How do you guys not get lost in the weeds with omnifocus?

I was wondering how you guys do this? I personally get lost in the weeds easily and it doesn’t help that Omni doesn’t have great integration with calendar or visual capabilities (e.g. fine grain color coding). Usually I used gtasks + calendar time blocks to allocate x amount of time to each project then populate that time later with tasks but this is more difficult since omni just displays time blocks as fixed size dots in the forecast.

Anyone got any ideas about this? Does omniplan work well for this sort of thing? I hear it uses gantt charts which sounds pretty cool.

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At the end of each week I plan out the next week blocking time for Deep and Shallow work.

I block time by Context/Tag e.g. I block out an hour for Shallow Work (simple tasks) open my Shallow Perspective and start at the top of the list completing them one by one until the hour is up. I wouldn’t add these to my calendar.

For deep work (more involved tasks requiring focus) I block a time period, e.g. 1 or 2 hours and allocate it to that specific task on my calendar.

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Interesting approach, do you schedule todos at specific times e.g. 3:45pm or just work off the day due times? Or do you just use the time block to identify what to work on then just start with the highest priority task?

By booking out a week at a time (I block 15 hours of my 40 work hours for Deep work and 5 hours for shallow work) and assigning specific deep work to specific times i can focus on my priorities.

The other 20 hours a week are left for meetings, short notice important work and also I can squeeze some extra deep work in from time to time.

E.g 8-10am every day is allocated to deep work. This is usually either 2 x 50 minute tasks or 1 x 1:50 task

I follow the same premise that @Geoffairey does…

I use OmniFocus as my 2nd brain where everything on my mind is offloaded into the database. Then I use a bullet journal with a page spread that contains my week.

At the end of the week

I have a perspective called “Menu” that contains all available tasks that I can do. Then I flag some tasks that are not due but pretty important to get done this week. After I flag and unplug tasks, I go to another perspective that I call “This Week”. This perspectives shows all my flagged tasks and any due tasks due within the next 7 days. All Due and Available tasks automatically show up in this perspective.

When I look at my “This Week” perspective, I can drag and drop tasks into Fantastical on the day I want to do it. Usually, I’ll drag it to the top of the day to create an “all day” event in Fantastical. If I am in the weekly view, I can drag and drop an OmniFocus task directly into a time block. I’ll have effectively scheduled tasks to be worked on that day.

At the end of the day

Every day, I look to see what I didn’t get done, and I’ll drag any undone tasks to tomorrow. Or I might just delete it from the calendar but it stays as available in OmniFocus. I look to tomorrow and drag-and-drop tasks into there to schedule tasks for tomorrow.

I can also drag an OmniFocus project to Fantastical if I intend to focus on a specific project.

I rarely work directly from OmniFocus when I am working. There’s just too much distraction.

Another method I use is to create a time block to batch similar tasks into a 30-90 minute time block. I might say 9 am is Admin time and I work directly from my @Admin perspective where I focus on admin tasks. Or I might be doing house work and I’ll switch to my @House perspective for @house tasks.

Every day is flexible for me. I don’t have complete control over what time is block because I work in customer relations. During slow periods, I can quickly pull up either a project or a context perspective (@house, @computer) to work on batched tasks.

I think it’s more about knowing which tasks I want to stay in for a certain time period. I don’t want to “explore” OmniFocus for the shiniest object to work on.

If I pre-pick my single tasks, batch tasks, or projects the day before, I stay focused and not get lost in the weeds.

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Collecting all your actions and having an overview, could be overwhelming. Especially working with the rich functionality of OmniFocus.

I personally do not want that OmniFocus syncs with calendar app. For me that is the wrong approach. Let me explain further:

One of the most demotiving problems for me was that because you are “on top of” all the actions by using OF or any other task application for that matter, I never was able to finish my task list. Every night feeling disappointed about what I did not do, in stead of enjoying all the accomplishments.

So I switched my approach to determine how much time I have left on my calendar (working time - meeting durations) and compare this with my “Today next action” list total durations time. I decide which task to defer from my “Today - next action” list and drag and drop the remaining tasks manually to a free slot on my calendar in Fantastical (nicely linking back to OF task). From that moment on the calendar is my planning for that day and it is realistic.

This is how it shows in Drafts 5 (running the Shortcut “time in flight”) with all the “Today - next actions” with duration time and link to OmniFocus presented:

… even made a widget for my iPhone and iPad with automation to run silent every night.
IMG_0273

Here you see a short video of the concept: https://youtu.be/2hp-rdZd3eY

One thing I forgot to mention is that I have to use Windows 🤮 at Work, so my OF use is purely in IOS

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I tend to use custom icons (link below) to make some perspectives stand out. Also emojis can be used in tag/project/task names but if you go nuts with it it looks awful.

Also, whatever scheme you use to structure your tasks, the ONE PERSPECTIVE that has to work for you is some kind of TODAY view that ONLY shows what you really have to do today. When everything gets too much, that’s where you go for safety. And if there’s more on it than you can achieve then be honest, prioritise and defer or drop. Everything else is secondary in the short term. Maybe do some planning when the fires are out.

For me my TODAY perspective shows me anything available and due today, tagged TODAY, or flagged - sorted by due. I fiddle with everything else but that’s sacred.

I also maintain a delineation between things I have to actually do and discretionary stuff like things I might want to consider, research etc. That eliminates quite a lot of chaff when planning your day, but you can dip into it if you have spare capacity.

I’ve also stolen some ideas from the Things app which enforces a simple view of your tasks with the views:

  • Today
  • Upcoming
  • Anytime
  • Someday

If you create perspectives where all of your tasks display in at least (and ideally only) one of these categories then it makes review and planning far simpler. I have a ton of other perspectives for different purposes - but these are the core.

I’ve also stopped using defer dates with times other than 00:00 so if something is deferred until today, I see it when I wake up. I used to think it was great to defer stuff until 6pm but I surprised myself once too often.

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Thank you for sharing your interesting set-up, @psidnell.

Do you make any distinction between those data markers ? Why do you include flagged items in your custom Today perspective?

Could you share the configuration of this perspective ?

I use flagged to represent what I’m doing next - which by definition is today. So I group by flagged and sort by due in my today perspective, it looks like this:

The actual perspective is quite simple:

Combinations of the TODAY tag, due, deferred and flagged have useful properties.

I have a lot of stuff tagged TODAY and deferred that pops into this view automatically when the defer date arrives.

This is how I deal with things that maybe have a future due date but need a few days/weeks lead time to deal with.

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Thank you, @psidnell !

When you are actually working, do you use your Today perspective ? As you currently can’t sort those items, I imagine there are some due, today and flagged ones interleaved in the screen. How do you deal with that problem ?

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I’ll see what I ought to be working on from the today view but then
I usually flip to working from the project view. You might have noticed that “Focus” perspective. I flag projects and tasks that represent what I’m working on now/next and usually work from that.

I mostly use the web and iOS versions of OmniFocus that don’t actually have focus mode - otherwise I’d probably use that. It gives me a view of, say, an entire project (if that’s what I flagged) with the ability to re-order/add/edit while I’m working.

This is my focus perspective:

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That’s a very nice perspective.

Focus mode on macOS isn’t able to filter only flagged tasks, is that right ? Using that OS, you still need your custom perspective to achieve that goal; unless I’m missing something.

Yes, I’m flagging things and using this focus perspective as an alternative to selecting them and using focus mode.

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Thank you for sharing your insight into this, @psidnell ! I appreciate it.

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