Tips on actually utilizing OminFocus in practice

I’ve been using OmniFocus for a couple years now and I seem to have got into a good habit of utilizing it for personal projects but I have always struggled to really use it while at work. I go through periods of not putting things into it from work or if I do not utilizing it in what I do that day, just doing what is the latest fire to put out. Some of this struggle I feel is trying to utilize the program when work is on a Windows machine. I have tried some of the other to-do apps out there but always come back to OF as it works closest to how my mind works. I do have my iPad generally with me while at work but do to its age its can’t update past iOS 10 thus I’m unable to use OF3 and the web interface. My question for those out there are what are some tips and strategies you use to make sure you’re using OF to capture and complete all your tasks for work especially if you’re in a Windows environment like myself?

Have you tried OmniFocus for the Web? It’s in public beta right now.

I use OmniFocus at work, which is all Windows, so having it on my phone is crucial. If I couldn’t use OF during the workday I just wouldn’t use it at all for work.

I also use the Mail Drop feature of the OmniSync Server, which gives you an email address you can send items to which are then imported to your Inbox. (For this, you do have to be mindful of your company’s policies and be scrupulous not to forward potentially confidential info to an external address, which could get you in trouble, depending on how strict your company is.)

I use the Mac version to structure large projects and flag things I want to do.

During the day I try to enter most tasks on the iPhone, but I don’t literally add every task to OmniFocus. If it’s something I can do right away I won’t bother. But often if I forget to do something it’s a task I neglected to add to OmniFocus.

Since I got my Apple Watch I use the Watch version quite a lot, to tick off items as I do them and not have to unlock the phone.

I should try the web version, but not yet sure if it will be worth a subscription fee.

Unfortunately I can’t update to OF3 or get my OF2 database compatible with the new DB structure due to utilizing an old iPad a lot in my OF workflow otherwise I would.

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Thanks. How do you go about checking it and structuring you day to go about doing what you want to get done. I’m probably getting a little bit into actual productivity territory vs just using the app but its what I struggle with the most.

In the morning I quickly check Forecast to see what’s important, and then check a planning perspective which is basically just available items grouped by tags-combined. I’ll flag things I want to try to get done.

For some routine stuff, I use repeating tasks with defer and due dates so they automatically populate.

I get a lot of one-off requests via email and if I can’t do them right away, I’ll add to my Inbox on the iPhone and flag them. Sometimes I’ll use the Mail Drop feature mentioned above depending on what feels easier in the moment.

I have a custom perspective to group due and flagged items. I use this during the day. For things that can be done later, I’ll add metadata (tags, project, due or defer dates). That will help with structuring and planning what I have to do.

Some general advice:

  • use defer dates, sequential projects, and a waiting tag where possible to minimize available actions. Always hard to focus when your to-do list is a mile long.

  • limit stuff in single action lists since a lot of the time it’s things that should be broken up into a project with smaller, more manageable tasks.

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Since the majority of my job still communicates via email (instead of slack or WebEx Teams), it is very easy to use the OmniServer Sync Server. I have an email address. If I get any todo items during the day, I just forward them to the email address and they apply in my OF Inbox. I process my Inbox once a day normally when I start the day. In your case, you can almost process the Inbox at night before you go to bed and then use the OF iPhone application as your activity tracker throughout the day. The OmniFocus for the Web is a great service that would also serve your use case well.

Either way, the email interface for OF3 is a real life saver for my productivity.

At least for now, I find OF for the Web unusable without a Forecast mode/perspective. Unfortunately…

I used to work in the corporate world and ran into this exact problem. Some considerations:

  • How much is using OmniFocus worth to you? Prices are going up soon, so would upgrading your iPad make sense so you can use what you need?
  • You said you’ve used other tools, but for how long? I used Todoist for almost a year in my corporate job, and it took me six months to “get” how it worked and for my mindset to line up. I hate to recommend that in the Omni forums, but if moving to OF3 + OF Web isn’t an option, it is an honest consideration.
  • How much is your productivity actually impacted by not having everything in one app? Most of my work in corporate was inside other project/ticketing type apps, so forcing myself to use OmniFocus was actually overkill in my situation until I became a manager.

Remember, the work is the main goal here.

Is a lot of your job putting out fires? How much work do you do which requires you to further a goal? These may be important considerations when evaluating the tools you use.

A side note (and I don’t mean this as self promotion, but am sharing just because it may be relevant and helpful), I just put out a podcast about some strategies to approaching productivity in the corporate world. Check it out if it seems interesting to you.

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