Finding Entered Actions

Please help me with the most appropriate workflow. Things like this issue seem to trip me up all the time with OmniFocus.

The other day I had an appointment with my accountant. He needed some information I didn’t have with me at the time. I put an item into OmniFocus to “Send Ken information about blah, blah, blah” and assigned it to my existing “Put my financial house in order” project with a context of “Technology” (for things that require an Internet-connected device). I didn’t assign any dates to it.

The question becomes, how do I find this item? Should I simply assign a due date that I think works and then find it when I scan my forecast?

I tend to avoid assigning due dates unless it’s for items that truly must be done by a specific date. Taxes have to be filed on April 15, but getting back to my accountant with the information he needed wasn’t urgent. It was something I could do today, tomorrow, even next week.

If someone recommends a good movie, I might say add an item to my Inbox to check it out, but it doesn’t have to be done by a specific date, so for me it just seems to get lost in a pile of other nicely sorted action items.

Hope this makes sense. Would appreciate any insights on how this kind of thing is best done.

Thanks very much.

— Robert


The general philosophy is that you’ll look at a given context and its available actions to decide what you can get done next.

So in this case, you might open the technology context when you know you can get work done with a Mac or iPad.

If you want the action to stand out, you could also flag it.


I find flagging a very useful tool - e.g. with the original examples I would flag the action to send the information to the accountant, but I wouldn’t flag the film to watch. Watching the film isn’t important - and when I want to watch one I’ll look at the relevant list, but I tend not to think “ooh, I know! Let’s check my finance project!”.

That said, for things like films I might want to watch I put these lists elsewhere as they’re not a task I need to complete - more of a someday/maybe.


Hi Robert
I have an hour set aside on my calendar each day to batch process minor tasks. In OmniFocus, I have a folder in my hierarchy where I put tasks that are appropriate to this calendar slot. So when the time arrives, I just open up the folder and clear all the tasks. Not an ideal solution for everyone, because you might want to group your task with other financial tasks in an appropriate folder. But I have found this approach simple and effective.
with best wishes


That makes sense — and also makes me want to rethink how I’ve arranged my contexts. Thanks for the reply. Much appreciated.

— Robert

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This is a great idea I’ll implement once we get multiple tags/contexts - just add a special tag for things to be done in this hour and I won’t have to change anything else. Thanks for the idea!

Yes, that’s a good point. Experimenting with the display options made clear to me that I can put due items OR flagged items at the top of my list when reviewing contexts. To be honest, before this. I never really understood the specific significance of flagged items.

Thanks very much for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.

— Robert

Interesting thought (particularly, as @rosemaryjayne says, with multiple tags in the future). Appreciate your response. Thanks very much.

— Robert

Great question, Robert. I’ve struggled with this sort of situation myself as my OmniFocus library currently holds close to 800 tasks spread across 70 different projects. In the past, I frequently found that I had correctly captured a task and filed it away for later processing, but then I would never actually see the task or complete it as it was buried. This led me to question the reliability of my system and perform lots of work out of my inbox, which was the wrong approach to take.

I eventually solved this problem by realizing the importance of reviews, be them semi-daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. In my case, I review almost all of the projects in both my work and personal life on a weekly basis. During each review (Monday mornings with a cup of hot cocoa), I get the chance to assess the state of every project individually and the tasks associated with them. I make sure that all of the tasks are still current, cleaning out anything that’s grown stale and adding new tasks that come to mind as I think about the project. Most importantly, each review gives me the chance to flag tasks that have become important since my last review as well as unflag tasks if they have lost importance. This review system ensures that all of my projects remain current and nothing is lost in the shuffle.

When the time comes to perform work, I can trust that all important tasks which should be worked on this week are flagged. This allows me to work down through the flagged tasks view executing the tasks which I am able to complete depending on my context. If I happen to complete all the flagged tasks which are available, that prompts me to perform a quick look through my active projects to flag another series of tasks to work on.

Due dates come into play as well. I too hate to assign a due date to a task which is not truly due on a specific day. Violating this rule makes it difficult to trust due dates and the system eventually breaks down. However, I still think it is valid to use a due date in many situations where the task is not actually due on that day. For example, in the case of getting information to my accountant, it may be reasonable to take a week or two to send that information over, but taking 3 weeks or longer would be rude as my accountant would begin wondering where the information is or might forget about the conversation that prompted the need for the information. In cases like these, I will set a due date according to my assessment of when it would become embarrassing to act on the task so late. When a task does have a due date, this makes it very easy to see the approaching due date during a review session and flag the task for action.

Another idea is a tickler file. While I don’t make much use of these myself, they can be handy. Ticklers are indicators which prompt you to check on a certain project or set of tasks in another location. Sundays are the day I clean my apartment, so I have a tickler on my calendar which prompts me to check my “Cleaning SAs” folder for all the tasks I entered during the week but didn’t consider important enough to flag. Another use case is for regular trips I take. I will create a new project for each new trip I take, but I also have a folder of single actions based on each location which collect ideas, locations to visit, items to bring, and other odds and ends. This means I will have a “Next Santa Barbara Trip” project in addition to a “Santa Barbara Spring 2018” project. When creating my Spring 2018 project, I will add a tickler action to check the Next Santa Barbara Trip project to see if there are any tasks I’d like to pull into the current trip.

Rereading David Allen’s Getting Things Done book was what made me realize the importance of reviews. Putting much more emphasis on performing complete, thorough reviews every week changed how I used OmniFocus and made me feel much more confident in my ability to rely on OmniFocus to get things done without forgetting about tasks or letting them rot in obscurity. I hope that you are able to find a solution that works for you so that your tasks no longer get lost or forgotten about. Good luck!


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The toolbar search field can also be an effective way to narrow things down if there are specific keywords you can refer to. I’ll add a hashtag phrase to an action note to make it distinct and searchable (like #important). The context or flagging options mentioned above are potential ways to go, and the multiple tags capability that we hope to roll out in OmniFocus 3 could also really help with this ( depending on the specific details of your own workflow.

I have also found that an “Added Available” perspective is very useful (all available action grouped/sorted by added date), with the experience that often, the last couple things I have added are the next things I will need to reference.


Terrific response, Charles. I, too, have succumbed to working out of my Inbox far too many times.

You’re right, of course, about the importance of the GTD review process and not surprisingly, I’ve repeatedly fallen down in that area. You can’t expect much from the system when you pick and choose to follow certain parts of it.

You’ve inspired me to I’m re-read my David Allen book this weekend and resolve to put the whole cycle into play again.

More generally, I’m blown away by the quality of the feedback I’ve gotten here. So many thoughtful responses from fellow Omni customers. There’s a really great community vibe here.

Anyhow, thanks again for your response.

— Robert


Yep, having my own hashtag hierarchy makes sense and I can definitely see how multiple contexts in OF3 could be a game changer. At the end of the day, though, I think I can begin to make a significant improvement in my system by utilizing flags, reviews, and scanning contexts more regularly.

Thanks for the response.

— Robert