Trusting my system when I'm too busy in life


The Holiday Shopping Season is upon us and I’m as busy as a bee can be. I’m in retail and I just have so much flying at me. Sometimes I don’t get to eat lunch until 4 pm. I’m swamped with customers, preparing the ad flyers for the next weekend advertising campaign, preparing for the New Year sale, and just trying to maintain my sanity. I can’t seem to get any of my Big Rock projects done because I’m swamped with everyone else’s priorities. I used to worry about missing important deadlines, trying to contact people for some “Waiting For” items, or just trying to make sure I have my maintenance tasks taken care of. But I think I’m going to do OK because I’ve learned to trust my system.

To trust my system during hectic times such as the Holiday Shopping Season, I’ve learned to do a daily review of the most essential parts.

Review and process my Inbox
I check my OmniFocus inbox or any other inboxes such as e-mail, my incoming mail tray, and voice mail. I discard the junk mail and capture any important incoming items into OmniFocus and try to set a project and context to the new task. If needed, I set a due date on a new task only if severe penalties (financial or otherwise) will occur.

Check the calendar
I look at the next 7 days and remind myself of any due tasks that are coming up. The OmniFocus Forecast perspective is a good place to start looking. I might be able to find time somewhere to catch up on maintenance tasks and due tasks.

Another list I look up that is related to the calendar is a “Due list.” I have an OmniFocus perspective called Due which shows all of my remaining due tasks sorted by due date. A collapsed version looks like this:

In a paper-based system, I’ll just look at my calendar or refer to a page in my notebook which shows this month’s due items.

Work on Maintenance Tasks when I can
I try to work through the daily tidal waves that rush at me and I try to squeeze in some maintenance tasks in. All of my Big Rock projects are put on hold unless there is a due date attached to it.

Maintenance tasks are tasks that must be completed to make sure my life is running smoothly. These admin tasks can be something as simple as “balance the checkbook” to “pay the utility bills” or “close out the cash registers.” I need to do these maintenance tasks to make sure my life can run as smoothly as possible.

Everybody has times where we can’t just seem to get to the Big Rock projects that we wanted to do today. I narrow down my focus to:

  1. Inbox processing - capturing and hopefully processing new task.
  2. Calendar items - complete due tasks and projects before the due date as well as reviewing any future due items), Look at my calendar or my Due list.
  3. Maintenance tasks - complete my life running smoothly by completing any admin tasks that grease the wheels of my life.

I’m running pretty ragged right now. Long hours, high customer traffic, lots of demands from workers and customers. But I think I can manage. I should be ok as long as I review my inbox, my calendar, and my maintenance task list on a daily basis. I don’t miss anything. I know that all of my other Big Rock projects are safely stored away in OmniFocus so that I can get back to them after my busy Holiday Shopping Season. Trusting my system has never been easier.

Does anyone else have any other lists they need to check when the s••t hits the fan and everyone is running around like a headless chicken? I’d like to know.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Great post! I have a question. I am a restaurant manager and my days to day schedule like yours mine is super busy. I love using Omnifocus but I don’t like giving tasks due times as some are not required. Is there a method I could use for this so those nasty red rings won’t stare at me!?

There might be more than one answer to this. Yes, I agree that we shouldn’t put due times on tasks that don’t carry severe penalties if not completed by that time. I’m hopeful and waiting for OmniFocus 3 to get those nagging reminders that will pester me. But I might become numb to the nagging after a while. So we’ll see what happens.

If I don’t want the red circles, I might consider using the Flagged perspective. I have my Contexts perspective set to show all available tasks. I can’t remember if this is the default settings but I’ll show what I have.

This becomes my “menu” of available tasks. I look through the list of tasks and flag a small handful of tasks to work on today. When I have time, I can go to the Flagged perspective to work exclusively on tasks that have no due time but are important enough for me to work on today.

I do use the Admin perspective workflow to work on my Admin/Maintenance tasks. I make an appointment every day to always work through my backlog of maintenance tasks. I try to find that little block of time (typically 15-30 minutes) in the morning and in the afternoon where there is a relatively quiet time. I wouldn’t do Admin tasks during the lunch or dinner rush hour that I can imagine the restaurant has. But maybe there is a quiet period right about 9 am to 10:30 am or maybe 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm? I reserve those times for my maintenance tasks. It’s a treadmill where I try to burn through as many Admin tasks as possible. The appointment block is important. I consider myself unavailable during these times. Maybe put some earphones on as an indicator that nobody bothers me. The only time I want to be interrupted is if there is a fire or some disaster that will completely screw my day. My Admin custom perspective shows a list of all my maintenance tasks that I will work on during this time of deep work.

I have a series of Single Action Lists (SALs) that is described in the Admin perspective workflow. My Admin/Maintenance SALs contains single next actions that are maintenance in nature. I like to flag them and set defer dates with repeat settings.

I might have something like “water the office plants” deferred to Thursday and it will repeat itself every 3 days. I have these single tasks flagged. These tasks are hidden because they have a defer date. They pop up in my Contexts perspective when they become available (defer date is today). It also pops up in my Flagged perspective automatically. I can check this task off and it disappears from my available tasks perspective and will show up when it becomes available once again.

You might want to peek at the Admin perspective workflow to see how I handle my maintenance tasks. Is this what you were thinking of? This perspective will show maintenance tasks that resides in my Admin/Maintenance folders.

I’d like to hear from you again if you’ve solved it. you might just come up with some other workflow that would be great to talk about here.


I recently tried flagging a few tasks instead of due dates. While I like the setup, I did run into a issue. Most of my daily work tasks repeat each week. I set my tasks to defer until they were due again but, they remained flagged. This posed a problem with my Apple watch. It looked as if I hadn’t completed the task since it was flagged again. I use my watch heavily while working to show me my next tasks so I need to figure out how to complete the task and also have it not show until it’s due again.

Sorry, I don’t have an Apple Watch so I’m not sure what’s happening there. Is there a setting to show only “flagged and available” tasks? It does sound like you have set correctly to defer the task until the due date.

There are two dates - the defer date and the due date. I can only guess that you need to set the defer date and the due date to the same date. If I have a flagged task due to December 31, I also make sure to set the defer date to December 31.

I was just wondering. Do you also set a defer date as well as a due date? I have my Flagged perspective to show only Available tasks. A flagged task won’t be available or show up until the defer date. That might keep the task hidden until the defer date.

For example, I have a Flagged task to refresh credit card tape rolls every Monday. The defer date and due date is set to Monday. If I check it off on .tuesday, I won’t see this task again until next Monday, it is set to repeat as Due again every Monday.

Would this work on your Apple Watch? I guess you can set the Apple Watch to show a custom perspective that shows only available and flagged?

The Apple Watch just shows the Flagged or a custom perspective. So the problem would be present on the iPhone as well.

I wonder… :thinking: Can you change the view settings of the Flagged perspective to show only available?

Otherwise the only other option is to create a custom perspective that will show what you’re looking for.