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What I Wish I Had Read Before Using Omnifocus for the First Time Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Now that I know what I know, it would have sped up my learning of Omnifocus if I had read the following information. I hope it helps those seeking to learn Omnifocus.

"Omnifocus has a Planning Mode and a Context Mode. One way to change between these two important modes without possibly performing unwanted additional actions is by choosing the appropriate Mode from the View menu or by typing Command 1 or Command 2. Changing between the the modes by pressing buttons on the view bar is not advised for those seeking to learn how the program operates initially.

Planning Mode could have just as easily (or more helpfully?) be named Project Mode. Planning Mode allows one or more projects to be selected (making the actions of those not selected not visible). The view bar in Planning Mode allows operations (which include sort operations) to be applied to whole projects not to individual actions. The actions themselves are unaffected by the view bar - the are sorted in the order in which they were created. However in Planning Mode this can be overridden - individual actions within projects can be sorted by either manual dragging them up and down or by highlighting some or all actions (selecting them at the far left works nicely) and then choosing Sort from the Edit menu. This has the effect of only changing the order in which actions appear when displayed in Planning Mode as will be explained further below.

Context mode on the other hand is able to make the actions associated wih particular contexts visible by choosing one or more Contexts in the left hand sidebar. Each of the view bar's settings in Context mode, unlike with Planning Mode where they affect whole Projects, instead affect individual actions. Because in Context Mode the view bar's settings include the ability to sort actions in various ways, Context Mode cannot therefore provide a way to enable actions to be viewed in the order they appear within projects by either manually dragging actions up and down nor by sorting actions using the Sort command from the Edit menu.

Planning Mode and Context Mode are almost completely independent of each other in that changes to settings in one mode have no effect on the data and how it is displayed in the other mode. There is only one exception to this statement which shall be dealt with further below. To explain further regarding this independence, neither applying view bar settings in one mode, nor sorting records in either mode, has any effect on data displayed in the other mode. Not even selecting Projects in the left sidebar in Planning Mode or selecting Contexts in the left sidebar in Context Mode has any effect on the data displayed in the other mode.

The only way in which actions in one mode can affect the data displayed in the other mode (the exception I mentioned above) is through the use of the Focus feature. The Focus feature, which can be set in either mode, has the effect of "focussing" on a subset (one or more) of projects. Even when used in Context Mode, the Focus feature still only limits which PROJECTS' actions are visible. When Focussing in Planning Mode its not enough to select Projects in the left sidebar of Planning Mode alone (although selecting projects will cause the actions of those projects not selected to become invisible). Selecting is one step short of Focussing and only affects the current mode. For the Focus feature to be active, in Planning Mode projects need to be selected in the left hand sidebar and then either the Focus button on the toolbar be pressed or the Focus command in the View menu be chosen. To apply the Focus feature in Context mode, it is of course not possible to choose the desired Projects in the left hand sidebar because in Context Mode the left hand sidebar displays Contexts not Projects. Instead, in Context Mode, the Focus feature is activated by selecting ACTIONS which are associated with the desired projects - i.e. by first choosing All Items from the Perspctives menu and then looking for those actions whose Project value is one of the Projects wanting to be Focussed upon. When such action records are identified (only one action need be found for each Project that will be part of the Focus), the action records can then be selected as a group by clicking on the first record and then either shift or command clicking the far left edges of the other records. This wil cause the entire actions to highlight. To complete the Focus in Context Mode, the user then performs one of the final actions required in Planning Mode, namely to press the Focus button on the view bar or choose the Focus command in the View menu.

A final word on Perspectives. I am including this information because a particular feature of Perspectives described below made me more prone to believe that settings made in the two modes could have more effect on each other than they actually do.

Using Omnifocus is all about creating data snapshots that provide the greatest assistance in viewing and editing your actions. To create a particular display of data (a Perspctive) one chooses a Mode (Planning or Context) and then applies the following features and settings as needed:
- the popup menus on the view bar.
- selecting items in the sidebar
- the Focus feature.
- clicking triangles to the left of headings (which either expose or hide the action records that are grouped under that heading). Yes these settings are stored
- layout settings such as which columns of information will be present on the layout.

At the time the Perspective is saved it only stores the settings listed above for the active Mode. However at the time of saving a Perspective there is a way to ensure that, when that Perspective is recalled, the Mode that wasn't current when the Perspective was saved also has settings recalled to it as well. This is achieved by choosing the "Settings From a X Perspective feature" in the Perspective window. I cannot think of any purpose for this capability when I can always save a Perspective for either mode and change to it with that Perspective's keystroke shortcut. The most important thing to remember about this feature of Perspectives is not to let it confuse you about the Modes and their independence!"

If anything I have listed above is incorrect or misleads by failing to explain something necessary please correct it or add it below. I hope what I have written helps a few people who are struggling to understand Omnifocus get their brain around it.

Last edited by usertech; 2012-06-05 at 05:07 AM..
Your detailed explanation clearly explains why people move to Things.
Regrettably there is no 'perfect' system and different programs/approaches/systems will be better suited at different times in one's life. What works as a student doesn't always work as well when managing a team.

The trick (so I am told) is to find a system/approach, follow it properly (including weekly reviews!!!) for a while until you understand it fully and only then start making small changes. If they work keep them, if they don't don't.

A key learning point for me on OmniFocus was not putting in Due Dates unless it was a proper deadline.

A second was clearing the flags each day and setting them again (maximum of 5) - this is to indicate the critical things for that day.

Other approaches like pomodoro have helped with overcoming procrastination and clearing the 5 'criticals'. Next actions should ideally never need longer than about 50 minutes (2 pomodoros)

The biggest improvement in getting things done came from a) learning to say 'No' (for a while I had more hours of work being added each day than there were hours in the day) and b) getting better at delegating.

Reading Kourosh Dini's book helped a lot in understanding the fundamentals of OmniFocus (well worth the ).

My systems are far from perfect, but they are steadily getting better. it will be a while before I have a mind like water though!
Using OmniFocus becomes much harder if you spend all your time learning how to use OmniFocus AND tweaking your system all the time. These are the resources I wished I had read when i first started GTD and OmniFocus.
~ Great eBook purchase and I discovered different methodologies and picked the ones I liked the best.

Here are two more blogs with pages dedicated to OmniFocus They even have a couple of interesting OmniFocus themes to liven up OmniFocus' plain white user interface:

What really got me back on track with GTD was reading Zen-To-Done. A simpler GTD implementation that views GTD as a series of habits to adopt. Often I would be great at one thing (collecting and capturing) but I would be horrible or neglect something else (weekly review). Zen-To-Done helped me over time to learn GTD.

The Zen-To-Done guide is also available for sale in audio, physical book, and eBook editions.
Originally Posted by Jay6821 View Post
Your detailed explanation clearly explains why people move to Things.
For those of us who have simpler task management demands (mostly tasks in different areas of your life - Home, Work, Social, Church, etc.) then Things would be easier to implement.

For those of us who have more demanding task management demands (multiple projects in different areas of your life) and need a more powerful solution then OmniFocus would be better suited.

It all depends on how much work you want to put into it. I know I started my photo library management with iPhoto. But in about a year, I realized that I needed something more. So I upgraded to Aperture. There's always a learning curve and adjusting your workflow to something new. I went through the growing pains and have never looked back at iPhoto since.

PERFECT analogy.

I tried to use Things, Firetask and the like because I was trying to avoid the learning curve. Running several companies and a big family, my life is way to complicated to be managed by those simple programs. It's like trying to compose a symphony on a kazoo.

Here's something else to read. I discovered this gem hidden deep inside my Apple Mail box.

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