Task management with OmniFocus: doing

Processing and organizing with OmniFocus is often so helpful on its own that I don’t even need to look into OmniFocus to go through the daily tasks. In other situations, OmniFocus is really necessary to remind of today’s priorities. OmniFocus cannot make hard choices on what to do, but it can limit the number of options, provide information, and give a space for making such decisions. If properly managed, OmniFocus provides you with to-do lists as useful as your very first to-do list scribbled on a little piece of paper many years ago.

OmniFocus generates such effective to-do lists by applying filters to a large number of tasks stored in its database. These filters can be highly customized to match your workflows and various situations. If you use particular filters often you may want to save them as ‘Perspectives’. Each Perspective can filter tasks according to one or several parameters assigned during organizing such as Project, Context, Start or Due date, Duration, Status and Flag as well as Availability (a task if ‘available’ if it belongs to an active project and context, its Start Date is in the past and it is not marked as completed). OmniFocus Perspectives also store the configuration of the working window (e.g. the visibility of the Sidebar, the  View bar and the Toolbar).

The OmniFocus community shares useful perspectives with each other. For example, check  a set of useful OF perspectives from Simplicityisbliss. An interesting ‘Communications’ perspective is presented by Kourosh Dini in this brief screencast.

Perspectives can be assessed through a special menu, placed in the Toolbar (see the screenshot below) or associated with keyboard shortcuts. OmniFocus ninja’s often use the latter method because they switch between Perspectives very often. Perspectives can be created by setting all the filters and customizing the view which you would like to have for a particular perspective and then using the Save Window As …  command from the Perspectives menu. Subsequently you can manually edit the newly created Perspective by fine-tuning its various parameters.

For example, one of my frequently used perspectives is called ‘Desk’ (^⌥⌘D) (shown on the screenshot, except in reality it does not show the Toolbar and the View bar to reduce screen cluttering). It displays all the available tasks within the “Desk” group of contexts with the duration of less than 1 hour. It groups the tasks by the Context (so that for example I can do writing tasks in the morning and reading and phone calls in the afternoon) and sorts them by duration. The latter is convenient because I often decide what to do depending on how much time of uninterrupted work I have before the next engagement.


About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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