OmniFocus has really helped me process my inbox but I still sometimes have trouble planning my day. Attempting to integrate defer dates and flagging to come up with an efficient OmniOutliner inbox has been a problem, and it seems that perspectives in this case were best used with OmniFocus’s new Forecast view.
OmniFocus – Gathering Today’s Tasks
I first sought out a usable “Today” perspective which aggregated my flagged tasks and tasks that were either deferred to or due today. I found the following perspective shared on the OmniFocus Discourse forum:
The problem with that setup is that your deferred tasks don’t automatically populate this perspective. In OmniFocus you’re supposed to use deferred tasks more often than due dates:
• Due Dates – when a task has to be completed (e.g. other people are depending upon you).
• Deferred Dates – These were known as Start Dates in OmniFocus 1 and signify when tasks become available (i.e. you either have chosen to postpone it because of work already in your queue or you absolutely can’t begin the task until that later date).
If you assign due dates for tasks that you want to get done on a certain day (rather than have to) means that you’re going to get a whole slew of overdue alarms that show up on the app’s notification badge. The tasks with due dates should be used sparingly, otherwise you will tune out the alarms instead of making them stand out as the occasional important overdue notice.
The problem is that I want to see Deferred or Flagged tasks (if it’s important but doesn’t have a due date then I’ll flag it), but OmniFocus doesn’t give me this option:
You could gather deferred tasks into your perspective by changing the “Available” task filter to “Remaining”:
But this would add all deferred tasks into your perspective (Available only includes the tasks that are due/started on today or previous to today and haven’t been marked as completed). To rectify this limitation of OmniFocus, you have a couple of options:
- Manually flag the tasks you need to do today. Setup a repeating task for every morning reminding yourself to check the Forecast perspective. You’ll see all tasks deferred to today as long as you’ve selected “Show deferred tasks” in the Forecast view settings. From this perspective you flag those tasks that you definitely want to work on today and defer the rest.
- If you’d like an Applescript that flags all deferred items starting today that runs automatically everyday without your intervention, you can get that here. The only limitation is that it won’t clear a repeating task’s flag status when you finish it.
Forecast & Focus
It quickly becomes apparent that you need to keep an eye on upcoming tasks in your Forecast perspective to really get the most out of OmniFocus. From there you can see all the tasks across all Projects sorted by due date so that you won’t forget them.
You can show the tasks limited to specific days by cmd-clicking on multiple dates:
When it comes time to devote your attention to one particular project, try using the Focus option toggle to view only the tasks for a particular project:
If you’re stumped for a project to work on then choose a context that you’re in and you’ll see several tasks across all your projects:
If the one month forecast duration is too long, click the View toolbar icon to change the time setting to 1 week:
Make sure that the Show Deferred Items in Forecast is checked. We’re not forecasting tasks that are due in the future so much as tasks that are set to begin. You should also set the calendar display from 9AM to a time like 5AM / 6AM / 7AM or whatever time you start your day.
You can also make a habit of checking the Forecast view at night to see what’s coming up tomorrow. In OmniFocus, you plan what to do in morning, DO it during the day, and review at end of day. The following two slides are from David Sparks:
That is what OmniFocus looks like on the iPad, which is optimal for doing stuff during the day since there’s more temptation to fiddle with distractions if you’re on a Mac.