Recreate project/task view from my paper notebook in Omnifocus. Maintain strategic project view

I would like to recreate a project and task view in a paper notebook, in Omnifocus. Would love folks thoughts.

I have a lot of trouble staying organized, and the best way overall I’ve found to be organized, but also have a clear view of what’s important, is to use a paper notebook in a certain way. I’d like to recreate my paper notebook setup in Omnifocus, and wanted to ask if folks had suggestions of perspectives to make this work best.

In my notebook, each week, on the left page I write my list of the most important projects - usually in themes (for example - Fiscal Year Planning is a theme, a major new product launch is a theme, so on). Each theme has some specific projects, I write the projects with the themes. On the right page I just start a list of tasks. The tasks often times are quick things needed for the projects or themes - for example “redo cost projections” for the fiscal planning theme, and I need to complete it in the next day… But the task list in the right page often has other random short term things that need to be done (example - “ask my boss if it’s time to start project X”), that are unrelated to a specific project or theme.

This format works for me, because it lets me see the key themes and projects at a glance (this is awesome), and usually helps me keep track of tasks. The notebook sort of constrains me as well, in a way, and keeps me from writing down a long project list. One implicit benefit is that the tasks I’m writing down are usually the highest priority things I need to work on. The downside is that my paper notebook can’t send me reminders when one of the tasks is about to become late. Also I don’t want to carry my notebook with me everywhere.

Do folks have perspectives that work like this in Omnifocus? I guess the hard thing I’m seeing is how to also have a view that shows my strategic themes and project list, and also all the random tasks that need to be done. Oh and also a way to highlight the priority tasks. I kinda would like a way to sort up the high priority tasks.

(What I’m trying to do now - “themes” are folders, projects go in theme folders. That works ok. Tasks are not showing up as well, and the random tasks not tied to projects are stuck in my inbox.)

Thank you - would appreciate any thoughts on how to do this better.

I’d personally stick with what works. If your paper planner + OmniFocus workflow works, why try to fix it?

I did try going all digital and migrate from my planner and it can be done but it required me to change my way of thinking.

I used Keyboard Maestro to create two OmniFocus windows. One window is set to show a custom perpsective focused on a project or group of projects. The second window is set to show a tags perspective showing individual tasks.

This same Keyboard Maestro macro also resizes my Fantastical calendar window and goes to Day view or Week view.

That’s how I set up an all digital workflow that’s similar to my BuJo setup.

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I recommend creating single action lists for each area for example “Home Misc” where all the non project tasks can be added and still show up when needed. Action lists are ideal for tasks that fit in a certain category, home, work, computers, invoicing etc. but do not in themselves warrant a project. I love single action lists and was one of the main reasons “Things app” failed miserably for me.

The app Things was way too limited for me in various aspects when I tried it, so I’m just curious (as most of my projects in Omnifocus rather are single action lists, although constructed as parallel projects): Couldn’t you simply use projects for single action lists there, and are there any practical advantages in using them here in Omnifocus instead of projects?

You can complete or drop a project. You cannot complete or drop a single actions list. A single actions list is never ending (like my Honey Do List).

Oh, I guess most of my projects are single action lists then, as I never intend to end them. I still prefer to create them as parallel projects, though, as this lets me have perspectives that show first available tasks only.

In the Getting Things Done model, a project is anything that has a clearly defined outcome. “Write and publish my book on botany in the Renaissance” is a project. “Check my junk mail folder for legitimate email that was marked as spam” is also a project.

GTD also suggests that in order to make concrete progress on one’s project, the first thing to do in a review is to identify the concrete next action you could take to advance the project. “Write and publish a book” is not a concrete next action, but “Review the draft of chapter 2 and list further sources to examine” might be one (depending on how fine grained you need to be). On the other hand, checking my junk mail folder really can’t be broken down into finer-grained tasks. It’s a case where the project has only one action.

Single-action lists were eventually created in OmniFocus to keep your overall project list (mostly multi-step projects) from being overwhelmed by all of those one-step projects. By allowing you to put them in a single-action list, you can declutter your Projects perspective. I find that a big plus.

However, in the Tags perspective (and any other one based on tags), the difference between a single action list and a project is that in the former, all actions are considered to be the next available action, because they’re one-action projects. In a project, on the other hand, only the first (available) action is identified as next available.

Yes I guess you could but it gave a confusing pie chart telling you inaccurate information so it was next to useless.

I just never understand the things hype attributing most of it to the follower the influencer mentality

@brianogilvie, I have no problems understanding the idea behind projects and single action lists, as they are what they are called. And as I mentioned in a post later than the one you replied to, I have also noticed the difference in the handling of the first available action, and for that reason constructed almost all of my single action lists as parallel projects, in case I would like to view them in perspectives showing only the first available action, or in my case rather the highest prioritized action. I was just wondering if I had missed some fundamental functionality that only the single action lists have, but I guess I haven’t.

I should have mentioned this in my previous reply, but I had forgotten it: In early versions of OmniFocus, projects could not have contexts and thus did not appear in the Contexts perspective (now the Tags perspective). The single action list was created to address that problem, because a one-step project should appear in Contexts/Tags.

When OmniFocus started showing projects with no remaining actions in the Tags perspective, that historical reason for single action lists was no longer necessary. They still offer the convenience of keeping the Projects perspective uncluttered. That’s a benefit for me.

Differences between Single Action Lists and normal projects:

  • All actions of a SAL will be shown in a ‘First Available’ filter, as noted above.
  • A normal project has an action corresponding to the root of the project, since it is meant to be finished at some point. That action will show up in ‘individual actions’ (tag-based) perspectives (either as a remaining action when the project has uncompleted actions, or as an available action when everything else has been completed/dropped). A SAL is an open-ended bucket of individual tasks without a root action.

I use projects in a way that follows OF’s design and GTD: normal projects for clear outcomes with more than one step, contained in a folder representing an open-ended topic, and SAL’s for topic-based buckets of one-step tasks. View filters and perspective rules (such as ‘Has an active project which has no remaining actions’) behave logically based on these distinctions.

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