OmniFocus for delegated tasks and ensuring they're completed

Hi All,

I’d like to request advice on the best way to set-up OmniFocus for the handling of tasks requested of others. I’m CEO of a fairly sizeable company and alongside my own “to-do” requirements, i have a management team of direct reports, to whom i have continual task lists of items they need to complete, tasks i’ve delegated, or simply things they need to come back to me on. Some of these will be via email and i am often in a situation where i suddenly realise, some time later, that i’ve not had a response to one or more emails for whatever reason. On that last point, it would be ideal if i could automatically have tasks created in my OmniFocus when i send certain emails to others with tasks in them.

I want to ensure i have a structure where i am on top of tasks of others, and am reminded where necessary. Am unsure what the “best” way to do this is and how others are using OmniFocus to handle similar situations.

Our company server structure is Windows Exchange based for email, and i use iPhone (with Exchange set-up) and MacBook as well.

I’m a new user of OmniFocus and am implementing based on the GTD model (which it seems OmniFocus is set-up for anyway). I’m currently using OmniFocus for iPhone, but will add the Mac software on a MacBook soon as well. I have Omni Sync Server set-up in readiness. Not currently upgraded to Pro - unsure if i should or need to for what i want to achieve (possibly!).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions!


Ok so I have a similar situation as you do except that I have no one reporting to me but I work in conjunction as a product manager for 3 products with a worldwide teams including marketing, developers, engineering, sales, etc. So a lot of tasks via Email that I send.

My setup is as follows:

  • Office 365 Back end
  • Mac Software
    • Mac Mail (Default) - with plugins (described later) - Outlook is not well suited for this.
    • SmallCubed - Mail Tags - Mac mail plug in that allows Google Tag Like on Exchange but also integrates great with OmniFocus by bringing in the projects.
    • Small Cubed - Mail Perspectives - a plugin to mail that just is able to set up quick views to monitor for things coming in that I have defined a certain way. So it is easier to see when you get a 1000 emails coming in.
    • Mail Replacement in consideration AirMail since it integrates a lot of these things, but I can not use it within my company since it is not a 100% compatible to the settings my IT team made. With you making the descisions this just might work out for you so take a look.
  • iPad Software
    • Mail Program - Airmail - Integrates / Tags and OmniFocus plus a lot of other features. Very easy to use since iPad default mail, Exchange, or a lot of other programs do not integrate at all to OmniFocus. The only problem is it handles the tags a different way then MailTags above, instead putting them in to Folders (copying Mail a few times over).

My system:

  • OmniFocus
    • I set up Folders for top levels first (Personal, Work, Multimedia, etc) something I can key off on to work within that “Context”

    • For Work projects I specify different things under more folder structure

      • Admin - For Administrative things, expenses, IT stuff, etc.
      • Category Based Folders for Each Project Group I am working on. Example on this would be I have a project for My Work Lab (and all projects within that Lab), then main projects for each product. The reason for the “Big Project based theory” is that anything that can contain multiple projects within it, and sub projects but is under category. Within of these groups I can have multiple projects, lets say release of multiple documents that I am working on, the current release version, the future versions, etc.
    • When I assign a task to someone via Email, I immediately tag it using the tagging software for various things that way I can easily look it up. I also clip it and assign a Waiting-For Task, and I actually assign a deadline to it, and mark it with the appropriate Waiting For Context (I actually have a few as it is easier for me to keep track. Example “Waiting For - Call” “Waiting For - Email” ,etc but they are part of the larger group “Waiting For”. This tells me what I am waiting for (call / email/ other) as I am doing my daily review.

    • I also use Mail rules to actually tag some things for me automatically so I do not waste time as it comes in. Coming from person A, B,C D tag this as “Development”, “Marketing”, etc.

If someone gets back to me and I am in front of iPad or computer I actively mark it as completed since OmniFocus is up all the time. If I am on my phone (I use Android), I will forward the message to or just write a quick reminder to self, you having an iPhone you should be able to do it in real time when looking at Email.

That is it, the tasks are all part of the project with a Waiting for context, and I review them all during the daily Review on the iPad (I like it better on iPad then computer, I can sit in a chair, put my feet up and relax, not getting distracted by other things on the computer.


Really appreciate your time in explaining the above, yury. Very helpful to see how you’re structure works and what tools you’re using to improve the day to day handling too.

I’m currently solely a Windows user (bar iOS on the iPhone of course). Never owned or used a Mac, but decided to swap my Windows laptop for one of the new MacBooks, along with the ability to have OmniFocus on it of course. We have some of our engineers working on iMacs and using Mac Mail running via Exchange so i’ll presumably use that (rather than running Parallels), however will check out Airmail for sure, and also the plugins you’ve mentioned too.

Re. SmallCubed Mail Tags, what would you use that for exactly - is that where you tag an outgoing email to automatically create a “waiting for” task? Or do the tags just allow you to look-up emails easier within the mail client, as opposed to integrating as tasks within OmniFocus? Can you confirm what you mean when you say you “clip” the email to assign it as a waiting for task? Maybe that’s a Mac term, or just not one i’m au fait with!

I was directed by OmniFocus support to Applescript Automation for automatically creating tasks in OmniFocus from emails - is that a different method than you’ve described above, presumably?

By the way, the structure i’ve set-up so far sounds similar to you to a degree; top level folders for things like work, properties, miscellaneous (yet to get too creative here!). I’m finding a significant percentage of non-work items are going into “miscellaneous”, unless they’re tasks for the house which i slot into the “properties” folder accordingly. Under work i have a folder for each department (such as Operations, Marketing, Product, IT, etc), which corresponds to a direct report “owner” too. Inside there i followed one of the OmniFocus articles in creating a “single action list” project for each, and currently i have almost everything under each department just going into the single action lists as they’re all quite random unrelated tasks so far.

Yet to use “timely actions” project which was there by default. Tending to just flag the most urgent ones instead, which i read some others do too.

I was interested in having a custom “waiting for” perspective, which i read about in one of the OmniFocus articles, and think i’d need to upgrade to Pro to be able to do that. Perhaps useful for someone with a lot of “waiting for” tasks!

For Mail Tags, the important feature for me is to tag Email to the project. Since MailTags bring in OmniFocus projects that is automatic. Then when doing searching I can use the “Project” as a search term. So All Emails associated with the project can easily be isolated in a matter of seconds. Then I add my own tags as desired, basically free form tagging in Email. So I can search on a project isolate that, and then add a tag term of “budget” to get all emails with that, and so on and so on. Makes very easy to help with bringing up the specific Emails really fast.

Ok first the easy answer Clip-O-Tron 3000 works with Email by clipping mail directly by selecting the information you want to clip (part of email / whole email). And have a link back to the Email in OmniFocus.

I never use the single action lists. It is too limiting for me. For example lets say one of the tasks I have is (and I am making it up) to Write a document about “Widgets” (<- Reference to movie Back to School). Well that is a single task item for me, but yet it contains a lot more, it is a project.

  • Write a document about “Widgets”
    • Research
      • Look up Widgets on Internet
      • Talk to someone who knows about Widgets to get more in
    • Write Document
    • Document Review 1
      • Email Document to Expert for Factual Check
      • Waiting for Task for Response from Expert
      • Make recommended Changes
      • Send document to peers for review
        • Awaiting Response from 1
        • Await Response from Person 2
        • Await Response from Person 3
    • Send document to Editor / Reviewer for Final Draft
      • Email Draft to Editor
      • Await for Response Back.
    • Send to Marketing person to publish on Web Site
      • Have marketing person publish document
      • Check to make sure document is published correctly

So as you see … a single task is now outlined for every step. Something you can not do with a single task list but can easily do with a project.

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I track some waiting items in OmniFocus using an on-hold “Waiting” context. But, for tracking email responses I find it more convenient to use the SaneBox service.

In addition to providing automatic filtering of incoming messages, SaneBox allows me to Cc or Bcc something like or to outgoing messages. I’ll get an email notification from SaneBox if I have received a response within the specific time.

SaneBox also has a SaneFwd feature that can be used to automatically redirect certain types of emails (ones you know to be actionable) to the OmniFocus Mail Drop address. For example, if you have a bill that needed to be manually paid each month you could have SaneBox automatically email it into the OmniFocus Inbox. At that point, you could add a context and add it to the appropriate project/single action list…or just pay it right away if it’s a quick task that you can take care of right away.

On a side note, rather than making requests by email, you might consider using a project management solution such as Asana and just use OmniFocus for your personal task management.

I have your same situation, but attempt to keep it really simple. I also have an Exchange based work environment. I have created a simple tag <#WF> at the end of my email body that triggers a forward of that email to my OmniFocus Mail Drop based upon an Outlook rule.

Granted it only “just” appears in my Inbox there, but it is simple enough for me to associate it to the appropriate project and a waiting context, typically adding @PersonName in the action name/title. This allows easy recall either from a waiting context, project view or search on a person’s name.

Thanks, yury. Great help there. Am looking any setting up Mac Mail on my MacBook and using these plugins.

Sanebox isn’t a tool I’d heard of before, but looks v useful too; appreciated!

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I’ve tried doing this, but it hasn’t worked for some reason. I have office 365 on my MacBook and office Windows PC, and have set-up the rule on the MacBook. Testing it, there is no forward happening to my OmniFocus Mail Drop email as it should. Any idea what I may have done wrong here?

Also, this only works for incoming email (I tested sending to myself of course). It sounds like you have it working for an outgoing request you send to someone; how did you set-up a rule for that with the tag?

Re. Asana, I’m looking at that as well. We use Atlassian Jira for our development team, and are wanting a “normal” project management system for non-pure-dev projects. The only one we’ve currently considered is Microsoft Project.

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