How can you get a Forecast view that makes sense with all those subtasks?

Okay I’m writing this post as a last resort ; after several months of trying to fit my workflow into OF3, I guess I’m gonna have to keep searching for another software. OF3 is a nice software but several “software design” features collide with my workflow and I guess I’m reaching the end of it.

After all this time, I still can’t figure out how can I have a Forecast view that makes sense. I’m using OF3 to manage the tasks related to my PhD, which are of varied complexity. So sometimes they fit better as projects, sometimes as actions, and sometimes those actions have children.

But without an option to HIDE CHILDREN from my (custom) Forecast perspective there’s no way in the world I can have a view that makes sense. I have actions that have tens of children. How can I make sense of that in the Forecast view? How can I make sense of a long list of small individual child tasks and get a bird’s eye view out of that? This is complete nonsense. I don’t know any other task manager that isn’t able to filter children tasks ; actually this is usually the opposite: they only show parent tasks, and not children.

This has been discussed at length in this forum, i.e., either preventing children from inheriting their action’s due date or adding an option to hide children from a perspective—for years—and OF doesn’t care about any of that. Why not give the users the flexibility to choose?

And please spare me the “it’s working as intended” or “this works fine with my workflow”, this isn’t the point of this post. Also, I won’t begin to tag every action manually each and every time to filter them in the perspective, the software should be able to handle that, this is so simple!

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I personally do not use the forecast view all that much as I found a custom perspective works better for my needs and gives me more control over what I want to see. Are you on the basic or pro subscription? Custom perspectives help A LOT.

Are you using projects? I think that is what you are missing here. If you setup a sequential project and nest the actions under them you can make it sequential. That gives you the ability to hide all of them except the Next Action at the top of the list.

Also, are you familiar with the GTD (Getting Things Done) system? OF is built on that and although technically you dont have to follow it to use OF I think it makes it A LOT simpler.

Thanks for the reply @ivanjay205 ; I actually bought the pro version for that very reason—having custom perspectives, I agree they help a lot.

The problem here is that not all my tasks that have due dates are projects. I can’t imagine having a project for a single “call somebody back about XYZ” ; and I have a ton of such actions. Also, I have actions, inside a project, that might have different due dates (e.g., make a hotel reservation before going to a conference, etc.). And I absolutely need a Forecast perspective when planning my week as I can’t just have a long list of actions to go over each time I want to know what I’ll need to do this week!

I’m also familiar with GTD, been using that for 20 years. I can’t imagine not having the granularity of excluding children actions in OF when implementing such a system, even much simpler task managers such as Todoist have that option!

I do think you are misunderstand the implementation of gtd a bit. You use contexts (tags) to filter. You want to minimize the use of due dates except to actions that truly have a big consequence if you miss the date.

I create a single action project under each of my folders which represent my area of focus in OF.

After that I use custom perspectives. I have three groups of perspectives for time. Any tasks 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or 30 minutes. So If I am on a time restraint I can check things off still.

I have a perspective for each of area of focus. So if I want to work on my business finance I go to that perspective and see the handful of next actions for that Area of Focus.

I also have context based perspectives. One for errands, another calls, one for home, and for office. Also an anywhere one. Do the errands filters all things zi need to buy if I am out and about shopping. Before I get in the car I view my calls area of focus so I can make phone calls in the car. Etc… i have one for recurring so I can see my routines in one view.

I have about 400 actions and these filters always get me down to a handful at anytime.

I made a custom perspective for focus. I use that instead of forecast. It shows me any client related stuff at work, anything due today, anything marked urgent, or any bugs in a work program I maintain so I can hit those quickly. Also my routines show in there.

OF is really really powerful. You need to ask yourself what do ai need to see when and it can do it.

As to your examples… the phone call can be in a single action project under an area of focus. Does it really have a firm due date? What happens if you dont do it by that date?

On the travel one that is a parallel project. You can assign different due dates to the actions which might be:

  1. Book hotel
  2. Book air travel
  3. Book rental car c

Etc… they can be done in any order and all have the same due date. You can even group them and make them parallel under a sequential project if there are non booking related things.

This is a possibility. And while I do appreciate your detailed answer (I’m being honest here, no sarcasm) and will read it again today when I get a minute—I’m always looking for ways to improve my workflow of course—you are answering a different question. Does my workflow differs from the GTD methodology? Possible. Is the workflow I’ve developed over the years the one that is optimal for me? I guess (and hope!) so. Finally, if I conclude that my workflow is optimal the way it is, will I change it because it doesn’t totally comply in every minute detail with the GTD methodology or because the software I use doesn’t allow me to work that way? Absolutely not.

I know OF3 is really powerful, which is why I’m quite surprised that I can’t figure out a way to have tasks, without children showing, sorted in such a basic perspective as a Forecast. Maybe you don’t use it, but the Forecast perspective is still one of the built in ones so I’m guessing I’m not the only one to find it useful. And as I said, many other task management products—which are way inferior in other respects—allow the user to filter children tasks.

Maybe we’re working differently and you don’t need the Forecast perspective, but when I work I need to know e.g. what tasks will I have to prioritize for this week so I don’t over book my week, or quickly see if I have some big project due in 2-3 weeks that I need to already start thinking about. My workflow is complex as I have sometimes small tasks with both start dates and due dates that I absolutely need to get done at a specific time, small projects with a handful of tasks or bigger ones with several tasks/children—but there’s nothing in that complexity that wouldn’t be solved by having a filter as simple as “is that task a children”. This is basic, really really basic filtering!

When you say you tasks without children to show… Are you saying a project list? Or a parent task? The reason I am perplexed is you can set the projects as sequential and the forecast would show the top most next action.

You are kind of losing me on what you are trying to accomplish. Maybe give me a more specific example?

simple example:

let’s say I have to prepare a conference, I might have a “conference X” project, then a “rent car” action inside it with a due date, and sub-actions “search for car rental”, “call dealer”, etc.

I have dozens of such tasks in OF, so when going into the Forecast perspective, I only need to see that I have to “rent [a] car” for some due date, and not each and every sub-action. But sub-actions inherit the parent action’s due date, so they all appear in the Forecast view, without having any way to hide them.

It’s all a matter of granularity: if I’m planning my day maybe it’s fine to have a perspective with each sub-action. But if I’m thinking about my week (or the next month), I want to zoom out on my tasks and be able to ignore all the subtasks beneath them. I can’t find a way to achieve this with OF3 unfortunately.

One suggestion is to create an action group called something like “Rent a Car” and add a “Rent a Car” action to the group with the due date for the entire action group. This way, this milestone will appear in the Forecast perspective without showing everything in the action group.

I gave “Rent a Car” a tag of " 🏁 Group" so that it’s clear that this action represents a group of actions.

When viewing this “Rent a Car” action in the Forecast perspective, you could easily see this action within the project/action group by choosing View > Show in Project (⌥⌘R) on the Mac and Go To Project (via a long press) on the iPhone and iPad.

When it makes sense, you could have the action group automatically complete when all of its actions are complete. For example, the “Rent a Car” action group could be set to complete automatically when its three actions are done, saving you the extra step of manually marking the action group complete.

It’s not perfect, but it should get the job done.

I hope this helps!

p.s. If you wanted to get fancy, you could link the “Rent a Car” action to the “Rent a Car” action group, though switching to the project is probably just as convenient, especially if it’s a relatively small group.

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I’ve considered this, and also tagging all my actions (or children) to be able to filter them out from the Forecast perspective. Both solutions would work, and both have downsides. Specifically, for the one you suggested involving a children, it implies action duplication and the inability to see the due dates for the parent actions in all the other perspectives. For example, I’d want to see the due date for actions in Forecast, but also in a perspective I’ve called “Next Actions” where I include (through flags or date filters) everything that has to be done right now. Without expanding all the actions, I can’t see any due date in there.

The other solution, that of tagging every children to exclude them from the Forecast perspective, just involves too much additional work for me, and is error prone (tagging parent tasks would mean I’d miss their due dates), which is not a long term solution.

Thanks for the reply though, appreciate it.

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There is indeed no built-in solution to ‘hide’ the child actions which represent the detail tasks from Forecast or other perspectives.

As @timstringer shows, the way to prevent the detail tasks from appearing in Forecast when they have a deadline is to create a separate action which represents the group, and to give only that one the due date.

I’m not sure I follow here. The separate action which represents the deadline is ‘available’ and will appear in other perspectives.

There are a few possible variations on this technique.

  • Tim’s example is ideal when you can perform some of the detail tasks in advance, independently of the others: being available, they’ll show up in perspectives.
  • If the detail tasks need to be performed in order, but you can start the process at any time, make the ‘Rent a car’ action group sequential. The action carrying the due date will be unavailable but will still appear in Forecast.
  • If the process is quite specific and you need to decide when to start it, you can use the ‘Pack for trip 2’ structure I suggested here: Show tasks with sub-tasks. When you mark as complete the ‘start’ action, all the detail tasks become available — if they have the Forecast tag or are flagged, they would then all appear in your Forecast or ‘Next’ perspectives without needing to navigate elsewhere, but only after you decide to start the process.
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Besides all these well thought workarounds, I would agree with you in that Omnigroup has never found the time to improve the half-baked action groups functionality, which is really the main drag I find when using it for my not too fancy daily routines. I’ve asked for it several times in this forum too. To me, action groups should have the full project functionality and the ability to be managed in the custom perspectives. I always have to go back to the standard projects view to make sense of the action groups. Only there I can collapse/expand the sub-actions with a click and see the overall picture.

These forums allow Omni users to communicate with each other but are not the place to make requests.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to email this request to the Omni Group. You can contact them by choosing Contact Omni from the Help menu (Mac) and Settings (iPhone & iPad).

Interesting conversation and I find it helpful to see how others are leveraging the Forecast view. I have a question that is similar so I thought I’d add it here instead of asking a new topic.

I have a few repeating Projects that have a certain due date, say October 31st. In this case, October 31 would be the drop dear due date for the project. I’d like to make the due dates of some of the actions 7 or 14 days prior to the due date, so “10/31/2022 minus 14”. Is something like this possible? It looks like I can set a specific due date but I can’t base it on the Project due date.

Thanks in advance.

Patrick

I think I may have found a workaround to my problem which addresses the downsides I mentioned previously. Basically, using a tag to filter the children out would be 1) additional work every time I add a task (not desirable) and 2) error prone (if I forget a task, it won’t show up in Forecast, defeating the purpose of having such a view).

Those two problems could be solved by using an automation script that adds the tag automatically to every task that has a due date. Never used this feature (only been using OF for a couple months) and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to distinguish between due dates set by me and the inherited due dates of sub-tasks, but still worth a try.

I’ll update this post if I’m able to implement this solution.

OF does this automatically. When a new occurrence of a project or action group is created, the relative dates of all the children are the same as in the previous occurrence.

Certainly in the example given I do not know why you would need the sub tasks in the first place. To me this is a case of a task with notes to remind you of the steps needed.

If these action groups are something you do regularly then move the sub tasks to an external app like Omnioutliner or Drafts as they are reflex actions you may only need to double check for peace of mind rather than concrete important tasks.

All you need them is a link to the file in the notes field and check it if your not confident

Clogging any task manager with what becomes habitual or common sense is a sure fire way to create a system that will fail to be trusted

I’ve thought about that, but let’s say I have task T with sub-tasks A, B and C. I might complete A on Monday, B and C later in the week. Having a task manager that supports sub-tasks and not using them for that purpose clearly… defeats the purpose of having a task manager in the first place IMO. Shouldn’t be needing an external app to cope with OF’s inability to filter them out.

As I said in the example “rent car” surely you know this involves tasks such as “call dealer”. Things like these do not IMO require a task manger just common sense. If you rent a car regularly (or do anything regularly for that matter) it’s more a case of requiring prompts rather than granular “sub tasks” and these are better (agin IMO) held in task notes or an external checklist somewhere.

in your example above of needing to do the sub tasks on different days then just set the parent task to repeat daily ie you do one bit one day and come back fresh the next day. If your using notes rather than subtasks the repeat is not an issue.

The only foolproof way otherwise would be to expand the main project to a folder for example > work > July conference > and then create small projects for pack bags, rent car etc and make them sequential that would allow you to put some projects on hold and only show some next actions. Folders like projects can be disposable use them when you need remove them when you don’t.

I actually found Forecast pretty useless preferring a daily dashboard filtered as I needed it. I did each evening though check forecast to see if anything was missed.

There really is no right way, there are always features people want or hate and want changed in any software, the trick is to use it as is or move on. not bemoan its shortcomings, makes for a simpler life

The ‘rent a car’ example given was obviously a very simple process to explain the proposed structure without obfuscation. There have been ample cases of people explaining that they have quite complex processes (where the sub-tasks might have different due times during the day, or their own tags, or many other variations), right up to mission-critical industrial processes. They all have in common that using the rich functionality of sub-actions is relevant, and they don’t want all the detail to appear in advance of kicking off an occurrence.

Yes I know that I was trying to point out there are ways round it even up to (in my case) sometimes action groups were more important to me than the forecast view so I dropped my daily use of the forecast in favour of a custom perspective