How I am using Omnifocus

Here's an overview on how I use Omnifocus day to day for to-dos

For the last month or so I have been using Omnifocus as my main task manager and organiser, I have been getting an absolute shedload of value from it and I wanted to share why I think it is great and how I am using it day to day.

2023 Update I now use Reminders, you can read about it at Omnifocus to Reminders

As I have only been using it a relatively short while, take my exact methods with a pinch of salt, I hope the main takeaway from this post is that Omnifocus is very powerful and adaptable.

Why I decided to try Omnifocus

Along with some glowing recommendations from folk I know who use it I have heard nothing but good things about it from Merlin Mann on his Back to Work show. He is a big advocate of GTD and talks about how Omnifocus fits well with it.

I too am a big fan of GTD and have loosely been trying to follow it for some time. Since deciding on trying Omnifocus I have been re-reading the Getting Things Done book and have seen some massive parallels between how Omnifocus is set up and what David Allen suggests.

I don't feel qualified to boil down the essence of GTD into a blog post as reference. Doing a quick search for terms like "gtd in a nutshell" seems to bring up some decent articles.

How I use it

If someone says something to me that I need or want to remember and I am on my computer I just hit CTRL+ALT+SPACE which opens up a quick enter task and I will put in whatever it was. This could be something like "Toby, could you pick up some milk on the way home".

In the example above I could also add a context to it to say I am at the shops and I could add due time to the task so that I am reminded when I am likely to be near the shops.

If there is something bothering me but it isn't urgent I will log that too. An example could be "Tidy up desk at work". With something like this the time it is done isn't important but the location is very important so I have a context of Work which is geolocated to my office. What this means is that I won't be reminded I wanted to clean my desk when I am anywhere other than at my desk.

This is huge, why would you want to remember to do something when you are powerless to do anything about it.

Finally I use it for both short and long term projects. I am borrowing the GTD definition of project which is anything that will require more than one physical action to complete. These could be things as well defined as "Plan for meeting with X about project Z" or as loose as "Get in shape"

Features I love about Omnifocus

  • You can defer tasks until a certain date – there is no point in being reminded you need to download your end of month sales report when it isn't the end of the month.
  • You can geofence tasks – like I mentioned above, you can be reminded of tasks when you are in a physical location where you are able to act on them.
  • The iPhone and Mac apps work really well together
  • You can have sequential projects – If you can't do Y until X is completed there is no point seeing Y yet. This means you only see the next actions, not all actions of which most are pointless.
  • There is a forecast view for things with a due date coming up – This links in with your Google Calendar which enables you to plan your day really well.

Things I need to improve upon

The main thing I need to improve upon is navigating around the app, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts that would make me more efficient and allow me to focus on completely the tasks instead of tending to them in the app.

I need to work on the consistency of how much information I capture along with any task. Sometimes I will set things like the context I want the task to be in, the time estimate and some notes. Other times I won't include any of that information – which weakens the use of that information if I don't apply it consistently.

Finally, Omnifocus has the notion of perspectives, these are views into the task you have. For example one of the few I have set up is "waiting" which lists all the tasks which I want to keep tabs on but are out of my control. So if I am writing a blog post which needs input from someone, whilst it is out with them for feedback I will move it into waiting.

These are super powerful and I have only scratched the surface of what I could be doing with them, I plan to do a lot more in the future.

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