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My Perspectives in OmniFocus 2

You may have noticed the productivity dork community losing its collective mind a couple of weeks ago when OmniFocus 2 was released. Like many, many others, I was more than happy to slap my money on the counter. OmniFocus has made up much of the baling wire that’s held my sanity together for the past several years, after all, so ponying up the cheddar for the next version was a no-brainer.

My pal David recently posted a list of his OmniFocus perspectives and how he uses them.1 Because I’m a thought follower, I figured I’d do the same. Standing on the shoulders of lawyers and all that.

Anyway, here they are, in a somewhat-specific order that I’ll describe in a second. Oh, and I’ve included screenshots of my custom perspectives’ configuration screens so you can recreate them in your own app or use them as a springboard for your own fancy perspectives, you fancy person you. 2

  • Inbox is one of several default perspectives in OmniFocus. When you add a new item to OmniFocus, it ends up here unless you assign it a context and/or a project. If you’ve used OmniFocus at all, you’re familiar with this guy and there isn’t much else to say. I look at this one at both the beginning and the end of the day.
  • Up next, we have Stalled. This isn’t a built-in perspective, but it’s insanely useful. Basically, any project that’s active but lacks a defined next action will show up here. When I’m cranking through stuff during the day, checking things off like a madman, I rarely take the time to define the action following the one I’ve just completed. The Stalled perspective groups all of those projects into one place so I can quickly define their next actions. This one also gets inspected before and after the work day. Here’s how this sausage is made:
  • Users of OmniFocus for iPad have been begging for OmniFocus for Mac to get the Forecast perspective. In a nut, this one shows you all of the tasks with defined start and/or due dates, as well as upcoming calendar events. I don’t use this one as much as some of my pals, but I’m starting to use it more so I’ve given it prime sidebar real estate. Omni made a fancy video overview of Forecast perspective, if you you’re interested.
  • Candidates is a custom perspective I cooked up that shows me all of the next actions defined in a set of contexts I’ve decided represent my “work.” They’re ordered by flag status — any flagged item appears at the top, in other words. When I start my day, this is the menu from which I choose the day’s tasks. Everything I want to do that day gets a flag set, usually 3–5 tasks, maybe more depending on how quickly I’ll finish them. Here’s the configuration for Candidates:
  • Most OmniFocus enthusiasts have a Today perspective and your old pal Brett is no exception. This perspective collects anything with either a flag or a due date within the next 24 hours, then orders those tasks by due date with the most recently due item at the top, followed by flagged tasks. Because I flagged the day’s work in the Candidates perspective, this is the perspective from which I work each day. I check this one multiple times per day, as you can imagine. Here’s the config:
  • The built-in Contexts perspective comes next. If I clobber everything in the Today perspective faster than anticipated, this is where I go to find the next thing to do. Often, said next thing will be something around the house or otherwise unrelated to work (which is why I don’t immediately return to my Candidates perspective). I also grab this one at random times like when I’m out and about or when I find myself with an unexpected block of free time.
  • Next is another home-grown perspective I call Waiting. This is all of my tasks with a context of “Waiting,” ordered by the date they were added (oldest stuff at the top, in other words). This is one I check near the end of the day to make sure there’s nothing in there I don’t need to wait for anymore and, as needed, apply due dates to items so I can bug whoever I’m waiting for. The good news is, you don’t need to wait for the configuration if you want to make you own Waiting perspective:
  • The Changed perspective is a new one in OmniFocus 2; it shows any task that’s been changed recently, grouped by when the change happened. In the aforementioned post, David points out that this is a great way to make sure you didn’t dork something up (mark an undone task as complete, change a context to the wrong thing, etc.). It also serves as a nice sort of reverse log of everything that happened in OmniFocus recently.
  • Projects is where I probably spend more time than I should, if I’m honest, so I put it at the bottom where my eyes wouldn’t be so easily drawn to it when skimming the perspective list. Hey — I’m not using this stuff because I have a ton of discipline, alright?
  • Finally, we come to Review, another perspective supplied by Omni. OmniFocus has always had this perspective, but OmniFocus 2 makes it prettier. This one gets used roughly once per week because that’s what the book says. Lots of folks prefer to do reviews using OmniFocus for iPad, but I like this one better because I’m not constantly switching between tapping on a screen and typing.

I’ve defined a few other perspectives, but these are by far the most interesting and/or important ones. I’ve also tried to do something clever with the order: many of the perspectives in the sidebar are roughly in order of how my day progresses. It looks something like this:

  1. Process anything in the Inbox perspective so it either becomes a project or an action somewhere.
  2. Update all stalled projects with next actions.
  3. Review the forecast of the day so I know if I have any appointments that necessitate tasks, as well as unsetting any incorrect due dates if needed.
  4. From my huge list of candidate tasks, choose the ones I want to do that day and flag them.
  5. Click over to Today and, as I mentioned, I have my list of stuff to do for the day.
  6. Once I’m done with the Today list, I click over to Contexts and pick other things to do.

(The rest don’t really follow the flow of the day, except maybe Changed if I want to review what was added, modified, or marked as done on a given day.)

I’m embarrassed to say that I love reading about other people’s OmniFocus perspectives. If you have any fancy ones you want to share, drop a comment below.

(image courtesy of Mariano Mantel)


  1. If you’re not familiar with the concept of perspectives in OmniFocus, go watch this video, then come back. ↩
  2. For all of the blog posts I’ve read about OmniFocus perspectives, few people ever include detailed instructions on recreating them. I realize that it’s fairly trivial to piece a given perspective together based on the creator’s description, but it’s way easier to just show the reader which boxes to check, am I right? Of course I’m right. ↩
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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 14 comments
AaronHockley - June 12, 2014

First Mr. Sparks, and now you.

Damnit, it’s some sort of trend. Apparently I have some writing and screenshotting to do…

Reply
Andy - June 12, 2014

It’s “baling” wire, isn’t it?

Reply
Devyn - June 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing! I love these perspective posts too — several have given me several of my most critical perspectives (or an inspiration for my own variation). And yes — I feel sharing the settings screenshot is invaluable…

Speaking of, how did you add the Sidebar Selection of “All Projects”, as shown in your Stalled perspective? I can only add every individual project (by pre-selecting them all) resulting in a giant list. Unfortunately, (I assume) this will not include future projects, as I also assume an *all projects* selection would. I looked around and couldn’t find this setting in help or the forums…

Any guidance would be appreciated. And thank again for sharing!

Reply
    ChristopherEsget - June 16, 2014

    I have the same challenge – would love to have the “all projects” selection…

    Reply
      ChristopherEsget - June 16, 2014

      I think I figured it out. He must have an “All Projects” master folder that everything else is in. I use “personal” and “work” folders, into which every project goes. Command-clicking those *folders* gets the desired result for me.

      Reply
        Devyn - June 18, 2014

        Ah ha! Yes, that works for me as well. While it would be a nice option to simply include everything, selecting my current top-level folders (which are unlikely to change) works for me. Thanks!

        Reply
Edi Venturin - June 13, 2014

Nice post, Brett.
I have a setup similar to yours and David Sparks. The difference is mainly the way I go through them, using a slightly modified version of this brilliant script by Brandon Pittman, called SmartPerspective.

http://brandonpittman.net/2013/08/smartperspective-for-omnifocus/

While Brandon has it triggered automatically by Keyboard Maestro every time he activates OmniFocus, I have it triggered by a hotkey.

Reply
Stephan - June 13, 2014

I like the idea of the stalled perspective and created my own with your instructions.

But when I want to crank through the list and insert new tasks on stalled projects the projects fades out, so I can’t edit it (it fades out, because it’s no longer stalled, when I begin to enter a new tasks).

How do you add tasks to stalled projects in this perspective?

Reply
    Edi - June 14, 2014

    You don’t, because once a project has a task it’s not anymore stalled and hence the filter shows only stalled projects, it disappear.

    I like and have that perspective as well, but I don’t check it very much. For long time I’ve been using a script developed by Curt Clifton’s which provides much more flexibility. You may like it:
    http://www.curtclifton.net/journal/2014/5/27/verify-that-next-actions-exist.html

    Reply
    Jos v.d. Voort v.d. Kleij - June 18, 2014

    I am having the same issue as Stephan. I would like to use the stalled perspective to add tasks to projects that have no clearly defined next actions.

    The way it is now is pretty much useless for me. Before I ran into this limitation I figured this was a brilliant way to keep projects progressing.

    Any suggestions??

    Reply
Owen - January 6, 2015

Thanks for sharing. I found your article very helpful in tweaking my set up of OmniFocus 2. Happy New Year!

Reply

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