Fully Defining a Project in Omnifocus?

Hi All,

I apologize if this has been covered. I did a lot of searching and looking for answers before posting, but have not been specifically able to find what I am looking for. So, I am posting here.

I have been using a GTD system for quite awhile through different means. I am very happy with my current system, but I came across OF and am giving it a trial run.

One thing I am struggling with is that a “project” in OF is simply a list of tasks. In David Allen’s GTD book, he lists 5 steps of a project. 1) Purpose/Principles 2) Vision Outcome 3) Brainstorming 4) Organizing 5 ) Next Actions

Granted, a simple project like “Change Jeep Oil” might require a lot of outcome visioning or brainstorming, but some things do. Some things take quite a bit of brainstorming, notes, and capturing of other materials.

It seems to me that OF jumps straight to Step 4. In my current system that I use, I capture all the stuff from 1, 2 and 3, and then start organizing, and everything is contained together as a “Project.” All notes, thoughts, etc.

I am curious how others either use OF to capture that stuff, or another program to link the things together, or if you have some totally different?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


You might be interested in The Omni Group’s own view of how GTD is meant to be implemented with Omnifocus:
OmniFocus, GTD,and You

In my case, I’m happy to simply use Omnifocus for structuring lots of different tasks and getting them done, but I have many small tasks to do rather than some big projects.

I only have the lates GTD book by David Allen (2015). But in that it appears to me that the steps are more perspectives (not to be confused with OmniFocus perspectives) of how to plan and review projects.
One of OmniFocus’ really strong assets is the Review functionality where you will do your review of projects and actions. It is true that it doesn’t offer you any tools or reminders on remembering the 3 first steps/perspectives. But at least OmniFocus is way better than other task managers (also the ones following the GTD methodology in various degrees of strictness).

I am really curious about what your current system is?

Kr, Max


I wasn’t looking for any tools to act as reminders for the first 3 steps in David Allen’s method of defining of project. I was just looking for ideas on if anyone integrates those things (notes, scans, webpages) into OF.

I am not sure you want to know what my current system is! :)

It is very geeky, but very effective. I use Emacs with OrgMode with a lot of customizations. It works on all platforms (I am forced to use a Windows machine at work, although I can bring my Mac).

I have different folders setup on my hard drive like you would setup contexts in OF. I have the agenda files setup so they scan everywhere I do work. I can work in a specific project file, or I can work in a general notes file, and Agenda will pick up task no matter where it is at. That is what makes Emacs really powerful. I then have different sets of custom agenda commands to pick through stuff as I want to separate it. Basically, you can slice and dice the task data any way you want.

It also allows scheduling, deadlines, timestamps, tagging, and all sorts of good stuff to add functionality.

I typical “Project” file for me would contain the Project name, description, desired outcome, Next Actions, thoughts that have not been flushed out into actions yet, links to webpages, links to documents, photos or PDFs, etc. When I work on a project it is a “one stop shop” place to go an work on it. Most import is taking notes along the way for long and complicated projects that I will need information on what I did 6 weeks ago :)

The other cool thing is that if I want to share my “project status” with someone else, with a couple keys I can generate a nicely formatted html document with a table of contents and links.

I also have it setup to sync my files so they are available on my work windows machine, mac laptop, iPad and iPhone.

Probably more than you wanted to know :)

Wow, it sounds REALLY cool - but also something that has to be seen in real :)
I suppose all of it could be done in OF - but probably not without using an array of AppleScripts.

Thank you for describing your system so thoroughly :)

I would offer a few comments from my experience.

  • Omnifocus is a great tool to organize the tasks that make up a project and to keep you focused on completing those tasks in a proper GTD approach. Omnifocus is a poor tool to handle the meta content and brainstorming that goes with a project, especially at the extensive level that you outline.
  • You have a system that works. Continue with it.

FWIW, I use the Finder and an application called Curio to manage the meta content of a project and to brainstorm a project. I know that some folks around here swear by Devonthink to manage the meta content and by mind-mapping apps to brainstorm. In any case, the sense you should have from my example is that many folks have developed a comfortable work process using Omnifocus AND other tools rather than just trying to force everything they need in to Omnifocus.

Also FWIW, I have recently gotten in the habit of putting statements of need, objective, and outcome (or an equivalent) in the notes field of the project. An example might be …

Paint the House (Project)
problem: the paint on the house is peeling
objective: re-paint the house
outcome: no more worries about the house falling apart

At least the level of the project that is for you the description and the desired outcomes could be mapped in a similar way.