Arranging my OmniFocus perspectives to create an effective OmniFocus planning/reviewing workflow

gtd

(Wilson Ng) #1

For many years, I’ve tried to stick to a typical routine and turn it into a habit.

  • Clear the inbox
  • Perform a daily or weekly review of my projects
  • Look at my calendar and Forecast perspective to see my day
  • Check the Due perspective for any five-alarm due tasks that are coming up
  • Flag and unplug various available tasks to populate my Today perspective
  • Finally go to my Today perspective and work on tasks for the day

Unfortunately, I’ll typically skip a step here or there. I tried printing out a checklist and placing it on my desk. I’ll lose it or use for today’s doodle. I skipped steps because I thought I was comfortable and didn’t need to look at my planning perspectives. I was trusting myself into not forgetting anything. I’ve got this day in the bag. D’oh, that was a big mistake. I would forget about a due task because I didn’t check the Due perspective. I forgot about an afternoon appointment that didn’t allow me enough time to work on a big project that I had coming up. I had to find some way to remind myself to go through the proper workflow before I actually started working my day.

I found that I was wasting a lot of space on my OmniFocus top window toolbar and the perspectives sidebar. I had a long lost of custom perspectives that was haphazardly placed in no particular order. But then I thought about how I worked. I’ll just arrange all of my perspectives in the order that I work in!

When I use OmniFocus, I am either “planning” or I am “doing.” Here is a screenshot of the perspectives I work in:

My main goal was to group all of “Planning” perspectives in one group and the “Doing” perspectives in another group. I wanted my top toolbar to hold all of my “Planning” perspectives and the left side perspectives list will show my “Doing” perspective.


The Planning Perspectives

I arranged my Planning perspectives in the order I want to work in. I control-clicked at the top of the OmniFocus window and selected Customize Toolbar…

I can find all of my “Planning” perspectives (any perspective that doesn’t have the ‘@‘ symbol) and drag them over to my toolbar in the order that i usually like to work in when I am in planning mode.

Now I’ve finally set up the top toolbar to show all of my planning perspectives.

I will click on a perspective in the top toolbar only when I am in Planning mode. I start my planning workflow by going to my first perspective, the Inbox, and work my way rightward. I don’t miss a step when I am in Planning mode.

I intentionally grouped everything in separate areas of the OmniFocus window because I want to stay in “Doing” mode and not accidentally stray into OmniFocus “Planning” mode. There are many times where I will click into one of my planning perspectives and a time-suck hole appears. I’ll get lost in planning and curating my projects. I won’t get any work done because I forget that I am supposed to be “Doing” and not “Planning.”

The only time I visit a top toolbar perspectives is at the beginning of the day for review purposes, at the end of the day to tidy up my workspace and clear my inbox, or when I am intentionally in project planning mode.

  1. At the beginning of the day, I’ll visit the Inbox perspective and clear up any inbox items that are in this perspective.

  2. Next, I move on to the Review perspective and see what projects need to be reviewed, curated, and sorted.

  3. Then I see my Forecast perspective to look at today’s appointments, any tasks that have been deferred to today or the next few days, and due tasks that are neatly arranged here.

  4. Afterwards, I go to Due perspective to get a running list of all my overdue/due today/due soon tasks. I can see due items further out into the future in the Due perspective instead of the Forecast. The Forecast perspective is better suited to look ahead the next seven days or so.

  5. At the end of my morning workflow, I visit the Flagged perspective to flag or unflag tasks to indicate that I would like to work on these tasks today or in the next few days but there is no really hard deadline for them.

  6. and 7. Sometimes I will visit the Projects and Contexts perspective when I need to do some major project planning and contexts curation.

At the end of the day, I will go through the same Planning perspectives from left to right again. This helps me tidy up the day and get ready for tomorrow.

8 and 9. I also check my Completed and Journal perspective to see if a completed task will trigger a followup task for me to enter.

10 I can refer to my Changed perspective if I need to recall a project or task I just edited.


The Doing perspectives

Now that the Planning perspectives have been taken care of, I wanted to create a perspective sidebar that will show all of my Doing perspectives. I start by visiting the Perspectives Editor window in OmniFocus.

I drag my Doing perspectives in the order I want to see them in the perspectives sidebar. In this example, I sorted them out from most frequent to least frequently used perspectives. I “starred” all of my Doing perspectives to make them visible in the perspectives sIdebar. A perspective will show in the perspectives sidebar if there is a yellow star next to it,

Throughout the day, I’ll check my contexts and switch between the different Doing perspectives as needed. The perspectives sidebar will change once a month depending on what contexts I will be working on. But the Planning perspectives in the top toolbar will always remain the same. This is what my perspectives sidebar looks like now:

To help me, I also use the ‘@‘ symbol to indicate that these are Doing perspectives. I will work during the day from these Doing perspectives. If the perspective name doesn’t have the ‘@‘ symbol, I’ll stay away unless I absolutely need to do some project/task curation. The only perspectives that I will use during “Doing” mode are in the perspectives sidebar.


My iOS Home Screen

I created a similar layout in my iOS setup. At the top of my Home screen, I elected to show all perspectives by tapping on All Perspectives.

I arranged all of my Doing perspectives in the “Favorites” section. These perspectives show up at the top of the screen. The lone exception is the Forecast perspective which I classified as a Planning perspective. But I’ll make an exception and put at the very top of the Home screen. My iOS use is different when I’m on my iPad or iPhone. Having an indicator showing my past due items and upcoming due items is nice here.

All of my Planning perspectives is grouped into the “Other Perspectives” section. Dividing the Doing and Planning perspectives helps me to differentiate between the two groups.

I arrange all of my planning perspectives on my iOS Home Screen in the order I want to work in: Inbox, Review, Due, Flagged, Projects, Contexts, Completed, Journal, and Changed. The sole exception was the Forecast. I placed it at the very top of the Doing perspective because I use my iPad and iPhone differently instead of the Mac. The Forecast looks better placed at the very top to give me a count of overdue, due today, and due soon tasks in the next few days.


Summary

Grouping my Planning perspectives into the top toolbar and my Doing perspectives into the perspective sidebar allows me to switch between “Planning” and “Doing.” Do not confuse “Planning” with “Doing.” I could sit in front of my Mac all day and fiddle with my projects and watch the time pass by me without getting anything done.

I use this method of grouping all of my Planning and Doing perspectives on the Mac and iOS platforms to separate these two modes. This method gives me a built-in checklist of what to review during “Planning” mode and what to work on when I am in “Doing” mode. It ensures that I don’t miss a step.


Article: Why Simple Wins in This Complicated World
Managing My Dumpster Fires in OmniFocus (An OmniFocus Workflow)
When Failing Wins
(Joe Buhlig) #2

I need to spend a lot more time with this as it’s an awesome idea. But the thing that stood out to me on first pass was that concept of using perspectives in both the toolbar and the sidebar in different ways. I typically use the toolbar for scripts and the like. It’s never occurred to me to use “planning vs doing” as a differentiation.


(Wilson Ng) #3

I don’t have as many scripts as you might have. That’s why I was able to use the toolbar for my Planning perspectives. Another way would be to show the Perspectives editor in another window and collapse it so that it hides the perspectives setting. Then it would be possible to just go down the list of perspectives from top to bottom.

In this case scenario, all of my Doing perspectives begins with ‘@’ and have a yellow star.

All the other perspectives that don’t have the ‘@’ and yellow star are Doing perspectives.

This should give you more room at the toolbar for your various apple scripts.


(Justin DiRose) #4

Wilson, I really like this idea. I’m going to explore using it myself. Having a morning review project has been cumbersome at times, so just being able to go through a few perspectives would be nice!


(Kees) #5

Wow, this approach is genius. I’ve changed my toolbar immediately and because the icons are on my toolbar all the time when working in OF it reminds me automatically to finish my daily review before start the workday.
Before, when the checklist was a project in OF I was never getting to the end of the list because i had to switch between screens every time and unconsicously start working on my projects. Thanks and i’m looking forward to see your setup of the Today View


(Wilson Ng) #6

Thanks. I’m happy you’re able to adapt it for your own use. The idea was to make sure I didn’t miss a step in the planning process. I worked from left to right at the top tool bar.

Then when I’m “doing”, I can use the left sidebar to stay in “doing” mode instead of slipping in and out of doing and planning.

I’m still trying to sort through the Today perspective. It’s not quite what I wanted and I think my use of the Today perspective has changed considerably from a “Doing” perspective to a “Planning” perspective. But I’m still on the fence about it right now. I’m testing it out and will eventually write about it. I have the article about 80% done but still playing behind the scenes. sigh. It’ll come when I can figure it out. Or I’ll just call it a work-in-progress and invite people to see how they do their “Today” perspective. if you have any ideas, you can always post up your experiment in the Guild forum. Happy new year!


#7

Thanks for this! I like this idea. :smiley:

I’ve also been trying to tweak my Today view. I have a growing list of things that I’m trying to do to reach some personal goals. However, I’m finding that having those in my face all day long is bad for me. I’m constantly seeing them there and while I want to know which things I’m supposed to do, I want to be able to hide them from my Today perspective.

So what I’ve settled on is a context that is “On Hold”. I placed all of my routines into this context, so that they can be hidden from my Today view. I also have a Keyboard Maestro macro setup that toggles between “Available” and “Remaining” tasks (CMD+OPT+K).

I had to re-arrange a few things (using less flags and using more due dates). However I’m finding this view to be refreshing.

Now when I start work, I have a list of things today that I need to get done. The top-most item is now my Daily Review. The other items I see are things with a deadline of today, or needs some form of work today. Then during my review time, I have a Deferred perspective that I use to move things into today + flag if I think I can get to them.

I also setup another macro to Defer any selected tasks, so I can select tasks I can’t start on today, hit CMD+OPT+CTRL+D, and type in a number of days to defer the items and they all get adjusted automatically. This handles defer + due dates, so they both get changed (if set), but the script can also be targeted to just the defer date should I want to just move it off a day or two.

Anyway, this probably deserves it’s own thread (only posting here as you mentioned how yours has changed a bit through this) to explain it all in more detail, but I’m really happy with it so far. I have better focus on things I NEED to do, and can bring my goals into view really easily.


(Wilson Ng) #8

When you have time, you can create a separate post about the workflow you described above. We’d all love to see it and gain pointers from your discoveries. Thanks!