Using Taskpaper in conjunction with Things 3/Omnifocus

On the most recent episode, Merlin Mann said he uses both Taskpaper and Omnifocus. I tried something similar for two days afterward, copying the next day’s tasks from Things 3 to Taskpaper and working from that. I liked the clarity of the more focused list but quickly found juggling two task managers to be overwhelming, so I switched back to just Things 3.

Anybody have better luck using two task managers? How do you decide what goes in which? I know many people use Taskpaper to generate and store recurring projects for OmniFocus, but that’s not quite what I’m asking about.

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I mainly use OmniFocus, and occasionally use Taskpaper for cases where I need a long checklist for a complex project. A basic example would be preparations for tax filings. I need to gather all statements for all accounts, then analyze each account’s statement for tax-related things, then prepare worksheets, then prepare forms, and so on. Putting the the whole set of details in OmniFocus would be very time consuming. I could use an outliner, but I like Taskpaper for this because it’s easy to scan the list and see exactly where I stand.

Metaphorically, I use OmniFocus to plan where all the walls go in the project edifice, and Taskpaper to see where all the bricks and other details go.


From hearing him talk about it on Back to Work, I think he only uses OF as a repeating task robot.

Then he types up his daily punch list in Taskpaper.

Sounds like most of his days are similar, he doesn’t have enough going on to necessitate a full GTD system.

In fact, he might have his standard daily tasks in taskpaper and maybe checks and unchecks them from day to day.

My interpretation of it, anyways.


Merlin details his Alarms-Reminders-Calendars-OmniFocus-TaskPaper-notes “stack” in the last half of a recent Back to Work episode. Starts at about the point in the link below:

It’s well worth a listen. As ever with Merlin, he cuts through a lot of overcomplication with some simple and poignant ideas.

Worth noting that his use of OmniFocus is actually pretty limited these days.


I use OF with the Full Focus Planner and my life has a lot of small-medium projects to advance at once right now. For the past few years I’ve been careful not to put aspirational tasks in OF because its purpose is to keep details organized and aid my memory, not to motivate me.* Having the planner has made it easier to stick to that because my goals and tasks that are challenges to myself go in there.

OF has lists of active projects, many with next actions, and a lot of repeating contextual work. I will double-check OF to see if my plan for my day makes sense, but otherwise I set my big three daily tasks based on my weekly goals and only consult OF for contextual lists of tasks after those are complete. And then in my OF review, I use the weekly/quarterly/annual plans to help decide whether to put a project on hold.

It’s complicated, but it’s at the right level of complexity for what I am responsible for and I feel like the work I do to maintain the system nets me a few to several hours a week.

*I mean, I mostly don’t use OF to motivate me, but sometimes I just have to brainstorm a giant, overly deep task outline in there, and get all the parallel and sequential nodes just right, to break the ice on a big job. Guilty pleasure!


I put that kind of thing inside the notes document for a project.

I don’t think it’s a case of not a lot going on — it’s that his work is straightforward. Record podcast,. Edit podcast. That’s two tasks, totaling probably a day or two to do.


Splendid! Will make a nice break from my daily news contPodcasts, which are dominated by you know what.

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Not putting aspirational tasks in one’s daily to-do software is a good tip. But what qualifies as an aspirational task? Is it anything that you might not be able to get to for weeks or months, or is it all about planning your trip to Tahiti?

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Yes, basically any project that’s too high level or that I can’t or won’t commit to finishing right now (standard GTD review stuff); for actions, anything that I’m just writing down to get me to do the work. And more importantly, I try not to query OF to make myself work; instead I try to decide that I will work, and then I use OF to get details and context on that work to save me time. It’s hard to explain why this makes such a difference to me to protect OF as this bland information source, but I haven’t struggled with choosing the right tool or feeling inspired to manage tasks as much since I started.

(It’s different with the planner because I concentrate all the motivational work into the annual and quarterly planning session goals and then they cascade down into the weekly goals. The big goals are challenging but just in the sense that they require continuous applied effort, not that I need an unusual number of high energy days to get them done.)


So stuff like clearing the garage, fixing a squeaky step and donating clothes that no longer fit — stuff that you’d like to do someday, but are not “aspirational” in the way that finding your dream career or learning to paint are —nonetheless do not go into OmniFocus for you?

Basically, yes, but: I’ll keep some projects active if I’m infrequently working in their context for legitimate reasons. E.g., I didn’t go in my detached garage for months, but kept those projects and the tag active because I had no aversion to working in the garage; I was legitimately busy. If I was doing that with living room projects, though, I’d probably drop them. But if the planner was directing me to give the living room special attention for a week, then I’d probably add or keep some supporting material in OF that I wouldn’t have tolerated the week before, possibly with a special weekly project tag. I admit to the subjectivity of this. :slight_smile:

I may never understand your system. But then again you may never understand mine. :slight_smile:

I’ve been journaling daily lately. And I make a habit of checking the Things 3 log of completed items when I do, to see if there’s anything I got done that slipped my mind.

This morning, I was startled to see NOTHING logged yesterday, when in fact I had a very productive day. But it was all spent working on one major work project, which I did not complete – nor did I expect to complete it yesterday – and also routine matters that I don’t bother to enter into Things, or log. Also checked in with my brother and several friends, and made extra time to spend with the wife. So: A busy day spent doing worthwhile things but nothing logged in Things.


Sure. In Taskpaper though I can check off steps.

This was a big recent realization for me.

I take action on projects, not tasks. So I’ve started to place projects on my day-to-day plans in lieu of itemized actions. It’s made my plans far more intuitive.

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To be truly effective they become so personalized and idiosyncratic around our weaknesses. I think it has to be that way! But I love talking about them and seeing what others are doing.