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I have been using OmniFocus for about a year, and GTD on and off for several years. I moved from paper into electronic tools rather quickly, being an electronic kind of guy :-), and have never looked back. But, I am experiencing a frustration with OmniFocus that I wanted to express.

My biggest problem with OmniFocus is the lack of a "today" meta context.

To get around this I have had to use start and due dates to make the "badging" light up on certain days/weeks/months. However, the problem with using dates is that my review times are spent primarily moving dates around; dates which I mostly wouldn't even use if there was a notion of 'today', 'this week', 'this month', etc. I have incorporated some of Curt's applescripting to help, but I still spend most of my review fiddling with the dates. Or, not fiddling with the dates and putting up with useless badging.

I have read Omni's view about keeping the purity of GTD, but if I were on a card-based system, I would simply pull out the cards for today from my morning review and put them in my pocket. Also, you can use colored index cards to indicate different priorities, or other 'meta' information. You can also put an asterisk on the card or dog-ear it to further indicate some meta information. To be true to GTD, I believe much of this functionality must follow through from the tools used. To artificially limit their use makes the tool less useful. I don't want to have all my data in OmniFocus and then have to cut and paste to "remember the milk" or some other program as a task list (with or without linking). I want to do it in one place, as quickly and as simply as possible.

I understand that some use the flag for the 'today' indicator, but I already use the flag to indicate tasks that absolutely, positively must get done and require constant, prioritized attention (i.e. things that are important to my boss :-).

Almost everything else on my list is already overdue anyway :-), or if not overdue then the 'when' is up to me, making dates somewhat pointless except as general timeframe indicators. So, for my morning, evening, and weekly reviews, instead of reviewing for content, I am spending most of the review fiddling dates that are somewhat meaningless as dates (right now, in my morning review (put off from yesterday) I have to fiddle the dates on thirty tasks that only had dates set so I could have the badging light up during the week, but are also accumulated from prior weeks). This could be accomplished easier, with a smaller number of tasks involved, if I could set a 'today' indicator in my morning review ('this week', 'this month', or tags would be nice also).

With screencastsonline reviewing 'things', I was tempted to move over to 'things' again (tags, 'today', etc.), but having tried it before, I feel I would be taking a step backward for much of what I am doing, and I would lose the automation I have built (or borrowed :-).

Bottom line for me is that I want to do much less work, spending much less time, being much less perfect with my organizational tools. My hope from this post is to hear that Omni is going to add a 'today' meta context and tags to the next release of OmniFocus, so all I have to do is wait :-). Or, that there is something simple that I have missed that makes the sun shine and the birds sing :-).

Thanks for listening.


(BTW, did you notice that you can set tags on the post, but not on an OF task :-)?

Last edited by elrjax; 2009-10-24 at 04:03 AM..

It sounds like what you're after is really to have the badge counts give you a sense of the urgency of getting tasks done. I say that because it seems like you don't actually care about the dates; you just adjust them to make the badges behave. Am I understanding correctly? If so, then you don't just want the ability to tag items as today, but you want the ability to have the badges reflect the count of tasks that are tagged as today.

Taking that further, and considering some features that have been hinted at for version 2, there would a nice synergy between tagging, smart folders, and this custom badge idea. For example, you could make a smart folder that matches items that are flagged for your boss or tagged as today, then you could make your badges reflect the number of items in that particular smart folder. Others might make different smart folders (say items tagged as high priority or with due dates within the next 7 days) to drive their badges.

Interesting food for thought.

In the interim, I wanted to make sure you knew that you can change the start and due dates of multiple items in OF simultaneously using the inspector. Just select all the items (using command-click), then change the date in the inspector.

And don't forget, use Help → Send Feedback to submit feature suggestions to get them entered in the development database.

(I'm trying to resist the urge to coach here. Do what works for you. For me, one of the great reliefs of switching to GTD was getting out of the grind of pushing around artificial due dates. Is the cost of pushing them around worth the benefits you get from doing so? If so, then carry on. Occasionally when thinking about my system I'll discover that rather than looking for a more efficient way to do something, I'm better off not doing it at all. Again, I don't mean to preach and hope I'm not coming off that way.)

Originally Posted by elrjax View Post
(BTW, did you notice that you can set tags on the post, but not on an OF task :-)?
Heh. I have noticed that. Still no priority settings on forum posts though. ;-)



+1 for a today type list. I personally feel that Omnifocus supremely rules for collecting and organizing but when it comes down to doing actions, I'm left with lists of actions that I have to keep looking over throughout the day. It's exhausting. I'm currently using flags to make the list and it's working ok for now.
I am in the exact same boat. I am constantly fiddling around with perspectives and views and focus and contexts to get to the "this is what is the truly active stuff on my list at this place right now."

Now even in saying that, it helps to remind me that part of it is filtering out things that aren't truly active projects but are really "someday/maybe" things.

My goal is not to follow GTD, although I have never found a system better. My goal is get things done in the most efficient way possible.

That's really why I would like to see tagging. It would give us the freedom to think through this very issue.


Your comments helped me clarify my thinking about this. I hadn't identified that the badging had become so important to me as a distinct element of my workflow, and of my work execution, until you reflected that back to me. I absolutely rely on those indicators during the day to draw my attention to the items/projects/contexts I must give attention to; I might not get them done, but they are an important part of the pool of candidates :-).

It would really help me if OmniFocus fully embraced the dual nature of the problem and became two tools in one. The first tool would be a pure GTD implementation engine that makes all the philosophically wonderful next action automations happen to all the GTD'ers satisfaction (which they have now).

The second tool would be a down and dirty task/action management and implementation "execution" engine with the ability for us to get it wrong every day and easily recover. This would include 'Today' badging, 'Next Week' badging, tags, and a way to easily mass-move between these groups. Perhaps this is even an entirely new part of the tool; "projects," "contexts," and now "working." (or some such thing). That would preserve the purity of the GTD engine while providing the practical, daily, messy implementation tools that would help me (us?) be more effective in our execution of all our planning.

My typical workflow using OF is on the weekend to set week date ranges on the tasks I will try to focus on next week, or the following week, or this month, or next month, knowing that during the week, or sometime very soon, much of my planning will change. So, to get the badging to help me, I set the start and end dates for this Monday through next Friday (if I am trying to set it for 'next week'). For something that has a "boss" priority I also set a flag. If something is due on Monday then I set that as the due date. I have even started on an applescript that will do this for me (finding "next week" or "next friday" has been a trip). I have a few other actions/projects with dates; most of which have extensive backup in the form of project plans, sharepoint sites, subversion repositories, JIRA workflows, weekly/daily status meetings, etc., so all I need in OF is just a thumbnail of my specific tasks and milestones to keep me on track. (I am looking at ms project and JIRA integration, but I'm not sure I want all that detail in OF).

(The downside of this approach is that (1) I have a lot of date maintenance to do in my review session, and (2) I have overloaded the meaning of dates to include "today" and still have to sort out what I need to focus on. I have stared to fiddle overdue to mean today, but that goes bad quickly in a busy long-day week when you don't get the reviews done each night.)

I would love to start each day with some sort of group of tasks/actions that I have identified must be focused on today. I might not get them done, I might need to look in OF at other things, my day might get completely changed around, but this is my best guess at what I was trying to focus on today. Tonight I will move things around, put them in 'this week' or move them to "friday" or to "next week" or let them stay in today; whatever. Then I start it all over again tomorrow. If I was using file cards I would re-review everything, and pull out tomorrows cards, put them in my pocket, and put the others on my desk.

I might even like a nice "today" printout to carry around for meetings where I don't have my laptop. The iphone could be a lot of help here also. Getting big long lists on the iphone hasn't helped me much, but I know the platform is maturing.

I liked the tagging and smart folder ideas you mentioned, and if they included some badging then that would help a lot. Also, it would be nice if the individual tasks got the badge also rather than just be a different color. It would make scanning the actions faster for me.

Your comment on mass updates using the inspector was great. I had tried to mass update by selecting multiple actions and then changing the date on a task, but that of course didn't work. Thanks for the tip; I have already used it several times :-).

I sent feedback as you had suggested, referencing this thread.

And, your coaching is spot on.

On what I believe is a similar note, OmniPlan has the ability for you to set a weekly schedule (i.e. I can do work from 5am-1pm on Tuesdays). I would really like a weekly view like that to drag tasks to. I fell off using OF (and any scheduling) for about a month, and it was awful. But I fell off because I was starting to feel overwhelmed using due dates in OF and having to constantly review and modify them.

On a real, paper-based weekly agenda, if I don't get something done that I wrote down I simply circle it and draw an arrow to another time when I can complete it. In the virtual world, this could be dragging it to a later date. OF already has a great understanding of dates, I just want to visualize the work.

For me, that would solve the problems brought up by OP.

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