Use of Estimated Time feature

It seems to me that Estimated time could be a great tool for scheduling tasks into actual time slots but I’m not getting much value or use from the feature. Any ideas about how to get value from this feature other than creating a perspective for Quick Wins?


Me too, please! I’ve never made use of this, even for quick wins. It seemed to me by the time I estimated the time for quick tasks I might as well have just done the task.


Origins are probably in the GTD ‘Time available’ considerations for ‘available’ tasks - no point in showing something that you don’t have enough time to complete.

I’ve experimented with using the field for how many ‘pomodoros’ I think it will take. - Usually more in reality than I estimate at the start ;-)

Some people have used the field as a way to set priority. For me flags are better.


I used to use it for just what PhilRob mentions in his first paragraph. I’d have time estimates of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 30 minutes. If I only had 5 minutes of spare time before a meeting (which happens a lot), I could pick from only those tasks I could complete in that time.

Now that OmniFocus 2 has made viewing and editing the time estimate field more difficult, I’ve stopped using it. I miss it, though.


How would you use it to set priority?

How would you filter tasks that would only take a given amount of time?

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In OF1 one could have a perspective that grouped by Estimate, and since it remembered open/closed groups you could collapse the “no estimate” and only see “5 mins”, “10 mins” etc.

It also had a filter for “5-10 minutes, 10-15 minutes etc”, so you could have a perspective for “5 minutes or less”, as an example.

I never really used it much personally so I don’t miss it.

As @bradwright suggested stick a 1, 2 or 3 in the estimated time field and then group on estimate in your perspective. Not sure this is as easy in OF2.

I quite liked the agile approach of picking 3 activities a day and using flags but was spending too much time re-arranging deck chairs so have now gone back to paper for my daily priorities.

I find an A5 day book essential for taking notes (and actions) in meetings - the actions then get put into OF for tracking/doing (whether by me or others).

At the start of each day I write the 3 (or 4 or 5) priority actions for the day in the book.

I use a variant of the approach outlined in bullet journal - I get the pleasure of ticking them off twice - once in the book and once in OF when I do my day end review.

I find having the monthly ‘page view’ suggested by bullet journal really useful. It also gives me somewhere to write my business mileage.

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Filtering by time estimate is easy in OF2. Click on the eyeball, then adjust the “Filter by Duration” setting.

Unfortunately, OF2 makes it much more difficult to edit the time estimate than in OF1. You can’t do it in quick entry or the outline; you have to do it in the inspector, which is cumbersome enough that time estimates are no longer practical.


Would be nice to have an script who gave pulldown menu to set estimate time for the selected tasks or projects

I don’t see the “Filter by Duration” setting anywhere in OF2.0.2 Mac.

Here’s a grab from my Errands context in 2.0.2.

Is the filtering a Pro feature?

Custom perspectives are a Pro feature.

I have started using the track time feature, and I like the idea of creating a perspective for tasks taking a short amount of time (I still use OF 1). However, I would have really liked if a task takes 20 hrs and I accomplish 20 minutes on a given day, that I am able to see how much more time I have left. That would be motivating. I sometimes set tasks that take longer to accomplish (e.g. reading a novel) as repetitive actions, but I real wish I was able to see how the baby step I took today was somehow significant to the overall goal.

By the way, I wanted to mention a formula that some of you might find amusing. It helps you estimate how much time a task will take to complete:

(shortest time + 4 x likely time + longest time) / 6 = actual time

It’s pretty accurate in my opinion. I would be fun if OF incorporated it.

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Update 2014-08-18: I meant the app Timeful ( not the app Timely (, which is a time tracking app.

I’ve struggled with this and failed to find a use for estimated times in OmniFocus.

However, I’ve just come across the iOS app Timely Timeful, which suggests a future direction for OmniFocus. (Yes, I’ll submit this as a feature request separately, but others might want to think about the idea here.)

It’s basic idea is to list tasks in Timely Timeful, giving each one an estimated time. Timely Timeful is an iOS calendar app, so it displays your calendars too. You can then (a) drag a previously defined task to the calendar, with the event being the estimated duration; or (b) let Timely Timeful suggest tasks for the empty slots in the calendar.

There is much more too it, but that’s the concept. Define task durations and use that information to schedule work sessions.

Timely Timeful can’t replace OmniFocus for me, for many reasons. But I am using it as a supplement to my calendars.

Obviously, if a future version of OmniFocus were aware of task duration and available time, it could also help schedule tasks in this way.

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Thanks for the tip about Timely! This is so close to what I want OF to do.

The problem, to me, is that the est. time field is trapped in the inspector panel. It appears in no other view. But I want a visual representation of the est. time for each task. Without that, there is no meaningful way of planning my schedule.

My ideal OF workflow would be:

  1. Enter in tasks, each with an est. time value.
  2. Any task with an est. time is automatically added as an event on my calendar (perhaps in a “staging area”, and perhaps the event is assigned to the calendar date I’ve entered as its due date).
  3. When I’m done entering projects and tasks, I can switch to a “scheduling mode”, which basically just means going to the calendar app (outside of OF) and dragging the tasks around visually to schedule them.

With est. time trapped in the inspector panel, there is no way to get a sense of:

  • total times (sum of times for all tasks in a project)
  • which are “big” projects vs. “small” ones

Note: I wrote “Timely” in my earlier post but meant “Timeful”. Too many apps with the name “time” in them!

The one I meant:

A fairly nice time tracking app:

Thanks for the correction! Timeful looks great, and possibly perfect for someone with far fewer projects and to-dos. It would be amazing if it could pull in the est. time values from OF tasks (or if OF simply included the functionality I described above).

I can’t find Inspector populating with these options anywhere in OF2…can you clarify what you’re doing please? Thank you…