The new features in OmniFocus 3 have changed my workflow so that I’m more productive and organized.
I used to fall off the wagon every few weeks, but with my new workflow I’ve used OmniFocus every day for several months — through the beta process and beyond.
Here are a few thoughts on how I’m using OmniFocus to get more out of my day.
The Discipline of In
When I think of something I need to do, I head to Inbox. I add items here because often I’ll think of something else that needs adding as well.
As a writer I know it’s important to separate the act of creating content from editing it.
The same is true for me in OmniFocus. Capturing something is not the same as classifying or shaping it.
The most important thing is for me to capture the essence of what I need to do. These aren’t single actions — they’re things that need doing.
I might add items to Inbox like:
- Father’s Day card for Dad
- Article for Omni
- Reschedule Dentist
Getting Things Out of In
Items cannot sit in your Inbox very long.
I like to assign a tag and a due date as soon as possible. If I have an estimated time I will add it as well so I have a sense of how big a task this is.
At this point I may retitle the item so it is a clear action, and I might even break it up into smaller steps. For example, “Article for Omni” may become:
- Outline article for Omni
- Write article for Omni
- Edit article for Omni
- Submit article for Omni
I may create a new project for this called “Omni Article” or I may just add it to my “Writing” project.
On the other hand, I may just create an action for the first step in what might be a multi-step activity.
For example, “Father’s Day card for Dad” might become “Make Father’s Day Card for Dad.” When I’m done making it and I mark that task as complete, I will likely add “Mail Father’s Day Card to Dad” as a new action. I probably wouldn’t break the task up initially.
Also, I’m probably not going to create a “Father’s Day Card” project. I’ll probably add this to my “Pending” project, which is a catch-all for projects without a name. I need a project so that these items are out of my Inbox — my Inbox needs to stay empty.
The last couple of tasks in this hypothetical Inbox are “Laundry” and “Reschedule Dentist.” I’d probably move “Laundry” to the “Pending” project — and then I’d just call my Dentist to reschedule, and then mark it completed.
Do vs. Due
Okay, say it’s a week before Father’s Day, and I want to write the card today, but it really isn’t due until Thursday. I absolutely need to have it done by Thursday.
Before OmniFocus 3 I had two different techniques.
One was to set the due date to today. The problem was that if I don’t get it done today, I could just advance the due date to tomorrow. In other words, the due date wasn’t really a due date.
The other technique was to flag the items that are due today. That’s fine — but how do I indicate which activities are really important, if I’m flagging the things I want to do today?
With OmniFocus 3 I create a new tag named “Today.” I assign the “Today” tag to the “Make Father’s Day Card for Dad” task and set the due date to Thursday.
In the view options for Forecast, I’ve included the tag “Today” — and now all items tagged “Today” will appear in my Forecast view.
Important vs. Urgent
The thing I like the most about this technique is I can separate the items that are important from the items that need to be done in the next day or so.
Here are the guidelines I’m using:
- Use the “Today” tag to indicate things that you’d like to do today.
- Use the Due Date for the actual due date and OmniFocus will indicate when you are running out of time.
- Use a flag to mark items that are most important to you.
In OmniFocus 3 you can assign multiple tags to a single item. You could add the tag “Home Desk” to “Make Father’s Day Card for Dad.”
This labels one task on two orthogonal axes. One tag indicates I’d like to do it today, and the other indicates that I need to be at my home desk to do it.
Multiple tags also allows me to take an activity that can be performed on either my iPad or Mac and tag it with both.
So I can have three tags assigned to “Outline article for Omni”: “Writing,” “iPad,” and “Mac.” So if I’m on my iPad or Mac and am ready to do some writing, this is a task I’ll reach for.
At the end of the day I like to take a last look at Forecast for the current day.
I look at the “Today” items that I didn’t get done. They will automatically be highlighted tomorrow in Forecast.
I look at each one and ask some questions: Is there a reason it didn’t get done today? Does this lack of completion indicate that I should remove the task, or should I reprioritize it? Is the due date coming up? Should I defer it for a few days (and remove the “Today” tag)?
Then I take a quick look through the “Pending” tasks. Do any of them need to be removed? Do any of them need to be tagged “Today” so I do them tomorrow?
Once a week I review all of the other projects — but each day I review “Pending” and “Today.”
I will likely continue to evolve this workflow as I get more comfortable with all that OmniFocus 3 can do.
Let me know what workflow is working for you!
Daniel Steinberg is a trainer and speaker specializing in iOS and Swift programming. He blogs at dimsumthinking.com and is on Twitter @dimsumthinking. He also plays Slide Advance Keyboard for James Dempsey and the Breakpoints live shows.