In the fourth instalment of the OmniFocus Minimalism series we are going to focus on putting the setup to work. Getting thoughts and tasks into the system, processing them, doing them (that’s where the fun ends) and, of course, reviewing them.

Collecting your tasks

Whenever there is thing to remember and a tasks to do later, you want to get it into OmniFocus as fast as possible. This is relatively simple in our minimalistic setup and you can do so by using the OmniFocus quick entry (Press either Command+N anywhere inside OmniFocus or set your system-wide hot key in the preferences) or select the inbox and create the task there.


If the task is already reasonably clear and represents a single action, you may as well already route it to the right list by typing it into the ‘project’ field of the quick entry or inbox. If it is a new project you’d like to capture assign it to the ‘Projects’ project.

Since it could well be a yet unclear thought or topic you are capturing and you just want to get it jotted down, don’t assign it to any list just yet and leave it in the inbox for later processing.

Once you have a task collect and you are clear about where it belongs, you’d like to get into straight into that list. OmniFocus helps you to do that if you have it configured correctly in the preferences under the data tab. Use the option ‘Clean Up Inbox items which have: A Project’. This will cause the tasks or the project to go straight to the selected list.


Processing your thoughts

This step is more applying the Getting Things Done methodology, or simpler: Common knowledge. In this step you deal with those things you have dropped into your inbox and not yet assigned to one of your lists. You haven’t done so as you just wanted to capture that thought, but weren’t clear about what it means.

Now is the time to investigate what it means to you.

  • Does it still have a meaning? If not, delete it.
  • Is it actionable? Assign it to the list that defines the context in which you do it (Calls go into @Calls - surprise).
  • Does it require more than two actions? It’s potentially a project and you should think about the successful outcome to chose the right title for it, e.g. ‘Plan Jane’s house move’. Assign it to the ‘Projects’ list.
  • Something you are waiting for? We have a list for this as well.
  • Still not clear? Need to look at it again later? File it in a suitable Someday/Maybe list.

Once you went through this process, which is one of the most important ones to avoid procrastination at a later point, your inbox should be empty.

Get down to work

This is the hardest part, but not in OmniFocus. Actually the setup should help you to very easily understand what you should be doing and present it to you in bite-sized junks. Understand what you can and want to do at the given point in time:

  • What does the environment your in allows you to do? E.g. tools available, privacy provided
  • How much time do you have? 20 minutes until boarding? Not enough to write the next chapter of your novel.
  • What is your energy level? Really ready to talk to that difficult customer?

If you are clear about the above, and it’s likely you still remain with multiple options like doing calls or emails, select the list you can and want to work on. In the mood for emails? Select the @Computer list (or @Email list, if you created lists at that level of granularity), start your email application (which you should keep close when doing other stuff) and put the head down. Move from list to list and do your next actions.


Stay current

In order to stay on track, you need to review your lists on a frequent basis. Since in our setup we really focus on ‘Next Actions’ only, it is recommended to review your ‘Projects’ list on a daily basis, best in the morning, and make sure you have identified next actions for each project on the list. It’s not unlikely you have completed the last ‘Next Action’ yesterday and did not record the next ‘Next Action’, even if it’s just that you are waiting for a response from someone.


Once a week, for many Friday afternoon works best, you should do a more holistic review. Many great articles have been written about Weekly Reviews and you can find some inspiration here and here or you can download the free Weekly Review white paper from DavidCo. In essence you would review your lists making sure you have checked off all actions that you have competed, look at your projects whether they all have the right ‘Next Action’ and if they are still relevant/on-track or if anything has changed. Finally you engage with yourself and your mind to sweep it and look at any of your Someday/Maybe items and whether they have become clearer/more relevant and now require a proper project or action; Or, in case some are obsolete, simply delete them.

Go more advanced?

This way of using OmniFocus in our current setup is the simplest possible and may well be enough for you (again, you may have been better of with a simpler and cheaper task management solution). OmniFocus offers many more advanced features, like ‘automatic’ your review cycles for example, and I will cover some of them in the last and final post of this series.

Overview of the entire OmniFocus Minimalism post series