This post of the OmniFocus Perspectives Galore series is a rather short one since it deals with a Perspective that already ships with OmniFocus out-of-the-box: Next Actions. 'Next Actions' is potentially the view in OmniFocus most people use when they are in execution mode and simply do the things on their list. Many also use it to skim through what's on and what they wish/need to tackle today. The standard settings for the Perspective are perfectly fine to do just that. However, there are still some enhancements that I have applied to the build-in Perspective:

Having all the right columns at hand

I very often go through my 'Next Actions'-view and simply do a quick review of the tasks. Sometimes I change a due date as things have changed in the related project, other times I assign a new start date as I don't need to get to the related task just now. For a few tasks I also occasionally like to assign an estimated effort since I sometimes engage in what I call small batch processing by grabbing a number of tasks that do not require lots of time and get them out of my way.

As per my post about my 'Today' Perspective, I also use the 'Next Actions' Perspective to run through all tasks at hand and flag (Command-Shift-L) those, which I like/need to do today, aka Most Important Tasks (MITs).

Hence I like my 'Next Actions' Perspective to feature the start date, due date and estimates column by default. This allows me to quickly browse through all available tasks and add or change information as I like. The nice thing is I can do this using my keyboard only and without the need to bring up the 'Inspector' window of OmniFocus, which is one of the few things I don't like that much about the application.

Access the 'View Bar' in OmniFocus through the menu (View > View/Hide View Bar) or simply press Command-Shift-V; I guess you figured by now that I really recommend to learn the keyboard shortcuts of your favourite applications. Once the 'View Bar' is visible you should also see the column headers in OmniFocus' main content area. Right click the column header bar and add or remove the columns you like/don't like to show up. You can also change the width for each column so information gets displayed the best possible way. Hide the 'View Bar' again once you are done.

Focussing on the right things

Another aspect of the 'Next Actions' Perspective you might consider customising is the contexts that are selected. First of all I use the 'View Bar' to limit the contexts displayed to those which are 'Active', i.e. contain accessible actions. This typically drops rarely used and therefore empty contexts from the list and in particular filters out contexts which are 'On Hold', i.e. all my 'Waiting For' contexts. In a second step I select only those contexts which contain actions I can execute autonomously, i.e. without sitting down or meeting someone online. Selecting most of my top-level contexts with the exception of the 'Agendas'-top-level does the trick. You can find more on contexts in my 'Defining and Managing Contexts in OmniFocus' post.

Now that I have limited the contexts in scope, I also like to move the divider between the context list and the main window area to the far left to practically hide the context list. Finally I hide the 'View Bar' and take a snapshot of the Perspective to make sure all changes are saved (Menu > Perspective > Take Snapshot Of Next Actions).

On Grouping, Sorting and Filtering

next-actions-perspectiveWhile you have many options to group your tasks, grouping them by 'Context' makes most sense to me when it comes to the 'Next Actions' Perspective. At least I look through my next actions by the context in which they need to be executed.

Typically I don't care much about the order in which tasks are listed, but in my 'Next Actions' Perspective I like to have any flagged items show up first in the list. As mentioned earlier, flagged actions are either MITs or maintenance tasks and are paramount for me to progress against my goals and keep my system in a 'trusted' state. My 'Sorting'-filter is therefore set to 'Flagged'.

Filtering seems to be a straight forward thing by selecting 'Next Action', doesn't it? It really can be, depending on how you setup your projects.
If you define more complex projects, especially if you are nesting sequential task groups in parallel projects, which can be quite useful at times, the 'Next Action'-filter will not do what you like it to do.

It always only displays the first action in a project, assuming that the action is available. In a parallel project with sequential task groups, you are likely to want the first action of every sequential task group to be shown in your 'Next Actions'-Perspective (assuming again that the first action of the task group is available). If that is the case, you need to set your 'Availability'-filter to 'Available' in your Perspective settings. Initially you may not see a lot of difference in the actual list, but you now have these two or three tasks from the mentioned project types, which were off the radar before.

Finally: Make sure you check-out the others posts in this OmniFocus Perspective Galore series.