One month in and overwhelmed — advice welcome

I’ve just started using OmniFocus 2 for OS X as well as OmniFocus 2 for iOS. I had a license back in 2010 but only used it about 6 months. It’s a beautiful app and I’ve loaded all my life and lists and projects into it. Here’s the thing — I’ve got too much to look at and I’m a bit overwhelmed now that it’s all in front of me.

I’m making good use of the Quick Capture shortcut. I’ve assigned Contexts to the clients I meet with. I’ve got thing organized into projects, and folders when necessary. I’ve assigned due dates to things to get some urgency on them, but my Forecast daily seems to have 12 late things, and 6 due today. I’m afraid that if I clear the due dates, everything will just languish.

I’m a communications and strategy consultant and also run a small team of creatives, so I have a busy life juggling professional projects, managerial tasks, admin, and home chores.

What could I be doing better? Focus mode? Fewer projects? Folders? Perspectives? Due dates? Defer dates? The options are dizzying.

I would appreciate some productivity tips from a power user. I’m pretty organized overall, and I’ve read David Allen’s GTD, and used multiple systems in the past, from Basecamp to Taskpaper to Remember the Milk to Evernote. But this is overwhelming me. Thanks in advance.

Consider only using OmniFocus for well-defined projects and actions and keeping anything you’d consider reference or project support elsewhere. For example, you could keep notes for meetings with clients in a CRM or an app like Notes or Evernote and have OmniFocus actions to prompt you to review this information as often as you need to.

In my case, I keep contacts and meeting notes in Daylite and I have repeating OmniFocus actions that prompt me to, for example, “Review: active clients” or “Review: active leads”. I keep track of the details of these interactions in Daylite so as not to overwhelm OmniFocus.

I also recommend only using due dates for things that are due (i.e. there’s a consequence to not having them complete by a specific day). Otherwise it become tedious to differentiate between what’s due and what you’d like to get by a specific date. For things that are especially important, but not due, consider using flags. Just be careful not to be too liberal in your use of flags as doing so makes the flag meaningless.

On a related note, the Forecast perspective is really meant for looking into the future. It’s not well suited as a list to work off of. If you have the Pro edition you could create a custom perspective called something like “Today” or “Hot List” that shows all available actions that are due and/or flagged.

It’s also important to keep in mind what you can reasonably accomplish. Perhaps there are actions/projects that are not a good use of your time and an attention as well as some that could be delegated to someone else. No matter how well you’ve organized OmniFocus, if it’s presenting you with an impossibly long list of actions it’s going to tend to create overwhelm.

Lastly, I wrote an article called Common OmniFocus Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them that may be helpful in getting things on track.

Best wishes from Vancouver, Canada.



@timstringer As always, this is incredible advice.

One thing I have found freeing in this area is to create well-defined actions or projects about things I haven’t defined yet. Sort of like meta-projects. I might have a project called:

Decide what to do about new business opportunity with Jane

And inside it, a task called:

Brainstorm three ideas about what this might mean to me

In other words, if I have unclarified outcomes or potential things, I will define work to define those opportunities, making sure my OF lists and projects are entirely actionable. This also gives me the freedom to “bookmark” things I might move on without prematurely committing to it (like making a project called “Kick off the new business opportunity with Jane”, for example).


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Thanks, @deturbulence!

I often create actions prefixed with verbs like Decide, Brainstorm and Consider. I see these as well defined as they represent a unit of work.

Sometimes I find it can be helpful to get even more specific. For example,

Brainstorm: about new workshop for 15 minutes (RUC)".

RUC is short for Repeat Until Complete and is there to indicate that I’ll continue to carry out this action until the brainstorming is complete. I get the satisfaction of marking the action complete knowing that it will show up again when appropriate (e.g. the next day).


On a side note, I tend to include a “:” after all verbs (e.g. Consider:, Brainstorm:, Review:) This way I can easily pull up a list of related tasks (e.g. all of my brainstorming activities) either by doing a search for this prefix or by including it in the “Find text” field of a custom perspective.


Super +1 for using common verbs for doing similar actions together.

Also, I love the RUC language. Totally adopting that. Thank you!



Wow. @timstringer. Show me where the “Five Stars! ****” button is. This is exactly the kind of helpful answer I was looking for — and more.

I read through this, and then your longer article you linked. I so appreciate it. I am going to make more time to read in, but already, simplifying the contexts will be a great help, I think.

The Flagged view and flagging “hot” items is another great tip. Thanks again.

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Great call on the action verbs @deturbulence . That’s a lesson I got from David Allen. Any task that doesn’t start with a verb isn’t a task: it’s a problem.

I do use “Decide what to do about…” quite a bit already. But the “RUC” tip is a good one from @timstringer is great. I need to figure out how to quickly make things repeating with a keystroke or something. I find the info sidebar to be clunky.

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You’re very welcome, @Isaac. Great to hear this was helpful!

It will take some time but you can probably do a Google search for ‘OmniFocus workflow’. You’ll eventually find perspectives or pieces of someone else’s workflow that will help you build a workflow that fits your style. I’ve found that my life will dictate to me what needs to be change. Then I add or subtract a custom perspective, folder, workflow, project, or context that fits my needs at that time. Always be flexible with custom perspectives, folders, contexts, projects, and folders. I’ve gone through this change many times over. My current iteration was documented here:

As always, it’s still evolving to meet new challenges that I face. I’ll encounter a new workflow from different forums or blogs. Then I can see if it fits my needs and adapt where I can.