Updating my OmniFocus planning/reviewing workflow

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I am always interested in doing a performance review to refine my workflows. When something doesn’t feel quite right, I’d like to get to the root of the problem. I introduced a workflow where I arranged my workflow in OmniFocus into a group of planning perspectives (located at the top toolbar in OmniFocus) and a group of doing perspectives (located at the left sidebar). You can revisit that workflow here:


(July 18, 2017)

It’s almost a year later now and I noticed my workflow slowly changing. My doing workflow remained the same but I felt some friction in my planning workflow.

This was what my review workflow looked like:

I started my review workflow with these perspectives:

I performed a planning review at the end of each day:

  1. Inbox
  2. Review
  3. Forecast
  4. Due
  5. Flagged

When I am doing intensive planning, I would work in perspectives six through ten:
6. Projects
7. Contexts (now called Tags in OmniFocus 3)
8. Completed
9. Journal
10. Changed

My doing perspectives in the left sidebar was fine. I flowed easily between perspectives throughout the day.


Remaking the Planning Workflow

TL;DR: I moved Due out of my daily review. I can view due tasks in the Forecast. I eliminated Flagged perspective because I usually flag in the Menu perspective.

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My planning perspectives didn’t feel quite right. I was using a few perspectives on a daily basis (Inbox, Review, Forecast). But there were other planning perspectives (Due and Flagged) I ignored because I didn’t feel as much value in them on a daily basis. The idea behind the large planning perspective group looked good in theory but I rarely found myself using a lot of them.

A perspective should be used during a distinct workflow. After a year of experimenting, I needed to re-clarify the purpose of each perspective. I am not a big fan of having long reviews. I used to do a weekly review every Sunday morning that lasted up to 3 hours. That was way too much time for me to dedicate in one time period. I also noticed which planning perspectives I used during my End of the Day review and which planning perspectives were infrequently touched. I decided to shorten my daily review. I broke up my planning perspectives into two groups:

The EOD Review (End Of Day)

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I have my Due for iOS app set to nag me to review near the end of my workday. I open OmniFocus and check these four perspectives.

  1. Visit my Forecast perspective to review any deferred and due tasks that weren’t finished today. I also look at the schedule for the next two days to determine how much free time I have. I also look head to see what’s coming up in the next couple of days.
  2. Go to the Inbox to process any new inbox items that I have here.
  3. Review any projects that appear here. I have projects pop in here every day. Projects that have a lot of changes get reviewed more frequently. On Hold projects and any active projects that don’t have a lot of changes will appear weekly or monthly.
  4. Check my Menu for available tasks to work on. This perspectives shows all of my available tasks. I can flag any task (not due) to force it to appear in my Dashboard. My Dashboard perspective (or Today) shows only due or flagged tasks. The Dashboard is a more focused version of the menu.

I shrank my End of Day Review workflow down to these four perspectives. Everything else is moved into the Planning perspectives group.

My Planning Perspectives

These are general maintenance perspectives that I do not use daily but will need them every once in a while.

  1. Visit the default Project perspective to perform project curation. I preview my tasks grouped by projects here.
  2. Check into the default Contexts perspective to see remaining tasks grouped by context. OmniFocus 3 has renamed this perspective to Tags.
  3. Project log shows all of my completed tasks grouped by projects. There are times when I need to see what I completed in a particular project.
  4. The Completed perspective shows all of my tasks grouped by completion date. It’s a great way to see how many tasks I completed in a particular time period.
  5. The On Hold perspective shows any projects that are on hold. This is the direct opposite of my [Big Rocks perspective] which shows all active projects. I visit this perspective when I have finished a currently active Big Rock project or if I need to review a project and I’m trying to kickstart it.
  6. I can look at the Due perspective when I want to see due items that are much farther into the time horizon. I can view due tasks in the near future by looking at the Forecast.
  7. The Schedule perspective is something I’m still playing with. It shows a list of tasks grouped by defer date. I’m unsure what I’m doing with this but it might be handy to see older tasks and delete them if they are no longer relevant.
  8. Everybody should have a Changed perspective. This allows me to review any items I may have changed. I might need to undo or revise a task here.
  9. The Stale perspective shows all of my projects grouped by Add date. As old projects grow stale, I might consider deleting it or delegating it to someone else.

These nine perspectives are planning perspectives but I don’t need to review them every day. I use them when needed.

The Inactive perspectives

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I have just one perspective that I no longer use: the Flagged perspective. I flag and un-flag projects and tasks in the Contexts perspective or my Menu perspective. This perspective became obsolete because I rarely visited it. I might reconsider this default perspective at a later date. But for now, it gets placed in a section called Inactive. I might have other perspectives that I no longer use here.

Breaking up the perspectives

Hopefully, a future version of OmniFocus will allow us to group perspectives. For now, I used a fake perspective to give headers. I have headers for EOD Review, Planning, Checklists, and Inactive.

Here is what my new workflow looks in OmniFocus 3 for iOS:

Action Items

  • Look at your OmniFocus perspectives and see how your perspectives are grouped.
  • Create a daily review perspectives workflow where you can review just the necessary projects and tasks. This is your daily review workflow.
  • Move everything else to a Planning group. This is your planning workflow when you need to do general maintenance on your projects and lists.

It’s interesting to see how small subtle shifts in workflows happen after using OmniFocus on a daily basis. I actually look forward to doing the dreaded daily review now. I feel comfortable knowing that it won’t take long. Currently, I spend about 10-15 minutes on the End of Day review workflow. All of the other planning perspectives are grouped separately away from my End of Day Review group. I’m ready and primed for the next day.

I’m looking for new ways to change my review period. It doesn’t have to be a drastic makeover. It can be a subtle move such as grouping my perspectives. Share some of your tricks and ideas of what workflow tweaks you may have made over the last year. This is an experiment that started in OmniFocus 1 and is still going on today.

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I’ve been using this trimmed down review for the past 3 weeks now and I think I’m gonna keep it.

I’ve been using the Due App to nag me starting at 4:30 pm every afternoon and every 30 minutes later until I get around to doing and End-Of-Day Review. I can snooze the Due notification for another hour if I am stuck in a late afternoon meeting or busy with customers.

I just go through my Inbox, Review, Menu, and Agenda perspectives. I process through my Inbox. I review any projects that show up. I visit the Menu to choose another group of tasks for tomorrow. I see the Agenda to remind myself of any items that I need to discuss with other people. Looking in here also triggers me to create a new task to follow up with a person if I haven’t heard from them in a long time.

I feel much better knowing what I need to know.

  1. Inbox items have been processed.
  2. All projects have been reviewed and while show up again in the future.
  3. I use the Menu to choose the next 3-5 tasks for the next day
  4. Any waiting for issues and agenda items with other people are reviewed. This perspective can trigger new tasks to follow up more persistently.

I use the other Planning perspectives once a month when I need to course correct my direction for the next month.

I get the feeling of satisfaction that I know where everything stands in my world. I hope you’re able to get your world in order.

For now, I’ve finished tweaking my review workflow. If my life situation changes, I’m sure I’ll be back to revisit my review workflow once again.

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Thank you for such a detailed insight into your reviews. I’m planning to port some of them into 2do for my own weekly review .

EOD review look super helpful. Roughly how much time do you spend on EOD reviews ?

Thanks. Please report back on how you do your EOD reviews.

It’s actually pretty quick.

Most of that time is spent in the Review perspective. Depending on the review interval, I might have anywhere from 2 to 10 projects to review. I spend about 2-10 minutes on the Review perspective. If a list or project changes a lot, I set the review cycle to a shorter time. Otherwise, most of my active projects are set to every 3 or 4 days. The On Hold projects are set to be reviewed once every 2 - 4 weeks.

Going through inbox might take 1 minute to 5 minutes. That’s just processing items in the inbox to the proper list or project.

The Agenda perspective takes 1-5 minutes. That’s where I look at waiting for items. Most of what I’m waiting for is based on other people. I might follow up or create a new task based on an agenda item.

The Menu perspective probably takes less than 5 minutes. Choosing the 3-5 tasks is usually easy. Of course, I don’t have to choose 3-5 tasks when due tasks automatically show up in the Today/Dashboard menu. This takes 2-5 minutes.

If I total the low end and total the high end, it works out to 7 minutes to 25 minutes. But it usually ends up around 10 minutes. If I spend 10 minutes a day for 7 days, it does work out to 70 minutes per week. Because I break my review down to small digestible time periods, it becomes palatable. I don’t know if I can spend an hour doing a weekly review at the end of the week. I wouldn’t have the attention span for it. I’d rather be doing work than going through the dreaded one hour review. It’s better to bite into the review time in small daily doses.

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How did you change your perspectives? eg. #1 for inbox, #2 for review? thank you. I am working to set up my OF workflow like your set up. Thank you :slight_smile:

I’m sure you’ll take mine and then adjust it to fit your workflow.

On the Mac, I can go to the perspective editor (Command-Control-P) and re-arrange the perspectives in the order I want.

When I have the arrangement settled, I can check the Perspectives menu at the menu bar to see if it is arranged for me to work in. I have separators (fake perspectives that do nothing). But it helps me divide my perspectives into groups. Here’s my current Perspective menu now…

The first group of “Doing” perspectives (except for Forecast) are starred so that they show up in my left sidebar like this.

When I am in “Doing” mode, I will work from these perspectives. I might be at the House, Office, or working on my Mac/iPad. Or I might be working on a Big Rock project.

Next, I customize my toolbar (control-click on the toolbar and then select “Customize Toolbar…”
I drag and drop my “planning” perspectives like this…

my%20perspectives%20toolbar

My EOD review are the first five. I work my way from left to right.

  1. Process inbox first
  2. Review any projects that show up in this perspective
  3. Check tomorrow’s schedule to see how much free time I have to work on OmniFocus projects and tasks
  4. Check the Agenda for any “Waiting For” follow-ups. I might need to push up a followup and schedule a phone call with someone or arrange for a meeting.
  5. Check the Menu. Choose from the menu and flag any tasks to appear in my Dashboard. Due items will automatically appear in the Dashboard. I look for the extra tasks that aren’t due but I’d like to work on them tomorrow.

I also customize OF3 on my iPad to show a similar grouping.

I work from these perspectives when I am in “Doing” mode every day.

Then I do My EOD Review in the EOD Review section. I visit this grouping daily.

I have a section for Planning perspectives. I visit this only if I need to during the week. I also visit this about 3 days before the end of the month to plan what I want to work on for next month.

At the bottom, I have checklists that I like to go to when I need to see them.


Grouping my perspectives has been a big boost for me. I know which grouping i want to be in (Doing, EOD Review, Planning, Checklist).

The only groupings I visit daily or Doing and EOD Review. Everything else can be seen whenever I need to.

I’m hoping that Omni Group will allow us to have groupings. It makes it easier to manage my perspectives.

HTH. Take what you need from this workflow and mold it to fit your life. I’m curious to see what you and others might be doing. Reply back after a few weeks with your update. That should give you time to figure out your workflow.

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oops forgot to mention. I added the Agenda perspective to my EOD review.

The Agenda perspective is my Waiting For perspective. I visit this perspective to monitor the waiting for items. Most of the things I’m waiting for are from other people (waiting for the bank to approve a line of credit, waiting for a phone call from someone else, waiting for a condition or situation to occur before proceeding).

So my EOD review now looks like this:

New%20EOD%20Review

Again, I work from left to right during the EOD review so that I don’t skip a step.
Your EOD review will change over time when you have new demands or responsibilities.

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Thank you very much, for giving of your valuable time to send me your OF workflow. This will greatly help me with my initial set up. Hope you are having a successful week.

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