Why is it so difficult to create a 'Today' task list that's useful?

For years I’ve been fumbling and stumbling with OmniFocus on MacOS & iOS. I think I got myself (mostly) in a groove with it, except…

How on earth to create a simple perspective that does this…?

 Filter: tasks due today (today's date)
 Sort: by tag

 -or-
 Find: tasks deferred today (today's date)
 Sort: by project

I get that I can go to Forecast and click on 'Today" to see my list of Due and Defer Until tasks (I also get the difference between Deferred and Due). But there seems to be no way to adjust the column width in the Forecast on MacOS—the columns overlap so I can’t read the entire Title. Also can’t sort by Tag and/or Project in the Forecast.

I’ve seen so many different workaround posts here and elsewhere, suggesting flagging tasks and/or adding tags (ex: a “today” tag)…but they all seem kludgy in that there’s yet another piece of info to enter and maintain, versus keeping data entry simple. Creating scripts or automations is beyond my pay grade.

I can’t believe having a basic Task list for today, that can be sorted, isn’t somehow a preset (I pray that OF4 will have that feature!). Or am I missing something in OF3 MacOS and the above is possible without doing virtual summersaults?

Thanks in advance—and sorry for being a little “ranty” about this!

Not sure what today is,
Bill from Boston

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To see the entire title of tasks, you could set a perspective to use the fluid layout (click on the eye button and choose Fluid, and then click Save). If you prefer the columns layout, you will get wider columns if you uncheck columns you don’t need.

To create the first perspective you ask for (I assume you have the Pro version of Omnifocus, as it is required to create custom perspectives), you could set the filter rules to Status: Due Soon, and the presentation to:

  • Group and sort: Individual Actions
  • Group actions by: Tag
  • Sort actions by: Tags Order

This will not be exactly what you wanted, as it includes tasks that are due soon (easy to ignore as they are colored yellow) and tasks that already are due (and then should be handled, too?), but you will get the tasks sorted by tags, and for tasks that have tags, you will also have the choice to reorder the tasks manually in the perspective by dragging (I’m not sure if that was something you required).

To create the second perspective you ask for, you could set the filter rules to ”All of the following are true”, ”Has a defer date”, and ”Availability: Available”, and the presentation to:

  • Group and sort: Entire projects
  • Group projects by: Ungrouped
  • Sort projects by: Projects Order

This will include tasks that have been deferred to earlier days, but from my point of view (I have a similar perspective) that is something desired, as there might be days when you don’t check the perspective. To avoid seeing tasks with earlier defer dates that you haven’t accomplished, you have to clear their defer dates (which to me is a good way to confirm that I really have seen those tasks). As for the first perspective, this one will also let you reorder the tasks manually by dragging.

I use flags and don’t see it as a kludge.

I think due dates should be reserved for things that are actually due. I use deferred dates a lot, but mostly to push things forward to the future. As part of my weekly review, I push everything out that I’m not likely to work on this week and get the list for the week down to a theoretically manageable number (around 30 items). Then on a daily basis, manually selecting a few items for today from that relatively small list isn’t at all difficult.

If you are using OF Pro, you can define a tag as the Forecast tag. Anything with that tag will also appear in the Forecast.

Mine is named ‘Next’ and I use it on anything that doesn’t have an absolute deadline.

I have filed feedback asking for the ability to sort items in the Forecast perspective, especially the tagged items, since the Due items are already sorted by due time.

It is already possible to sort the tagged items in the Forecast perspective, as it is with tagged tasks in other perspectives.

I don’t see the ability to do that in the Forecast perspective. Is it in View Options?

I am looking for items to be sorted by project, so tasks from the same project appear together in the list.

Ok, then I misunderstood. I thought you were just looking to manually reorder the tagged tasks. Wouldn’t it be better to create a custom perspective to have those tasks sorted by project?

What I like about the Forecast perspective is easily combining actions with a hard deadline with those actions without a deadline but that I’d like to do next.

That works well for me as-is, but it would be even better to have some sorting options for the actions that have the forecast tag.

I find that OF works well until there is a crisis. When things hit the fan, I find myself taking out an outliner and making a list for the day that I can directly manipulate and reformat. It used to be an OmniOutliner list, these days it’s in Dynalist because it’s faster and more fluid.

The data comes form OF, but the task list ends up in another app.

Once the crisis is dealth with, I can go back to OF and perspectives. For a fast, moving demanding situation, I find that OF is too much of a database and not enough of a list.

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Thanks all for your suggestions and feedback! You’ve basically confirmed that we all come up with our own little tricks to get OmniFocus Pro to come up with a basic “Today” task list. It’s remarkable that something like that isn’t already baked in by the Omni folks…but there you have it. Fingers crossed for OF4 to have an easy “Today” list that’s useful. Meanwhile…

One of you mentioned using “Due Soon” and I was able to figure out my own trick using that. In Preferences > Dates & Times I changed “Due Soon” to ‘Today’. I was then able to create a Perspective that does the following…

 **Filter Rules**
 ALL of the following are true:
 Status; Due Soon *(per above "Due Soon" = today's date)*
 Availability: Available

For Presentation I chose:
Individual Actions
Group by: Tags (Combined)
Sort by: Duration

As nicely as the Fluid layout looks, I prefer Column layouts as I want to see Duration I estimate for each task, as I tend to do the short duration stuff first.

Apparently Duration isn’t visible in the Layout if it’s set to Fluid. I know I can see Duration for each individual task by clicking on each row with the “I” info column open…but I want to see all durations all at a glance, so I know what to tackle first (per above). Columns also give greater control over what is and isn’t seen on the Layout…which means I can see the entire Description field by not using other column choices.

TLDR: change Due Soon preference to “Today” to enable a Perspective with Status: Due Soon

Hi @anamorph. It would seem more like a basic feature (not a crisis) in a GTD+ app, for it to have the ability to easily create a “Today” task list to be sorted as the user sees fit. But so it goes with OF3.

I agree with you: OF is too much a database and not enough of a list. UX research (by non OF users!) would go a long way in remedying a much better UI so OmniFocus is not just useable, but that it’s useful as a personal task manager to manage what needs to be done today.

Dynalist was on my radar once but, for me, using two resources for a daily “to do” list would make me lose my…focus ;)

Cheers,
Bill

My Today list is like this:

  • Available
  • Not a project or group
  • Any of:
    • Flagged
    • Tagged with ☆
    • Due

… grouped by dues date, sorted by flag.

Thought I’d share as another example beyond what the others have already done.

Cheers,

ScottyJ

2 Likes

Thanks @heyscottyj!

But there seems to be no way to adjust the column width in the Forecast on MacOS—the columns overlap so I can’t read the entire Title.

@BFBoston You might have missed an interesting option in the View menu: Show Full Item Title: Always.

I use a today list which features flagged, due and today tag.

Most of the tasks tagged today are repeating “meta tasks” that is they point to other area of OF for example meta task “process communications” links to the communications perspective which shows me all phone email and text tasks I need to deal with.

This allows me to focus and segment as well as keeping the today list looking manageable.

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I agree a today list is a basic feature of a task manager, and I think OF has a decent one, though clearly it does not fill every need.

I reckon each of us has a different concept of what a today list should look like: i.e. tasks that I ‘must’ do today vs things that I ‘should’ do today (unless something more urgent comes along) vs things that I ‘can do’ today, etc.

In my case, for the ‘must’ part, I put the due today tasks in my calendar (so I make sure there is time allotted to be able to do what I ‘must’ do) and check them off (done) in OF.

Then, for the more ‘optional’ part, I previously have flagged as important what I consider priority tasks. The rest of tags I use as contexts, as in OF2.

I don’t have a predetermined list of how many of these *important *tasks I should complete today (that would be a due task); Instead, when I hit a ‘free’ slot in my daily agenda, I look at the list of ‘important’ tasks and manually pick one, depending on the time available, place, tools and energy I have available at that moment.

It is not perfect, but it fits my need for flexibility and does not generate frustration for the not due today tasks. My goal is not productivity per se but rather control, flexibility and peace of mind.

I also think OF is not an all in one task manager, though it tries to link to external apps which have it: It does not have an agenda, neither has a good repository for reference and archive materials.

I wish I didn’t need to use other applications, but I understand an all in one GTD or similar system is maybe too big an endeavour and the results would be sub-par with specialized agendas and archival systems already in the market.

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Complicating other dimensions:

  • Actions I want to consider doing today
  • Actions I can define as of today
  • Actions that I want to decide about today whether or not I do them

There’s a lot of room for nuance here.

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Hi @BFBoston. I agree. OF3 should have a Today List which can be directly manipulated like a project, with unlimited nested folders or headings.

I’ve currently had a crisis that has literally swept away all my priorities and demands immediate attention to a whole new set of urgent projects and tasks. My OF3 system had become overwhelmed with clutter, so I pivoted and went back to Things – at least it acts like a list.

I work a bit each night to try to shovel out my OF3 system, and rework it so I can use OF3 in the crisis. In the meantime, Things has lists that you can manipulate directly.

MacSparky has a similar Today view he calls The List. He uses a tag “TheList” instead of your ☆. He also limits it to tasks in an active project, so tasks in an on-hold project won’t show up.