Learn OmniFocus LogoOver the weekend, I had the opportunity to present an overview of my use of OmniFocus at Learn OmniFocus. It was really fun, and the audience was great.

This is probably the one place where I have a most up-to-date overview of my workflow.



Here’s what happens:



0:00 – Use of the Zoom webinar system and Introduction

8:32 – My own introduction and how I came to learn and use OmniFocus


Main Talk

13:50 – Use of the Inbox & the importance of its maintenance

18:04 – Project library structure

22:15 – The Dashboard

26:50 – Use of 3 workspaces – Added, Due, and Context Groupings

31:11 – Review



~ 35:00 – What to do with unclear tasks in the Inbox

37:23 – Use of iOS vs OSX versions

39:35 – Interacting with others – Use of Communications Perspective – Use of Copy Link for Agenda items

44:15 – Questions about perspective settings

44:45 – Question about Inbox use

45:50 – Dashboard vs Forecast – I don’t think I do this question justice. I should have mentioned that I have the settings for Due Soon is in the next 24 hours, while I visit the Forecast view weekly to address anything that needs addressing early on. I try not to have any due items show in the Dashboard if possible. If I am doing well, then I am addressing these items well before the due date.

47:25 – Factors defining differences between users. Here, I get into the ideas of organization as a general concept as I do in Workflow Mastery. Ben Elijah, author of The Productivity Habits: A Simple Approach To Become More Productive, asked about a process of organization. We also had a follow up email discussion which he has kindly allowed me to present here. The discussion is posted below.

49:45 – Suggestions on routine and habit forming – the “Touch the Keys” concept – I expand on this in the email discussion below where I describe honoring habit.

53:50 – Clarifying the Workspace as for single projects, Clarifying the Dashboard, Clariying the Copy as Link functions

55:50 – Tracking completed projects

58:30 – Tracking extended projects – An example school book reading project

1:01:04 – Context use – I hadn’t set the test database to fully show the Office Dashboard or Laptop Dashboard. Basically, either are just the Dashboard view with the specific useful contexts selected and saved.

1:03:40 – Clarifying the example school book reading project – Also, adding an additional context for questions

1:06:10 – Clarifying Waiting for items

1:06:43 – Getting into Navigation, Vision, and Land & Sea – Also, more about Copy and Copy as Link


Email discussion follow up

Where does the boundary lie between tasks and calendar items? I suppose they’re both a form of explicit intention, but I’ve always treated calendar events as way to schedule a context. I’d love to get your thoughts on this.

In terms of tasks vs calendar items – I mainly use the GTD recommendation of hard landscape for calendar. You could use it to schedule a context, too, I imagine, though I haven’t used it that way much. You could also schedule a devoted time to a project, but again, I don’t do that often. Instead, I rely on the flagged based system. I often scan the calendar to see if I can estimate if there is any time between hard-landscape items to do some of the flagged tasks. If not, I’ve likely not planned well. I would then consider how I missed that during the weekly calendar review and hope to adjust accordingly.

Also, thanks for answering my question about the factors which define how people organize their intentions: awareness of relevance, accessible and avoidable.

You’re welcome! The same concepts work for any type of organization – including cleaning the kitchen (physical world), a computer desktop (digital world), or our intentions and memory (mental world). Much of the Workflow Mastery book is about this sort of thinking.

I’m very interested in how attention and memory might influence the granularity of projects and tasks. I wonder how this could determine how people use tools like OmniFocus.

Good thought. I believe a solid working memory allows one to hold several items in the mental worktable. In other words, the mental worktable is larger, allowing for an ease of constructing with ideas that would otherwise not be there. Still, there is a larger space now to be cluttered, so it is even more important to store ideas that are not presently relevant.

Interesting that the stronger one’s working memory, the more important it is to keep it clear. I wonder what this would mean for someone like a professional chef? He’d probably need no more than two or three steps on a recipe to bake something – you or I might need twenty. But he might need much more granularity in a project to fix his roof. Is this a working memory issue?

I think its more an intrinsic memory issue. The professional chef, in his preferred medium of work, has stored skill in intrinsic memory. These skills do not, then, need to occupy the worktable.

In terms of calendar items, I’m with you. The reason hard landscapes don’t work for me is that my mood (and predictability of mood) is as much a constraint to me as place and time. An event like “Writing for 3 hours in Starbucks on Friday afternoon (in order to finish Chapter 8 of my novel)” assumes that I’ll be feeling up to that. I prefer to schedule events like “Study time at Library” or “Coffee with friend” on the calendar; but I’ve created perspectives for common situations (like “Study”) showing one or more mood-based contexts.

This way, I can always choose something to do based on the present situation, even if it’s fairly brain-dead stuff. Does that make any sense?

I tend to favor honoring the habit, daily if possible, more so than how much time I will devote to it in any particular session. I don’t allow energy level to say whether or not I try something. I will at least attempt the project by sitting in the context of the work itself. However, when I am there, I can then decide after only a few minutes whether I am going to continue the work or not.

In other words, energy level dictates what or how much only after I have at least started. [Alongside a daily visit, this encapsulates the “Touch the Keys” concept, and how I handle energy level, in general.]