The OmniFocus Dashboard

Apr 22, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~4 mins

I write and talk about my OmniFocus Dashboard a lot. And that’s for good reason: it’s the central hub of my day-to-day work and the place where my decisions about the day surface.

The intent behind the Dashboard is to show me a list of tasks to be completed today. I want those tasks to be shown in order, meaning I start at the top and work to the bottom. There’s no need to choose the next task because I’ve already decided ahead of time.

Before I get too far into this, let’s go through the setup. All the Dashboard contains are tasks that are Due or Flagged. The task needs to have a due date within the next five days or I must manually flag it before it shows up here. As for the display settings, I want it to group tasks by context but sort by project.

I keep my contexts in order of importance from top to bottom. And I give my @Admin tasks the highest priority. If the task impacts the state of my system and accuracy of the projects in it, I want that task to be completed first. I want to trust that I have all the appropriate information collected and in place before I move on. With the perspective grouped by context, it first sorts the tasks by context; and with the @Admin context at the top of my list, it shows up first on the Dashboard.

I also sort my projects in order of importance. See a theme here? At the top of my project list is a folder called Guidance. It holds my higher horizons, reviews, and meta projects. Again, I want these at the top of the list because these projects keep my daily activities in alignment with my long-term goals. With the Dashboard sorted by project, the tasks within the context groupings maintain the priority I give my projects. I should also note that all projects in this Guidance folder are flagged and their tasks are given the @Admin context. The flag is what pulls them into the Dashboard and the context ensures they will always be at the top.

Reviews

The projects at the very top are my reviews: daily, weekly, monthly, and annual in that order. I need to complete my daily review before I go on to the weekly review. The same goes for the monthly and annual reviews. I can’t make decisions about which projects to take on or drop if there are still unprocessed tasks in my inbox. The system must be up-to-date beforehand. Again, these projects are flagged and all their tasks are given the @Admin context, so these tasks show up in the first grouping of the Dashboard.

Meta

Underneath my reviews are a couple meta projects I’ve put in place to help me accomplish my weekly commitments and the projects that are important to me. The first is called Important Projects and it’s set to repeat daily. It’s a simple list that helps me put valued projects first and it’s the first thing I do once my reviews are completed. These aren’t tasks themselves but they prompt me to go elsewhere in OmniFocus to complete a task that pertains to the original item.

The second meta project is called Weekly Creation and it repeats weekly. I do my best to write two articles for this site and record one podcast episode each week. This project holds a few tasks that come after the Important Projects tasks. I need to have this week’s content created before I move on to other work for the week. Again, these two projects are flagged to add them to the Dashboard.

Due or Flagged

Once all reviews and important tasks are completed, I move on to the tasks that will be due soon or that I’ve decided to work that today. The due soon tasks show up automatically based on how close I am to the due date. For me, that means five days out from the assigned date. I want a little lead time on these. But I fill the remainder of my day’s work with tasks that I’ve flagged. Sometimes these apply to the projects on my Important Projects list, but often times they are simple one-off tasks that are bugging me and I want done.

Reality

The nice thing about this Dashboard is that it is mostly robotic. It happens on its own. Each day these tasks show up without me needing to do anything. But there’s risk involved with that. You can become numb to seeing them every day; if you skip one day, it becomes easy to skip them the next; or you start looking through the list, get overwhelmed by it, and do nothing. For me, the problem can arise when I start re-thinking my previous decisions that led to the list in the first place. I’m not always the best at sticking to it, but I know if I trust my previous self that I have a greater tendency to create flow and accomplish more by the end of the day.