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GTD enthusiast confused by Omnifocus Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi everyone. This is my first post and thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

I'm not using the Mac version of omnifocus but but I have just bought the ipad and iphone apps. I'm really impressed, fantastic interface and the sync works great. It is definitely the best task management software I have found for iphone/ipad.

But on a general level I'm confused in how to set this software up to work with the GTD methodology. From the GTD flowchart we have 8 options for each piece of 'stuff'. (Trash, Someday, Reference, Next actions, Calender, Waiting, Projects, Project Plans) But I'm struggling to know how to set up those 8 things.

The NEXT ACTIONS folder is very important. I assume that these are represented by the 'Contexts'? I'm surprised they're not given their name of 'Next Actions'?

How do you lot on here choose to set up the REFERENCE folder, the SOMEDAY/MAYBE folder and the WAITING folder???

I've set them up as contexts but now my context list looks like this:

1) Office
2) Home
3) Phone
4) In town
5) In supermarket
6) Waiting on
6) Someday/Maybe
7) Reference

I do feel very confused that software designed specifically for GTD would not have a dedicated section for these 8 folders. These 8 folders are a very important part of GTD and I expected them to be on the left menu amongst the projects, contexts, review etc. But now I have 3 of the 8 important folders listed in the same folder as my next actions. It just doesn't look or feel quite right.

I'm slowly finding ways around the software so that I can set it up to work with GTD but surely I shouldn't have to be looking for creative ways around the software to make it do something its not really intended for? It is apparantly designed for GTD but so far it doesn't feel that way.

I do love the app and I'm sure that I've just missed a few basics here so I'm looking forward to getting some advice. I really appreciate any advice or guidance that any of you can offer me.

Cheers, Jonny
OmniFocus uses contexts for a lot of that stuff. You can define projects as linear (forget the name), parallel, or single-action lists (basically, buckets). For the first two kinds of projects, if you set a filter on "next action" it will show you only the next action.

There's good documentation for the Mac version of OF on Omni's site, as well as a "Doing GTD with OmniFocus" white paper on their site. They both are mostly focused toward the Mac version, but the concepts should carry over to the iOS version(s). I suggest you read them, as OmniFocus can be pretty obtuse at first. I've never really warmed to it, despite 4 years of use.
I am having the exact same issue. I tried setting up Next Actions, Someday/Maybe, Reference, Waiting, etc. as Projects, but that doesn't work either. I don't see a way to quickly pull the "next actions" for various projects together into one place.

Jonnyt, have you had any luck figuring this out in the last few months? I would appreciate any advice. And I will check out that whitepaper.
Oh, that is very helpful Cat. I will try to set it up so I can use the "next action" filter.

I found this post online which suggests that David Allen also recognizes that Omnifocus is not the best match for GTD:

eproductivity, which seems like the closest match for GTD and the system Allen himself uses, seems that it would theoretically be best--he says you can really dive deep into eproductivity using GTD. But eproductivity seems completely alien to the Mac and I am already committed to Omnifocus and have invested a lot of time in it. I want to make Omnifocus work really well for GTD and appreciate any help or tips.
CatOne, have you looked into other systems such as Nirvana and Agile Results?
To create the equivalent of a Next Action list, you might have or ask to have the following done on the Mac version ...

** open a Context view on your database
** show the View bar (Shift-Command-V)
** set the view of your perspective by selecting ...
-- Context Filter: Remaining
-- Grouping: Context
-- Sorting: Due
-- Availability: Next Action
-- Status Filter: Unflagged (presuming you use flags to set Active or Today actions)
-- Estimated Time Filter: Any Duration
** Shift-select or Command-select to select all contexts that you wish to show for next actions (for example, you could exclude Waiting For from this set)
** save this perspective as Next Actions

These are the settings that I use. Others may have their own suggestions.

> But on a general level I'm confused in how to set this software
> up to work with the GTD methodology. From the GTD flowchart we
> have 8 options for each piece of 'stuff'. (Trash, Someday,
> Reference, Next actions, Calender, Waiting, Projects, Project
> Plans) But I'm struggling to know how to set up those 8 things.

For me, OmniFocus is primarily for actions and the elements that give structure to actions. Reference, Calendar, and Project Plans are, to me, not actions, so to me they don't really belong in OmniFocus.

That said, to address your eight items:

Trash: No need for a place for this, IMO; I just delete the item.

Someday: I have a folder for "Someday Projects", and a single-action list for "Someday Project Seeds". Someday Project Seeds are items that would be projects if I worked them, but I'm not interested in setting up the project structure until I'm closer to ready to work the project. Someday Projects are usually projects that I've started working on, but they're on indefinite hold because something out prioritized them.

Someday projects are set to On Hold; the project seeds, which are entered as actions, have a Context of Info, which is On Hold. It might make more sense to have another On Hold context _named_ either On Hold or Someday, but I like all items that are indefinitely non-actionable to have the Info Context.

Reference: I do have a folder called Reference. Everything in it gets my Info context. However, this folder definitely doesn't hold _everything_ that qualifies as reference, it mostly just stores miscellaneous factlets that don't rate a folder in a filing system. If I had another satisfactory place to store these factlets, they wouldn't be in OmniFocus.

Reference also holds a variety of lists - Things to Read, Things to Watch, Things to Learn, Recipes to Try, Stuff to Buy, stuff like that. I'm not sure if these are technically Reference, Someday/Maybe, or Project Support Materials, but I like them in Reference so that's where they go.

Next Actions: Actions show up in various OmniFocus Perspectives, which are usually in the Context side of the application. JJW provided an example. Remember that when you've done all those settings, you can save them and you're done - you never have to define that perspective again.

Calendar: I don't feel that OmniFocus is the place for my Calendar. Nevertheless, I do have a single-action list for "Calendar Events", just so they'll pop up when I'm looking at my list. I consider this cheating, but I do it anyway. I do also have actions related to Calendar events, like, "Gather problem reports for Friday meeting". I don't consider this cheating.

Waiting: An Action may have a Context of Waiting. But I don't put it in a Waiting folder; it stays in its project. Does GTD really want Waiting to be in an entirely separate folder, rather than keeping actions that are Waiting with their project? That isn't how I remember the system, but I could be wrong. If I do want to see all Waiting items at the same time, I go to Contexts and look at that Context.

Projects: Projects are explicitly supported.

Project Plans: Project plans don't live in OmniFocus. Oh, sometimes I have a single-action list called, let's say, "Widget Project Agenda" where I keep random thoughts about the Widget Project. But a project plan of any complexity or formality doesn't, IMO, belong in OmniFocus; that, like calendars, is not what OmniFocus is for.

A quick thanks to Gardener, your post made me realize I tend to try to do project plans in OF and they should be done elsewhere.

I'm curious if you could explain a little bit how you do the calendar syncing? Is it possible to have all my iCal calendars events appear in OF? That's just the kind of cheating I would need :) It always seemed to me I was limited to one calendar or to the other way (OF pushing to iCal rather than iCal to OF).


FWIW, I find that the Forecast view in the iOS version of the app does an adequate job of keeping my actual calendar (from the iOS Calendar app) lined up with my actionable task list. In fact, when working in OF on my iPhone or iPad, I actually just pop over to the Forecast view when I need to look at my calendar (assuming I'm not already in that view anyway, which when I'm trying to align things with my calendar, I usually am).

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