OmniFocus Defer Count: Feature Request

I have a tendency to procrastinate by pushing forward the defer date of projects and actions willy-nilly. OmniFocus makes it so easy to cast items forward in this way and get them out of my mind’s eye. The tougher or more problematic the task, the more likely it is to be repeatedly pushed into the future so I don’t actually ever have to do it! This avoidance behaviour is obviously damaging to my overall productivity.

iTunes has an interesting feature where it counts the number of track skips. These increment whenever a listener switches song mid-play. One can then use a smart playlist to monitor the skip count and discern patterns. I find it useful to evaluate songs that I’ve previously rated highly, but are often skipped for some reason these days. Is an old favourite now over-played? Or did I mis-rate the song in the first place? With the skip count, I can evaluate a song’s perceived importance to me against it’s actual importance in my life.

I’d like a similar feature in OmniFocus. If the system kept an incrementing counter every time I amended an existing defer date, and this feature were added as a grouping mechanism or filter to Perspectives, I could figure out which actions or projects are being procrastinated (or at least badly time-estimated) repeatedly. I could then decide to delete them, mark them as someday/maybe or actually get off my butt and do them!

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how about creating an on-hold project or Single Action List and call it Someday/Maybe. This can hold a list of all the actions you want to record but don’t really want to work on in the near future (within the week to next 3 months).

I have an Office Actions single action list with the status set to Active. This list contains all the actions I want to work on in the near future. Everything else is put into the Someday/Maybe project.

I set the review cycle of the Someday/maybe project to once a week. When I visit the review perspective, the someday/maybe project will show up. I can look at an action and change the project from someday/maybe to my Office Actions project or whatever project it belongs in. I’ll put some into the Personal Actions project. Another project maybe into the Family Activities project.

By grouping all of my deferred actions into a someday/maybe (on hold) project, I don’t have to keep resetting the defer dates every time.

You can create a custom perspective that is focused on the someday/maybe project and sort it by date created to see which actions have aged. Heavily consider deleting the older actions or delegating to someone else who has the talent/time/energy to complete the action.

I agree yours is a highly rational approach. Joe Buhlig has a good section in his book Working with OmniFocus on managing Someday/Maybe lists, which I’m planning to implement. But unfortunately the impulse to procrastinate is not rational.

The truth is some part of me really does want to work on these projects “in the near future”; but when the dreaded moment comes to actually do something about them, OmniFocus makes it all too easy to substitute the important (i.e. hard) tasks with easier ones that are less critical by abusing the quick defer feature. In my mind, moving these tasks to a someday/maybe list immediately would acknowledge defeat to the forces of Resistance (the implacable opponent described in The War of Art). I want these tasks to remain front of mind, even if I was over-optimistic about my capacity (or desire) to do them in a particular timeframe.

At the moment, I try to monitor items I repeatedly fail to achieve by whatever personal deadlines I set, and if the situation becomes too dire, I assign them a context of 💩 Resistance so I can take emergency action.

I do like your idea of a custom perspective focussed on someday/maybe projects sorted by date created. The very old ones are probably not going to done “someday” and “maybe” should be discarded instead.

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I have a context named ‘Frog’. If I put off a task once or twice it becomes a Frog and I’ll force myself to do it.


Personally, I go outside of the box. At the beginning of the week, I look at OmniFocus and click on my “Today” perspective that shows a list of all due and/or flagged tasks. I know I can’t possibly work on all of them. Instead, I look at the Today perspective and write down the three tasks that I really want to get done today. I put this on an index card. I hide OmniFocus (Command-H) to make it disappear from my screen.

Then I work on just those three things on that card. When I finish the three tasks on the card, I go back and choose three more tasks. Repeat ad naseum until the end of the day.

I know that due tasks will always show up in Today. For tasks that don’t have a due date, I flag them so that they will show up in the Today perspective. But I always work on the due tasks first.

This workflow takes care of one-off tasks. But it doesn’t take care of those projects in the near future. I often select three Big Rock projects that I want to work on today and in the next two weeks. I usually create a project/planning perspective that is focused on one project. Then I will print it out. I put this on the wall near my desk. Then I have the list of next actions that are for that Big Rock project. I print out all three Big Rock projects and place them somewhere that is visible. Sometimes, I’ll just put it on my clipboard. Then I quickly hide OmniFocus. I can procrastinate like crazy because i am always looking at other projects.

I seem to find that when I print out the project and its next actions, that is all I can see. Then these are the only actions that I will be trying to complete. I check them off on the page. I write comments on the back of the page if I need to capture some thought that popped up. After an hour of working on the project, I’ll go into OmniFocus and check off those tasks and record any notes that may be associated with it.

I’ve found that focusing on the printouts of my project’s next actions helps me to focus and not procrastinate by fiddling with OmniFocus endlessly.

For myself, I don’t want everything at the front of my mind. I want it placed away into the Black Hole that resides in OmniFocus. The daily review perspective brings up projects at different intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, annually) and will bring them back to the forefront. I can review the projects and determine whether to just keep a project on hold or make it active. Then flag them so that I know these are Big Rock projects.

Placing something into Someday/Maybe relieves me of the burden of having it in the front of my mind. That causes more friction for me. It is neatly tucked away until it shows up on the next review date.

OmniFocus (and all other task managers) is too much of a distraction for me if I can see everything. I need to look at it, grab there one-off tasks and three Big Rock projects and then hide it away. Then I work on this smaller subset of agenda items. But I feel safe and secure knowing that I can just do a comprehensive review of everything just by looking at the OmniFocus Projects perspective.

I love this idea, Matt, and would definitely like to see it incorporated into OF.

Truth be told, there are probably lots of us out there doing the same, capturing lots of tasks that come to mind but then for one reason or another, are difficult to start.

I have a similar methodology, except I assign my 🐸 Frog context to a single task per day (the most odious). If I don’t do it, then I assign 💩 Resistance to that task to indicate it’s a trouble area.

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