Omnifocus makeover – how to adapt a new setup while maintaining the old?


I’m just finishing Creating flow with Omnifocus and have a whole bunch of new ideas that I want to implement in a revisited workflow. But I’m somewhat hesitant to start the process. I don’t think I’ll manage to get all changes in my folder set up, new perspectives etc done in one setting. And because of that I probably don’t to do the changes on my live system, but rather on Omnifocus’ database I run in parallel.

Any suggestions on this? Any good ideas on how to give my Omnifocus a makeover while not dropping any balls in the process? How have those of you who have done something similar made the changes?


I would suggest not going down the route of a duplicate database unless you’re planning to rebuild from scratch, or going to do it quickly. The stress of maintaining daily life across two systems (doubled adding, editing, completing actions) would certainly make me crazy. Also consider what happens with your archive; there’s a potential for duplicate or lost data.

Another thing to keep in mind is that whilst you can open and use a second database in OmniFocus, only those perspectives from the primary database are available to you. Unless you have a second machine to work from, you’ll have to do some file juggling.

Most changes you intend to make could probably be made on your live database. New perspectives won’t get in your way, and those you wish to edit can be duplicated, edited and wait until Implementation Day. Contexts are largely the same, if you plan to mess with them much at all. Projects, I imagine, will mostly be left untouched. So you’ll just have to work around the clutter, which, whilst annoying, might make your life easier in the end.


Create a new folder called “Archived” or whatever. Move everything in your current OmniFocus database into it. Set the folder to Dropped. It’s still there if change your view settings to all, but otherwise it’s gone. If you need anything, go back into the Archived folder and grab it.


Before you start, backup your existing database. Put it in a ZIP archive for protection. Set that date as the marker.

As noted above, creating new or deleting old Perspectives has no affect on the data in the database. Go to town here.

Contexts are a different beast. When you delete a Context, all things in it get dumped to No Context. This is a change in the data in the database. Consider carefully how you plan to make the changes. When it is just a name change, don’t delete it first. Otherwise, create a new Context and move things to it rather than deleting anything existing now. Once the undesired Context is empty of all tasks (uncompleted, on hold, and completed), then delete it. As a note … your Archive will still hold the old Contexts.

I’ve made at least three major changes in my set of Contexts over years that I have used OF. It takes a few weeks to iron out all the transitions.

In summary, I mostly agree with the recommendation from @nostodnayr … work on the transition and live with the clutter. I might only disagree in the case where you have a small database of Projects. Starting over from scratch may be less confusing in that case. So, a viable alternative is to start over from scratch and build your new OF database in a sequence of one Project at a time.



Sometimes if life gets too complicated, it’s time to do a reboot of your life.

I wouldn’t worry about something getting lost in the cracks. If it is really important, it will show up again.

If you are serious about trying to revise your system, you may probably need to just take a couple days off and reboot.

OmniFocus has a backup folder that holds the last 100 database files. So you shouldn’t be losing anything.

I know that I had to do a complete reboot a couple of times. When life starts to break down and your world starts becoming a big mess, you’ll need to shut down and review everything. Delete all the old, irrelevant projects. Put a bunch of projects on hold and pick only a few projects as “Active.”

It’s better to start cleaning up the mess now. If you wait any longer, you’ll just have a bigger mess to clean up. Why push it down the road? Do that reboot now while the mess is still manageable. I think it’s the same as a toothache. You have a toothache and it hurts. Take care of it now. If you don’t, the dental bill will just be more expensive and there will be more work that needs to be done on that tooth. It would’ve been easier to take care of the toothache in the early stages.

Here’s an article that talks about rebooting:

Maybe you can just take small bits of Kourosh Dini’s system and slowly implement it over time? It might be easier to adapt your workflow slowly over time and add bits and pieces of other people’s workflow. Then you’ll create a system that fits your personal needs.


A lot of valuable input! Thanks everyone.