Using the OmniFocus Review Perspective as a Tickler for Projects and Single Action Lists


(Wilson Ng) #1


Note: This is a followup post in my ongoing experiment with the OmniFocus Review Perspective post “Breaking Down My OmniFocus Review into Bite-Sized Reviews

I’ve listened to Mac Power Users #414 with curiosity and seeing how MacSparky has slowly changed his system of deferring OmniFocus tasks to the future has caused him stress with the amount of maintenance he has to do when he forwards a task into the future. He is afraid that if he doesn’t defer tasks and projects, it might slip through the cracks because he isn’t reviewing them enough.

I think what he really wanted is a tickler system. He wants to be reminded of a task that might need some attention soon. He did this by deferring a task to a particular date. When that date arrives, the task shows up in the Forecast to remind him. But I stayed away from this path. I wanted the defer date to represent the date that a task or project should start. I didn’t want the defer date to be a tickler alarm.

There is a quote from that defines the tickler.

…a tickler file is a reminder system intended to act as an adjunct to your regular calendaring and scheduling system.

…anything you need reminded of on some future date goes into your tickler file.

I’ve seen that I’ve been using the Review perspective as my daily tickler. I’ve been staggering my review cycles based on the SAL or the project status.

Structure: Single Action Lists and Big Rock Projects

As a summary reminder, I’ve included a summary of my folder structure as seen in other Productivity Guild posts. I have an Admin Routine folder that contains all my maintenance lists.

Admin Routines (Repeating Maintenance Tasks)

Admin Routines

My Admin Routines are set to be reviewed every 1 week just to make sure I didn’t miss updating these lists. I might have forgotten to check off a task, delete a task, or change the task description/notes. The Review perspective allows me to check up on these lists if I need to update it.

Some SALS such as my Seasonal Routine can be reviewed every 2 or 3 months. These lists rarely change but I might want to check on them infrequently to see if I need to edit them for further clarity.

Admin Actions (Single One-off Tasks)

Admin Actions

My Admin Actions (lists containing a bunch of one-off tasks) and Active Big Rock projects that have a lot of changes on a daily basis (Office Actions, Customer Agendas, Honey Do List) will get a review cycle of every 1 day. When I wake up in the morning and go to the Review perspective, I am forced to see these lists and mark them as reviewed. Most of the other SALs don’t change as frequently and can get a long review cycle such as every 3 days or every 4 days.

Big Rock Projects

I have a folder for every Area of Responsibility. Each folder contains a group of Big Rock projects that will improve a different part of my life.

Big Rock folders

Big Rock projects that don’t have a lot of changes also get reviewed every 1 week. I don’t expect many changes here. I might set the review to every 3 days if I wanted to check on these lists more frequently.

On Hold Big Rock projects are reviewed either every 2 weeks or every 1 month. I don’t need to look at these projects because they are on the back burner. I can check them every week or every other week to see if I need to return it back to Active status. If I am thinking of starting an On Hold Big Rock project soon, I would set a defer date and change the review cycle to every 1 week or every 2 weeks.

Setting Different Review/Tickler Intervals

Use the OmniFocus Review perspective as a tickler system. Do not use defer dates. Not every project needs to be reviewed on a weekly or daily basis. Projects and SALs that are modified frequently will have shorter review cycles so that we can stay on top of any changes and we won’t be caught unaware. A shorter review cycle can also update these lists to reflect current reality. Projects and SALs that don’t change a lot can have a longer review cycle, Active projects will have a shorter review cycle than On Hold projects. We want to focus on Active projects and review it more frequently than On Hold projects.

It will be interesting to see the new updates to MacSparky’s OmniFocus Video Guide. I didn’t quite understand his original workflow of setting a bunch of defer dates for tasks when he only wanted to use the defer date as a tickler reminder. Using the Review perspective as a tickler enables me to keep a closer eye on Active projects and SALS while also casting an occasional eye on the On Hold projects. I think I’m sure that I don’t have any projects falling through the cracks in the last 6 months I’ve been using the Review/Tickler method. I’ll report back in a few months to see how the experiment is going.

If you have any new workflows on how you do your reviews, send a post! New ideas are always welcome! :muscle:

When Creative Energy Starts Flowing
An Online Commonplace
Managing My Dumpster Fires in OmniFocus (An OmniFocus Workflow)

As always :+1:t3: :+1:t3:

The defer functionality is OmniFocus is still one of the areas I don’t jive with. I wish there was a setting that changed “defer” to function like a “start” date. In lieu of that though I have a daily task to review all of my deferred tasks (custom perspective) and make sure I haven’t forgotten about one, but it feels hack-y.


The old wording (omnifocus1) for defer was ‘Start Date’ - I preferred the old nomenculature

I use defer dates fairly regularly and use the shortcut syntax of 2d to mean 2 days time (much easier on the mac than the ipad) With the view set to available the deferred tasks are hidden until they come due.

A fairly typical use of defer is if I am waiting on someone to get back to me. The task would be ‘Chase fred re xxxx if he hasn’t come back to me’ with a context of ‘comms’ when it pops up I will either chase fred, update the notes and re-date or simply tick it off if Fred has already responded.

If I know something has to be done then I will set the flag at the same time as the defer - it then pops up in my today perspective as soon as the start date is reached.

(Wilson Ng) #4

The new roadmap for OmniFocus was just released. It was interesting to read about some of the decisions that Omnigroup made about sharing tasks, a web version, notifications, custom repeats, and their transition from using the label “context” to the “tags” to facilitate non-GTD users who would trip their minds over the word “context.” I still like the term start date but I’ve been able to overcome that psychological barrier of using defer vs start.


The new roadmap looks great, and the flexible tagging + notifications should solve quite a few problems I have with a few of my workflows. :slight_smile:

(David Sparks) #6

Hey Gang. Long before there was OmniFocus in my life, there were tickler files. When I first started practicing law, that was the task management system in a lot of ways.

But you are right. I’m essentially using the OF ability to set different review frequencies to have a tickler system. Hot projects may have a very short review delay while less important once stretch out longer. I think the longest time period I’m using is 6 months.

(Joe Buhlig) #7

This is one area I’ve been trying to nail down in my analog system. At the moment, I’m essentially reviewing my entire list of projects every morning, which gets to be a bit much some days. I have to say that this is likely the one area that may eventually bring me back to OF.

(Ashley Grant) #8

I do use defer dates to hide stuff I until I need to see it.

Additionally, I have a perspective called “Treading Water” – thanks to Kouresh Dini. It shows all available tasks, grouped by defer dates with the oldest first. As long as I take a quick look at that every so often, I ensure the deferred stuff doesn’t fall through the cracks, even if my weekly reviews aren’t so weekly. Also, for hard deadline stuff, they will show up in my Dashboard on the assigned due dates. I use my Dashboard all day long.

Here is the set up: