Checklists in OmniFocus

May 30, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

Keeping different types of information in separate apps or systems is sometimes worth the extra infrastructure. But there is also a lot of value and mental freedom in using an existing process for multiple forms of data.

When you have a tool as flexible and powerful as OmniFocus, it gets easier to combine needs into one database. That is why I originally moved my Someday/Maybe lists into OmniFocus. The simplicity of having a single place for active and potential tasks eliminated a bit of resistance to capturing an idea. This ease was also my rationale for moving my checklists from Evernote to OmniFocus.

There are a lot of ways to keep checklists in OmniFocus, but I keep the process as effortless as possible. I manage a single folder that holds all of them. I don’t have so many that I feel the need to subdivide them. They are all together in one list and each checklist has the same settings:

  • Parallel project set to “Complete when completing last action”
  • Repeat set to Defer Again in one minute

When I sit down to go through a checklist, I work from the project view so it doesn’t matter if the project is Parallel or Sequential. I see every item on the list regardless. My default for new projects is Parallel so I leave it alone. I want these to autocomplete and recreate themselves when everything is done; the repeat and completion settings make it happen.

I’ve used checklists for packing lists, payroll, and even rituals for quite a while. But during a recent Weekly Review I realized I was putting a handful of checklists elsewhere and treating them differently when I shouldn’t. The lists of steps for all my reviews has been living in my Guidance folder, so I flagged them to display on my Dashboard.

This is a prime example of how fluid a GTD system can be. It needs to fluctuate with how you work and morph as you learn about yourself. I very recently wrote about how I work with my OmniFocus Dashboard. And here I am changing its purpose entirely. I realized I had abstracted and complicated these meta-lists unnecessarily. Yes, they are Guidance projects to complete at regular intervals, but those intervals are better placed on the calendar and the checklist put where they belong. By breaking them off into their own category, I was required to maintain another level of the structure. If I can simplify it and uphold my level of productivity while eliminating mental strain (no matter how small), why wouldn’t I reduce the complexity? This is especially true when the work required to pull it off is miniscule.

All of this is to say that I’ve moved my reviews into my checklists folder and pulled them from the Dashboard. I reserve time on my calendar for them and go through the list at that time. It cuts back on the automation going into my daily task list and gives me the freedom to put off a review for a few hours or days if I need to go heads down on a project. It also eliminates some of the overwhelm from seeing a Dashboard with 30+ items on it in the morning.