Calendar events to Omni Focus tasks


#1

Hi,

I’m trying to figure OF out and could use some assistance.

How can I add tasks from calendar events that show up in Forecast?

Say, for one example, that I have our waste pickup schedule in my calendar. Mixed waste once a week, glass every other week, garden waste on a different day once a week, paper once a month; not always falling on the same days each month because of holidays… So this info is in my calendar, but I need OF to remind me of it and I need it to be an actionable task. That is, of course, the point of having OF. I most certainly don’t want to be manually coping events from my calendar that should be actionable. Obviously, most calendar events aren’t actionable, but some are.

But I feel that OF is HUGELY lacking in this kind of integration and I fear it’s impossible. There’s no timeline views or even proper calendar views to see how projects stretch across months. There’s only a list view in Forecast as far as I can tell. Is this hiding somewhere?

So if none of this can be done, then how can I MANUALLY (crappy) input tasks that repeat in such unexpected dates. Please tell me I don’t need to input them one at a time. There’s hundreds across the year with our trash alone.

Thanks y’all. I really want to like OF but I keep hitting brick walls. For GTD purists, I get your point, but then OF is also HUGELY overpriced. Please prove me wrong and make me apologize.

Have a good one everyone!


#2

It might help if you see those kind of things as tasks you want to do at a certain time instead of it being appointments. I’d consider appointments something that isn’t actionable at all, it is just something where I have to be at a certain time and that has a certain duration. Tasks would go in app such as OmniFocus, appointments in Calendar. You can set defer date/time so you will only see them when they apply (=when the set defer date/time has passed). By using the Forecast view you can see both your tasks and appointments for that day/week. You can add notifications to the task as well so you are alerted in time (thus no need for setting a due date).

On macOS going from an entry in Apple Calendar to OmniFocus can be done by selecting the calendar item and copying it (rightclick > copy or use cmd-c). If you go to OmniFocus, create a new item and hit paste, it will at least paste all the info from the calendar item. You do need to put the information into the right boxes in OmniFocus. There are 3rd party calendar apps that integrate with OmniFocus and make this a lot easier. Calendar on macOS doesn’t seem to support the “send to inbox” option that OmniFocus creates in the macOS Keyboard Shortcuts. This option does work with Safari.

On iOS your only option is to use 3rd party calendar software. The in-built doesn’t do things like this, it even doesn’t use the share sheet (same with Mail). Hopefully that is fixed in a future iOS version.

That said, there is another option that can get quite technical quickly. OmniFocus (as well as other apps from Omni Group) offers support for automation. For OmniFocus automation there is even a dedicated subforum here and there is also a dedicated website for it: https://www.omni-automation.com (not sure if this is from Omni Group though).

To repeat tasks you can do so via the Repeat option found in the tasks properties. I use this for things like my medication. When I check it off, it will automatically create a new item for the next time.

Do keep in mind that OmniFocus is not project management/planning software. For that you need to use OmniPlan. OmniFocus is only for managing tasks (folders, projects, subtasks and tags are only for organising tasks).

For learning OmniFocus there are many resources. Omni Group offers their own: https://inside.omnifocus.com


#3

Thanks for that. The copy paste might work…Fantastical lets me email events. It doesn’t solve importing a year’s worth of events at once. Taking out the trash for me involves going to the basement and bringing up bags of recyclables. So although the pickup might be an event, me putting it outside in front of our bins is actionable any time up to maybe 16 hours before the pickup. That’s something I’d like to have in my today list. It’s not too much different than a deadline with something that needs to be done for it beforehand. I’m in the middle of writing a dissertation. Although the deadline could be considered an event, there are many deadlines for supervision, or other deadlines that I’ve set myself for finishing parts of the project. Those deadlines are fluid and deserve to be considered tasks within OF. Without a view of the whole project, OF is a useless tool to put these items into. I hardly think that after spending money on OF, I need to spend much more to get OP, just to get a simple view. I wouldn’t use a single other feature of OP.

If OF isn’t for project management then they should get rid of PROJECTS. Since they do have them, and I’d argue that we are managing them by having actionable items with due dates, then it isn’t too much to ask for a calendar view of those events (projects). I’m not asking for a gantt chart and dependencies. Just a more useful view of what’s already there, which isn’t very useful at the moment.


#4

I think you are looking too much into what a project is. A project has a start and end date and contains tasks. Projects can be very small but they can also be very big and complex.

When comparing OmniFocus and OmniPlan there are 2 main differences:

  1. Not everything in OmniFocus is a project or should even be a project. Sometimes you simply have just a single task. If you want to, you can put all those single tasks into a project named “single tasks” like some of us here do. However, in OmniPlan there only are projects, there is no such thing as a task without a project.

  2. OmniPlan is used in a very different way than OmniFocus is. OmniFocus is more geared towards personal use whereas OmniPlan is geared towards general use. The idea behind OmniPlan and the like is not to manage the nitty gritty details like you do with OmniFocus but you manage the overall things. It is not uncommon to plan things per week instead of per day or per hour in software like OmniPlan. Nor would you put things like “call Harry” to it. Tools like OmniFocus are for personal use and therefore are capable of managing the nitty gritty details.

That is why I said that OmniFocus is for managing tasks and OmniPlan is for managing projects. What OmniFocus does is simply give you a list of things to do so you can actually do them.

What you are trying to accomplish can be done quite easily in OmniFocus. It is what I do with my medication. I simply created a task with a repeat. When I check it off or drop it then it will advance to the next one. That way I know I have taken the medication. I have assigned both a defer and due date+time to it as well as a notification (which is a simple reminder) because I don’t have to take it a specific time just in a certain time window. There is no need to put these kind of tasks in the calendar. If you create a new repeating task you don’t have to import anything either, it will run from the newly created task to whatever ending date you have set it to. In your case I’d create one repeating task for each kind of waste since each has their own schedule.

If you want you can create a complete project structure for this in OmniFocus (either manual or by means of automation). The projects overview should be used to not only view the projects but also its contents. You can use Perspectives to build your own overviews of things and you can use Forecast (which can show you the calendar items as well). OmniFocus uses the Review process from GTD and comes with a Review view. In this view you go through ALL of your projects and check if all tasks are still in order or even needed. As a person you are doing for more than a single project. The review process is what keeps your system up to date en trustworthy. In other words, you need to have an overview of all your tasks, not just the ones in a single project (although you can do that with a Perspective).

Another thing to note: I have seen it on many of the productivity forums and blogposts but do be very aware of how far you breakdown a task. Many people are going rather far with breaking things down and end up with something like this for something as simple as buying milk:

  • open door
  • step outside
  • take 5 steps to shed
  • open shed door
  • grab bike
  • move bike outside
  • close shed door
  • lock shed door
  • get on bike
  • ride to store
  • park bike
  • put lock on bike
  • go into store
  • grab milk
  • etc. etc. etc.

Most people will know how to get to the store, that they have to pay for it, etc. so why put that all in? Why not simply have a single item that says “buy milk”? This might be a cultural thing though.

Tools like OmniFocus tend to have a high learning curve. That’s because you need to build an entire system to manage your tasks and learn the software as well. It can be fun to do but also frustrating as it takes time and can be complex. The stuff on inside.omnifocus.com should help you with this and you can always ask questions here. There may also have been someone who already made something that create a graphical overview of a project like a gantt chart

Lastly, have you checked the OmniFocus manual? That should also help you out quite well. You can find it here (linked it directly to the projects part): https://support.omnigroup.com/documentation/omnifocus/mac/3.4/en/perspectives-and-the-sidebar/#projects The part of Perspectives is something you really need to look into. It is what allows you to create specific views to get an overview of whatever it is that you want an overview of.


#5

I’d like to see that represented on a calendar or timeline.

I think it’s fair to say it does more than just that.

In this particular case, it would certainly make life easier. The tasks don’t repeat regularly because they sometimes fall on holidays. At times the pickup will be on the next day instead, sometimes on the previous, sometimes a week later throwing the whole repeating schedule off, or sometime the pickup is simply skipped. This can’t be managed with repeating tasks. But maybe it’s a kind of exception. I get your point that most situations aren’t this weird. But when they are, it would be nice to pull events off the calendar.

lol

Not it matters as this is valid for many people, but I don’t think it’s all that complicated. Incorporating it into ones life and making it a habit to follow the GTD ‘framework’ is certainly challenging for me, on the other had.

I can’t remember if I have, but I certainly get custom perspectives.

I really appreciate your patience and trying to help me out. From my point of view and empty pockets, I won’t spend the kind of money that OF costs unless it fulfills a need, which often could simply be making life better. I don’t need what OF provides as something like [competitor that shall not be named] provides

for free. Everyone on the forums and blogs keeps saying how OF is for the ‘power user’ and certainly has the price tag to go along with it. But when I mention a calendar view, or heaven forbid calendar integration, people get defensive. (Actually, you don’t have a bad attitude at all but do defend OF passionately.) These are rather basic things that are not at all that difficult to integrate. I really don’t think what I’m asking for turns my needs into the darkside of project planning. Sure, there’s a slight overlap, but that line was crossed with providing “project” areas. Things also has ‘areas,’ Todoist labels. OF forces everything to be a project. Todoist has some basic calendar integrations… It’s not so black and white. Custom perspectives are nice, but for my money I need a way to plan out a dissertation over time, see a big picture of it, and have the program remind me of the baby steps along the way. I think OF isn’t that program. That said, I haven’t found one that is. Anything with a Gantt, such as Trello, doesn’t excel at to dos, for example. I think there’s a lot of collage students, such as myself, that have similar needs to me. I don’t think a little gantt chart view or nice calendar view is too much to ask to make OF worth it for us.


#6

I’m not defending OF. It’s just a fact that if you want to use a certain tool (OF or not) it is inevitable that you need to drop what you currently know and do what the tool does. As a sysadmin I have seen lots of projects going wrong because people were trying to make the new tool to be exactly like the old tool. That never works.

Try to do it the OF way, see if that helps and fits your workflow. If that doesn’t then the conclusion is simple: OF is not a tool for you and you should look into other tools. Hence why I am steering you towards the manual and the other resources. Keep trying different tools, many of us here already do that.

That said, I think you may need to split what you want into 2 tools: one that gives you the big overview and the other to micromanage the little things (aka the tasks). As you have already concluded yourself there aren’t tools that combine this. It is also the reason why many are using the automation functionality in OF (which is only the best on a Mac, not on an iPhone or iPad). You may need to cook up something like that with whatever tool(s) you end up with.


#7

Ok, I appreciate the help. I’ll check on OF again when another version comes out to see if they’re moving in the right direction for me.


#8

If you have all the dates I would suggest pasting them into Numbers and using a formula to create TaskPaper. Assuming the date is in A1 you could type =“Put out trash for pickup @defer(“&A1&” -24h) @due(“&A1&” -16h)” in B1 and drag this down the column, then copy the column and paste into OmniFocus. There are probably many easier ways (I’m sure I’ve seen an AppleScript for importing from a calendar and I’m pretty sure that with Omni Automation that’s coming you’ll be able to do something too). The TaskPaper generation is definitely helpful in situations where you receive a lot of data at once!


#9

That’s a great idea. I’ll experiment with it to see what I can do. I didn’t realize this could be done. :)


#10

I just discovered somethiing amazing. For those of you that use Dropbox, their Paper documents have a Timeline feature, which is a super simple Gantt chart! I’m so excited!


#11

If you use the Scriptable app, I have a Scriptable script that creates OF entries for calendar items:

I also have much simpler (but less feature rich) shortcut that does the same thing, but I can’t share that from my phone at the moment because I think my ipad (on ios13 beta) has upgraded it and I can’t open it right now…


#12

Here’s the shortcuts link from my iPad, but not sure if this only works on ios13:

https://www.icloud.com/shortcuts/0b86b4077bc5476fb8dc68bdbe0452bf


#13

just tested it and it works


#14

Cool. Thanks.


#15

Part of my weekly planning is to go though my calendars (several of which are shared and so contain things that aren’t relevant to me) and create OmniFocus events for the things I need to act on.

Then I only need to work from one tool, OmniFocus rather that OmniFocus + Calendar. Having calendar events as tasks also has the benefit that I can turn them easily into projects later if necessary.

I only use iPhone, iPad and web versions of OmniFocus, so the Mac drag/drop option is off the table, hence the scripts I developed above.

I’d dearly love it if the iOS versions of OmniFocus:

  • Had more than a 5 day Forecast view - ideally at LEAST one month.
  • Had an option to select a calendar event in forecast view and create a task with due set as the events start date.

Having said that, the scripting workarounds (especially with Scriptable) are actually pretty good and mean you get exactly what you need personally, rather than whatever feature omni add, which has to be acceptable to the majority.

Omni need to be applauded for making that possible to the extent that they have.


#16

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