Recent Omnifocus Reading and Things I Want to Try

I've been doing some reading on Omnifocus over the past few days. I've also purchased David Allen's new GTD Book. Below are pieces of interest that I've found along with brief commentary on things I want to try.

I use Omnifocus heavily for both iOS and Mac

A New Strategy for the Omnifocus Widget

Flags were always a part of Omnifocus that I didn't find much use for. So I was delighted to discover this unique strategy in making good use of them in a way that doesn't confuse but rather compliments my workflow. I have reserved the use of flags for today's tasks of priority. It allows me to make sure that the things I must get done today don't get lost in the the massive amount of stuff I am keeping up with at one time. Omnifocus allows for up to 4 tasks to be displayed in the widget. Any more and you will have to go back into the app to view those additional tasks. So my regimen now is just to simply review my forecasted due and overdue tasks and select up to 4 of the highest priority and flag them.

This is a very good and interesting idea. I've upgraded to OmniFocus pro on my laptop but haven't yet taken the plunge on my iPhone. While I do use custom perspectives on my Mac I don't immediately need them with me at all times though. I really like what Clay has set up though. It might be time.

OmniFocus Video Field Guide

The OmniFocus Video Field Guide is a screencast, not a book. A lot of people have asked me to write a book about OmniFocus but instead I made this 2.5 hour video that takes you, soup to nuts, through the Omni Group's supremely bad-ass task manager. The screencast can turn an OmniFocus novice into a task-managing ninja.

I'm about halfway through this video and it is well worth the $10

My OmniFocus Habits - Four Years Later

Personal Tandum (my day job) Freelance (my side business)

This setup would fit well for me. Freelance would be Taco23 (I don't have the time to Freelance these days. Taco is for fun/profit and a good creative outlet for me)

And that’s one of the key lessons I’ve learned as my use of OmniFocus has evolved. Don’t feel like everything has to fit into a neat, pre-existing category. Don’t artificially restrict yourself. Feel free to let things land wherever makes sense to you.

The final folder is for template projects. These are projects that have many steps and frequently repeat. Instead of recreating the project from scratch each time, I create it one time and place it on hold. Then, whenever that project occurs, I can drag a copy of it into one of my active folders.

This is nice. I need to do this for employee onboarding and new projects (steps which should also be on our Wiki)

One rule of thumb I’ve learned the hard way is to never nest folders. Folders within folders just lead to a world of hurt and cognitive load. I’ve found it’s best to keep as flat a hierarchy as possible. Your milage may vary of course.

Interesting. I do this

But after re-reading Getting Things Done last year, I came to the realization that most of my tasks are bounded not by what tools I have available, but by my energy level.

Very interesting. I'm glad I picked up GTD to read

You’ll also notice I have on-hold contexts for tasks that other people owe me. I wrote in detail about how I manage the relationships between tasks and other people a few weeks ag


The biggest and best improvement I made to my daily workflow was to codify my morning routine for picking what I’m going to work on that day. (In fact, a big part of determining what to work on each day was simply realizing I need to a concrete series of repeatable steps for choosing my day’s tasks.)

I want to start doing this. This is how I should start my day vs looking at a mountain of email

Embracing contexts and perspectives in OmniFocus Pro. | Greetings from the Grid

I manage everything in OmniFocus. Personal tasks, work projects, home renovations, writing activities, et. al. I have tightly organized project structures, but feel that I need to focus on critical tasks in specific scenarios, e.g., I don’t need to know that the trash goes out tonight if I’m standing in my office.

Same. For me, add chores, HoneyDo, code ideas, tasks for sore code projects, department ideas, items to talk to employees about at 1:1s

I’d avoided, namely flagged items and defer dates. I’ve used contexts selectively in the past, but never managed to make them really stick.

Reading this early in this post was exciting. I've avoided contexts and deferring. It's interesting to see how others are using them

First, I created three new contexts: “9am-5pm”, “5pm-9am”, and “Weekend”.

I'm not sure if this would work for me. I always work some hours outside of 9-5. Usually 8-6 or 7. I feel like this arbitrary bounds on "work" would stress me out if I was at work outside of the "rule". I think I'd rather do: work, home, taco

I also made the decision to start using flagged tasks to indicate dated or undated tasks that require a follow up activity either on my part or the part of someone else. (Some people use a “Waiting” context for things like this, but I could never make that stick either.)

"Waiting" feels more natural to me

Location is a modifier on time

I could see the reverse of this being true as well

Assigning Relationships Between Tasks and People in OmniFocus

Number one, tasks assigned to another person, can be handled as mentioned above by giving the task a context corresponding to the name of the person it’s assigned to. So, if I’m waiting on Jeff to complete a design document, I’d give that task an on-hold context of “Jeff”. This lets me quickly filter tasks that Jeff owes me whenever I run into him. Great. I’ve been doing this for years.

I can't wait to start doing this. Check the rest of the post for ideas on tracking tasks you are sharing with another person and tracking ones you are doing for something else

One Concrete Action

None of that would have happened if I had spent much time looking at my ever growing todo list. I would have been too overwhelmed. Instead, I’ve been making progress on all of my areas of responsibility by way of one simple trick.

Every day, no matter how small, I open up OmniFocus and find one concrete action I can take that will move me closer towards one of my goals.

Meetings, awesomeness and potential bodily harm: an OmniFocus story - Relative Sanity

But how on earth do I manage hundreds of contexts? The long answer is another article, but the quick answer is that I don't. I let OmniFocus do it for me.

A New Context

Urgency in and of itself is not a problem. The problem is when we find ourselves craving projects, work environments, and scenarios where there is a fire to put out. And thus we never have the time to do the important task which doesn’t have to be done today


I hadn’t touched my contexts inside of OmniFocus in, well, years. There was a ton of cruft in there stemming from various different techniques and ideas that I have tried over the years. Device based context, person based context, time based contexts, and location based contexts. For the better part of a year, all of my new tasks in OmniFocus simply went under the Mac context and — well — that’s not really using the tool very well.

All of a sudden it clicked: I should just have two contexts. One would be Urgent and the other would be Important.


Obviously that was rather ambitious, but I took my 30+ contexts and whittled them down to just six: Important, Urgent, Goal, Writing, Minutiae, and Waiting.

From OmniFocus to Evernote

I eventually figured out what it was: with the move to mobile devices, ubiquitous internet and functional data syncing, contexts have disappeared for me.

In the olden days, there were contexts. There was online and offline. There was work and there was home. I used to actually go to these places called shops. These locations and phases of the day were distinct and the affordances of each place were different.

Getting Things Done® - Inside OmniFocus

One other thing to consider: can you do it, or does it require someone elses action? If someone else: delegate it. Send them an email right then, or create an action to “Email Brian about this one thing.”



Reviewing is a key facet of GTD® that keeps everything going smoothly. In short, we’re periodically looking over projects and making some considerations.

The GTD Weekly Review® is just that: weekly. And it should do three big things:

Get Clear Did your desk get physically full over the past week? Clear it out. Scan in new items or type in notes so that you can file all of that clutter away. Get your Inbox to zero Now that you’ve just added to your Inbox, process it. Empty your head Anything else that needs to come out? Take the time to do a brain dump, like we did at the beginning, to make room for the next week.

I need to do this regularly

Then, we’ll get current. To get current, review each project and action list. Consider these questions.

Do I need to add a new first step? Is the first action action-able enough? Does this project represent your goals? Should I still be worrying about it, or should I drop it? Does the metadata represent what you want? Could you defer it? Should you set a flag for higher priority? Are my Waiting-For lists actionable yet? Has anyone emailed you? Should you check back on an unanswered email?

You can toggle specific calendars by using the View Popover in the toolbar.

And let’s say it’s the end of the day on Thursday, but you still have a few more things to do for the week. In the Forecast view, you can drag from 1 day to another—using the minicalendar—to reschedule, or modify the Due Date. Holding down the Command key will instead modify the Defer Date. Holding down both the Command and Option key will change both.

Sweet. Did not know this




Intro to GTD and the following episodes on the Back to Work podcast. Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin. OmniFocus & GTD by Kelly Forrester at the David Allen Company. Preneurcast 025: Getting Things Done With OmniFocus.