New OmniFocus Setup Ideas

How we all doing?

I’ve just started a new job and I’m looking for some guidance on how I should set up my OF structure. I’m also fairly new to this productivity game so I’m open to ideas. My current setup is based on Tim Stringer’s stuff over at learn omnifocus and my structure is built around my areas of focus/20,000 ft level. However, my work has changed quite a bit in nature with the new job so I’m looking for help with the following:

  1. Essentially I’m a software developer but I’ve now joined a consultancy and have work and projects for different clients. This could be development work, support etc. I’ve created a sub-folder under Work named ‘Clients and Prospects’ and have started creating sub-sub-folders for each client/prospect as I start work for them in which I’ll create projects as they come along. This makes sense in my head but I’d value the opinions of people more experienced than me on taking this approach. Bear in mind the list of clients could become very long!!

  2. As mentioned I’m a developer and so I’m also looking for advice on how much I should break down my tasks in projects. I get the idea of the GTD weekly review is to break down your work into widgets that you can crank (at least that’s my interpretation) so that the rest of the week, you just crank them and I’m on board with that. However, many of my tasks could take me days or longer to complete such as developing a particular piece of functionality. Am I not breaking my tasks down enough or do other developers find this? I don’t want to make each development project hideously complicated with many nested levels but I’d be very interested to hear how other developers who practise GTD break down their work into tasks and any OF workflows you use. Particularly if your work for a consultancy.

Looking forward to hearing what you lovely people come back with.


I frequently have the same problem. I develop web applications so often it feels like a task would be “make x page” or “make Y part of the API”, but after some work I’ve found I can break this down more - I have the function design, look design, structure creation, etc. That said every area of development is unique, and I know that some things can’t really be broken down! I’ve been working on one task for two days now ;) Honestly the bugs make it on to my lists in much more of a widget cranking way than development though.

Thanks Jane,

Great to know I’m not the only one with that problem and yeah I totally get that about putting service ticket items to fix stuff seems easier than putting big development projects in to OF. I’d love to hear the views and experiences of other developers or coders out there too.

Always remember that the objective here is to get stuff done and to get it off your mind, not to play around with lists. Your setup should be whatever it needs to be to best assist you in getting stuff done, and the “best” setup depends entirely on the nature of your work day and the way you manage your work. It usually takes a lot of experimentation to find the right setup for your particular circumstances, and if you change jobs, you’ll usually need to experiment again.

For example, to develop your new piece of functionality, what needs to happen for it to get finished? What is stopping you? Do you need to speak to someone about something? Do you have to go out and read the documentation for an API that’s not very familiar to you? Do you have to set a meeting with the client to get them to sign off on the final product? If you sit down and think about what the very next thing you have to do, the next actions should make themselves clear.

If, on the other hand, there is literally nothing you have to do except sit down by yourself for a few afternoons and just develop it, and you’re not worried about time pressure, and you’re not missing anything, you just need to spend time, then block that time off in your calendar so nobody else does, and don’t worry about putting it on your lists at all, just work on it during those times. In such cases, if I have a project in OmniFocus for it, it’s not unknown for me to just put “Waiting for me to finish…” as the next action, because all I have to do is just sit down and work on it, and the project itself reminds me that it’s out there. You needn’t feel any obligation to break down tasks into minute detail if it doesn’t help you to either get things done or to get them off your mind. Your lists should be serving you, not the other way round.

It’s the same with your folder structure. Complexity has a cost, and you have to make a judgment as to whether the benefit from that complexity exceeds the cost. Do you have so many projects that you can’t keep track of them if you don’t sort them into so many folders? Do you get any utility during review from seeing them associated with their clients in this way? If you don’t have any problem staying on top of everything with just one “Clients and prospects” folder, then just have one folder. As a general rule, start simple, and add complexity as it becomes clear that you need it. If you don’t need it, don’t worry about it.

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