Omnifocus and Coronavisus (COVID-19)

Good evening, I am a doctor who has been using Omnifocus in the profession for several years.
I am the Health Director of the cremona hospital which is currently fighting a tough battle against the coronavirus epidemic.
I have abandoned the use of omnifocus!
While perhaps it would have been very useful, but the frenzy of these days has distracted me from its use.
I have a question: what can be an effective use of omnifocus in distressing situations and where you need to make quick decisions and act quickly.
Thank you


I’ve never faced a situation anywhere near as difficult as yours at the moment. When I’ve been in stressful situations, I try to simplify my mental load as much as possible. In OmniFocus I would:

  • Put as many non-urgent OF projects as possible on hold, so that their actions are not available.
  • Create a small number of projects, or restructure the existing urgent projects. Increasing the clarity and flow of tasks through your system is more important than having everything structured in a detailed way. A small number of task “buckets”, represented by the OF projects, is easier to think about.
  • Create a shortlist of tasks, a small enough list that it is not overwhelming for you. I would use the flag in OF for this since it is really easy to turn on/off on actions.

I read the article about your work on to try to understand better what you are facing. You could perhaps create checklists in the form of projects, which you can then copy/paste as needed, for example to “Open a new ward”. If appropriate, represent the actions which you need to do in order as sequential action groups or projects — that way you can flag a whole branch in one click and only the current relevant action will appear in your shortlist (Flagged perspective).

OF is a great tool for personal productivity, but if you need to work with colleagues to manage the daily flow, you could also consider a simple collaborative tool like Trello (shared visual boards), which you can display on a screen in a central place at the hospital.


I use OmniFocus to park all the stuff that needs to be recorded and kept tabs of. Then I get back to the crazy, frenetic emergency that grips my day. Whenever I have time away from the madness, I’ll update things that may have changed from each project or single actions lists. But most projects are placed on indefinite hold.

I do try to keep up a daily review at the end of the day (if I’m not exhausted) or at the beginning of the day before I enter the madness.

I do the review to make sure I can keep tabs on other things. As OmniFocus due dates/reminders approach, I put them on a short list inside my A5 Bullet Journal I carry around. Putting everything else on hold and I can work on the short list while I handle the daily flood of input from my current situation.

When Life does return to normal (yes, it will! 😅) then I can start back on what I had placed on hold.

For the madness that will ensue, My A5 Bullet Journal holds all of the day’s tasks and emergencies. Any tasks that can be put on hold, I can just enter it into OmniFocus for me to look at later. The BuJo becomes my daily driver and capture tool. OmniFocus is used to keep tabs on everything else that’s on hold.

Good luck with the fight against COVID-19. I appreciate your hard work.


In firestorms, we don’t try to find the plans we made telling us the best way to leave the house. We leave the house.

The best use of OmniFocus in this case is likely as you have done. Put it aside and do the work to put out and control the firestorms in front of you.

This too will pass. At that point later, the question you will have will be how to recover from a period when you have put aside OmniFocus. That is worth its own discussion.

Otherwise, your service on the front lines is greatly appreciated!!!



Dear omnifocus friends, thank you!
I just got home after another hard day at work.
Perhaps the worst so far.
I was pleased and distracted to read your considerations.
But I must confess that omnisfocus at the moment seems to me very far, almost surreal.
I run the hospital that currently has the highest number of COVID patients, every now and then I try to use Omnifocus but I am distracted by phone calls, emails, requests for help, drugs, etc. Etc …
Thank you my friends for getting me distracted by COVID problems.
Sorry for bad english, I use google translator
Thanks thanks thanks


I will add my thanks to the pile, for your hard work.

Sometimes when I’m in a hurry or otherwise frazzled, I’ll just stuff my inbox via Reminders app (either typing or Siri). If one of these has a due date I can assign it when dictating the reminder and it’ll show up in OF custom perspectives that pick up on due dates. They won’t have projects or tags, but they quickly become part of my action lists, and I can clear out the inbox whenever I do get the chance.

In a real emergency I imagine I’d just live out of the inbox, which would essentially be like using a napkin to scrawl notes. Better than nothing, but I certainly wouldn’t want to break the flow of the emergency response beyond just tossing things over my shoulder into the inbox.

But I do not presume to have a real clue about what your workflow must be like right now.

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Totaly agree :-)
I work as investigator in criminal police. When I have normal work I use OF x-times a day.
When we have a realization of difficult case (many phonecalls, personal meetings, organizational stuff, interrogations etc.), I use it only for items gettin in Inbox (only as notes, and if its a little time - I add due date(time)). After some days, when I have some more time, I am going back and do reviews… Everytime I find a lot of items, those I could forgot, if I didnt write it to OF.
Sometimes I cant sleep a few nights and days, and than my brain is not able to remember a lot of this stuff.

It’s not about fiddling game in OF in your situation. Its only important to do what is important and make some little notes about really important think (that could be important in hour (day, week etc.)) and you have no time to think about them now.

Finally, RCanino , thnx for your work, you have all our respect. Hold out…
(sorry my English too)


Dr. Canino,

I am an American courtroom lawyer. Certainly not as stressful as what you are doing, but I understand what you are doing. When I am in the middle of a multi-day courtroom presentation, OF is the last thing that I want to work on. So I set it aside.

One thing that I have thought of but haven’t tried is creating a temporary task for everything other than the trial/hearing and dump them in there, “demote” the items so that they don’t show up in Forecast (which is my default view), during the “crisis.” Then I can use OF as I normally do.

Regardless, the beauty and strength of OF is that EVERTHING is still there when I pick it back up after a few days or a week or two.

So, breath, relax, and rest assured that you’re not alone.


This is where your mindset plays a part. The way I use OF is only when I need to choose something to do.

When tasks come to me (e.g. BCP situations, crisis management) I revert to paper and manage that situation completely outside OmniFocus. When the situation is dealt with, I go back through my notes and anything outstanding gets added to Omnifocus.

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