~Perspective is Everything with OmniFocus

So you’re still reading . . . that means you are running a Mac and are looking for the best GTD available, or perhaps you’re just plain curious. Either way, I’m glad you’re back for post #2 on why I believe OmniFocus is THE application for the serious GTD’er.

If you missed post #1 in this series, An Advanced GTD User’s Paradise you may want to catch up before reading on.

And, if you are new to GTD, and the information in this post sounds like Greek to you, then you may want to read through some of the earlier GTD posts to come up to speed.


If I had to choose one word to describe the uniqueness, power and flexibility of OmniFocus, it would be “perspectives”.  OmniFocus perspectives allow you to look at your GTD data from a variety of vantage points and obtain different perspectives on your tasks.  While most GTD applications let you see the tasks in a single project, the next action in many projects, tasks within a context and even a calendar or dated view of your tasks, OmniFocus perspectives provide much more.

OmniFocus provides some prebuilt perspectives, but the real power comes in creating your own and gives you almost limitless possibilities to choose from.

Here are but a few examples that I’ve created for my GTD.

  • Weekly Tasks – During my weekly review, I flag the tasks that I would like to get done in the week to come and then use this perspective to see those flagged tasks.
  • Daily Tasks – These tasks are flagged differently (actually as a 5m task using the duration field) and are selected at the beginning of each day from the weekly task list.  These are the tasks that I need to do today.
  • Waiting – this view lists all the tasks with a context of “waiting” which means that I am awaiting a reply or action from someone else.  This allows me to “check in” on, and to request a status about waiting tasks during my weekly review.
  • Information – Here’s a helpful perspective to display tasks with a context of “information”.  When someone sends me an email or provides other important information on a project I’m working on, I file it as a task with this context and immediately complete it.  Then I can use this perspective to find all the information about a project, or search the information context for something specific.  Another great time saver, as all important project information is maintained in one application.
  • Done Tasks – I frequently need to determine what a staff member has done in the last day, week, month, etc.  When I assign the task to a staff member, I enter it into their context.  This perspective uses a context view for an individual.  The information provided by this view can be used to satisfy the occasional upper management request about the employee, to justify a resource,  create or modify job specs, or review for annual performance evaluations.
  • Completed – This view is similar to Done Tasks except that it uses planning instead of context view, and allows me to see projects that were completed last month, last quarter, last year, etc. and I use it each month to quickly report project accomplishments to management.
  • Search All – This is a very powerful tool and provides access to all projects, no matter their status, e.g. active, on hold, completed, dropped.  With this perspective invoked, I simply start typing text into the search box to limit the view to all projects containing that text in the project name, task name or even project or task notes.  This makes locating information very quick and easy.

Of course I also use the normal GTD views that are available in most other GTD applications, but these are some of the unique components of my OmniFocus GTD, and are made available by perspectives.

That’s it for now.  Next post I’ll start adding more details and screen shots of my GTD in action.  Until then, thanks for reading!  John

9 thoughts on “~Perspective is Everything with OmniFocus

  1. Hi John. I’ve been using Omnifocus for almost a year now, but I’m finding I need to use it more efficiently, and your posts are helping :-).

    I’m just curious: why do you use the duration field (setting it to 5min) to flag your daily tasks? Is the due date field not sufficient for you?
    I find that I am moving the due date on to later dates a lot on tasks as they become due, or during my weekly or daily reviews, so in some way I need to start thinking more carefully when specifying the due date of tasks.

    1. @Herman – thanks for your support and I’m glad the posts are helping. I use the duration field to avoid setting due dates for every task. Following strict GTD rules, only tasks that are truly due, (meaning that you would need to request an extension, lose money, reduce reputation, etc. to change it), should be dated in your GTD. This is often referred to as the hard landscape. Tasks that you would like to do by a given date should not be put into the hard landscape (given a due date). So to save work, I flag tasks that I would like to do in the coming week. And then, each day, I look at the flagged perspective and give those tasks that I want to do today, the 5m duration. My daily perspective displays tasks marked with a 5m duration, and tasks that have a due date that is due or overdue. The nice thing about this workflow is that those I’ve flagged for this week, will already be flagged for next week if not done. Those that are “flagged as 5m” will be in my daily list tomorrow and everyday until completed. And the best part is that I am not spinning wheels changing due dates that are really not “date certain” – obviously the reason for the hard landscape rule. I hope this helps, and thanks for reading, John.

      1. I love this 5m duration tip. Actually, I do the same thing, except with a twist. I use flags for Today and 5m for my Weekly MIT’s. Omnifocus for Iphone doesn’t allow you to specify duration, and I spend a lot of time during the week checking, adding, and planning tasks to do Today (or tomorrow, if I’m in bed planning the next days tasks) on my Iphone. I usually plan my weekly MIT’s on my Macbook at the beginning of the week, where I can mark them all with 5m duration. The, during the week, I can flag certain items to be done today (or tomorrow). So it works, despite this unfortunate limitation with the Iphone version on Omnifocus.

  2. just wanted to say thanks for this post (and the series). it’s reinvigorated my OF usage.

    I was using OF for both work & personal, but the iPhone app sync is just too slow for me. so i’ve just decided to use Things for personal (I think that workflow works better for it). now that I’m only using the OF desktop app for work projects, your posts are helping me get more out of it. thanks!

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