Dashboard Perspectives in OmniFocus

In the lead-up to my Learn OmniFocus workflow session, I wanted to share some of the nitty-gritty details of how I manage my tasks with OmniFocus. That session will focus mainly on the magic of Omni Automation (✨!). So, over the coming week, I’d like to concentrate on the more foundational, structural side of things, like projects, tags, and perspectives.

So, first: my dashboard perspectives!

These are central to my OmniFocus workflow. Almost always, when I’m looking at OmniFocus with a ‘doing’ rather than a ‘planning’ mindset, this is what I’m seeing:

A typical view of my OmniFocus dashboard on macOS

I have the same perspectives set up on my iPhone as widgets:

A typical view of my OmniFocus dashboard on my iPhone

You can see from the screenshots above that each perspective is assigned a number as its icon. Throughout the day, I try to work through these perspectives in order.

At the end of the day, if the first three perspectives are clear, I’m pretty happy.

The Perspectives

Unless otherwise noted, all of the below perspectives:

  • Exclude tasks from preceding perspectives
  • Exclude tasks that are scheduled for the future (using my ‘Scheduling’ Plug-In.)
  • Exclude projects and groups
  • Exclude tasks tagged ‘⏳ Waiting’

(You might also note that some perspective rules include a little extra complication around a ‘✓’ tag. This is one I use with my ‘Note to Subtasks’ Plug-In to denote checklists. Usually, I want to see all of the remaining checklist items.)

Let’s go through the perspectives one at a time.

1. Due Soon

This perspective shows available tasks that are Due Soon (I have this set to 3 days) or remaining items that are due today. Tasks that are due today are shown under any circumstances, so they’re not subject to the limitations I outlined above.

(I’m using my Tag Tasks Due Today plug-in combined with Keyboard Maestro to tag these each day.)

Having today’s remaining due tasks included here is a fallback measure just in case tasks don’t become available before their due date. It’s also good to keep them front of mind as I go about my day.

‘Due Soon’ perspective settings

2. Habits

This perspective shows all available tasks that match the search term ‘✯’. In practice, this picks up any tasks that are included in various ‘habit’ action groups in my database.

I plan to write more about why I include habits and routines in OmniFocus later in the week, but some examples of tasks that appear here are ‘Go for a walk’, ‘Clean shower’, or ‘Complete daily review’.

‘Habits’ perspective settings

3. Today

This perspective shows all remaining flagged tasks. I use the flag to denote tasks that I plan to do today, and this is managed with the help of my ‘Scheduling’ Plug-In.

Typically, but not always, these are ‘big rock’-type tasks that will take me a while to complete, and often are designed to progress a large project with a deadline (which may be one of my starred projects, discussed further below).

Most days, they also include some cleaning tasks that Keyboard Maestro automatically creates from templates using my ‘Templates for OmniFocus’ Plug-In. These are loosely based on The Organised Mum Method.

‘Today’ perspective settings

When I’m focused on work, I use an identical ‘Today’ perspective, except that it groups actions by combined tags and sorts by due date.

4. ASAP

This perspective shows available tasks tagged with ‘⏰’ (ASAP) or ‘🚥’ (In Progress).

These are things I want to do as soon as I get a chance; they are typically time-sensitive but may not have a due date. Often this will include things like replying to emails, fixing a bug I’ve found in a plug-in, or putting away laundry.

I use the ‘In Progress’ tag is more rarely because I try to make sure that tasks can be completed in one sitting. But real life happens, and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way! If I start reconciling my YNAB budget but only get part-way through before I get interrupted, I might add this tag so that it sits a little higher in my list and I get back to it sooner.

‘ASAP’ perspective settings (the 3 excluded tags are ‘Waiting’, ‘Scheduled’ and ‘Due Today’)

5. Routine

This perspective shows all available tasks that match the search term ‘↻’. In practice, this picks up any tasks included in various ‘routine’ action groups in my database.

These differ from ‘Habits’ in that I don’t necessarily want to make sure they get done as soon as they become available, but they do need to be done with some regularity. For example, things like ‘Backup computer’, ‘Reconcile YNAB’, or ‘Book car in for regular service’ all belong here.

‘Routine’ perspective (the excluded tags are ‘Waiting’ and ‘Scheduled’ and those that relate to previous perspectives)

6. Starred

Each week, as part of my weekly review, I ensure that I’ve marked 2-4 of my projects with a ‘🌟’. This perspective shows all available tasks that match this search term. (This perspective does include any tasks that are planned for the future using my ‘Scheduling’ Plug-In.)

‘Starred’ perspective settings (again, the 3 excluded tags relate to previous perspectives)

This is less relevant in a work context, so when I’m focusing on work I instead show my ‘Waiting’ perspective here, which we’ll see tomorrow.

Next up: a tour of my other OmniFocus perspectives. Because you can never have enough!

12 thoughts on “Dashboard Perspectives in OmniFocus”

  1. How do you work on email that require action? I am always struggle to have email inbox into OF. It is too manual, I need to manual send an email to OF Mail Drop and then update the action details. When the same mail receive reply or follow up discussion, this is the part that I find it difficult to link back to the action.

    1. Hi Kenny!

      If I’m honest, I don’t have an email-heavy life at the moment. I process personal emails at the end of each day and use Spark to send these to OmniFocus where they just go straight to the inbox for further processing. My work emails I tend to process on a Windows machine and so those are managed even more manually in OmniFocus (on the Mac next to me), or just dealt with on the spot. I guess for me it’s just a matter of adding the ‘next task’ that arises to OmniFocus like I would any other task.

      I’m not sure that is of much help to you, though!

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  4. You mentioned ‘I’m using my Tag Tasks Due Today plug-in combined with Keyboard Maestro to tag these each day.’. Could you share the Keyboard Maestro script?

    1. Hi Koen! Absolutely – I should definitely add this to the repo for that script. I’ve made a note to look at uploading it for people to use.

  5. You mentioned “‘Routine’ perspective (the excluded tags are ‘Waiting’ and ‘Scheduled’ and those that relate to previous perspectives)”. The screenshot shows 6 tags. I can only think of 5 (ASAP, Scheduled, Waiting, Due Soon, In Progress), which one am I forgetting?

    1. Ah, in fact you’re not forgetting one. The sixth is ‘TOMM L3’ which is just applied to deeper-cleaning household type chores. They’re in a ‘Routine’ action group, but I manage these by manually scheduling one or two each Friday, and so I don’t want them to show up in the ‘Routine’ perspective. I left those out of the post, just for brevity.

  6. You mentioned “‘Starred’ perspective settings (again, the 3 excluded tags relate to previous perspectives)”. Sorry for my ignorance, which three should these be?

    1. Don’t be sorry! These are actually ‘🚥’ (In Progress), ‘⏰’ (ASAP), and ‘⏳ Waiting’.

  7. Curious why you chose to use text indicators for Habit and Routine tasks (‘✯’ and ‘↻’) instead of using tags?

    1. Hi Scott, I did actually use tags for a while. But the main reasons are 1) no issues with tags being accidentally inherited, and 2) less tag clutter when I’m showing the tags in the outline (I already have plenty!).

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