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I admit, I love the simplicity of Things & some of the look of the Mac app. But, the OF iPad app is gorgeous, and there looks like a lot to love about OF. I've been hearing everyone rave about it for years. With the recent sale, I decided to give it a try. The lack of progress and support on Things, along with syncing is what really had me looking for greener pastures.

That said, and my GTD background somewhat introduced (We don't need to get into the old Franklin Covey Days, do we? I'm feeling old as it is), I'm wondering if there are other Things defectors out there who could point me to blogs, posts, whatever, that were most helpful in switching from one to the other. Better, I'm looking for tips - especially in the following areas:
  • Perspectives. What's your secret sauce formula setups that you find most useful?
  • What to do about those someday projects? Don't throw rotten fruit my way, but I really did get used to the Someday feature in Things. I'm one of THOSE people who likes those lists. Besides therapy, suggestions?
  • How did you handle switching from Next feature?
  • And last but far from least, I was also used to those recurring tasks - Scheduled.

There's a mountain of information out there, and I have watched a good deal of videos and downloaded the manual. I'd just like a few quick starts to give me the warm and fuzzys and to keep me from feeling like I'm drowning in complexity until I wade in the kiddie pool for a bit.

If there's anything else that you found helpful in switching, I'm all eyes. If it helps, I'm a writer who works from home.

Can you help nerd girl here? Thanks SO much in advance everyone. Glad to be here.

- Michelle

Last edited by JustRed; 2012-06-26 at 07:42 PM..
 
http://www.usingomnifocus.com/

This is a great resource of links to a variety of OmniFocus workflows. The eBook is an A+ resource that is worth every penny. The author explores different workflows so that you can get an idea of what you want in a workflow.

OmniFocus' flexibility is also its shortcoming. It allows you to create your own workflow. But you'll tweak it over time to finally fit what you want.

Here are some other blog posts:

http://www.asianefficiency.com/omnifocus/

http://robmalanowski.com/?s=omnifocus

http://www.practicallyefficient.com/...ing-omnifocus/

http://simplicityisbliss.com/tagged/omnifocus

http://www.macworld.com/article/1167...c.twt_macworld


Use the Weekly Review consistently
Personally, the feature that brought me back to OmniFocus is the Weekly Review. The default review interval is one week but that can be changed in the Preferences screen. When you create a new project, set the project interval to your liking (if it is different from the default setting). Some projects can be reviewed on a monthly or quarterly basis. I'll change the projects to review once a month or once every three months.

Every day, I click on my review perspective and look at projects that i need to review within the next 3 days. I click "Mark Reviewed" and it will forward the review to the next allotted review date.

By breaking the weekly review into 5-10 minutes a day, it saves me from having to spend a whole Sunday afternoon doing my weekly review. Of course, I'll do a review at the end of the month that will encompass every project for me to track.

I think the iPad's review screen is beautiful and I'm impatiently waiting for that review to be brought into OmniFocus for Mac.


Learn to use project status. Set projects to inactive if it is something that you won't be working on this week. These inactive projects will be your Someday/Maybe projects.

On Sunday afternoon, I'll take a look at my inactive projects and see if there is any project that is tickling at me to start in the upcoming week. I'll also look at my active projects and see if I can set them back to inactive. I'd do this for projects that I think have stalled or I lost interest in until a later date.

I don't worry about my inactive projects because I know I'll see them when the review date comes. Otherwise I don't need to see them on a daily/weekly basis.


Learn how to use perspectives. This will be an important skill and will vastly improve your workflow. Create a different perspective for different parts of your life. Put the most common perspectives in the toolbar for easy access.

I'll have a perspective for Christmas projects, a perspective for my Summer 2012 projects, a perspective for "The Boss' Important Stuff", a Today perspective, and a Next Action perspective.


Create your own "Today" perspective. Mine is set like this:

Context filter: Active
Grouping: Context
Sorting: Due
Availability Filter: Available
Status Filter: Due or Flagged
Estimated Time Filter: Any


This "Today" perspective is the first perspective I look at and try to stay on. Anything that has a due date or flagged. I like to flag any Next Actions or projects as something that I would like to really work on today or in the next 7 days. I'll flag and unflag my projects on a weekly basis.

This Today perspective lets me focus first on all the due tasks (stuff I need to get done by this week) or flagged tasks (not urgent but important for me).


After I have looked at the Today perspective and accomplished as much as I could on the Today view, I'll go to another perspective I created called "Next Actions"

Context Filter: Active
Grouping: Context
Sorting: Due
Availability Filter: Available
Status Filter: Any Status
Estimated Time Filter: Any Duration

This shows all the available actions from my Active projects. All my Someday/Maybe projects are set to "on hold" status and they will not be shown in this perspective.

The Next Actions perspective is sorted by context to allow me to view available tasks based on context.




Learn about using Omni's Sync server. It allows me to seamlessly sync my projects/tasks between Macs (my home Mac and my work Mac), my iDevices (an iPad and an iPod touch). As long as I have a network connection, I can sync my tasks easily.

https://www.omnigroup.com/sync/

Try out a different theme

You can Google for OmniFocus theme to change the bland built-in theme for OmniFocus. One place to look at is:

http://ofthemes.com/

I think there is a theme inspired by "Things" that can resemble Things' look for you.

I actually took some of the elements from the Asian Efficiency theme and the Nightlion 4 theme and combined it to make my own theme.

https://www.box.com/s/mzblucsba8ezv9x5shqd


The original NightLion theme is here:

http://www.nightlion.net/themes/2011...yled-for-lion/



I use colors to indicate status. Any tasks in green are available next actions. Any actions in yellow indicates a task that will be due soon. Any tasks in red are due or overdue. Any tasks that are gray are actions that are not available (the start date is set in the future or you must complete the previous actions in a project before getting to the grayed-out actions.


After a while, you can play with your own color schemes. But try out the wide variety of OmniFocus themes out there first. If someone else did the work for you, why not use it? :-)

Last edited by wilsonng; 2012-09-18 at 03:46 AM..
 
Wilson's really given you a wealth of information there. I'll add just one small piece. I've never been much into customizing the way OmniFocus styles its data, but I've been using a tweaked version of Sven Fechner's "May 4th" theme (as described here) and his use of different font sizes to emphasize status is a clever move, I think. Stuff that is unimportant shrinks, and that which needs attention grows. Reminds me a bit of the "logarithmic calendar" my advisor used decades ago.
 
ahhh.... May the 4th is very nice. I do like the font variations.
 
Hi JustRed,

You have got a lot of good advice above. So i'm just going approach your question from a different angle:

I moved from OF to things and back again on numerous occasions finally settling on OF.

Look and feel:

The current version of OF will never look as good or be as easy to use,accessible as Things despite all the themes available. So just get used to it,resign yourself to the default look and it will save you a lot of time. Use the default theme, make the fonts a little bit smaller. The default theme is very practical and readable. Some of the themes on ofthemes.com are just mad and you'll just find yourself messing around loading, unloading themes etc etc

Perspectives:

Very powerful feature. However, one of the major criticisms of OF and a reason why people switch back to Things is because tasks can "get lost" in OF. Which means that the task is in their somewhere but is not coming up on your list (perspective). This happens very easily in OF. So, keep the number of perspective you use on a daily basis to a minimum and be diligent about how you markup your tasks, flags, start dates, contexts. Omnifocus will allow you to "shape" your data anyway you want. But as a result of that you can create your own "bugs". So keep it simple.

Contexts:

As a GTD'er you know the traditional use of contexts. I find them useless. So I've redefined the use of contexts for myself and this has been the biggest "unlocking key" in OF. I don't need tasks that require a phone call to be under the "phone" context. I can work that out for myself.

I have a people:John,Mary etc context for delegation:
I have a waiting for:
I have a Software Development: Coding,testing etc.

But here is the major shift:

All of the above contexts are a sub-context of "LIST" which is a primary context
I have another Contexts called "ACTIVE TASKS" and under that I have a Context Called MIT (most important tasks) and finally under that I have a context for each of the four quadrents in Covey:

Urgent and Important
Important and not urgent etc etc.

Each day I review my "LISTS" context and move items from this into my "ACTIVE TASKS" under whichever context I think is fitting (Urgent and important etc).

I created some perspectives based either on the LIST context or ACTIVE TASKS context. I don't really bother with TODAY perspective. It's more about what's important, urgent, nice if I had time - stuff. It a bit of a mixture of GTD, Covey, Zen-To-Done.

I my workflow, I move tasks between contexts. So contexts for me a fluid.

I hope it gives you food for thought and encourages you to think out of the box. Because you can with OmniFocus and that's the real power within the software.
Don't automatically go down the GTD route because it does not fit everybody. We all have different jobs, lifestyles, personalities. Technology has changed since GTD was written.....

Last edited by gerrymac; 2012-06-27 at 05:17 AM..
 
Brilliant post, Wilson! Genius.

I sat down this morning and tweaked Due so that it shows me what's due within the week. Works great. I just changed the Due Soon timeframe in Preferences. I'm good to go there. In fact, I like being able to see things for the entire week instead of Today. At least, for now.

Then, I created a Someday perspective to show me all the stuff that is on hold. Again, this works perfectly.

It's my Next perspective that I can't seem to nail down.
Context: Active
Grouping: Due
Sorting: Due
Avail filter: Remaining
Status: Any

At first glance, it seems perfect, too. It tells me what's due within the next month, then a section called No date. Love this! Almost. I say almost because it shows that On Hold project. Not sure why, since I chose Active as my Context Filter.

If I change the Availability filter to Any, I get stuff I've already completed (it is scratched out, but still shows).
If I change the Availability filter to Available, it rip out items that are due within the next month.

Is there a way to stop completed items from showing up? If so, that's the perfect solution. If not, I'll be looking at a boat load of On Hold projects in my Next.

Or, do I need to create another perspective? So, I'd have: Due, Next, Avail, Someday.

Unless... a theme with enlarged fonts or colors would do the trick. Problem there is that I don't have start dates on a lot of my projects. I'm concerned that if I add start dates, I'll constantly be fiddling with them.

I'm definitely checking out those themes and the links. Thanks so much, guys. Yes, OF's strengths can be a shortcoming - but only if I try to bite off more than I can chew at the moment. It's like learning keyboard shortcuts - to try and learn them all can be overwhelming. To pick and learn a handful at a time is easy. I see OF has a lot of room for me to grow in should I need it.

--
ETA: GerryMac's reply.
I totally forgot about Zen-To-Done. I may need to revisit that site for a refresher. KISS and all that.

I can really get by on three perspectives. Contexts? I never added more than one in Things to be honest. It's like keywords in Aperture - you could make yourself insane adding them.
So, I'm going to take a hard look at just how few contexts are needed. I work from home. So, stuff is done either here, or while I'm out. That's two: Home, Away.
If that doesn't separate it down enough for ME (along with 3 perspectives), then me thinks I've put too much on my plate or I'm not sorting them properly.

Yes. I have seen tasks 'vanish.'

Last edited by JustRed; 2012-06-27 at 06:06 AM..
 
I agree with gerrymac. Keep it as simple as needed.

I would create as many perspectives as I need but not more. For example, I have a 2012 summer perspective. When my family returns from vacation, I erase this perspective because I no longer need it.

My core perspectives include

The default Projects Planning and context
Today
Next actions
Review

I'll add a perspective when I need it. Then I'll delete it when I no longer need it.



For your perspective, try changing availability filter from remaining to available.

Set it to remaining if you want to see all the actions that haven't been completed yet.

Set it to available to show only the actions that can be done. Projects that are set to "On Hold" are considered my Someday/Maybe projects. You won't see any actions from On Hold projects when you set availability to available. You also won't see the other actions that can't be completed unless the first next action is completed.



I forgot about start dates. Learn to use start dates and due dates.

Put due dates on projects/tasks that will have adverse consequences if not completed by that date. Don't put artificial due dates.

For example:

Project: Submit tax forms (various actions to complete including collect tax and financial documents, download new 1040 form, send 1040 package to tax preparer, etc.)

Start date: March 1, 2013
Due date: April 15, 2013
Review date: Feb 1, 2013

I don't want to see this tax project in my Next Action perspective until March 1, 2013. It stays hidden from Next Action perspective until that date. I can get a reminder that the tax project is coming up because during my weekly review, I'll see this project show up on February 1, 2013.

Bad stuff happens after this date. That's why I put a due date. Same thing happens if I forget my wife's birthday or anniversary.... *sigh*



Now something like this doesn't need a due date:

Cut grass
Start: next Monday

This task shows up in Next Action perspective next Monday. If I don't cut the grass on Monday, I'll have Tuesday or any of the other following days to do it. Nothing bad happens except an ugly lawn is growing higher and higher.

I would put a due date on it if I am part of a Homeowner's Association where there are fines for not maintaining the yard properly. I would not be eager to pay the fine. So I'd consider putting a due date on this task under this circumstance.

Due dates can be abused easily. Just because you can put them on every project and task doesn't mean that you should. Keep due dates to minimum. Apply only when needed.

If you start to collect a lot of tasks that are overdue, you'll eventually learn to ignore your next action perspective because it is swimming in a sea of overdue tasks. This reduces the significance and impact of the due dates.


Another trick is to learn about sequential and parallel projects. This is something that separates OmniFocus from Things.

Projects can have tasks that must be done in a sequential order or multiple tasks that can be done in a non-sequential order. You'll find a project that requires parallel actions. I often set sub-projects that may have multiple parallel actions inside a sequential project.

Care must be taken when designing projects containing parallel tasks. You'll get it eventually.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2012-06-27 at 02:04 PM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilsonng View Post

For your perspective, try changing availability filter from remaining to available.

Set it to remaining if you want to see all the actions that haven't been completed yet.

Set it to available to show only the actions that can be done. Projects that are set to "On Hold" are considered my Someday/Maybe projects. You won't see any actions from On Hold projects when you set availability to available. You also won't see the other actions that can't be completed unless the first next action is completed.
Got it. And this is where I wasn't getting it. I had noticed that in my Next perspective, that while the Aperture project (the project on hold/someday), wasn't showing up (good!), some of the items for an impeding trip were also not showing up (bad - maybe). The issue was that I had a start date for two of five items within the project 'Trip to MD' and one end date. Those weren't on the Next perspective because of those dates - right? They'll show up somewhere - either in Next or in Due when it's within 7 days of the start and/or end date I've set.

Aside from the default Project, Contexts, Due, perspectives, I now have 3 more:

-Next
-Available (showing me things that I could work on (unfortunately, it still wants to include that Aperture Someday project) Grrr.
-Someday which works exactly as I expected.

There's also Flagged up in the toolbar, but I'm not sure if I'll use it or not. I mean, if it's important enough to do, it's in Due or Next (or possibly in Avail?).

Contexts. I started with two: Home, Away. I've since added Writing because once I entered edits, revisions, book fair, promotion and everything else, it really needed it's own context least I become overwhelmed looking at the other two contexts.
Then I looked at everything I had and realized that some items could be either away or home or work - those being phone calls, emails, etc. Since I usually always have the iPhone or the iPad with me, I made a 4th and final context: Communication.

I can see where I'll fidget with this over time. Will I add simply add Communication under Away, Home, and Office as sub contexts? Will I even care for/use the location reminders? Baby steps. Baby steps.

I can see where themes will come in handy. Simple things like increased font size or a different font altogether. I like the idea of indenting tasks/projects under categories in some of the theme.

But for now, I'm going to play around with the basics a bit more.

Thanks, everyone. You've been extremely kind and I truly appreciate all the help and the tips. Thanks to you, I now feel comfortable enough to ditch the water wings and start swimming.
 
The Omni Group community is one of the many reasons I tell people to use OmniFocus over Things. Welcome to the community. :)
 
 


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