Best Practice: Make OmniFocus a Sacred Space

Be mindful of what you’re using OmniFocus for, and make sure it doesn’t become a dumping ground.

When people contact me for OmniFocus coaching and consulting, a common refrain is that they don’t feel that they’re using OmniFocus to its full potential. They’re getting some value from using the software but sometimes feel stressed when they look at their long list of projects and overflowing inbox. In many cases, a core issue is that people are putting things into OmniFocus that don’t really belong in OmniFocus.

What goes into OmniFocus?

It may be tempting to put everything under the sun into OmniFocus, including lists of books you might read one day and movies friends have recommended. While it’s technically possible to store all of this information in OmniFocus, it may make more sense to store this information elsewhere, reserving OmniFocus for all the projects and actions you intend to complete.

Generally speaking, I recommend using OmniFocus exclusively for outcomes you’re working towards and actionable tasks. Make sure that you’re naming projects in a way that accurately defines their objective, and when creating actions, it’s worth taking the time to make sure that they’re actionable tasks and not incomplete thoughts.

If you store non-actionable items in OmniFocus, ensure they’re separate from actionable content. This might include, for example, having a separate Someday/Maybe folder containing projects and single action lists on hold.

A place for everything…

Project support material and things you may do at some point are generally best stored outside of OmniFocus. In doing so, you’re helping ensure that your OmniFocus database is an up-to-date and accurate reflection of what you’re committed to in your life and work, not a potpourri of possible routes you could take.

Here are some specific suggestions of places to store things that you might be tempted to dump into OmniFocus:

  • Notes — Use a notetaking app such as Apple Notes, Craft or Obsidian to capture a variety of information you may want to refer back to in the future. All of this information is easily accessible when you need it and doesn’t add clutter to OmniFocus. For added convenience, it’s possible to reference notes from OmniFocus projects and actions.
  • Planning — Another product from the Omni Group, OmniOutliner, is an excellent tool for planning projects at the conceptual level and maintaining project details. You can even link your OmniOutliner documents to your OmniFocus projects and actions for easy access. If you prefer a more graphical approach, MindNode Pro is an excellent mind-mapping app for iPhone, iPad and Mac with built-in support for OmniFocus.
  • Movies + TV Shows — Create a free Trakt account and add movies and TV shows you’d like to watch to either the Watchlist or one or more lists you create yourself. Installing the free Trakt app on your iPhone and iPad will give you convenient mobile access to your lists. And when it’s time to pick a movie or TV show, you’ll have all of the relevant information, including a synopsis and a movie trailer, at your fingertips. There’s also a paid (subscription) Trakt VIP option with additional features and without advertising.
  • Books — Do you often get recommendations for books to read? Create a free GoodReads account and store them there. If you install the free GoodReads iPhone app, you can even add books to your list by scanning the books’ covers or barcodes.

Recommended Reading

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book and putting the best practices he recommends into action. Check out the Getting Things Done (GTD) page for resources to help to get you up to speed with GTD.

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