2020-05-27 – OmniFocus Workflows with Michael Kirkham-Jones

Michael Kirkham-Jones shared details of his innovative approach to using OmniFocus on the iPad and his extensive use of Shortcuts.

Mike’s OmniFocus journey began in 2011. He has continued to evolve his setup and workflow over the years, with some help from Tim Stringer’s four-month Holistic Productivity for Mac and iOS course and Learn OmniFocus.

Part of Mike’s OmniFocus journey was realizing the importance of having OmniFocus and complementary apps become a truly trusted part of his system. He makes extensive use of OmniFocus’ duration feature, to help ensure that actions are well defined. And he emphasizes the importance of building a system that is both stable and organic.

Mike’s Shortcut library currently contains about 200 Shortcuts that collectively improve his day-to-day activities. The investment that he made in his system has led to spending relatively little time in OmniFocus, freeing up more time to actually work on the projects and actions he defines.

Session Overview

Mike shared details on how he’s using OmniFocus to manage his life and work, drawing upon his years of experience as a project manager and computer programmer.

Topics covered include:

  • How Mike applied Tiago Forte’s PARA Method to his OmniFocus project and folder structure.
  • How he builds his system around familiar aviation concepts (e.g. “ramp” and “in-flight”). You’ll find additional details on Michael’s blog: Part 1: OmniFocus, GTD and Aviation?, Part 2: Left Out on the Ramp, and Part 3: Taxiing; Getting Your Tasks Organised.
  • The custom perspectives that he uses to navigate his day. They’re designed to help ensure that everything gets the appropriate amount of attention and that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • How he uses the Estimated Duration feature in OmniFocus combined with an automation in Shortcuts to help ensure that he doesn’t become overcommitted.
  • How and when he makes use of due dates.
  • An overview of the project and area database that he maintains in Airtable and how it ties different elements of his system together.
  • How he makes advanced use of Shortcuts when creating projects. Each project has a unique ID and a Shortcut automatically creates a project journal note in Notes, a project support folder in iCloud Drive, and an entry in his Airtable database


Mike uses the following apps to expand Shortcuts’ capabilities.

  • LaunchCuts — If you have more than a few Shortcuts, it’s worth checking out LaunchCuts. This thoughtfully-designed app for iPhone and iPad allows you to organize your Shortcuts library (both automatically and manually) and serves as a launchpad for your automations.
  • Data JarData Jar is an app for iPhone and iPad that lets you store data that can be accessed across all of your Shortcuts. This data is even synced between devices using iCloud.
  • Toolbox ProToolBox Pro extends the features that are available to Shortcuts you create for your iPhone and iPad. In addition to having its own, native set of features, it allows you to tap into native functionality in iOS/iPadOS that isn’t normally available to be used by Shortcuts.

Mike also recommends watching Ali Abdaal’s video, My Simple Productivity System – The Equation. Like Mike, Ali applied aviation metaphors to the realm of productivity. This insightful video presents a modern definition of productivity, introduces the “productivity equation”, and highlights three elements that feed into this equation.

About Michael Kirkham-Jones

Mike is a seasoned portfolio and project manager. He also has over twenty years of experience as a programmer, working for both large and small organizations spanning a variety of sectors. His extensive work history includes being one of the first Java developers at IBM and working as an Oracle DBA (Database Administrator).

Mike’s enthusiasm for productivity and technology extends beyond his day job. He enjoys writing productivity articles. And he lives in a highly automated Apple ecosystem. His automation tools of choice include Shortcuts (iOS/iPadOS), Zapier, and JavaScript

He has learned a lot over the years and is motivated to share his productivity and technology journey so that others can benefit from his experiences. He’s also very much a student of life and is always eager and willing to learn from others. Visit Mike’s blog, …on a “Daily Basis”, to tap into the many learnings and insights tjat he has to offer.

Mike lives in Wales and values his close-knit family. He’s married and has three daughters and two grandsons.

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