In the first part of this OmniFocus Perspectives Redux series we looked at why Perspectives are actually useful, how to create and use them to plan your day by picking the actions that you need (because they are due!) or like to work on. This time it is about creating a Perspective which helps you focus and do these actions.

Way too many use task management applications purely for capturing todos, organising them into a certain structure and ... leaving them sit there. Capturing and organising feels pretty great already but nowhere as satisfying as checking an action off because it is done. One of the many reasons people struggle to use their task management system as the center piece of their "doing" workflow is that they get easily overwhelmed by just the amount of actions sitting inside of it, starring at them.

This is exactly where a good Perspective in OmniFocus helps: It will filter all these tasks and present you only those you need or decided to engage with for the day. The sense of focus and progress such a daily list provides is priceless. Even the biggest projects and goals are delivered one step at the time — just starring at the long list of actions will not get you there.

The 'Today' Perspective

All actions you really need and want to work on during a single day are available in one Perspective, suitably named 'Today'. The 'Today' Perspective assumes that actions you need to do — because they have a real (i.e. externally imposed) deadline — come with a due date assigned and that actions you want to do have been picked as part of your planning by applying a flag (⌘⇧L).

today-perspective-settingsAll that is required of the 'Today' Perspective is to filter actions for Available ones which are either Due or Flagged. If you like to see a visual differentiation between important (flagged) and urgent (due) tasks then group them by Flagged and sort by Due. As a consequence tasks that are important and urgent show at the very top of your daily list, followed by the important ones and finally the urgent ones. This order makes sure the urgent tasks do not overrule the important ones all the time as the latter are most of the time the ones that get you closer to finishing your big projects and achieving your goals.

In the 'Today' Perspective the sidebar shows Contexts ("Don't use project hierarchy") which are filtered for Active ones, i.e. containing available tasks. This allows further reduction of today's action list, if desired, by clicking the Context you are currently in or which is most applicable in the sidebar.

Say it is early morning and you have quiet time and high levels of energy: Select your 'Focus' Context in your 'Today' Perspective and get cracking on some of the more complex and hairy tasks that require creativity to get done. If 'Focus' sounds like an odd GTD® Context to you read my 'Fresh Take on Contexts' post.

today-perspectiveFinally, the 'Today' Perspective is maybe the only Perspective where it is advisable to select the "Open in a new window" option. By hiding the sidebar (Menu > View > Hide Sidebar or ⌘⌥S), hiding the toolbar (Menu > View > Hide Toolbar or assigning a custom keyboard shortcut in the keyboard System Preference pane) and resizing the window you can create an non-obstructive companion that helps you get your stuff done.

On a productive day, after you have done your planning, you may use nothing else in OmniFocus than this small 'Today' Perspective window and the Quick Entry to capture new inputs as they arrive. Only when you get to the end of the day you may "unfold" OmniFocus' power again to review progress, process inbox items, organise and plan again.

The Forecast Perspective

There is also a place for OmniFocus' built-in Forecast Perspective when you are in the "Doing" mode. While the 'Today' Perspective shows all tasks that you can action, it omits those that are unavailable because they are "Blocked" or "On Hold". This mainly applies to actions you have delegated and are waiting for a response. If your sanity is worth something to you, you would have assigned them to a "Waiting For" Context which should be in an "On Hold" state.

Logically this is perfectly okay (and sane) as you cannot perform these actions yourself. However, once during the day you want to check your Forecast view for these "Waiting For" actions and see if you can check some of them off as people got back to you or whether you need to drop a reminding email or call to some of your delegates who are a little late with things. One way of addressing this is during the "Planning" phase of the day.

Up Next

While 'Today' and 'Forecast' address 90% of what is needed to actually get things done, there are a couple of more 'Doing' use cases for Perspectives I will cover in the 3rd & 4th part of the OmniFocus Perspective Redux series: Working more project centric and dealing with people & meetings.