Are you struggling with OmniFocus?


I think priorities are a complex problem to approach in a task manager.

For one, priorities aren’t static. What is a top priority today may not be a top priority a month or even a week from now. And how do you assign correct priorities? Do you develop your own system and put the user behind every decision? Or do you let the software in on decisions? E.g. Task A that sits in the top folder for more than x days and is a regularly repeating task should automatically get priority 1.

One way to approach this, if you’re willing to experiment, is to have a context with priorities as sub-contexts.

For example:


  • Action: 1
  • Action: 2
  • Action: 3

You could tie these to the familiar parts of the productivity quadrant/Eisenhower matrix/etc. (urgent/important) and have a way to classify them.

From personal experience, I abandonned this way of working for several reasons. For one, you first need to establish clear definitions for each priority. And even if you have set boundaries, there’s a huge cognitive load every time you enter a task. This may be a 2 but on the other hand, maybe it’s a 1 really? It makes it really hard to enter tasks over time because it adds an element of friction to the creation of every single task. Secondly, I found it made very little difference to actually completing tasks. I would automatically do the highest priority items first, regardless of their status as a 1.

I now simply have a list of next actions and I flag tasks that require a priority.

For me, I wouldn’t say priorities are the most challenging thing for productivity systems to solve. Since, in essence, they are symptoms of an imbalance on a higher level: long-term planning vs short-term items on a to do list.

What a great productivity system should do is connect the dots: forcing you to establish future goals and outcomes and have them trickle down in correct and relevant to do items, today.


Thank you for helpful comments! I agree that using the app for managing priorities is problematic. I was thinking mostly in the context of a monthly review. What I do now is export all of my tasks to Numbers about once a month. Then I add columns for urgency and importance. I find this overall context very helpful to get a “big picture” look. When I do this it is easy to identify dozens of tasks that should be eliminated. This process of going through line by line is time consuming. It is also time consuming to go back to back and close all of the tasks I ID to eliminate. My problem is that I think best in spread sheets. When computer spreadsheets were invented 40+ years ago I was hooked. If OF2 had an import function form Numbers I would have exactly what I need. Perhaps I should look into using OO as a work around since the Numbers import feature is not available.


It sounds like you have a lot of tasks. Which you weed out on a monthly basis.

Do you perform weekly reviews? I stick to them pretty religiously and I find it’s the perfect time to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Or even add new tasks. I know some people even do daily reviews but I find that to be overkill.

One of the last to do items in my weekly review is: “Review Goals”, by the way. The notes link to a custom OF Goals perspective that have tasks for the next month and for 2017. I find it keeps me on track.


I do something like this in OmniFocus — most heavily used contexts are Achievement, Urgent, Important, and Details.


I agree that the Eisenhower matrix combines powerfully with GTD. One of the most productive times of my life was when I made a custom new task form in Outlook 2002 that let me enter a context, project, a special flag for things required by the company owner, urgent/important checkboxes and a large free-form notes field for task outlines. And my master list was a few sheets of paper.

The hard thing about Eisenhower, though, is to master the switch from the “burndown” mindset to maximizing opportunity/effectiveness when moving from I to II, and from I to III to II.


Completely by coincidence, this article landed in my email this morning. It illustrates exactly what i’m experiencing in Things that I never got from OF and GTD. It’s an article by Cal Newport, about “completion-biased systems.”

It’s worth a read. He’s made a career of studying accomplished people in various fields, and reverse engineered how they became so accomplished.


I have played with Things 3 for several weeks (and forked out for the whole package!) But I now find myself migrating back to OF. I could never get used to the concept of the Today View or the functional distinction between Scheduled and Due. I tried to use it in the same way I use Defer and Due in OF-but it made no sense.


Love this article!


@jgjones28 I actually did resort to altering the repeat template during my trial of T3, in order to ‘check off’ repeating tasks sooner. This was cumbersome and often the task template refused to ‘update’ as directed-whereas in OF2 this presents absolutely no issue whatsoever and is as easy as one click. This is a major sticking point for me as my ‘repeats’ are often on flexible defer or due repeats and they are variable in their frequency. T3 gave me a headache with that one I’m afraid.
Attachments are also extremely important within OF2 and the Omnigroup better not ever remove that functionality! A simple example was my recent holiday to Italy whereby every connection paper & ticket was attached in complete form exactly on the correct days they were required for trains, hire cars & museums!
Furthermore, in my professional life I can have instant access to pdf’s, files, images & documents on the exact date & time of any given meeting. I just couldn’t function with T3.
Don’t misunderstand me I think T3 is a superb app! If you can work with it in your productivity regime then that’s wonderful!


@Jan_H ditto. I tried my OF2 database in T3 and it was a mess! Inability to properly defer tasks and properly place tasks in sequential lists + alter availabilty in settings made T3 impossible. The tasks in T3 have nowhere to go if you can’t complete them! They just pile up and up!


If a user works mostly in context mode, it is easy to get trapped in “busy” mode and never get anything done. That’s why I also included a few projects based perspective to get my major goals accomplished.

Things 3 has a projects list but not much else that makes me want to switch.

If you create some projects-based perspectives, you can actually get to “accomplishment” as Newport suggests.

So I guess that illustrates exactly what I’m experiencing in OF and GTD that I never got from Things.


In the interest of clarity, I’m not trying to convince anyone to dump OF2 in favor of Things.

I had a realization that GTD was not for me, and Things feels like a much better fit for my brain. I posted here in the hopes that other people feeling the same friction with GTD might benefit from my experience.


Likewise my motivation is not to call T3 users over to OF2. Each to their own.

One of the big sticking points with T3 just came back to me as I had a look at it again. The font is tiny for my old eyes and doesn’t seem to be adjustable.

Thankfully OF2 does allow this. I have a nice big font size.

I also struggle with all the ‘white space’ in T3, something that angered me when OF1 became OF2! Thankfully OF2 soon came with an option to reduce ‘white space’ more similar to (but not as good as ) OF1.

I guess I miss good old OF1.

I’m really looking forward to OF2 updating the app with better repeats (T3 is miles ahead here), & tags of course. I think OF2 is heading for some fantastic changes sooner rather than later.


I’m reading the book now and it is resonating with me. I’m interested in how you’re applying Things 3 to accomplish more Deep Work. Would like connect off-channel.


I read the initial post with interest as I’ve always found OF cumbersome to use and a few too many shortcomings considering the time it’s been in the market. I prefer my technology to work for me and make my life easier. So I tried T3 and wow, what a difference. As one person rightly said, we’re all different and it’s great that there is a variety of software for us to select what suits us best. T3 is working better for me.


I’ve been a die hard OF user for many years, in fact since it was called Kinkless and before the Omni Group acquired it.
I’ve also been struggling with OF recently, finding myself ignoring it, not capturing things into it and wanting a little bit more flexibility.

I’ve followed the development of Things over the years and it’s not for me, but last week I started to look at Todoist and moved some of my top level projects over to try it out. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually really enjoying it. I love the Karma points system and the stats, I’ve learnt in recent years that I like to get high fives and to track progress, it helps to motivate and to have a sense of completion.

Natural language input when entering tasks is also great, as is the smart schedule and the ability to have priorities (I know, it’s not very GTD). I’m also enjoying the morning email listing what tasks I have for the day, it’s a nice nudge and the big one, multiple contexts, which seems like it’s been being discussed for years on this forum.

There’s also one other thing, I’m a designer and Todoist just feels fresher, more colourful and more inviting.

I’m not sold on switching yet, I have a lot invested in my beloved OF and it’s not going to be an easy decision to shift to Todoist and so I’m interested in hearing from others about their experiences, positive or negative, and especially if you came back to OF.


Having tried several task managers over the years, starting with Things, I have recently developed a system that works great in OF for me. I have found that Kourosh Dini’s book “Creating Flow with OmniFocus” has been a tremendous help along with contributions by David Sparks and Tim Stringer. I cannot do without deferred dates and the sophisticated custom perspectives, although I am really looking forward to multiple contexts. At the moment, I flag items from an Available perspective to appear on my “Today” Dashboard perspective. Each day (or sometimes multiple times a day), I review the Available perspective to decide what I want to do today, flagging those tasks to include them in the Today Dashboard. I think that I would be overwhelmed if I could not use deferred dates in this particular system, so OF works great for me! (Todoist and Things are both prettier, but that’s not a high priority to me.)


I know a lot of people have set up interesting systems in ToDoist. I’ve played around with it in the (distant) past, too, but it doesn’t fit my way of working.

For one, the team does not believe in start dates/defer dates and as such will never implement them. I cannot work without them and for me personally, defer dates are a crucial part of any productivity system. There are many tasks I will not or cannot start on until a certain date arrives. It then follows I never need to see those tasks in any view until that date.

Secondly, ToDoist too is based around time with default Today and Next 7 days lists. Coupled with not being able to defer tasks, this ends up crowding clusters of todos which have no relevance to me. I like to work on what’s available right now.

Design is of course in the eye of the beholder but I don’t really like the look of ToDoist. It’s very rigid and the iOS app is cumbersome to get around. At least, back when I used it. In contrast, TickTick, another web-based app, has a very clean design and a stellar iOS app.

What ToDoist does well is the natural language input, something I would love in OmniFocus. Reminders, too, are certainly an added value. Personally, I have no need for multiple “tags” but many people use them heavily. But they’re coming to OF anyway.

Finally, many web-based apps for me invariably disappoint in their desktop applications. I am so used to getting around OF with the keyboard, it’s become second nature. Every task, list, view, and perspective is a keystroke away. Even modifying tasks is super-fast in OmniFocus using just the keyboard. But all the web-based applications, even in their desktop clients, have me clicking around endlessly.


I wholeheartedly agree.


This is amazing. I too have found my OF2 system overwhelming, and I think I’m going to be sorted when OF3 comes out so I can reorder my custom “today” tag, but the point in the linked article about specifying a short list of active projects and adding an outcome for each, focussing on them, seems to resonate for me - I need a way to cut through the cruft and trust that what I’ve got in front of me are the most relevant and important things to work on.

I will try to weave this into OF2 somehow, but I think being able to tag projects as “big rocks” and reorder them might help me a lot. That and a regular review to shorten my active project list (I’m terrible at reviews).