2019-11-20 – OmniFocus 3 Workflows with Joe Buhlig

Joe Buhlig returned to Learn OmniFocus to share details on how he’s making effective use of OmniFocus 3 without using any tags.

Joe BuhligJoe has a long history with OmniFocus and was a guest on Learn OmniFocus back in 2015.

He’s written extensively about his OmniFocus workflows on his blog, has crafted some very helpful AppleScripts that are popular among OmniFocus users, and created the critically-acclaimed Working with OmniFocus online course, that recently received a major update.

Revamping OmniFocus

To accommodate changes in his life and work, Joe recently revamped his OmniFocus Setup and Workflows, drawing some wisdom from Learn OmniFocus, Kourosh Dini, David Sparks, and others.

Joe provided a summary of his new approach on his blog and took us on an in-depth tour of his setup and workflows during this session. Among other things, he talked about why he doesn’t use tags, how he uses defer dates and times, and his strategies for developing habits.

NEW Working With OmniFocus

Joe recently launched a major update to Working With OmniFocus. This popular self-guided course offers an in-depth look at the principles, conventions, and automations that Joe shared during this session.

To celebrate the launch of this new edition of the course, Joe generously offered a $5 discount to people in the Learn OmniFocus community. Enter the Coupon Code LEARNOMNIFOCUS when purchasing the course to apply the discount.

Session Overview

Joe shared details of how he structured his OmniFocus setup and workflows to match the flow of his life and work and to help ensure that he’s paying attention to both the big picture of life, while also honouring his day-to-day commitments.

Topics covered include:

  • How to systematically use OmniFocus folders to help ensure that you’re paying appropriate attention to all of your “horizons of focus”.
  • Strategies for ordering folders and projects that reinforce the natural ordering of individual actions.
  • Strategies for using defer dates and times to ensure that actions become available when it’s most appropriate to work on them.
  • How to use Alfred to quickly and conveniently create an OmniFocus project that includes a linked project document and folder.
  • How to use Alfred to quickly reference a list of OmniFocus projects.
  • How to use the Update Reviews AppleScript to align projects to the day of your weekly review.
  • Strategies and motivations for consistently performing Weekly Reviews.
  • How to use the Duration Titles AppleScript to automatically add durations to the titles of actions.
  • How to use the Total Time AppleScript to calculate the total amount of time required to complete a group of OmniFocus actions.
  • Practical ways to share a checklist among multiple projects.
  • And more…


Joe referenced the following during his session:

  • nvUltranvUltra is a note-taking app from Brett Terpstra and Fletcher Penney and the successor to the popular nvAlt Markdown editor. nvUltra was in beta at the time of this recording.
  • Alfred Workflows — Joe demonstrated how he’s using an Alfred Workflow to quickly and conveniently create a new OmniFocus project. In addition to creating a project with a unique project code, this workflow creates a linked nvUltra Markdown document for project notes and an iCloud folder to house project support documents.
  • Joe’s AppleScripts — Joe has generously shared some very useful AppleScripts with the OmniFocus community, including two that he showcased during this session: Update Reviews and Duration Titles. Joe’s complete library of AppleScripts can be found in his GitHub repository.
  • Total Time AppleScript — Joe also demonstrated how Dan Byler’s Total Time AppleScript can be used to calculate the total duration of actions in the outline view.

Recommended Reading

Joe reads a lot of books.

He co-hosts the popular Bookworm podcast with Mike Schmitz. Every two weeks Joe and Mike share their impressions of a book, including how they’re applying the wisdom contained in its pages to their day-to-day life and work. Their Book List began with David Allen’s Getting Things Done and has since grown to over 75 titles.

To help get the most out of OmniFocus, Joe recommends reading the following books:

  • Creating Flow with OmniFocus 3 — Kourosh Dini is the author of several books, including the highly-acclaimed Creating Flow with OmniFocus 3, that offers an in-depth exploration of OmniFocus features and best practices. Kourosh has also been a guest on Learn OmniFocus on several occasions.
  • Getting Things Done — OmniFocus was originally designed with David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done approach in mind. Check out our Getting Things Done (GTD) Resources to learn more.
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — Joe spoke highly of Mindset, written by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Carol S. Dweck.
  • Atomic Habits — Written by James Clear, Atomic Habits provides a practical, comprehensive guide for breaking bad habits and building new habits.
  • Digital Minimalism — Cal Newport, whose other works include Deep Work, recently published a book called Digital Minimalism, with practical guidance for “choosing a focused life in a noisy world”.

About Joe Buhlig

Joe grew up on a farm in Missouri and has built his career around agriculture. He’s worked in soybean seed research and on data analysis and web application development in a corporate setting. He now works from home dreaming up and creating new technologies.

He’s a fan of woodworking, anything Apple, coffee, and DIY projects around the house. Family is very important to Joe and that’s where the bulk of his elusive free time is spent.

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