Mac Power Users 451: Task Management Strategies

2Do is great at this. GoodTask does this as well (but the interface is a little more clunky around Start Dates).

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I’d been on Things for around 6 months, and jumped back to omnifocus as soon as Mojave came out. I’m so much happier! I know in part I was fooling myself because the act of transferring and updating my information served as a big deep review and I checked off a ton of things, but not having the review features in Things in the first place is part of how I ended up here.

  • I missed review.
  • I missed having the ability to check off a repeating task if I happened to complete it a little bit early (not possible in Things).
  • Most of all, I missed not having to worry about my repeating tasks actually repeating. I’m sure it’s my own fault, but sometimes things slipped through the cracks with Things, and if that’s going to happen then this whole court is out of order. My number one use for task management is deferred and repeating tasks, and if it’s broken I won’t even find out until sometime after it’s due when I think ‘hey, I haven’t seen that one go by in a while…’

I’ve been thinking lately that the task tool I really need is a text edit window on my second screen with the font cranked up huge and it says YOU ARE DOING: [TASK]. I’m always falling down these task ladders where I’m working on F because I need it for E so that I can update D which is the only thing missing from C and if I just had C I’d basically have B which is all I need to get through task A.


Have to agree with repeating tasks, importing from Reminders, etc. I noticed the other day that my pets’ water was low because the recurring task went away for some reason.

I’ve been thinking lately that the task tool I really need is a text edit window on my second screen with the font cranked up huge and it says YOU ARE DOING: [TASK] .

Reminds me of Vitamin-R, a tool to help one focus.

"When you’re up to your ass in alligators it’s difficult to remember that your initial intent was to drain the swamp.

Enjoyable and useful episode here. I liked @MacSparky’s idea of “vectors” – projects, folders, tagging and contexts are all just ways of getting different views of different subsets of your data and should be mixed and matched where appropriate.

I’m going to try to implement two ideas inspired by this episode:

Mobile tag:
For tasks I can do on my iPhone while on the go. I might even call it “on the go.” I attend a lot of professional conferences, and seem to often find myself in situations where I’m idle but can’t get out my MacBook. Sitting on an airplane waiting for takeoff. Or maybe I’m hiking across a conference center and have a couple of minutes between meetings where I can find a corner out of the way of foot traffic and do some things on my iPhone. I could have this “mobile” tag and get some things done on the iPhone while I’m literally standing around doing nothing.

"Fake priorities."
Use the OmniFocus Perspective tags for tasks I want to remind myself about several times a day. As the day progresses into the afternoon, I’d flag a couple of tasks I feel I must complete that day. Then there’s the regular, available tasks; I guess I’ll check on those once a day or once a week? And finally there are tasks on hold – you might call that the “someday/maybe” list.

You may well ask why I call those fake priorities? They look like actual priorities, right? Flagged tasks are priority 1, Perspectives tasks are priority 2, regular available tasks are priority 3, and tasks on hold are priority 4. I call them “fake priorities” because I’m a GTD guy and GTD says don’t use priorities. Happy to clear that up!


I’ve started to use iCloud but with Fantastical as the front end. Serves me well at the moment. Felt burn out having tried most of the third party apps.

Really enjoyed this episode. It made me think through my own process and why I do what I do. Always helpful to have a rethink!

Something I thought of while listening: I love location based tags but I don’t want (for example) all my “office” based tags to notify me when I get to the office. So I created an additional tag called “(Loc) office” that is location based and will notify me of the specific tasks I need to do next time I get to the office. Does anybody else handle this problem differently?

Thanks @MacSparky and @katiefloyd!


Nope. I have a few tags that only exist as a moving part. “Arriving Office”, “Arriving Daycare”, “Leaving Gym.”

Those tasks will also often be tagged with the non-location tag just in case I want to see it in the regular tag with the rest of the tasks.

Also I use a “checklist” tag as a way to keep list and routine items out of my main working perspectives without having to leave them “on hold.”


Great ideas here. I think it’s fine to be experimental with tags to begin.


There are two techniques I use:

  1. Tasks tagged with “Interstitial” which are 5 minute tasks. Also 15 minute ones. Former to just do with a little spare time. The latter to give myself faith the task will soon be over. :slight_smile: (Similar to something @MacSparky said.)

  2. I’ve started scheduling tasks with Due dates at specific times of the day - for the current day. As Omnifocus shows my calendar interspersed with the tags that gives me a unified idea of what I’m supposed to be doing when in the day.

But for me the main issue is just getting on and doing stuff; There are always more interesting things to do than a dry task in a task manager. :slight_smile:

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I just estimate when I need to see this to get it done and then flag if it really needs to get done. I use David’s “Today” perspective showing me all available tasks today across projects and tags and then I have those flagged which are more important than others so that they stand out


I have considered going all-in on Reminders as well instead of OmniFocus. But the lack of deferring dates just makes it really unappealing to me. I just now that I will have a ton of tasks in Reminders that I will never get done. There is a much bigger chance that I will get somewhat unimportant tasks with OmniFocus than Reminders

I still find 2Do to have the best Reminders integrations if you are wanting OF-esque features, but with Reminders sync.

It supports:

  • Start Dates
  • Paused Tags (for someday/maybe lists)
  • There’s a URL scheme & some iOS Shortcuts support
  • Email to 2Do
  • Smart Filters (Perspectives)

It’s a very full featured app. It sometimes can lag behind system updates, but it’s a very solid system.

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Thanks! How does Fantastical fit into all that? Because that’s actually how I manage my Reminders today and I like that. Do you use Fantastical for Reminders as well?

Teehee. Yeah, it’s pretty transparent that MPU is all about Omnifocus. Ah well, I imagine it’s what’s used, so it’s what’s discussed. Thing is, the vast majority of people don’t have a Lawyer’s tasks to deal with, so the thing that gets lost, in spite of all the “we’re not making this into an Omnifocus show… Oh wait, we are” stuff is that what’s being discussed is largely inapplicable to the majority of the audience.

I bought Omnifocus years ago because I listened to Dave hammer on about it forever until I was convinced it was some kind of panacea of task management. The one thing they got right this time was that you need to look at your life and your needs before you look at a task management system. Many folks don’t even need one.

For me, I’ve kind of settled on using Due for almost everything that I need to get done, and Things to act as the depository for everything that’s just an idea. If I get a spare few minutes/hours I want to use productively, I see what I can find in Things.

All the rest is gravy. I found out that you can waste a lot of your life trying to be a productive human. Really, I believe there’s about a 5% chance you need Omnifocus. Most folks would get by just fine with one of the “first level” solutions.

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I’m increasingly relying on time blocking or “hyper scheduling” as David calls it. OF3 does a nice job of showing the tasks in the timeline, but I think it goes one step not enough in the right direction.

I’d really like smarter integration between the calendar and my task manager. Any ideas on how that can be done with OF3?

Side note: I’m very tempted with Sorted 3. I like the idea of the app a lot, just not sold on an iOS only workflow (they are building a Mac version).

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I think the utility of the various software solutions has less to do with what you do than with who you are. It depends a lot on personality. I don’t do very much that is like lawyering and I use Omnifocus for everything, both personal and work related, because it fits how I think and what I need.

For other people, their personality requires something that scratches their itch in a different way. We can’t get hung up on the tools that others use in a comparison to what we choose, but we have to glean the universal principles available.

As to who needs Omnifocus, I think the percentage of people who could benefit from it is well above 5%, but it’s also probably not most people either.

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I used Fantastical as a review tool. It has the ability to show you all completed Reminders on your calendar. That’s a nice feature when you’re trying to evaluate where you spent your time. Because many of the additional features of 2Do are only available in those apps I generally never managed my Reminders outside of 2Do.


Point taken. Different people think differently, and perhaps my 5% figure is off the mark a bit. Still and all, I think Omnifocus is decidedly more for people managing a lot of balls in the air. I don’t think most people’s lives are that full of stuff. At least, I hope not. I’d kinda go nuts if I had so much on all the time. But then, that’s to your point of ‘who you are’. Maybe it’s not who I am to be so busy, so I’ll never need anything to manage my business. I think one of my main tasks would always be “take time for yourself–do not be busy”. Antithetical to task management when your task is to have no task. :slight_smile:


I’ve dragged tasks from Omnifocus into my calender before. Maybe try that.