Most of the time you will find yourself doing your tasks in the 'Today' Perspective introduced in the previous post in this OmniFocus Perspective Redux series. But there will be times where you want to further limit your focus and work only on projects related to one of your Areas of Responsibilities.

Areas of Responsibility

The term goes back to the original Getting Things Done® book and methodology of David Allen. It is sometimes also referred to as Areas of Focus, Personas or Hats. What it describes a specific part of your life where you perform a specific role. It starts with being a dad, a son, a brother, a husband and father, but also includes being a tax auditor, a private investor, a home owner, a youth soccer coach, a writer and a mediocre guitar player.

With each of these roles you have a certain set of responsibilities and interests which become your focus whenever you decide to put the corresponding "hat" on. Rather than focussing on all actions you want or need to do, "Areas of Responsibilities" Perspectives support you in making progress with a specific aspect of your life.

30 or 3 Hats?

When establishing your Areas of Responsibility using the granularity applied in above example you will easily end up with 30 or more. Whether you decide to represent them as Folders, Single Actions Lists or Perspectives in OmniFocus that number is practically unmanageable. You would spend more time structuring and maintaining your system than completing actual todos.

In most cases 3 to 4 different Folders in OmniFocus representing groups of Areas of Responsibility are a much more sane approach. There is your (main) job and all the responsibilities which go with it, there is the private side of life with family, friends, health, fitness, vacation and what not and finally you may have one or two hobbies, side projects or passions like photographing, writing, triathlon or training the local youth soccer team. Whether you end up with two or five Areas of Responsibility groups is not really important, but it is important that you come up with as few as possible. They can be organised in Folders on the top level or in a hierarchy of Folders (Tip: Do not use more than two levels of Folders!). For the purpose of the following Perspectives it is not too important as you can select every Project or List you want to include individually. That said, the ability to select Folders makes any Perspective more dynamic as it will always display all Projects or Lists that exist inside of the Folder rather than expecting specific ones.

Focal Perspectives

of2-project-centric-perspectives-settingsThe following Perspective setup applies to any of the Areas of Responsibilities you have setup in your OmniFocus structure and once you created your first Perspective of this kind you can simply duplicate it by selecting it inside the Perspective list window and clicking 'Edit > Duplicate' in the menu or by pressing ⌘D. With changing the Folder, Projects and Lists in focus, a little renaming and — if you like — change of icon you can rather quickly produce the Perspectives you need.

But let's start from the beginning and with your first "Area of Responsibility" Perspective:

  1. Open the Perspective list window ('Perspectives > Show Perspectives' or ^⌘P) and add a new Perspective for your (main) job. Call it 'Work', the name of your company or whatever suits you best.
  2. Pick a nice icon for your newly created Perspective — I use the free OmniFocus 2 Perspective icons by Josh Hughes — and assign a keyboard shortcut if you like quick access
  3. Since this Perspective is about focussed work and not planning select Don't use project hierarchy which causes the Contexts to be listed in the sidebar allowing narrowing of your focus even further when desired
  4. In the Presentation section group actions by Project and sort actions by Due which again will allow you to focus on one or a selection of projects; The actions which are available and have a due date will show on the top of each project group
  5. For the Filtering section you want to select Any for the filtering by status, Available for the availability filter, Any duration for duration and finally Active causing only Contexts with available actions to show in the sidebar; These settings will make sure you see all actions that are actionable, i.e. available (not blocked or deferred), with the possibility to further limit them by selecting an active Context in the sidebar
  6. As you proceed to the Focus section the folder structure discussed earlier with regards Areas of Responsibility comes in: Select each of the Folders relevant to your "Work" Perspective from the drop-down and click "Add to Focus"; Note that this will automatically capture all projects, even if nested in Sub-Folders, in the respective Folder automatically and dynamically; Projects or Single Action Lists outside of the selected Folders will consequently be ignored and you would have to add them individually if you wanted them part of the Perspective
  7. Finally, leave the "Sidebar Selection" section empty

That's it. You have created a focussed Perspective for a specific aspect of your life, in this example "Work". You can now duplicate this Perspective, remove all of the Folders, Projects and Single Action Lists from the "Focus section" and add different ones that belong to another key area in your life, let's say "Photography", if that is your thing.

Diving in

The way you use these Perspectives is to dive into focussed doing. If you prefer not to be distracted by actions from other parts of your life showing in your Next Actions Perspective while in the office, just invoke your "Work" Perspective and get cracking. If you want to dive even deeper — say you have lots of time and energy at hand and would like to do some creative work — just select the respective Context in the sidebar while in your newly created "Work" Perspective and see only those actions available which correspond to your current state or intention.


When you are missing a particular action in a Project or you are not sure if you already captured all todos for a certain endeavour, you can call up the Perspective list window ('Perspectives > Show Perspectives' or ^⌘P) and change the availability filter in the Filtering section to Remaining which gives you all actions not yet done in the projects listed.

Up Next

With 'Today', 'Forecast' and now project centric 'Doing' Perspectives covered the next part of the OmniFocus Perspective Redux series will focus on Perspectives dealing with people and meetings, i.e. following up delegated actions and having your agenda items readily available as you enter a meeting.

Other Parts of the OmniFocus Perspective Redux series