Task Management Pain Points – The Overachiever

Because I’ve written and screencasted so much about OmniFocus, I get a lot of email from people about their particular pain points with task management. With this series I’m going to focus on a few of the more common issues and how I solve them.

The Overachiever

By far the most common problem I read about is how some folks get overwhelmed. I hear from readers that explain they need over an hour every day just to sort through their tasks. That’s nuts.

If you are facing a task list that has hundreds of entries every day, you’re doing it wrong. I think the most common cause of this overload is our technology. Back when I used to write my task list every day longhand in a Franklin Planner, I never wrote more than 20 tasks in a single day. I think it was something about the act of using pencil and paper that my brain just accepted the lunacy of overloading myself. However with computers, there is a certain amount of abstraction and that can work against us.

With most modern task management applications, setting up tasks and projects is a snap. With very little time we can build a task management database with literally thousands of tasks in it. Moreover, because of that abstraction, we often give our brains the afternoon off while adding those tasks, telling ourselves we’ll figure out how important all those projects and tasks are sometime later down the road.

This leads to waking up with hundreds of available tasks that we then spend hours kicking down the road a day or two, only to drag ourselves through the same mental muck again tomorrow.

Just because computers can track hundreds of projects and thousands of tasks doesn’t mean you can do them all. Indeed, as many readers are finding out, loading yourself up like that can be debilitating. You spend so much time pushing the monkeys around every day that you don’t actually get any of them off your back.

If that is you, don’t beat yourself up. I fall into this trap myself more often than I’d like to admit. You can dig yourself out of this and get back to a more manageable task list. It’s going to require a little work though.

1. Begin by looking at projects

If your task list is bursting at the seems, first start by looking at your active projects. In OmniFocus I’ve set up the Today perspective for precisely this reason. I can easily see the existing projects and how many tasks they’ve got attached. With the color coded check-circles I can even see if any active projects have flagged or due items attached.

The point is that in sweeping through the project list, you need to be brutal. Remember the point is not to have to drag through all of this every day. If you see a project that there simply isn’t time for in the next three weeks, defer it 3 weeks and move on. Don’t refuse to accept reality and defer it just two days so you have to go through all of that again. If you see a project that you’ve now deferred three weeks several times, you should probably delete it entirely or, at least, defer it three months. Stop juggling things you are not going to do. It’s just taking you away from the things you need to do.

2. Next focus on tasks

Once you’ve blown out the cruft of unnecessary projects, bring that same killer instinct to individual tasks. Again defer and delete the stuff that isn’t going to happen so you can put a big spotlight on the stuff that needs doing.

It is easy to fall into this overachiever trap because modern technology makes it so easy to build an entirely unrealistic task list. If you follow these steps however and are truly willing to swing your digital machete at unnecessary projects and tasks, you will regain control of your task list and get rid of that underlying dread you’ve been feeling looking at over 200 tasks every day for the last week.

What is your task list hangup? Let me know.

My OmniFocus Courses at

I recently had the privilege of spending a week at the studios recording screencasts about OmniFocus. It was a lot of fun and now the courses are available for viewing and download to Lynda member. There are two courses:

OmniFocus for Mac Essential Training

OmniFocus for iOS Essential Training

If you are a Lynda subscriber (or know a Lynda subscriber) please watch the screencasts and spread the word. I’m quite proud of them.

Sponsor: OmniFocus

This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniFocus. We are all busy. We all have multiple commitments. In the modern world, it is very easy to wake up in the morning with a sense of dread and foreboding. You know you have a lot of tasks to do and a lot of commitments to keep. The problem is you don’t know where to start.

OmniFocus solves that problem. It’s a task management application for big boys and big girls. I hear from readers and listeners every day that use OmniFocus to make amazing things happen in their lives. As we are entering the new year, if you are having trouble keeping up with everything, now is the time. All I ask is that you give a half day to learning OmniFocus. Watch my video or watch some of the great materials on the Omni Group’s Inside OmniFocus website. Then download the free trial and spend some time familiarizing yourself with it. Once you understand how it all works, the magic starts.

One of the great things about OmniFocus is that the development team never sleeps. They’re constantly striving to make the application better in all of its iterations. This was evidenced most recently when Apple gave it a “Best of 2015” award for their Apple Watch OmniFocus app.

Learn more directly from the Omni Group. Thank you OmniFocus for sponsoring MacSparky and all the help you give me with my task lists every day.

Sponsor: OmniFocus and New Screencast

This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniFocus. The gang at the Omni Group has been hard at work at work and recently released an update that adds custom columns. This new feature gives you tons of control over what you see in your perspectives. You can learn more about custom columns from the Omni Group directly. Adding this feature wasn’t easy and the Omni Group developers explain how they pulled it off right here

I like custom columns so much that I made this short screencast. Enjoy.

Sponsor: OmniFocus 2.6 and Video

I'd like to thank the OmniGroup for sponsoring MacSparky this week. The OmniFocus team has been hard at work, releasing version 2.6 this week. The new version includes some nice new features, including dark mode, swipe to flag, and push syncing. The new version is great. Don't believe me? Take a minute and a half to watch the below video and you will. Learn more at the Omni Group.

Setting the OmniFocus Default Start Time

One nice benefit of no longer working for the man is that I have a lot more control over my schedule. It has been a surprise to me that I find myself often working late into the night. In my former life, I had always been an early riser but in this new iteration of me, it sometimes makes more sense to do my work later in the day.

One consequence of this is that every day at midnight my OmniFocus database fills up with tasks previously set for the next day. I don’t want to see all those tasks. If I’m looking at OmniFocus at midnight it’s because I’m still working on stuff from the prior day. Fortunately, OmniFocus has a setting for that on the Mac app in the preferences pane.

Interestingly, there is no similar setting on the iPhone and iPad but if you change a setting on the Mac, when you synchronize the database the iPhone and iPad will also start setting start times consistent with the new Mac default.

Using Pocket to Create OmniFocus Tasks

On a recent episode of Mac Power Users, I talked about my workflow that uses IFTTT to send articles from Pocket to OmniFocus based on tags. A lot of people have asked me to explain further. Here is how you do it.

The Idea

I wanted a way to tag an article in Pocket and have something specific happen in OmniFocus. The below example takes any article tagged "post" and creates an OmniFocus task titled, "Write Post about" and inserts the URL name. I use this all the time.


As seen with the below screenshot, this recipe grabs Pocket articles tagged "post" and then processes them through my Gmail account. Gmail is required here because you'll need to customize the message in a way that only Google can in IFTTT. For this step you'll need a Pocket and Gmail account and have their channels connected to your IFTTT account.

Trigger: "post"

This step looks for a specific tag in Pocket. Because you can use multiple tags in Pocket, you could duplicate this recipe and have it perform different actions on different tags.

Action: Send an Email

The Omni Group has this great feature call OmniFocus Mail Drop. You can send an email to a secret link and it adds the email to your OmniFocus inbox. You do have use the OmniSync service but the ability to create tasks via email is really handy. 

This step is just sending an email to that super-secret mail drop location. You'd have to substitute your own mail drop email address.

Name the Task

Next I set a custom subject line, "Write post about " *Title*. This inserts the article title so, as sent, it may say, "Write post about hemp Apple Watch bands." OmniFocus will take that subject line and make it the task name. This is why I use the Gmail account for this recipe.

Flesh Out the Note

Next I have IFTTT send through further details to the email body. This gets added to the note in the task. This recipe isn't particularly difficult to create or earth shattering. In some ways, it may be outdated by iOS 8 and Pocket's ability to add tasks to OmniFocus right inside the app. That lets you avoid pushing items through the Internet pipes. However, I'd argue that there is no way faster for me to create these tasks than simply tagging an article "post" and moving on.

The OmniFocus Video Field Guide

I'm pleased to announce the release of the OmniFocus Video Field Guide. This is a screencast, not a book. A lot of people have asked me to write a book about OmniFocus but instead I made this 2.5 hour video that takes you, soup to nuts, through the Omni Group's supremely bad-ass task manager. The screencast can turn an absolute OmniFocus novice into a task-managing ninja.

The screencast is fully bookmarked, nearly two and a half hours, and full of awesome. I've been working on this screencast for months now and I'm quite proud of it. You can learn more and buy it for $10 from here. Below is a sample video.


OmniFocus for iPad 2

In addition to the release of iOS 8 today (and a LOT of app updates), the Omni Group has released OmniFocus for iPad, version 2. I've been using the beta for awhile and have some thoughts about the update.

Look and Feel

OmniFocus 2 for the iPad is very similar to that of OmniFocus 2 on the iPhone. It has that sparse iOS 7 look sprinkled with the Omni Group’s own particular aesthetic. It is not just a coat of paint though. Controls have been moved and working in the application is more fluid than with version 1. The Omni Group has years of experience with the iPad now and it shows. As an example, I can now look at my forecast for three days from now with one tap. This tap efficiency appears everywhere in the new application. Another example is the project review view. OmniFocus on the iPad has always excelled as for project review but the new version has a ground-up redesign that lets me review projects faster than before.

In both portrait and landscape mode, the left pane displays buttons to access perspectives and the forecasts. (With the pro version, explained below, you can add your custom perspectives and also re-arrange their display order. In portrait view, when you select a perspective, the left pane slides out of you and dedicates the entire screen to the selected view.

Pulling down on this perspective sidebar, exposes the synchronization and settings buttons. Synchronize button forces the synchronization with your syncing mechanism of choice, which can include a private server or OmniFocus`s own OmniPresence service.

The Settings include options for due dates, notifications, and the synchronization methodology. There’s also the ability to enable TextExpander snippets which can be really handy when creating new tasks and OmniFocus.

Heavy Lifting Now an Option

One problem I’ve always had with the iPad and iPhone versions of OmniFocus is the ability to easily move the defer date of a project. The way I organize my task projects, sometimes I will hit one that has multiple associated tasks on a day when I have no time to deal with it. Indeed, I may conclude that I don’t have any time to deal with it until a week from next Tuesday. With the prior version I then had to go drill down in the Projects perspective and adjust the project defer date there or tediously move the start date on every associated task. Neither of these options was very palatable and quite often I ended up doing this on the Mac instead.

With the new OmniFocus 2 for iPad, I can now adjust a project defer date right in the standard view. When viewing a project in a perspective that will display the project name (this is entirely up to the user and customizable), you can tap on the project and the task list and make adjustments to its defer date right there.

If on Monday morning you wake up to find you have a 20 item project that you simply are not going to get to, you can move it to some future date with just a few taps on the iPad. This simplified interface makes those large review sessions possible on the iPad now where they were not before.


The Omni Group didn’t waste any time getting in on iOS 8 extensions. The Today View widget display tasks with upcoming due dates. You can check the task off right in the Today view without even opening OmniFocus.

They also have an extension that lets me save a webpage right to the OmniFocus inbox. You can also add project and context information at the time of capture. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve emailed web pages off in the past for purpose of capturing into OmniFocus. This is much more efficient.

Better Search

Search out tasks was alway a bit of a mystery in OmniFocus. With the new version, it is much easier with a tap-able button to search the current perspective, remaining tasks, or the whole enchilada.

The Big Sync

One feature that doesn’t get much attention is the synchronization engine. My database has a lot of projects and tasks in it and I’m jumping between devices all day long. OmniFocus has got so adept at synchronizing this data that I find myself taking it for granted. Nevertheless, I know the OmniGroup is always working on finding ways to speed it up, including building their own data storage and synchronization mechanism with OmniPresence

The new version of OmniFocus for the iPad adds background syncing, which allows the application to update its data in the background. This is all subject to the magic sauce of iOS to determine which applications are worthy of getting these background processes. With the amount of time I spent in OmniFocus, I find that it does a pretty good job of keeping my task list up-to-date in The background and allowing me to spend even less time pushing the synchronize button when I want to be getting my tasks done.

Standard and Pro

The application is priced with an entry-level price of $29.99 and an in-app purchase of $19.99 for the pro version. If you have the prior version of OmniFocus for iPad installed on your iPad, the new version will sense that and give you the pro upgrade for free. This is about as close to upgrade pricing as I’ve ever seen on iOS. I hope Apple allows this to continue and other application developers follow suit.

The pro version unlocks several new features not seen and prior versions of OmniFocus on the iPad. Chief among those is the ability to edit perspectives. One of the most common questions I received about OmniFocus is from users that don’t have a portable Mac and want the ability to get by with OmniFocus just on the iPad and iPhone. I’ve always written back that the big stumbling block is perspectives. Perspectives give OmniFocus the power to become whatever you need it to become. User-defined perspectives (like mine) allow you to make this task system work for you, no matter how your brain is wired. Previously, you can only set of those custom perspectives on a Mac. (They would previously synchronize to an iPad but you could not edit them on an iPad.)

With the upgraded pro version you can now edit perspectives on your iPad to your heart’s content. As seen in the attached screenshot, you have a lot of parameters you can set in his custom perspectives ranging from a custom icon to searching for particular text. Perspectives you create on the iPad will sync over to your Mac and iPhone without difficulty. In a sense, this new feature liberates OmniFocus from the Mac and I think people who want to try and get by with just an iOS installation, have a real fighting chance now where they simply did not before.

Aggressive Evolution

The first version of OmniFocus for the iPad was truly revolutionary. It gave me the power to manage my tasks on my iPad in a way that I didn’t think was possible. Building on the shoulders of its predecessor, this version doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but instead make the wheel spin a lot faster and more efficiently. In that regard, OmniFocus 2 for the iPad absolutely delivers. Working through my admittedly complicated life with this application happens faster now and, frankly, the redesign makes the process more delightful. I have personal knowledge of exactly how hard the team at The Omni Group worked on this new version and I’m loving it. I bought the app as soon as it appeared in the App Store earlier today. You can learn more at the OmniGroup website and from their OmniFocus 2 for iPad iBook.

TextExpander for Quick Defer+Due Dates in OmniFocus

Max Masnick is using Text Expander to quickly enter defer and due dates in OmniFocus. Max primarily uses this for events that have the same defer and due dates. For example if you want a task to disappear but show up as due on Monday at 9am. I don't have much cause for that style task because I so rarely use due dates but there is no reason you couldn't also use this to defer with later relative due dates, for example two weeks from Friday, which in OmniFocus speak would be 2w Fri. Moreover, Max figured out how to combine defer dates and TextExpander so of course he gets a link.


My OmniFocus Perspectives

I’ve not officially written up my thoughts on OmniFocus 2 for the Mac but suffice it to say, I’m a fan. I’ve received a lot of questions lately about my perspectives so for this post, I thought I’d dive into the weeds and share all of my perspectives.

Why Are Perspectives a Big Deal?

OmniFocus is a powerful tool. It can hold a lot of tasks with a lot of associated data. Perspectives give you the ability to filter all that information in ways that make sense. I use many perspectives and am constantly flipping between them as I go through the day. Perspectives, created on the Mac, drive down the iOS versions of OmniFocus so whether you are in line for tea or bearing down at your desk, they are there to help.

Perspectives and OmniFocus 2 for Mac

One of the improvements with OmniFocus 2 for Mac is the ability to more easily create perspectives and, more importantly, their constant visibility down the left side of your screen. There is a default set of perspectives, but you can also add your custom perspectives (assuming you are using OmniFocus Pro) to this list from the Perspectives window. Like on iOS, you can add a perspective to this left menu by starring it in the Perspectives pane. I love this.

Inbox, Projects, and Contexts

I use several of the built in perspectives and while I’ve made specific selections from available options, there is nothing particularly interesting in the Inbox, Projects, or Contexts screenshots.


Checking the Show Deferred Items is huge for me. As explained in the above linked article, I manage tasks by deferring them out to future dates. I’m not forecasting tasks that are due in the future so much as I am tasks that are set to begin. I also set the calendar display to 7AM since I often have early morning meetings.


I’m using flags more now than I did before. I’ve explained how I use due dates sparingly. Flags allows me to set even fewer due dates. If I’ve got some task that is important but doesn’t have a due date, I flag it. Today, for example, I had two tasks flagged and it felt pretty good checking them off. Getting back to this setting, if I push something into the future and flag it as important, I don’t want to see it until it becomes available so I apply the “available” filter.


Rarely, I need to go back through completed tasks and when I do, this perspective gets the job done. You’ll note I don’t have this starred to appear on the left side of my screen because I use it so sparingly.


This perspective shows all my recently changed tasks. Sometimes I’ll get ahead of myself when organizing OmniFocus. The first line of defense in that case is Command+Z but if that doesn’t work, this gives me an easy way to go back and make corrections.


This one is somewhat related to the Changed perspective. A lot of times I capture tasks and only partially process them, particularly when I’m working on the go. This Perspective gives me a list of recently added tasks when I need to make sense of it.


Occasionally, I need to clear the decks. Clear gives me all available tasks ungrouped. I can Command+A to select them all and push them out if necessary with the defer date in the inspector. This is also a good perspective to sort out date discrepancies. If I’ve got a lot of tasks with various (and old) defer dates. I’ll select them all in the Clear perspective and set their Defer date today in the inspector.


This is a Perspective that just points at the Professional/Clients folder. If I just need to focus on client issues, I’ll select this. (I added a similar Perspective for MacSparky tasks as I wrote this article.)


This perspective shows me all tasks from the Errands context. I don’t refer to this context much either but it is handy on weekends.


This is somewhat related to my Clients perspective but broader. It includes everything relating to my day job: administrative, clients, business management, continuing education, legal speaking, the works.


This is the perspective that a lot of readers have already adopted. It sorts all “available” tasks by project with nice little project labels. It’s a great way to see what’s on deck for the day and an essential tool if you are managing tasks with defer dates.

There’s More…

I’ve been toying with a “Waiting” context but haven’t got it right yet. Anytime you look at OmniFocus and don’t see the information you want at that moment, you should investigate creating a custom perspectives. They are very flexible and you should be able to do just about anything you want.

About Those Icons

I downloaded the new icons from Github. Josh Hughes made this great set that really fits in nicely with the native OmniFocus icons and has them in multiple colors. This too is a work in progress as I continue to fiddle with my perspectives.

“Considered” and “Planning” in OmniFocus

One complication that comes from using powerful tools is that we can spend more time tinkering with the machine than making widgets. Kourosh Dini wrote an excellent post about the “Considered Task”. Specifically, he will insert the word “Consider” in front of a task to give himself that ability to weigh a task or project before committing to it. It makes a lot of sense and I’m going to start using it. Read the entire post for a more detailed explanation. (I also have to admit I just enjoy Kourosh’s deliberate, paced, writing voice.)

I use a similar (but not as clever) trick for planning projects. Once I’ve committed to a project, I need to plan the necessary steps so I can get to that cranking widgets mindset that releases all of my happy chemicals. The trouble is that quite often the moment I commit to something is not the best moment to do that planning. So at that point, I’ll make a task “Plan Death Ray project”. If the planning is going to take a lot of time, I may even schedule time for planning the project. Planning to plan sounds pedantic and I’ll admit it is a a bit of a cheat but I’ve found it does give me the necessary motivation to actually plan the project and gives the project itself a much better chance of actually proceeding.

The Problems You Don't Know

I’ve been running pretty hard the last few months between the day job and finishing up the Email Field Guide. In the process, I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times with my OmniFocus task management discipline. Everybody probably knows that feeling of seeing the red badge of “Overdue” show up on the icon and know that it has been several days since you opened up the application and sorted through things. You know there is ticking bomb under your kitchen table and part of you would rather pretend it’s not there and keep eating Cheeze-Its.

I’m here to tell you to put down the box of delicious cheese-flavored crackers and instead cut the red wire. If you are using some of the tricks I showed in my OmniFocus Screencasts, it will not take that long to quickly get through your task list. Even if that means pushing 95% of your tasks off until next Monday, that 5% left is manageable and just think how much more time and money it will cost to rebuild your kitchen if you let that bomb go off.

Here is how I did it under fire the last few weeks.

Screenshot 2013-11-21 14.02.13.png

1. Enable A Clear Perspective

I have a special perspective to help me sweep the decks. It removes all project distinctions and instead just gives me a long list of all active tasks. This makes it really easy to grab big fat chunks of them using the shift or command keys while selecting.

Screenshot 2013-11-21 14.02.28.png

2. Use the Inspector to Process Multiple Tasks

On the Mac version of OmniFocus, open up the inspector and move the start date to some safe date in the future for large swathes of your selected task backlog. Set a record for how many you move with one selection.

3. Defuse the Bombs

There will be a few important things left. Deal with those and get back to the big project that put you behind in the first place. Remember, this too shall pass.

The thing is there are the problems you know and the problems you don’t know. It is the ones you don’t know that will get you every damn time.

OmniFocus for iPhone 2.0

Today the Omni Group released OmniFocus for iPhone, version 2. I’ve been in the beta and using my iPhone, nearly exclusively, for the past weeks to manage my OmniFocus data. Today the new version is available for purchase and I wanted to share my thoughts following a few weeks of intensive use.

THE Redesign

Version 2 has a ground-up redesign. The Omni Group put every aspect of the app under the microscope and produced something quite different from the original. The new version looks nothing like the old version. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the home screens for version 1 and version 2.

The new start up screen puts everything you need on one iOS 7-friendly screen. Forecast is across the top of the screen along with a live count of due items for each of the next seven days. There are also large buttons on the home screen for the Inbox (including an inbox count), Flagged items (also with a count), Projects, Nearby, and Contexts. Finally there is a list of perspectives at the bottom of the screen. Like before, you can star individual perspectives and they will show up on this screen and you can access all perspectives by tapping on the Perspectives button. (You can also set the order in which they display.)

When you select an item, like tapping the Projects button, the screen splits at the button you select and animates the two halves to the top and bottom of the screen displaying your selected view. The animation is a nice touch and fast enough that it doesn’t feel a hinderance.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 9.31.26 PM.png

Missing from the interface is the big plus sign to add a new task. Instead, there is a floating Inbox button in the lower right corner of the screen that is nearly always present. Tap that button to add a task from just about anywhere.

Also missing from the home screen are buttons to sync my data, adjust settings, and search my database. To get these, drag the screen down, like you do to get the search bar in the iOS 7 Springboard or update just about every Twitter app on the platform. This displays a grey bar across the top of the screen with all of these options. The new design does a great job of just showing you what you need 90% of the time and placing the other stuff in easy reach.

One of my favorite features is the forecast view right across the top of the screen. The new version gives a summary listing the per-day deadlines right on the home screen. I can tap on any day and see all tasks due that day and all tasks I’ve deferred to that day. This view also has all calendar items for that day. Pulling down for the toolbar in Forecast view, the Settings icon is replaced with the View icon. From there you can customize the Forecast view for due and deferred items, and specify which calendars appear. Forecast is one of OmniFocus’s premier features and I’m glad to see it get so much prominence in the new application.

Selecting Projects or Contexts gives a list of Project folders or Contexts with a visual representation of the number of items represented as dots. Tapping these drills down into sub folders or contexts until it hits a list of tasks. If there is anything over due (or nearly due) in any list, the grey dot is replaced with a red or yellow one. This is a great way to get a handle on how you’ve got your work spread out.

The way in which the new application displays lists of tasks also received an overhaul. The Navigation bar at the top uses iOS 7-style text “buttons” to navigate. Tasks are displayed in black text on a white screen, always. Each task displays its project name in grey below. Instead of check boxes there are now check circles. The circles do more than just give you a place to check something off. They also convey information about the task. If there is an ellipses inside check circle, it is a repeating task. If the check circle is red, the task is overdue. The date (or time) that the task became overdue is also listed in red. If the check circle is in yellow, the task is about to become due. In that case, the date (or time) it will become due is listed in yellow. The way it uses colors on the check circles instead of the task names makes a lot of sense. It makes the text more readable while conveying the same information. It also provides for a more subdued interface, which I prefer.

The task edit window is also completely new and iOS 7-ified. There are tap-able areas to adjust the project, context, and add a flag. You can set set due and defer dates. Gone is the term “start date” replaced with the term “defer until” which makes more sense with the way I’ve been advocating using start dates for years.

You can also set a task as repeating, move a task, convert it into a project, share, and delete a task from this screen. Several of these options are new to version 2. Notes and Attachments (both pictures and audio recordings) are accessed through text buttons at the top of the list.

As you dig through these options, you’ll see that everything got redesigned. Take the repeat task screen for instance. The new design simply could not exist on a pre-retina iPhone but looks great on my iPhone 5.


The new version 2 isn’t just a pretty face. There are also some nice feature upgrades.

Background Sync

When Apple first announced they were putting a background sync mechanism in iOS 7, the first thought that crossed my mind was “OmniFocus Sync”. The new version delivers on this. Background Sync allows OmniFocus for iPhone to hit the OmniSync server and pull down updated tasks while OmniFocus isn’t the active application. No longer do I need to launch the app and wait for it to connect to the Internet and pull data down. Occasionally, I’ll get an “optimizing” message (which deals with processing already downloaded data and database changes) but usually I just open the application and go. Background Sync isn’t a setting in the new app. It just happens.

Defer Until “Later”

One of my favorite new little touches is when deferring tasks. Sometimes it makes sense to move a task a day or a week or a month. Other times I just want to put a task (or project) out to some time in the future and stop thinking about it for awhile. There is now an option to defer an action until “later”. The selection even includes a pair of dice. Tapping this moves a task about a month or two (it’s random) and gets the task or project off my mind until then. The random element of this pushes a button I didn’t know I had and I use this feature more than I probably should.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 10.10.31 PM.png

The Price

This is a new version and it requires a new purchase. The price is $20 and, famously, the Omni Group (or any iOS developer for that matter) cannot offer an upgrade price to existing users. I’ve already seen complaints on Twitter about paying for version 2. The logic goes something like this: 1. I paid a lot for version 1; 2. Therefore I shouldn’t have to pay again, ever.

The Omni Group is one of the few companies that has held the line about pricing its software. If you’ve ever owned any of their applications, you probably have a good idea why. The Omni Group is a big software developer with lots of smart engineers, artists, and all the other people required to make something of quality. Moreover, the Omni Group has outstanding customer support. You can call them and get a friendly, knowledgeable human.

This sort of infrastructure costs money. It doesn’t just cost money the first day you buy your app. It costs money month after month and year after year. I remember what it was like having an iPhone without OmniFocus and I don’t care to go back.

I’m pretty sure I paid $25 for OmniFocus for iPhone version 1. That was five years ago. Over the past five years I’ve used the heck out of this app (which ended up costing me $5 per year to own). For the price of one cup of coffee per year I’m more productive and kicking ass with this application. Moreover, the Omni Group did not hold back on updates to version 1. During those 5 years, syncing got really great, OmniFocus became location aware, the Omni Group added an innovative forecasting feature, OmniFocus learned to talk to Siri, the Omni Group built an entire back-end syncing engine for my data, and OmniFocus obtained the ability to add tasks via email. The list goes on. I believe over the next five years, the Omni Group will be just as productive and add more useful features to version 2 that will become equally essential to me.

To those complaining about the price I’d ask you to look back and honestly answer the question of whether the Omni Group hasn’t already given you your money’s worth with version 1. If we, as discriminating users, want to continue to have excellent software, we are going to have to pay excellent developers so they can buy shoes, beer, and Pop Tarts. If you’re really hung up on this, think of it as an extended software license to get you through several more years.

Today I paid $20 and bought OmniFocus for my iPhone without blinking. I’m not trying to be heavy handed about this but we all have an interest in a software model for productivity apps that involves paying an honest price for honestly good software.


There’s been a lot of speculation that the uniform nature of Apple’s own iOS 7 apps foretold a future where all apps look the same. OmniFocus 2 disproves this. This app does look distinctly iOS 7 but at the same time, is quite noticeably different from the Apple applications. In summary, this redesign reflects a developer that used its own product for several years. It removes friction from the previous design and gives the user something that just flows easier. I’m looking forward to several more years of OmniFocus on my iPhone.

OmniFocus Background Sync? Yes, Thank You.


There's a new update for iPhone OmniFocus today (version 1.16) that adds Background Sync. So what does that mean?

Start by enabling Background Sync in the application settings. Tell OmniFocus to Add Current Location for your home, work, school, and favorite bar. (You have to do this while at the location of choice.) OmniFocus then draws a geo-fence around those locations. It doesn't use GPS–which drains your battery– so it's a pretty large, vague geofence. Nevertheless, when you leave, OmniFocus updates itself in the background. OmniFocus is not the first app to use this trick but it sure is handy. Every time I leave home, work, court, or Trader Sam's, my OmniFocus database updates itself.

iOS 7 has a less-hacky fix for background syncing but why wait? Enable this today.


OmniFocus Template Script - Bigger and Better


For the longest time I used Kurt Clifton's OmniFocus Template. Today I stumbled into Chris Sauve's updated OmniFocus Template script

¡Ay, Caramba!

How did I not check this out sooner? This updated template script (which pays homage to Kurt's original template) brings it. You can set default dates, folders, listed variable, conditional tasks, and more. It goes on and on. If you do any sort of repeated projects in OmniFocus, take 20 minutes out of your life to set this up and learn the syntax. So worth it.