Taking advantage of the new OmniFocus 3 features

@MacSparky’s belovèd Omnifocus 3 includes all sorts of new features, especially tagging. I’ve never been into tagging, but I’m thinking that I’m using the new OF all wrong—I use DueBy and DeferTill dates for everything, and spend a lot of my time in the app pushing important but not yet done things to tomorrow. Yes, I own David’s screencast-laden OmniFocus eBook. Is there a good site, blog post, etc. that handles how to use the new app systematically and effectively? Anyone got their own tips? Is an update coming to @MacSparky’s book?


If I might ask, are you using OF to create your own system or do you follow the GTD methodology—and if you do, do you follow stick pretty closely to GTD or do you pick and choose which parts to follow?

That could influence the advice you get, the advice you’d find helpful. :slight_smile:

First off, I’d suggest that you’re only using it wrong if you’re not using it the way you want to use it. For example, as a fairly strict GTDer, I would note that due dates should be used only for events that have a read, hard due date. For GTDers, due dates should not be used as a way to suggest a day by which you’d like to complete a task. The same sentiment applies to defer dates. Even @MacSparky has temporarily suspended his habit of deferring all tasks as an experiment. (I think this is a good decision and look forward to hearing more about his thoughts about it.)

Re tagging, née Contexts, I personally wish they had kept contexts and added tags. Contexts are still meaningful as a category. It’s true that instead of a landline in an office, I have a cellphone in my pocket that works all over the world, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I still need to call someone. It’s true that I have a computer in my pocket, but that doesn’t blur the distinction that I need a computer for some tasks and to be in my garden for others.

My current suggestion is to use “@“ to indicate contexts and “regular” words for tags. For example, “@home” or “@phone” vs “project1.”

So, what do you want to do? How would you like to use OF? Are you a strict GTDer, or do you follow your own Productivity Muse?

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I am very sure I have heard him say an update will be done! I’m not sure exactly how it will work with upgrading though so will let him chime in on that if he wants to :slight_smile:

One resource I can definitely recommend is Learn OmniFocus - there are free items there (including a Workflows video with yours truely - based around OF3!), and also paid content including access to office hours where you can discuss these things with @timstringer - extremely helpful!


+1 Learn OmniFocus. @timstringer is a great resource!


Thanks @RosemaryOrchard. I had forgotten about @timstringer’s resource. I’ll look into that.

@sylvaticus, I’m definitely NOT a strict GTD’er, though I’ve read the book and listened to the audiobook. In fact, I wonder if the way I use OF3 is odd. Basically I live in the Forecast pane, because my use of due dates and deadlines makes a TO DO list for each day for me. If I’m going to abandon that, I imagine that I would have to be jumping around a lot more in different areas of the app. How does that work? I feel very timid with OF, like I still really don’t get it.

So maybe I’ll read/watch some of the material on Learn Omnifocus, and see where that goes.


I can’t speak for the GTD way of doing things because I am simply not familiar, but I can speak to how I do it.

Day to day I use an android phone so getting things into Omni has always kinda sucked, lately I have been experimenting with maildrop, and I have high hopes for the omnifocus website.

All tasks for me start life in the inbox before being sorted into the system, I have a three tag system mostly, one tag denotes the category of importance I have for a task (critical, high, medium, low, minimum) then I have a tag for which person / persons I need to to a task with, task for me to do solo get tagged with me, then lastly I have a task type take, like administration, or a programming language I need to use for the task.

I then use projects to provide hierarchy to the tasks

Day to day I use a collection of custom filters to see what needs to be done where, when a project is currently the priority, I might increase the review from once a week to daily to get a better grasp on it. My use of due dates is limited, only to the tasks that I should be doing that day, that are regular repeating tasks. And tasks that need to get done on or by that date.

Some examples:
I have a small collection of tasks dubbed work chores, they are low priority tasks which are due daily to do things like murge my codebase with the master branch (something I forget to do without the task) that task has the tags: Medium, Ben, (Company I am working for), it belongs to the project “work chores”

Another task I have is
“Bring rings to wedding” (I am getting married in two days) this task is tagged: Critical, Ben, Packing. With the project of “wedding” and is due on Saturday, it’s also flagged. Thus it shows up on my forecast as something I really have to do, and in my most imprptant task view.

A final example task is
“Decimal clock” it is tagged with: Minimum, and Technology and sits in a project called potential projects. It has no due date and that project is excluded from most of views, it is a task which actually never needs to and might not be done, one day I had an idea to make a decimal clock plugin, based off the French system for decimal time, and it needed to be captured somewhere, potential projects are where long term ideas live since I am yet to find a workflow I like for storing them.


I’ve learned a ton from @Wilson_Ng and his posts in both the Omnifocus forums and Productivity Guild forums. That said you also have to make it your own. With that your system will develop over time. I’m making constant tweaks and notes to my system and will do so continuously as I’m trying stuff out etc.

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You don’t have to live strictly in the Forecast view. Over time, you’ll see the advantages of custom perspectives. I’d start with thinking of a list you like to frequently use. Then figure out how to create a custom perspective for that list.

For example, I have an OmniFocus On-The-Go perspective that I use when I am ready to leave the house or the office. I check it to see if I need to bring something with me. This list contains my Office (Leaving) tag. I’m leaving the office and I should bring some folders before I go to my next meeting. This list also has my Errands tags. Are there any errands I can do while on the way to the next meeting?

Over time, you’ll find situations where you create lists (custom perspectives) that you’ll frequently use.

As @Jonathan_Davis said, your system will develop and evolve over time. Build up the custom perspectives list slowly. When your situation changes, you can delete, modify, or add new custom perspectives to meet your fancy.

It’s your system that makes it click. The app is just the tool to help grease the wheels. Craft your system so it can work in almost any app.

Thanks @Jonathan_Davis. I’m glad you enjoyed my inane ramblings. Always looking forward to hearing from MPU, OmniFocus, and Guild folks about what they have in their own setup that makes life easy.


Also going off of this from @Wilson_Ng I have a running Ulysses file on Omnifocus where I document my thoughts and issues I wanna solve and what’s been going well etc. Then when it’s time to create a custom perspective this is a good way to see what can be beneficial.


Your “leaving” tag is brilliant. I’m adding that. I always struggled with this under OF2.

Now you have me thinking, I’ll bet it’s possible to set up meeting types, and populate OF3 with tasks using automation. For me, for example:

Leaving (Sales meeting) - take my iPad, sales material, Apple Pencil.

Leaving (Game-No broadcast) - take my DSLR camera, my iPad, and my iOS microphone doohickey.

Leaving (Game-Broadcast) - take everything above plus the cases with my broadcast equipment.

Now I just need to figure out how to do this.

Thanks. The hard part was remembering to check this perspective at the appropriate time (leaving). I had to learn to make it a habit. If I skipped it, I would usually forget something. I’ve taken my kids to school in the morning and forgot to bring something the kids needed for school that day. Then I’d have to drive all the way back home and retrieve it. I try to automatically check this perspective when I’m going outside. A
I’ve also gone so far as to look at this perspective and write it down on an index card. I look at On-The-Go and my calendar to see what I need to do the next day. I can set my iPad’s widget screen to show my Due tasks. But then I set my iPhone ‘s widget screen to show my On-The-Go screen. Whenever I leave a meeting, a check my my iPhone Today screen to see what needs to be taken.

For your meetings, you can probably just make a laminated checklist to remind you to check off everything. The last item on the checklist would be Check iPhone OmniFocus On-The-Go for any extra special items you need to add to the standard checklist.

In the end, I don’t always live in the Forecasr Perspective. I create custom perspectives for certain situations that I find myself in a lot.

@timstringer tweeted a great post about the power of custom perspectives here. In the the beginning, you’ll wonder “what’s the fuss about custom perspectives?” He shares a few of his custom perspectives to give you a jumpstart in using the OmniFocus pro features here, get out of the Forecast perspective and explore the world of custom perspectives!