General use for OF?


#1

I just downloaded the trial version to see what it does and how I can use.

Am I correct in understanding it is mainly a much more capable ToDo list with lots of viewing options?


#2

You can think of it as a “todo” system, but if you do that you’ll be limiting yourself to that idea. It’s much more about higher level projects and building things together that make sense. If you have an insurmountable task like “move into a new apartment,” you can break that down into actionable steps that can take place at different times and show you what you need to do when. A great example of how to leverage this is to use custom perspectives to hide tasks that aren’t relevant right now. For example, if you need someone else around to do them, you can hide those tasks away with perspectives and tags.

I personally divide my tasks between “work” and “non-work” tasks, and use perspectives to hide what’s not relevant to me based on what I’m doing. It really doesn’t help me to know I need to renew my insurance when I’m at work focusing on some big project. That’s why OmniFocus is powerful.

Compared to something like a basic todos app or reminders app, you at most usually have several lists of tasks, but no way to group related things together on a more “this is a temporary project” basis.


#3

Okay. Thanks. I will ttry it with a project I’m currently doing.

Is there a way to add something like a sub-project set of items? For instance, when this new thing happens, then I need to add all these following steps again?

For simplicity, each time I get a new horse I need to take the following steps with them in a special order. However, I don’t know when I will get a new horse (we really don’t need any more right now!) but the steps and their order is important.


#4

Hat’s off to shank for answering the question, but I think he understates the power of OF.

Moving into a new apartment is a big task, but most people can do that in a month, starting with finding a new apartment.

Pick something bigger, something that might take a year or even longer.

Say you want to compete in the big Ironman on the Big Island, record some music and sell it, write a book, finish your college degree, get a coding job at Google, whatever. With OmniFocus, your goal becomes your project.

You then brainstorm on the different steps that you THINK you’ll need to take to get accomplish your goal. Those become tasks. There are many different ways to deal with how you keep track of your tasks, but I follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and just assign due dates. I move due dates pretty frequently (OF users tend to be big on a weekly review of all projects and tasks – it doesn’t take long). If a task with a low priority doesn’t get done after a while, it’s time for me to consider why I’m not getting it done. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s another person, sometimes it’s not important and I delete the task. After a while, I learned that not finishing a task isn’t necessarily a personal failure.

When I review my tasks, I frequently find that I originally oversimplified the project or didn’t foresee certain issues and add new tasks. No problem. I just add the tasks and move on.

Another beauty of OF is that I can create “templates” for certain projects that repeat themselves, particularly work projects. In that case, I just use the template, copy it, and change the name and add new dates. I then add unique tasks for the new project and I’m good to go.

With OF, your imagination is the only limitation. It’s made me more organized, and a lot less anxious. It’s the only “task management” system that I’ve even found workable for more than a year.


#5

So is your Template just an empty project? And can such a template be added to an existing project as a separate set of things to complete?


#6

Can you provide a little more detail on this please? What does the due date signify? Do you use start dates at all?


#7

I don’t bother with start dates in OmniFocus (OF) because it does not have a GANTT chart function (you can look up GANNT charts on google). If you want a GANTT chart function, then you can use OmniPlan. On some projects I use both OF and OmniPlan, but I still don’t use the start dates in OF.

Instead of start dates, I use two tools and techniques. First, I break big tasks down into smaller and smaller discrete tasks and, to the extent possible, arrange them linearly. THIS IS NOT A ONE-TIME TASK. I will often find that I make changes when reviewing OF first thing in the morning or during my weekly review.

For instance, if big task A can be broke into smaller tasks A1, A2, A3 and A4, then I add A1, A2, A3, and A4 to OF and delete A as a task.

With respect to “linearity,” if I have to do A1 before I can do A2, and A2 before I can do A3, but A4 is independent of A1 A2, and A3, then I assign due dates for A3 and A4 when task A was originally due. I then work back from the due date for A3 to give myself time to complete A2 and A1.

For instance, I want to hammer two pieces of wood together. I have the wood, I have a friend who has the hammer, but I don’t have the nails. A=hammer two pieces of wood together. A1=buy the nails, A2=borrower the hammer, A3=nail the two pieces of wood together, A4=return the hammer.

The key here is to be as specific as you (not me or anyone else) needs to be. I find that being very discrete leads to me being very creative and very productive. I use the word creative without hesitation. I see connections and possibilities that I would not otherwise see without drilling down into what exactly I am doing and why I am doing it. There can be art in, of, and from the process.

I add alerts to tasks at whatever level of the project I think is necessary to help me keep on track or to re-evaluate my deadlines and progress and to advise my clients.

As I said before, OF lets me do things that other systems, from paper planners to ToDoist and virtually every other app that has been created in the last 10 years, doesn’t. OF works.

The other thing is, OF lets me put it down for a few days or even weeks (trial or vacation) and I can get everything back to where I am comfortable in about a week. It’s easier than reviewing and responding to all the email that accumulates.


#8

Yes: I have a Project labelled Templates. In this project, I have the various templates that I have created and use.

When I use a template, I copy the template to an active project. The template has a whole set of actions to be completed. All I have to do is add the project name and the due dates and the time estimates in the tasks. (I tend not to use a lot of the other fields, such as flags, priorities, etc.)


#9

Interesting. Are these tasks set as parallel in their project? This seems to go against the design of OF but I can see the benefits. Seeing only a single next action on a list can sometimes be limiting as it hides the bigger picture.

Do you work exclusively from the Projects and/or Forecast perspectives?


#10

Pretty much.

As I said earlier or in other fora, I have tried many other task/project management systems. Mine is not perfect, but it works for me. I have found that I can spend way too much time down the rabbit hole working on the system rather than actually getting things done. Thus, I like to keep things pretty simple in how I use OF.

While I dive deeply into breaking tasks into smaller and smaller tasks (if a task is an all day or longer task, it needs to be broken down into smaller tasks), I personally don’t get any benefit from using Tags as a cue for locations (which a lot of people do). In other words, I like to use OF to create tasks that can be cut-and-pasted into a typical calendar view of a day (David Sparks, of Mac Sparky and Mac Power Users fame, refers to this as “chunking” his time). I don’t do that, but to each his or her own.

I do use the Tags, Estimated Duration, Repeat, Alert, and Note functions in OF, but not for high level project or task management. (If it weren’t for the Repeat function, the plants in my office would have died from lack of regular watering a long time ago.)


#11

I will give that a try. Thanks!


#12

Just give me a shout if you run into a problem. It’s really not as hard as it seems.


#13

True. Made my purchase and started to set things up. Now that I am using for a real project, it’s not that weird.

Figured out how to do Sequential and Parellel items (important some times). Made a couple templates for the big items in a Template Folder (thank you!)


#14

Curious how you use tags, if willing to share. Your system sounds more project-based. I use both but sometimes wonder if I’m spending too much time entering metadata.


#15

Tip: read this

And you’ll know