Omnifocus Daily Workflow

omnifocus-wallpaper-iphoneIn this post I will review my workflow with Omni and describe how it is helping me stay on top of my work.


I am still on the iOS-only Omnifocus bandwagon. I have not tired of the app and I continue to be surprised at how my task management confidence has improved. I am forgetting less stuff and looking forward to checking off my tasks. As I wrote here, here and here, I have embarked on a science project with Omnifocus to see if it works for me and also to see how it works iOS-only. I have read posts about how people generally like the iOS versions more than the desktop, but I also know there are things you can only do on the desktop. So far I have proved my theory that iOS-only Omnifocus will work with little compromises in functionality.

Omnifocus Inbox

I review my Omnifocus inbox at least every morning and then throughout the day whenever the count of Inbox items gets above 4–5. The inbox is the location that all new tasks are routed to that have been emailed in or have not been categorized with a Project and Context. This is the Inbox as the catch-all pile that will stare at you until you do something. As with a physical inbox the risk of course is to just pile “stuff” up and then respond to the growing list/pile as panic sets in. I have found that I need to work the Inbox regularly so that I can define each of the five variables including Project, Context, Start Time, Due, and Flagged. More on how these variables can be tailored for any individual workflow or productivity methodology.


Forecast View

After working the Inbox I move onto the Forecast View on either my iPhone or my iPad. This view is one of the most powerful features of Omnifocus because it combines the power of the calendar with the non-date/time specifics of your tasks. The beauty of Forecast is that it is configurable to show as much or as little information as needed. I find this functionality the very best way to not forget anything that has not been processed. Forecast view is mostly concerned with two of the five variables including Start and Due Dates. Along with displaying tasks according to dates, Forecast integrates with your calendar and displays all meetings for today allowing you to get a complete view of everything you have for today on one, scrollable screen.

Agenda Task Setting

I have multiple ways that I keep track of topics for meetings with individual people. The first is by creating individual tasks assigned to a particular person defined as a Context in Omnifocus, i.e. an Agenda task. When I run into this person I navigate to that person’s context in Omnifocus to see the list of tasks/topics that I have to discuss with that person. If I have a meeting with a person like my boss I create an Agenda task that lists all topics that I want to cover. I name the task with the meeting date and the person’s name and then include the topics in the notes section. This is a hold-over from my Evernote Task Managementdays. For these date-specific tasks I Flag them in Omnifocus which allows me to access them quickly from anywhere in either the iPad or iPhone versions. This is a great way to quickly find a tasks amidst hundreds of other tasks.

4. The 5 Key Variables

In addition to Forecast View, another key differentiator I see with Omnifocus are the five variables it uses to organize tasks. I believe the variables and the flexibility are also key reasons why Omnifocus is more complicated to configure than most any other task manager. As I mentioned above, the variables include:

  1.  Project
  2. Context
  3. Start Time
  4. Due
  5. and Flagged.

Project and Context seems to be taken directly from GTD. As defined by GTD, a project is work that requires more than one task/step to complete and spans everything from a large, complex project to a series of steps. Context as defined by David Allen includes things such as availability of tools like phone, computer, internet connection, office, etc. I have setup the following contexts:contexts I would say that my system is somewhere between the original recommendations from GTD but is probably more influenced by this excellent post on SimplicityBliss. As you can see from the picture above my contexts vary from traditional computer/location contexts to energy-based contexts mentioned by SimplicityBliss. In his post Sven mentions that some of the old contraints like online and computer are less relevant now than they were when GTD was first written in the late 90’s. However for me there are still things I can only do while working on my work computer like connecting to my office’s network, working on a large spreadsheet or even writing a large document. For these, I like the ability to narrow my list of tasks down to the computer are useful.

My Omnifocus iPad Workflow

The final step is the Review workflow on my iPad. Again, this is another key differentiator that I have not seen with other, simple task manager solutions. Review walks you through all of your projects one at a time displaying each task attached to each of your projects. Once I have reviewed all of my tasks making changes and adjustments as necessary like changing Start or Due I then decide if the project status is still accurate, Dropped, Completed, On Hold, Active; and finally I click Mark Reviewed. reviewIn the past, I was always aweful at doing weekly reviews but Omnifocus on the iPad makes this step easy and I can definitely say that I notice things in my task lists and my projects that need adjustment which is a really important part of having a trusted system, one where you know you won’t forget stuff.

Some Final Words

I would love to hear comments from the more seasoned Omnifocus users as the workflow described above is from my own testing and hacking versus taking time to read some of excellent resources on the web dealing with Omnifocus. However, I have been able to get more productive on my own devices which to me is an indication that Omnifocus is not that hard to grasp. Overall I am pleased with what I have seen and I am reluctant to go back to some other system. However, a true test will be to see if I can mimic some of the productivity gains I have made with a tool like Evernote or even another app like Things, Todoist and the like. Sounds like I have a couple more posts to write!

What do you think of my workflow? Am I missing anything if you are a seasoned Omnifocus user? Or, if you are not using Omnifocus are there things I mentioned that make you want to try Omnifocus?

About the author

    Chris Lee

    I am a healthcare administrator interested in being productive. I believe that the combination of a tablet (iPad Air 32GB) and a smartphone (iPhone 5 in my case) can drastically improve how we do work without adding too much complexity. The “how” of accomplishing this productivity is the focus of this blog. Here are just a few of the topics I hope to cover.Even though I use iOS devices currently I am in no way totally tied to Apple. I have used a Surface 2 for an extended time and am currently considering replacing my HP laptop with a Surface at some point, so keep reading to find out when this happens. Heck, I may even write a post some day on getting efficient with a Kindle Fire HD given that my daughter just got one for her birthday awhile back.


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