Details of OmniFocus 3 have been revealed at last and the plans for the new version are amazing. The ability to associate multiple tags with a given task item is huge, as well as the ability of reorder items in a list of tags.
The ability to reorder tasks means something else: We’ll be able to use the Estimated Duration field the way it was intended, rather than as a proxy for a customized sort order.
That brings me to the functionality for which I am still lobbying: The ability to view Estimated Duration and Estimated Duration totals in an easy way.
Something like this (click graphic to see full-size image):
Since Estimated Duration is already a field in the database, and there is already the function to count the number of task items in a list, this would seem mostly a matter of design. But the potential boost in productivity could be enormous.
Example 1 (Location):
Let’s say you have a location tag of “Twin Pines Mall.” In this scenario, you’re there on your lunch hour, so you have sixty minutes to complete tasks. Let’s also assume all task items are of equal importance.
OmniFocus 2: You would arrive at the location and see a list of items to complete. You might start on the first task item, which will take about 45 minutes, taking up most of your lunch hour.
OmniFocus 3 (where Est. Dur. is displayed): You would arrive at the location and see a list of six items, but at the top of the list the summary displays a total duration of 1 hour and 45 minutes. So, instantly you know that you don’t have time to accomplish everything in your list; you’ll have to prioritize. Because each task item displays the associated Estimated Duration, you can see the first item on the list will take about 45 minutes, while the remainder of the items are 5 min., 10 min., 10 min., 15 min., 20 min. Instead of doing the first item on the list, you can do everything else and leave the 45-minute item for another day.
Example 2 (Tag):
You have a Today tag that is segmented in to time slots: Morning, Lunch, Afternoon, Evening.
OmniFocus 2: You would create tasks and drag them into the time slot in which you would like to accomplish them and hope for the best.
OmniFocus 3 (where Est. Dur. is displayed): Since you see a summary of Estimated Duration at each tag level, you immediately see that your task totals for Today equal 28 hours. Okay. You’ve over planned. So, you move several tasks out to have a more reasonable list. The new total duration is 8 hours now. You arrange them into their time slots and see you have 3 hours in the Morning tag, 3 hours in the Lunch tag, 1 hour in the Afternoon tag, and 1 hour in the Evening tag. All at once you know you’ve over planned your morning and lunch and under planned your afternoon and evening, so you rearrange task items accordingly.
Example 3 (Project):
You have a folder in Projects labeled “Yard”. You have a bunch of weekend projects with multiple task items beneath them. The upcoming Saturday morning you can devote to one of these projects.
OmniFocus 2: You can manually add up the Estimated Duration for each task, but most likely you’ll guess at how long each project will take.
OmniFocus 3 (where Est. Dur. is displayed): At the project level, you see a summary of Estimated Duration. You have four projects which will take 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, and 7 hours, respectively. Since you know you’ll have about four hours to work on the yard, you know you’ll be able to finish one of the first two projects in the given timeframe.
So much planning potential in this one, underutilized field!