2019-12-11 – Getting Back on Track with OmniFocus 3

2019-12-11 - Getting Back on Track with OmniFocus 3

Do you sometimes fall off the OmniFocus bandwagon? Learn practical ways to get back on track and avoid pitfalls in the future.

Perhaps you started using OmniFocus with great enthusiasm, but somewhere along the way, your excitement has waned. OmniFocus may have begun to feel like another obligation to fulfill, rather than a powerful ally that helps you do your best work. This session serves a guide as you get OmniFocus back on track and will help you avoid pitfalls in the future.

Session Overview

For those of you who have been using OmniFocus for a while, this session is designed to help you reignite your enthusiasm for OmniFocus as you unlock its potential. And if you’re new to OmniFocus, this session provides an excellent opportunity to learn how to spot common pitfalls before they compromise your productivity.

Drawing upon insights presented in one of our most popular articles, Common OmniFocus Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them, this session takes you through the most common OmniFocus missteps. As you watch the session, you’ll be invited to take a critical look at your system. And, if you’ve fallen into any (or all) of these pitfalls, fear not. You’ll receive practical guidance to help you get back on the bandwagon.

Getting Back on Track with OmniFocus 3

Common Pitfalls

This session takes you on a guided review of your OmniFocus setup. You’ll identify problem areas and take steps to transform your OmniFocus setup so that you have a system that helps you navigate life and work with grace and ease. We’ll focus on the following areas:

  • OmniFocus Has Become a Dumping Ground — Perhaps you developed a solid habit of emptying your mind into the OmniFocus inbox…and ended up with an unmanageable amount of unclarified information. We look at how to deal with an overloaded system, and how to avoid this situation in the future. This includes clarifying what belongs in OmniFocus and what is best kept elsewhere.
  • Unclarified Projects and Actions — One key to unlocking OmniFocus’ prowess is to establish a habit around creating clearly defined projects and actions. As we go through the session you’ll have the opportunity to review your existing projects and actions and to determine if they need additional clarification.
  • Overwhelming Number of Overdue Items — It can be tempting to add due items to things that you want to get done by a specific date, even though they’re not technically due. We review best practices for the use of due dates and look at ways to transition towards using due dates effectively.
  • OmniFocus is Out of Date — Keeping OmniFocus up-to-date and relevant is key to having it be a useful tool. If you’ve neglected your OmniFocus housekeeping, you’re likely not very motivated to use it and may return to old habits of being driven by what David Allen calls "latest and loudest". We'll look at some ways to revive your OmniFocus setup and practice as well as strategies to keep it from being left to gather virtual dust down the road.
  • Too Many…or Not Enough Tags — Tags can be a highly effective way to target specific actions based on things like your physical location, your energy level and the people you’re with. You’ll be guided through a review and revamp of your current tags so that you can get maximum value from this powerful feature.

Getting Back on Track

This session includes practical instruction for:

  • How to gauge when OmniFocus is working well…and when it needs to work.
  • Determining what belongs in OmniFocus and what's best kept elsewhere. For example, to take some load off of OmniFocus, AnyList could be used for shopping lists, Goodreads for collecting books to read, and IMDb to keep track of movies to watch.
  • The role that habits play in keeping OmniFocus on track.
  • Performing a GTD Mind Sweep without overloading the OmniFocus Inbox.
  • Triaging your OmniFocus setup to get back to a usable system. This includes making use of OmniFocus documents/backups and OmniOutliner.
  • Moving towards a system that is, as David Allen says, "as simple as possible, but no simpler".
  • Naming your projects and actions in a way that helps make OmniFocus useful and relevant. Our Best Practices for Naming OmniFocus Projects article goes into more detail on recommended practices and conventions.
  • Making effective use of flags and due dates.
  • Using tags in combination with folders, projects, and single-action lists to create a system that is convenient and manageable. Visit our Tags for OmniFocus 3 directory to learn about the many ways that tags can be used.
  • Simplifying your OmniFocus setup by offloading projects and actions that fall outside your realm of responsibility.
  • Determining what you can realistically accomplish. To quote David Allen, "you can do anything, but not everything".
  • Performing daily and weekly reviews of your OmniFocus database to help keep OmniFocus relevant and trusted. Watch Navigating Your Day with OmniFocus 3  to learn more.
  • Using Custom Perspectives to help maintain database integrity.
  • Using custom perspectives to easily identify inaccuracies and inconsistencies in your OmniFocus database. For example, "Projects – Stalled" to identify parallel or sequential projects that don't have any remaining actions and "Actions – Untagged" to quickly find all remaining actions that don't have at least one tag. You'll find these and other actions in our Custom Perspectives for OmniFocus 3 directory.
  • And more…


  • Atomic Habits — An important aspect of keeping OmniFocus (and life) on track is developing and maintaining productive habits. James Clear wrote an excellent book called Atomic Habits that provides highly practical guidance for building good habits and breaking old ones.
  • Mind Sweep Trigger List — This session provides a taste of a guided Mind Sweep, a process that David Allen Shares in Getting Things Done (GTD) that promotes externalizing stuff that's swimming around in our minds. The David Allen Company provides an Incompletion Trigger List (PDF) that can be helpful when you're performing your own Mind Sweeps.
  • Essentialism — Essentialism is a term that Greg McKeown shared in his book, Essentialism. Dubbed "The Disciplined Pursuit of Less", it's an approach to life and work that challenges the assumption that we can have it all. Instead, it emphasizes getting the "right" things done by separating essential and non-essential elements of life.

Recommended Prerequisites

Especially if you’re new to OmniFocus, it’s recommended that you watch the recording of the Start Smart with OmniFocus 3 session before watching this session. You might also want to watch the recording of the OmniFocus 3: Beyond the Basics session to better acquainted with OmniFocus' more advanced features.