Attempting To Convert A Things 3 workflow To OmniFocus 3

Attempting To Convert A Things 3 workflow To OmniFocus 3
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(Wilson Ng) #1

Things 3 and OmniFocus have been two of the main frontrunners in the Mac task manager space for a long time. These two apps have a different approach to task management. OmniFocus 3 allows you to create a workflow that will work with you.

I’ve been intrigued by a couple of different Discourse threads that are presented here:

I wanted to see if I could actually use OmniFocus 3 and create a Things 3 workflow. Is OmniFocus 3 capable enough of handling a Things 3 workflow? Let’s find out!


The Things 3 Workflow


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Things 3 has a very efficient method that views your tasks in chronological order (Today, Upcoming, Anytime, Someday). Things 3 feels like the perfect app to start with if you are a beginner in task management or do not have a productivity workflow set in place yet. Things 3 guides you with a thoughtful approach to task management.

  1. You take inventory of your tasks and schedule them to a date on your calendar.
  2. You look at your Today view and see the tasks that are scheduled for today and work on them. If you did not complete today’s tasks, it will remain in Today.
  3. You can see tasks that have a future scheduled date will appear in the Upcoming view.
  4. Tasks that do not have a scheduled date will appear in Anytime.
  5. The Someday view allows you to park projects and tasks that aren’t ready to start.
  6. The Logbook gives you a history of all your completed tasks sorted by completion date.

Using a calendar approach, Things 3 gives users a better idea of what needs to be done today, tomorrow, later, or someday.


The OmniFocus 3 Workflow


OmniFocus 3 is an open-ended system that allows you to create your own workflow. If you have a workflow, it can be easy to mold OmniFocus 3 to fit the way you work. If you don’t have a workflow, it may take some time for you to discover your own workflow. There are many examples of OmniFocus workflows that you can follow. Adapt them to your situation when you see how others are using it. There are some free blog posts as well as some excellent commercial products available.

@joebuhlig 's Working with OmniFocus video series

@timstringer’s Learn OmniFocus

@Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with OmniFocus

David Spark’s OmniFocus Video Field Guide

OmniFocus 3 does not have any of Things 3’s time-based views except for Forecast. We will need to build them in OmniFocus 3 ourselves. The Pro upgrade is required to create custom perspectives that will emulate Things 3’s views.

In this exercise, I will be focusing on how to use a Things 3 workflow inside OmniFocus 3. I have read feedback where Things 3 users would like to see OmniFocus 3 replicate a date based view. It won’t look exactly the same but the basic principles will be seen.


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OmniFocus and Things have a common theme with the inbox. Enter new asks in here and sort them out to different projects or lists later.


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Tasks that are scheduled or deferred to today or earlier (i.e. yesterday, last week) will show up here. We can create a Today perspective in OmniFocus like this:

This setting will show a list of tasks that have been scheduled/deferred to today or earlier.


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The Upcoming view shows a list of scheduled tasks and calendar events brings some calendar functionality to Things.

OmniFocus uses the Forecast perspective to see deferred and due tasks in a combined calendar/list view.

One complaint that Things 3 users bring up is that you can’t see deferred/scheduled tasks in the past. It disappears from the Forecast perspective. OmniFocus does show past due tasks in the Past cell.

I can click on the next few day cells to see what I have scheduled to work on. I can click on the Future cell to see tasks that have been scheduled beyond the next four days.

Tasks that have been deferred to yesterday will still be considered available for you to work on. But you will no longer see them in the Forecast perspective. One remedy is to create a custom perspective that will simulate Upcoming.

Your deferred/schedule tasks will show up here. These are all available tasks and sorted by defer today. If you want to see future tasks, change the Availability setting to Remaining.

I can see that I still have a few available tasks that started in April and May. I might want to look at the tasks in these groupings and see if I can reschedule some tasks to the future or put it into Someday/Maybe.


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Tasks that have not been scheduled but is available for you to work on can use the Available Tasks perspective I described in the previous section. There is a grouping called No Defer Date. These are tasks that don’t have to be done at any particular time but are available to work on. These unscheduled (and available) tasks will show up in Anytime.


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This Things view holds any tasks that you want to work on someday. Tasks in this view will not be shown in other views unless you assign a scheduled date via drag-and-drop or with the task detail screen.

OmniFocus can handle Someday tasks in different ways. You can assign an On Hold tag to a task with the status set to On Hold.

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Then I create a custom perspective called Someday which show any task with the Someday tag.

When I visit the Someday perspective, I can assign a defer date and remove the Someday tag to make this task available.


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OmniFocus has an equivalent perspective called Completed. You can visit this perspective to see all completed tasks.


Their Differences Become Their Strengths

Things 3 and OmniFocus have unique feature sets. You might feel more comfortable with the way Things 3 works or the way OmniFocus 3 works. It’s all about personal preference. Here are some of the features that I’ve come to like about each app.


  • A beautiful and well designed layout.
  • Drag and drop is very prominent. You can drag a task to Today, Someday, or Anytime.
  • Things 3.6 for iPad is great for keyboard warriors who want to use the app without lifting their finger to tap on the screen.
  • A well design workflow to help anybody start up their task management in Things with relative ease.
  • Checklists are an easy shortcut to add small lists without needing to create a project or action group.

  • OmniFocus 3’s flexibility allows you to create your own workflow.
  • Custom perspectives can save you a lot of time. Create a custom perspective if you frequently have views that will group, sort, and filter your tasks and projects easily.
  • The Review perspective is unmatched. Things 3 doesn’t have an equivalent feature. The closest I could get in Things would be to schedule to a future date and have it pop up in Today. Then I can review and defer it again. Or I could just schedule a weekly review to check up on everything.

In Summary

I read a lot of Discourse topics talking about how some users were frustrated with OmniFocus 3 and wanted to see if I could match Things 3 feature for feature. I think I got relatively close. I wouldn’t be able to match the beautiful user interface that Things 3 has. But I couldn’t resist the challenge. I wanted to see if there was anything in Things 3 that I couldn’t do in OmniFocus 3.

iPad app keyboard controls and checklists were the main ones I couldn’t duplicate. Well, checklists can probably be used differently with the use of OmniFocus action groups.

I do love the leapfrogging that Cultured Code and Omnigroup have here. I heard the CEOs met up and WWDC 2018 and congratulated each other on their success. I’m glad that Things 3 and OmniFocus 3 can be used differently and fit different user workflows.

I’m wondering if there are any other Things 3 workflows that I’m not seeing. If there are any Things 3 users, could you help me out? Post in this topic and let’s see if there are any other unique features I may have missed.


#2

Wonderful post. Particularly the"today" perspective.


(Kourosh) #3

Really nice and thoughtful post, Wilson!

  • Kourosh

(Wilson Ng) #4

In a followup post from the OmniFocus Discourse, @flight16 changes his Today perspective to show:

(Simplified logic)
ANY OF:

Due Soon
Has defer date
Individual actions, order by due date.

This is closer to Things’ behavior.

Here is his settings…

ThingsToday1
ThingsToday2

Thanks for finding this setting. It gets us closer to a Things 3-styled workflow.