that I didn’t have to add yet another tool to my productivity system (4 already seems excessive). Finally, Appigo has solved my problem. They offer a free sync tool called Appigo sync, which you download on your Mac, and an iPhone app (although pricey for an app at $9.99) called ToDo. Finally! (UPDATE: There is now another great option: 2Do by Guided Ways Technologies – I suggest you check it out.) This solution allows me to sync my tasks from iCal to my iPhone, and it has lots of functionality for managing views, such as viewing by calendar, priority, due date, etc. If you’re a Mac user and looking for a productivity solution, I suggest you give this formula a try. There is another solution to task management that will also sync with your iPhone, called OmniFocus, but in my opinion, it’s unnecessarily complicated, it may not play as well with Mac OS as OS-native tools, and it’s pricey ($79.95).

If you’re a Mac user with another solution for managing the combination of tasks, calendar, contacts, email, and notes, that is also accessible from your iPhone or smartphone, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!

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