Creating Flow with OmniFocus 2 Mastering Productivity


Title: Creating Flow with OmniFocus 2 Mastering Productivity
Authors: Kourosh Dini
Edition: 2
Finished Date: 2014-03-19
Rating: 5
Language: English
Genres: Software, OmniFocus
Level: Entry
Publishers: The Dini Group, Ltd.
Publication Date: 2014-12-18
ISBN: 978-0986019296
Format: No
Pages: 1029
Download: No

Ch 1 introduction

the landscape

supporting & clearing paths

  • after the section Folders and Horizons of Focus Introduced: adapt to various scenarios of daily life

the book’s layout

build a structure from

  • priorities
  • habits
  • tasks

book structure

  • The Introduction

    • introduce the book
    • introduce the alyout
    • provide a Quick Start
  • The General Layout - The Inspector Reviewed: describe the basic functions of OmniFocus

  • Bilding Systems Part I - Folders & Horizons: describe building a basic working system to handle daily work
  • Enahancing Systems with custom perspectives - Communication workflows: describe more detailed and customized structures to fit daily work
  • Prioritization & Horizons - Sessions of Work: use OmniFocus in

    • creative projects
    • large scale prioritization
    • a more general process of mastery
  • Bring it all together - Procrastination, problems, and suggested solutions: an overview of use and several means of handling common problems

  • Appendices: present a means of using

    • tags
    • template examples
    • perspective settings
    • the use of TextExpander
    • Keyboard Maestro
    • thoughts on mind mapping

other resources

the mind & task management

  • crate enjoyable projects and tasks in OmniFocus

use of a task manager

a task management system => guide attention => direct several aspects of our workflow

  1. In optimizing the placement of simple concrete tasks: GTD book’s content
  2. In deciding or planning on what to do next: prioritization

    1+2: minimize internal distraction from interruption flow, i.e. create internal boundaries by providing methods of dealing with thoughts as they come to mind

  3. In supporting a session of work: use OmniFocus in order to devel deeply into a project

  4. In designing the contexts in which one can achieve a flow: further create the conditions for creativity and/or productivity
  1. In practicing a workflow with a goal of working it into intrinsic memory: about learning

the book will ask the follwing:

  • Where is my attention?
  • Where do I want my attention?
  • How can I reliably get it there?

beyond creating flow

an overview of the Workflow Mastery and Creating Flow

a trusted system

builiding trust

Trust is something that is built over time. It involves a belief that something will continue behaving as it has in the past, such that it may be relied upon.

When a system does not appear to work as planned, enough should be known so that adjustments may be made.


  • the Omni Sync Server

    • back up database every 2 hours
    • maintain 100 copies

      = over 8 days = 100/ (24/2)

  • the lcoal backup system
see backup files
  1. Menu > File
  2. select Show Backups ...
revert a backup file
  1. select the desired file
  2. doulbe click or cmd+o
  3. click Revert to this Backup

A quick Today View

Flags: signify “today” items throughout the book

morning routine

  1. Open Projects Perspective (cmd+2)
  2. Flag the tasks intended for today, aiming for less than what you think can be done
  3. Open Flagged Perspective (cmd+5)
  4. begin work

afternoon/early-evening routine

  1. Review the Flagged Perspective for anything that could not be accomplished
  2. Remove flags as needed

main areas to bring a system together

  • Building Systems Part I - A Dashboard
  • Building Systems Part II - Routines & Buffers
  • Building Systems Part III - Templates, Review, & Habits”

a quick custom Today View

Ch 2: general layout

navigate selections between panes

  • sidebar: opt+cmd+1
  • main outline: opt+cmd+2
  • inspector: opt+cmd+3

Ch 3: projects & tasks


5 stages of GTD

  1. collect
  2. process
  3. organize
  4. review
  5. do

Project Perspective offers a place for

  • process
  • organize

to some extent

  • collect
  • do
  • create a new project cmd+shift+N

create a project

  • plus sign & shortcut: place a new project below any selected project
  • Quick Engtry: place the new project below all other projects

project anatomy

  • projects

    • expand:

      • right arrow
      • cmd+9
    • collapse

      • left arrow
      • cmd+0
  • notes

    • cmd+': open and begin editing
    • cmd+opt+': open without editing or close

project status

  • Active:

    • default
    • tasks are generally available
  • On Hold:

    • tasks are unavailable

    • useful when

      • keep tasks around but not start them until some undertermined future time
  • Completed

  • Dropped
  • Pending: projects are set to occur in the future

  • Stalled: parallel or sequential projects without available actions

    Single Action projects are not stalled Projects

task anatomy

OminFocus refers to “tasks” as “actions”

  • simple single actions
  • groupings of actions


  • opt+return: create additional lines within the task title
  • expand:

    • right arrow
    • cmd+9
  • collapse

    • left arrow
    • cmd+0
  • ctrl+opt+': open and close all notes for tasks and projects on the page

  • shift+cmd+]: crate a sub-task

  • cmd+option+g: group tasks

parallel, sequential projects

  • parallel

    • the first task in a parallel project: “first avaialbe” action

Ch 4: writing, hiding, & completing tasks

practice writing strong tasks

Writing a task is defining the desired moment

rules of thumb

  • start with a verb when possible
  • maintain simplicity when possible
  • avoid combining multiple tasks
  • write as if you are delegating to your future self
  • If an ongoing creative task: a general task may be suffice

break down tasks

Confidence is a trust in our own ability to perform and decide meaningfully.

In this way, confidence can be a good point of measurement for the degree to which we break down our actions. In other words,

Break down a task until you believe you can readily accomplish it and no further.

before complete

  1. pause
  2. allow the thoughts of the related work or play to settle
  3. make adjustments or write any additonal tasks as needed
  4. mark the action complete as indicated

Ch 5: filters

types of tasks

  • Available (appear black)

    • Next Available actions:

      • the first of any actions in a project
    • Avaialble actions: actions that available to be completed regardless of where in a project they sit

  • Unavailable (apear gray)

    • Blocked actions: actions that are sitting “behind” other tasks in a sequential group

    • Deferred actions: actions set to occure at a fture date

    • On Hold actions: actionsthat are placed on indefinite hold in an On Hold project or context
  • Completed actions (appear gray with a line through them): actions that have been marked complete

  • Dropped actions: actions that sit in a dropped project

actions in Single tasks

each actions are treated as Next Available

filtering tasks

The difference between types of actions allow for different handling via a filtering system

Hide tasks that are not intended now

next action and simple prioritization

goal: to further remove certain tasks, set the filter to only display first available actions

ordering tasks

  • ctrl+cmd+up: move above

###subtask completion

When the children tasks are completed, the parent taks receives a next action status

Ch 6: clear up

Ch 7: context & the context perspective

2 vital components of the workflow

  • Show in Projects: planning
  • Show in Contexts: doing


  • cmd+opt+R: switch between planning and working, i.e., Projects Perspective and Context Perspective
  • shift+cmd+]: crate a sub-task
  • cmd+option+g: group tasks

reassign tasks to new contexts

Context Perspective

  1. select tasks
  2. drag and drop the tasks onto the new context

create sub-context

Context: Subcontext

set a context on hold

set a context on hold => associated tasks as unavailable

  1. ctrl+click the context
  2. select Status > On Hold

@iphone set location

create a location

  • Here: happen to be standing at the location
  • Anywhere: useful for an @Anywhere context


    @Calls list

  • Search:

    example: type “Apple store”

    • Assig Search to Context: the context will be associated with any searches in your area
    • Assign Location to Context: assoicated with a specific store
  • Address: direct typing entry of an address

  • Contact: bring up the address book
  • Pin: use the mapping pin function to assign a location

How far

  • small circle: about 200 meters (650 feet)
  • medium circle: about 500 meters (1/4 mile)
  • large circle: about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)

access contexts listed by Proximity

Nearby perspective

a suggested set of initial contexts

  • @Computer
  • @Office
  • @Home
  • @Calls
  • @Agendas
  • @Errands
  • @Waiting for
  • @Someday/Maybe (On Hold)

GTD definition of context

conditions of resources, i.e., places, people and tools

other context lists

lmited resources of

  • time
  • space (environment & material)
  • attention (“Mindset” & people)

author’s definition of context

A context is a set of conditions of time, space, and attention

  • Time can be limited by

    • the work’s lifetime itself
    • an external factor
  • Space can be limited by

    • material
    • environment
  • Attention can be limited by

    • one’s own focus
    • the attention of others
我还要再细分自己的focus, shallow还是deep. deep的focus还要再细分

If any task can be done, do not know which to do. Time and attention that are the limiting factors.

division by time of day

  • @Morning
  • @Afternoon
  • @Evening

division by work type

  • @Creative
  • @Leisure
  • @Filing
  • @Agendas

division by self and others

  • @Work
  • @Agendas
    • @Person A
    • @Person B

suitable for a CEO or manager whose main work involves interacting with and delegating to others

division by mindset

  • @Short Dashes
  • @Brain Dead
  • @Routine
  • @Full Focus
  • @Calls
  • @Hanging Around

division by active vs inactive

  • @Active
  • @Inactive (On Hold)

division by stages of workflow


  • @Music

    • @Projects to Review
    • @Tracks to Develop
    • @Tracks to Post


  • drag the task from one context to the next
  • see which stages had more or fewer actions than the others

division by time constraints

  • @Things to do before leaving on trip

the frist thing context @Firtst Thing

@First Thing context can be useful for

  • power something on
  • review in the calendar
  • review a particular context list
  • print something for a client coming in that day
  • bookmarking when interrupted
  • create a reminder
  • occasional one-off tasks that need to be seen immediately upon seeing the Context lists

contexts as priorities

work from the top down, further order contexts to help streamline workflow

set the order of contexts

  • Method 1: from most restrictive to least restrictive


    • @Laptop and Desktop
    • @Laptop
    • @Desktop
    • @Laptop or Desktop
    • @Any Device
  • Method 2:

    • @First Thing
    • @Creative
    • @Filing
  • Method 3:

    • @Morning
    • @Afternoon
    • @Evening

context naming convention

Contexts are often shown by their “child” name

add a hyphen to the name

  • @File

    @ - Home

author’s context

  • @First Thing: short, usually procedural tasks to do before doing more focused matters

    • - Home
    • - Office
  • @Waiting for...

  • @Communication

    • @Email
    • @Calls
    • @Text/Tweet
  • @Online Purchasing

    • @Considered (On Hold)
  • @File&Flow: generally short oganizational tasks

    • On Hold: organizaitonal tasks set on hold

  • @Consideration: tasks are being consdered doing today

  • @Consume

  • @Errands

    • individual places listed

      add locations in iphone/ipad

    • @From Home: a list for things to do on the way out home


      • take out the garbage
    • @From Office: a list for things to do on the way out office


      • drop off the mail
    • Car

  • @Agendas

    • @Family

      • individuals listed
    • @Friends

      • individuals listed
    • @Business

      • @Clients

        individuals listed

      • @Colleagues

        individuals listed

    • @Communities

      • mailing lists
      • say to a group
  • @Retired Habit: repeating tasks to test whether I can function without them

    Once habit established, change the context to @Retired habit

    Once per week, review the context and decide what to delete or return to the main set of tasks

flow & trust of contexts

Contexts will be trusted if we believe that the tasks within a context are

  • relevant to the context
  • individually accessible when relevant to the work at hand
  • avoidable when irrelevant to the work at hand

Accessibility is enhanced by

  • a small number of other tasks (their avoidability) 没做到
  • a habit of completing the tasks in the list, i.e., how often the list is cleared 没做到

More generally, we can ask of our contexts:

  • Do I trust this context (for some type of work)?
  • How do I trust or not trust this context?
  • What can I do so that I do trust this context?

More specifically, for each task, we can ask:

  • How can I trust that I will see this task when it is relevant and completable?
  • How will it stay out of my way until that time?

The trust of our contexts develops over time. These questions can and should be asked regularly.

We do not necessarily need to answer or do everything listed above as long as they are acknowledged.


the author does not regularly clear my @Laptop context

the order of completing tasks

important: move from the top to bottom of a list

我也一直在做下面引用的, 想改

when move straight down a list, all tasks are considered important and the “difficulty” is no longer a consideration 这反而是不考虑priority的优点

ask questions

  • How can I deal with this?
  • What is stopping me from doing this?
  • Does this task fit here?
  • Can I do it now?

Deal with something means

  1. check off, i.e., complete the tasks

  2. adjust it to no longer appear on the list if it is not appropriate for the present conditions这个想法是我缺乏的

    • adjust condition, i.e., create a conditional consideration task

    • adjust prioritization

    • adjust ordering
    • adjust breakdown
    • adjust the time estimates
    • if multiple contexts involved, the task can be broken into multiple tasks, each with their own context
    • if internal “I don’t want to”

      ask the question

      • Why not?
      • What does this task mean to me?

Even if I know why the task cannot be done now, it undermines the trust of the system. These mini-exhaustions add up until the list is abandoned.

problems of not moving in the order of tasks

  1. constantly scanning, and tasks become more and more difficult

    Especially when a list becomes long, I can find myself skimming in the attempt to just check off the easy ones. What happens, though, is that the list itself actually becomes more difficult to complete. While I may have the intention of skimming it for the next easiest task, I procrastinate more and find myself wandering off on tangents more readily. What I am really doing is trying to find something both “important” and “easy”.

    Once I start to skip tasks, I start a thought process of “should I or shouldn’t I?” looking for tasks that are somehow both “important” and “easy”. The process becomes something analogous to squishing a balloon. I review one end of the list with the thought of pushing those tasks off until later in the day. When I get to the end of the list, perhaps with a few tasks checked off in the interim, I again think of perhaps doing some of the beginning tasks instead. But I continually review, reassess, and reprocess the tasks in the list in the meantime.

  1. when skimming, the mind begins to think of doing multiple taks rather than focus on one at a time

flow vs stagnancy

4 usage of the flow of a context

  • Input
  • Process

    Inbox focuses on input and processing Inbox属于context????

  • Output/Movement

    • transition of a task to another station
    • act on the task
  • Batching: the ability to input, process, or output a number of intentions within a single session of work

The same thoughts can work for any number of areas in OmniFocus or in our workflow systems in general

example: input

  • email

If too many tasks are in one context, the contxt is not a trustworthy place to put an important task to do today

Ohm’s Law: $V=I \times R$

  • $V$: an electrical potential
  • $I$: the current
  • $R$: the resistance of the circuit


  • $V$: a set of potential stuff in a context list
  • $I$: actual doing i.e., do work then check off tasks
  • $R$: slow the process of moving from potential to actual

The lower the resistance, the greater the flow 并不对. 在工作数量不变的情况下, 阻力越小, 事情完成的速度越快. 我不知道current是不是指速度. 电力的名词总让我的unconscious mind觉得搞不懂

Ask questions when stagnancy of contexts

  • Are there too many tasks in the context?
  • If so, can some projects be placed on hold?
  • Could tasks be written more clearly?
  • Are the types of tasks appropriate to the context?
  • Are the tasks within a context broken down to small enough actions?
  • When, where, and how often is the context visited?
  • How well does the context’s name represent the limits of time, space, and attention for the tasks within it?
  • Would splitting the context into sub-contexts be useful? For example, one could split an @Laptop context into @Laptop : Website Maintenance, @Laptop : Facebook, etc.
  • Alternatively, would multiple contexts better be combined into a single context?
  • Can any task be done regularly until cleared? In other words, would setting it to repeat help? (We will examine assigning a repeat schedule to a task later in this text.)
那么多问题, 我真的不想回答

adjustment of contexts in OmniFocus

  1. change a task and/or its surrounding tasks

    opt+cmd+r: shwo in projects

  2. break a task down into smaller steps

    shift+cmd+]: add child tasks

  3. add previous steps to a task

    • opt+cmd+g: group the task
    • shift+return: add a previous task

creative work: next actions are just doorways into the work

In addition, it is important to realize that actions we write will inevitably not fully encompass the work at hand. It is impossible and impractical to attempt to write down everything that needs to be done for a project. We don’t break tasks down infinitesimally. Instead, they are broken down to the point of confidence.

If we only do the tasks as written in a context, a project will likely not be developed to the degree that the present environment and state of mind may allow. More importantly, it becomes difficult to fully acknowledge the work as it stands and as it is developing.

see section the development of creative work

Ch 8: the inbox

3 principles of organization

  • We need to be aware of its existence and relevance
  • We should be able to easily get to it when it is relevant
  • We hould be able to easily avoid it when it is not relevant

steps before and after processing the inbox

  1. What is on my mind?
  2. process inbox
  3. What else may be on my mind?

mindful processing

  • How, when, and where do I belive this will most usefully return to my attention

    it also answers “How ill this be off of my mind?”

  • If entering a rarely viewed context for a task, know that the task will not be seen again until that rare viewing.
  • If the context is a huge overused list, you will either need some alternative method of getting to that task in the future other than simply adding it to the context list, or you will need to adjust the flow of the context itself.

ask when processing

  • How may this task best return to my attention?

avoid “Miscellaneous” when possible

rule of thumb about “Miscellaneous” project

any action should be done in the short term

Ch 9: Time

italicized date: inherit date

sequential project + set defer date to 1st task only

reduce the number of tasks in the Forecast Perspective

the number

  • soon due

    • number beside a project

      • project itself is counted as 0
  • over due

    • project is active

      • project itself is counted as 1
    • project is on hold

      • the number is 1 for the entire project

        If the project is not set to be due and only actions within it were due, there is no alert at all

notification preferences

  • In a Dock icond badge: present a numbe rin the OmniFocus dock icon

  • In the Sidebar: present in the sidebar of OmniFocus

    • projects

    • contexts

  • As notifications: notifications appear in the OS X notificaiton system

    1. Apple Menu > System Preferences
    2. Click Notifications
    3. Left pane > select OmniFocus
    4. adjust the order of OmniFocus in left hand pane
    5. adjust OmniFocus option


      Show button is very helpful

Forecast Perspective

cmd: select multiple dates

caustions with working from forecast view

issue: no control over whether or not a task is hidden based on its availabilty

All tasks in sequential project are shown in Forecast Perspective

drag and drop in Forecast View

opt+cmd: change deferral and due dates at the same time

order in Forecast Perspective

order based on time

Ch 10: the Inspector reviewed

Ch 11: Bilding Systems Part I - Flags as Central Hub

a day’s routine

  1. clear the inbox
  2. visit the Forecast View cmd+4

    • consider hard landscape items
    • consdier flagging due tasks
    • consider flagging newly active tasks
  3. visit the Project Perspective cmd+3 to add any other desired tasks

  4. visit the Flagged Perspecitve cmd+5
  5. acknowledge the degree to which you belive the actions may fit in the day
  6. clear the inbox (again)

    Step 2-6 will input more items in inbxo

  7. pause

Consider taking on less than you believe would be possible to complete in the day

Efficiency and productivity is improved when I take on less.

If time remains in the day after completing the work of the Flagged Perspective

  1. pause
  2. consider

    • return to any presently running projects for further flagging
    • examine the context lists cmd+3
    • visit the Recently Added perspective
    • visit any preferred project
    • do nothing
    • pick up around the house, hang out with family, play games, etc.

“Today” item

any task that you would like to do today, add a flag shift+cmd+L

flag actions, not projects or group actions

issues of Flagged Perspective

issue: the count of Flagged tasks that are seen in the iPad and iPhone versions includes:

  • action groups and projects
  • actions unavilable due to being behind other sequential actions

sequential items: use a regularly visited context, such as @File&Flow instead of a flag

Ch 12: repeat, focus, & notes introduced

focus on a project

focus on a project: remain mindset

shift to context view: remain tools

cautions with repeat

OmniFocus creates a new action when the repeating action is marked complete

i.e., setting a repeat does not create an infinite number of tasks stetching off into the future

  • Forecast perspective: not see all actions in the future
  • a new copy of any files embedded in the note field will be created

tasks in a project for learning

try to do all with some regularity

  1. Cosume/Study: study external sources
  2. Create/Play: generate from internal sources

    • create
    • find an interplay between internal and external source
  3. Connect with others: an audience or others in the field

  4. Organize: build and maintain systems

See sections

  • Craftis with a Clear Scale
  • Crafts with an Unclear Scale

in-depth examination: boook Workflow Mastery: Bilding from the Basics

stay on one project between move to next task in the same context

  1. create a “Trigger” task

    1. select the repeating task
    2. add a flag to the task
    3. add the works (Focus project) in the title of the task, i.e., a meta-task
  1. Flagged Perspective

    a single task to represent the work of the project

    1. use the meta-task to quickly access the other tasks of the project
    2. do whichever tasks we feel would be useful for the time being
  2. complete the work for the session

  3. check off the meta-task
  4. automatically create a new flagged meta-task for tomorrow

advantage: we do not have to determine which specific tasks we will work on

其实就是, deep work只看花入的时间,不看完成的数量

2 ways to quickly access the unflagged tasks in the project

Method 1: use the Focus command

  1. select a (flagged) task from the Flagged Perspective
  2. Focus: type shift+cmd+F
  3. go to Context Perspective cmd+3 to access all aviailable tasks

Method 2: return to project mode

  1. select the task
  2. show the task in the Project Perspective opt+cmd+R

notes field

  • option+drag: actual file
  • drag: alias file

Ch 13: developing branches

central location: today view

tickler file

2 ways to incorporate the paper method as a part of OmniFocus

  • physical cabinet

    add a reminder in OmniFocus to check the physical cabinet

    • Create a flagged task in a Maintenance project that repeats daily: Check Tickler
  • virtual cabinet

    1. scan
    2. drag and drop into a note filed to add an alias link to the fiel
    3. see Forecast view with Show deferred items checked

link to perspective


  • omnifocus:///perspective/Forecast
  • space: %20

use TextExpander

tickler for projects

overwhelm when the whole project appear simultaneously

create a reminder task within the project. it has the defer date and/or flag instead of all of them

  1. write a single deferred task in the project

when it appears in the Today Perspective

  1. select the task
  2. focus on the task
  3. switch to the Project cmd+2 or Context cmd+3


every morning

  1. open Daily View
  2. Click the link in the note field to open the Forecast view
  3. Add flags (Shift-Command-l) to any tasks you would like to do today.
  4. If anything else comes to mind, add items to the Inbox.
  5. Close the Forecast Perspective.
  6. Mark the Forecast Perspective review task as complete. (A new identical task with a link is automatically set to appear tomorrow.)

vist contexts regularly

create a repeating task to check any particular context


The bidirectional arrows: either component can inform the other.


  • while reviewing the day’s work in the Flagged Perspective, you may realize a useful task to add for future review and set a defer date, thereby setting it up for the Forecast Perspective.
  • Alternatively, while reviewing the Forecast, you may choose useful tasks for the Dashboard by adding flags.

The Workspace component refers to the section focused mode of work

OmniFocus & Calendar app

drag and drop a task from OmniFocus to the calendar app

  • a one-hour event is automatically created

copy as link

2 types of copy

  • Copy: a link that is usable within OmniFocus
  • Copy as Link: creates omnifocus:///context/oHmznQRZGFF that can be used throughout the Mac OS X platform

Ch 14: review your system Part I: Built-in Review

questions to consider when developing a project

  1. When associate a context and project are assigned to a task

    • Do the tasks need further breakdown?
    • Is a particular task better considered a project?
    • Does the next task make sense in the project at this point?
    • Have I established a reasonable next action?
    • Is the next action actually scheduling a time for a task itself?
    • Are the tasks well written?
    • Are the tasks specific enough?
    • Are the tasks actual actions?
    • Is there something that needs to happen before a presently active task?
    • Is what I am waiting for a task or project in itself?
    • What will this project look like when it is done?
    • Have I taken into account how things stand presently?
    • Are the tasks’ contexts well described?
    • What next action can I write to realistically get this off my mind?

      看到那么多问题, 我就overwhelm了
  1. every time we pay attention to a project and think about what needs to happen to bring it closer to completion.

    • What is the present state?
    • What is the vision?
    • What is a next action?

review is daunting because in the process of a review, all the tasks and projects written are specifically designed to grab the attention of something in mind nearly simultaneously.

  1. review process

    while there are often ideas and processes that are repressed and avoided, it is not finding these that is always the stuff of therapy. Rather it is the careful consideration of what is preventing their acknowledgement in the first place that moves a person forward

    • What is preventing this project from moving forward?”
In other words, if there is worry, ask, 

* “What is the worry?”

or if something is difficult, ask, 

* “What about this is difficult?”

Even more profoundly, ask,

* What does this project mean to me?

time for review

review takes time

  • schedule more than adequate timegraduate to review

In Review, show projects

steps to review

  1. review ongoing projects: Active
  2. review projects on hold: Remaining

review process

  • The system must feel genuinely trustworthy.
  • Next Actions should be considered doable and set in an appropriate context.
  • That context list should be one that we would normally see when the time is appropriate.
  • We have some idea of what the project will look like when it is complete or at least that it is developing.
  • The project should be seen as regularly as needed.

turn this into questions

  1. Is this system trustworthy? If not, why not? Do I need to make better backups?

  2. Is there a next actionable task? Can it actually be readily done?

  3. When do I anticipate looking at this next action’s context? In other words,

    • Will I see the next action at a time and place that it can be done, with minimal distraction?

    • If not, how can I make the conditions so that it is seen at a time and place that it can be done? (The answers may then become next actions instead).

  1. What will this project look like when it is done?

Writing an answer to this in the note field of a project can be helpful in imagining it to completion.

If there is no endpoint to the project, consider whether it is better suited as an Area of Responsibility or as a Single Action maintainence project

  1. When do I think I’ll need to see this project again?

The more projects you have On Hold, the greater the focus avialable for those that are Active

Ch 15: folders & horizons of focus introduced

cmd+option+g: select multiple projects in the sidebar, group projects into folders

orgnization, areas of responsibility, & horizons of focus

folders provide 3 major functions

  • organization
  • goruping different types of projects, such as, templates
  • grouping areas of reponsibility

cautions with folders

  • deeply nested folders are not easily navigated in the mobile version of OmniFocus
  • max out at 2 folders deep


  • Runway: Individual tasks done throughout the day.
  • 10,000 feet: Individual projects.
  • 20,000 feet: Areas of Responsibility. These are likely the top level folders and perhaps number somewhere between 7-10.
  • 30,000 feet: Constellations of projects that create large encompassing goals. For example, one may have the intention of publishing a book. Such a project is composed of many smaller projects.
  • 40,000 feet: A longer term vision of about 3-4 years.
  • 50,000 feet: “Ultimate purpose and core values.

OmniFocus does well up to the 30,000 feet horizon in terms of both listing and even prioritizing at these levels.

  • OmniFocus can barely represent 40,000 feet adequately and does not do well at all with 50,000 feet

author’s example of arranging folders

Navigation: contain a project that links to other projects

  • provide order to which projects are activated and when


  • keep routine tasks at the top of projects library

  • the chance for unexpected fires is minimized

occasionally, place a single area of work above the Routine folder and below the Navigation folder

Ch 16: enhance systems with custom perspectives


  • Aim to have visible only those tasks and projects:

    • at the places they are useful.
    • at the times they are useful.
    • using the compass heading of an honest trust they will do so.

build a dashboard perspective

group by Project or Ungrouped

  • group by Project: multiple tasks in few projects flagged
  • group by Ungrouped: one or a few tasks flagged in several projects

refining & accessing perspectives

refine the Dashboard for location

the Dashboard: all available Flagged and Due soon tasks in all contexts

location-specific Dashboard perspective: super-contexts, i.e., constellations of contexts that are suitable for current environments

  • Office Dashboard

    author uses context

only vs any perspectives

  • Everything that can be done in the present setting
  • Only what can be done in the present setting

    • Home
    • Home Only
    • Office
    • Office Only
    • Laptop
    • Laptop Only
    • Desktop
    • Desktop Only
    • iPhone
    • iPad

example of a day’s flow of perspectives

  1. check Full Daily Dashboard
  2. Home Only
  3. If there is time before work, access Home
  4. go to work
  5. Access Office Only
  6. If there is time before the day ends, access Office
  7. Review the Full Daily Dashboard

  • green: relevant
  • grey: irrelevant

    • Forecast and Land&Sea are reviewed at home
    • Home Workspaces are not visible when in office
    • Review task is not available

assess perspecitve

  • quick open cmd+o
  • sidebar tab

    at office

    1. inbox
    2. forecast
    3. dashboard
    4. office only
    5. office
  • tool bar
  • key command
  • menu bar
  • hyperlink
  • perspecitves window
  • dock
  • iPad home screen
  • iPhone home screen

other example custom perspectives

focus on a project

  1. select the Flagged task
  2. focus on the project shift+cmd+F
  3. visit the context perspective cmd+3

a custome workspace perspective focusing on creative projects

creative work:

  • vision is unclear
  • If it is clear, it would not be creative
  • place a marker on the path, then continue in one direction


if I am reading and come across a paragraph that I do not understand, I can:

  1. Pause
  2. multiple options

    • Consider the paragraph to see if it would take some time to understand it.
    • Continue on to the next paragraph, without giving the present paragraph further thought, perhaps hoping the idea will be explained later.

      1. create a task “Review page 35, paragraph 2”
      2. put it to the Inbox
    • Look to outside sources to better understand it.

After completing my session of reading, I can do either

  • Attempt the task.
  • Delete the task if it is no longer relevant.
  • Assign the task to the project for a next session

Last-In-First-Out perspective

  • title Workspace
  • Don’t use project hierachy
  • Group actions by Added
  • Sort actions by Changed

  • Filtering

    • Filter by Status Unflagged
    • Filter by Availability Available


  1. select the task
  2. focus shift+cmd+F
  3. switch to Workspace perspective

treading water perspective

actions without a defer date appear under Available now

family agendar perspective

  • put in iPhone

settling perspective

do before work in the morning

future flagged perspective

problems: show deferred items in Forecast. many repeating routine tasks, more important tasks become obscured

on perspectives

a perspective can

  • hilight and present a particular context
  • be a “super-context”, e.g., Office Dashboard
  • be a “super-project”, e.g., Home perspective
  • be a filter and context listing for a very specific project, e.g., Review project
  • be a setting for a particular mode for working, e.g., Custom Workspace Perspective


turst needed to be developed

  • The Inbox (cleared regularly, based on my trust of it to defer decision, usually several times per day).
  • Dashboard Perspective (completed by the end of the workday).
  • The File & Flow context/Perspective (cleared often enough that anything placed there will be addressed in a reasonable time frame, such as in a few days). To be covered.
  • The Consideration context/Perspective (cleared daily).
  • The Communications Perspective (cleared twice daily).
  • The list of projects in the default Review Perspective (cleared weekly).

Areas outside of OmniFocus include:

  • My computer desktop (cleared daily).
  • My physical office and home Inboxes (cleared weekly)

Ch 17: build systems Part II: routines & buffers

simplicity is necessarily a first step. Often, we must learn a depth of complexity before a beautiful simplicity blooms, whether in mind or matter.

Having a sense of how much time and effort is dedicated to just keeping things afloat allows a conscious consideration of newer projects in context of the older ones. We may consider:

  • Can older projects be completed?
  • Are there tasks that can be delegated?
  • Will a time come in the future when certain tasks will no longer be necessary?
  • How long until I can take on a new project?

both initial defer and due dates if use Repeat Every option

The task will appear every Friday and be due every Sunday

the dependent maintenance group

double cycles & offset days

  1. defer another 1 day
  2. when complete, defer to 15th of next month

methods of handling depending on the predictability of the arrival of the information

  • Create a one-off new task
  • Create a repeating task to schedule other tasks
  • Create new tasks for predictable variations
  • Create a repeating group with a conditional “Waiting for …” task

1. Create a one-off new task

suitable: unpredicatable deviations to everyday’s routine

  1. check off repeating task
  2. write a new nonrepeating specific for today’s situation

2. Create a repeating task to schedule other tasks

suitable: know the schedule for the week at the beginning of the week

  1. create a task
  2. Repeat Every: 1 week
  3. click M
  4. Defer until: the beginning of Monday
  5. Due: end of Monday

3. Create new tasks for predictable variations

situable: predictable different times depending on the day of the week

  1. write one for each work day
  2. assign the appropriate time to them
  3. each task repeats weekly

4. Create a repeating group with a conditional “Waiting for …” task

build routine

routines: regularly visted sessions of work


  • morning preparations
  • a weekly review
  • a process done before meeting a client

routines is only boring so long as it does not support the paths we find to be meaningful

routines can be changed to the current meaning

organize routine tasks

  • Method 1: put routines in their corresponding Areas of Responsibility

    suitable: make the most sense from a planning perspective

  • Method 2: group all/most routine maintenance tasks into a central project or folder of projects

    • advantages

    • All maintenance can be seen at once

    • All maintenance tasks are more accessible for adjustments
1. create a folder
2. title `Routien`
3. Within the folder, create 3 Single Action projects

    * `Daily`
    * `Weekly`
    * `Monthly`
    * `Other`

difference between parallel projects and Single Action

single action

  • All actions are treated First Available
  • not considered Stalled when they have no available actions

clear clutter & review buckets

def of clutter:

  • stuff is not presently useful
  • stuff tends to accumulate

Any place that tends to accumulate clutter, be it in a computer file or in physical space can be considered a bucket which could benefit from a regular clearing

  • keep paths clear
    • a daily task to clear the dining table
    • a daily task to clear desktop
  • monitoring/keep up-to-date

    • review CV every 3 months
  • a node of reflection

    A node of reflection: a time during which one may purposely reflect on some outcome, be that the path of the day, the vision for some project, the inner workings of your systems, or long-term goals.

    • summarize the meeting notes

      templates of tasks for starting the work day

    • GTD’s weekly reivew

    • Agile Results

      • reflect daily and weekly to establish 3 key tasks for day, week, month, and year
![](routine example.png)

add routines to the daily system

method: add flags

  • Method 1: flag projects

    1. select the project to flag
    2. flag the project
  • Method 2: flag tasks

    flag the tasks not projects

Dashboard view presents

  1. routine tasks
  2. today tasks
  3. flagged tickler files
  4. triggers for larger projects

order & a secondary routine project

place some routines towards the end

routine after work和routine before sleep 分开
  1. create Secondary Routine project at the end of all projects/folders
  2. create @Secondary Routine context at the end of context list

filing & support tasks

example: clear download folder after each project


  1. create a action
  2. Assign the new context File&Flow:-Laptop
  3. Remove the flags from the organizational tasks
  4. assign repeating

filing tasks are at the end of today view

filing naming convention

filing perspective

Filing tasks should be quick

if not quick

  • convert into projects, reassigned to contexts other than @File&Flow
  • break down into small recurring tasks
  • place into an On Hold context

    When you feel that there are too many tasks to organize, drag them into @-On Hold

    when have time, drag them into active @File&Flow context

an example of combining routine & filing

  • @File&Flow: Officecheck the supply of business cards in wallet

if need more business card

  1. check off the repeating task
  2. add a sequential project

    • @File&Flow: Home: Pack business cards in backpack
    • @File&Flow: Office: Unpack business cards from backpack

“considered” tasks: buffering routine

if not do some repeating tasks on a particular day

  • check off the task, then write a one time alternate task
  • check off the task without actually completing it
  • change defer date
  • change repeat frequency
  • delete the task
  • use a “Considered” task


  • Why is this task not useful?
  • How could it be made useful?
  • Can it be deleted?

the considered task

  • easy to implement
  • caution to use

create a considered task

  1. Write the work Consider before a qualified task
  2. Change the starting verb to end with an


if not wish to file every day Consider reviewing the File&Flow context

caution of the considered task

a rapid and easy path into doing nothing

no longer work if

  • stagnant
  • fill faster than it empties


  • Function as placeholder and reminder of decision.

    example: filing task

    no need to file everyday

  • Help assess a task’s necessity.

    example: check a website daily but it is rarely useful

    then the task can be deleted without compromising the system’s integrity

  • Apply a buffer to a task system.

    1. do tasks that do not have the “consider” clause first

    2. return to the ones later

  • Reduce the necessity of completing a task, while maintaining our awareness of it and its accessibility.
  • Reduce an overall “compulsive” sense to a task system.
  • Help us maintain honesty with, and therefore trust in, our systems.
  • Improve general integrity of our systems via our enhanced trust.

our habits themselves are a part of our systems of trust. The more we trust ourselves, the greater is our confidence in directing and utilizing our agency:

Trust is a belief, developed over time, that something will continue behaving as it has in the past, such that it may be relied upon.

Confidence is a trust in our ability. It is a developed sense of our own capacity to meaningfully decide and act, such that it may be relied upon.

1. develop ability
2. develop trust

The attempt to front-load a system with as much decision as possible is certainly helpful, but it can only be relied upon to the degree that it may be trusted. As we do not know the future, the process of developing our systems must be continual.

the considered context

  1. create a @Considered
  2. create a repeating flagged task to review the @Considered context or perspective

see all considered tasks from different projects together

if list is too long

possible actions

  • place on hold
  • delete
  • commit to more fully

author: the upper limit to the number of considered tasks is 7

example: a non-routine task

看了例子,觉得非常有用. 但我的consider只用于这种情况下


predict that I might have time tommorrow

If I have time, I can consider doing something


  1. Create a task due to its date
  2. Create a Consider doing task

    • defer tomorrow
    • flagged if not check @Consdier context regularly
    • @Considered
    • give a link to the 1st task

Ch 18: build systems III: templates, review, & habits

from routine to templates & habits

life cycle of a routine

A routine may evolve as follows:

  1. Repeating tasks appearing in daily view.
  2. A single task linking to a set of tasks.

  3. A single task linking to a template, either inside or outside of OmniFocus.

  4. A retired task and an active template.

  5. A retired task and a retired template.

when templates lose utitlity

  • steps are completely worked into intrinsic memory

    unconscious mind

    no longer requires much in conscious thought

rule of thumb: if a repeating project can be done from memory, it is often better to do it from memory

exception: precise thoroughness is required

from tasks to template

if routines are too long

  • important deferred tasks in the Forecast Perspective would be swamped in routine tasks
  • the number on the Flagged Perspective would be inflated, detracting its utility on the iOS clients
  • It was irritating checking off so many individual tasks

possible solutions

  • meta-task

    1. Gather the tasks into a single contest @First Thing
    2. remove the flags
    3. create a separate daily repeating task that linked to the @First Thing context
    4. do the unflagged tasks
    5. when the unflagged taskswere done to cmoplete, check the flagged task


      when doing

  • external template



from template to guildes

  • not actions needed to be written
  • creative works rely on guides at the micro and macro levels to flourish

issue: guides rely on habit

  • example

    • put garbage beside the door

      when out, then take out trash

  • tasks are useful when

    • need to store an intention for its development away from the experience


      • write the task “Buy light bulb” as the experience of seeing the burned out light bulb is not useful to us at the place of experience.
      • instead: store an aspect of that experience for where it would be useful—at the grocery store—using a grocery list.
* Want to develop a habit or action in the context of all other tasks. 

    example, placing a task in OmniFocus gives us a sense as to how the task would fit in with the rest of the day.

* Developing habit. 

    For example, we can create repeating tasks that we gradually internalize into intrinsic memory.
  • Guides are useful when:

    • Supported by established or establishing habit.

    • An intention may be developed at the point of experience

    e.g. Prepare the garbage

* Wanting a more fluid motion (e.g. in the midst of a creative session

    <font color="blue">我应该想要的是这个</font>

    <font color="red">我还是搞不明白guildes到底是什么东西</font>

retire a repeating task

  1. feel that a task is no longer necessary
  2. move the task to a temporary, On Hold context @Retired Habit

preparation steps

  1. create a context @Retired habit
  2. Set the context On Hold
  3. Create a task “Review Retired Habits”

    • Active context
    • add a link to @Retired habit context
    • repeat weekly
    • Routine project

action steps

  1. drag and drop task to @Retired Habit context
  2. assess how well the tasks are being done
  3. if doing well, consdier delete the task and create external template
  4. if not well, move back

compiling templates in one place

grow a habit with OmniFocus

Routines do not become habits immediately

the reason why the New Year’s Resolution fails

  1. One year is too long until the next building of routine.

  2. As a result, we may create very large goals.

  3. As a further result, there is no iteration with which anything can be gradually built or grown.

Habits are built by

  1. start small
  2. iterate

The New Year’s Resolution does neither.

  1. create a new project Build and Maintain Exercise Regimen
  2. search simple exercise
  3. find
  4. input each exercise into tasks
  5. select all exercises

    • @Someday/Maybe
    • Defer Another: repeat 1 day
  6. add a trigger task (Focus Project) Exercise

    • flag
    • Defer Another: repeat 1 day
  7. add a task Consdier adding a new exercise to the regimen

    • Defer Another: repeat 1 week
    • copy project link as note
    • no flag
    1. select an exercise
    2. change to an active context @Home
    3. check “Consider adding a new exercise to the regimen”


  1. train a exercise at one time
  2. after stablizing all the exercise, move to external template

combine routine maintenance and templates

if-then project

routine tasks

  • multiple steps
  • multiple contexts
  • do occasionally

create a project template and a repeating task

  1. create a project template

    • sequential
    • On Hold
  2. copy a link to the project Copy As Link

  3. create a task Check on dry cleaning

    • paste the link into the notes field
    • repeating
    • @Bedroom
    • maintenance project


  1. if no dry cleaning, check off Check on dry cleaning
  2. if dry clearning

    1. click the link in the notes filed
    2. duplicate template
    3. activate
    4. check off Check on dry cleaning

cautions in routines

  • when the environment itself provides the reminders needed, the entire process becomes on task

    • empty garbage when see garbage
  • mind

    • unconscious mind is unbounded
    • set boundary outside OmniFocus

      Define what you are doing (define the intention)

      draw the boundaries around what you are doing prior to getting involved

  • doing until reach the boundaries of the defined task

  • then actively considering and weighing options as to what to do next

    实际生活是, 后面energy太low,没法consider和weigh了. 在一天的开始就已经先计划好

OmniFocus helps

  • In between projects or tasks where you are deciding what to do next.
  • In designing the contexts in which you can achieve a flow.
  • At times, within the workflow itself to keep things on track.

review system part II: fine-tuning

作者这样organize书, 很难找和联系这个章节的

the need for additional methods of review


  • look at next actions
  • envision the end of projects
  • consider the entire system
  • consider tools
  • consider ourselves


  • relect upon how often to pay a visit to the grocery store


  • How well is the entire system working?
  • How well does the system support and clear paths for my intentions?

stages of review

exapand all note fields ctrl+cmd+'

  1. basic review Defualt & Folder Review

    1. Clear Inbox
    2. Perform Default Review
    3. Review project folders
  2. review contexts & perspectives Context & Perspective Review

    • Review Agendas
    • Review Errands
    • Review Filing: On Hold
    • Reivew all contexts
    • Review Treading water Perspective
    • Review Forecast Perspective
    • Review completed projects
    • Review list of Perspectives

    • Review Calendar Events: 2 weeks back - 6 weeks forward

    • Review Project Trigger List

      creat own trigger list corresponding to folder structure

  3. Finalize Review paraleel

    • Review Day’s Tasks
    • Review Inbox
    • Review Land & Sea
  4. Data cleaning sequential

    1. Review Attachments in OmniFocus datase
    2. Archive data of 2 weeks or older
    3. Sync all devices
    4. Rebuild database
  5. wrap-up

    • pause: ask if there is anythign in my mind?

      ideally ask this question several times a day

additional review tasks to consider

  • create conditions


    • quiet space
    • disconnect internet
  • if sync become long even having archieved old tasks

    1. preference > Synchronization
    2. click Show Sync Details...
    3. check if any clients have not synced for a long time
    4. Unregister the client

If your project list grows into high double or even triple digits, then reviewing the hierarchies of folders becomes essential.

create a project to break down the review process.

  1. Create a project grouping call “Folder Review”.
  2. Create a task for each upper tier folder in your library. For example, here I have created five tasks for various folders:
  3. copy links to folder into notes field

review defer dates

examin when tasks have been started and when to start in weekly review

difference: group actions by Defer Date

a completed projects perspective

display the project that have been completed over the last several weeks

defualt Completed perspective focuses on tasks

set review project as a template

  1. select the Review project
  2. On Hold
  3. Copy as Link
  4. create a task Activate weekly review

    • Repeat Every
    • weekly routine folder
    • paste the link to the note field

a Review perspective

activate Review perspective on Mac

activate Review perspective on iPad

  1. select and hold the action group Review Process until the menu options appear

  2. Click Copy

  3. select and hold the action group Review Process until the menu options appear
  4. Click paste
  5. Click Review Process
  6. Click Info
  7. Click Convert to Project icon
  8. Select the desired folder in which to place the project Navigation
  9. rename Weekly Review 2017/6/12

questions to consider during context review

  • Are there any contexts you do not access regularly?
  • At what rate do you process a particular context? Is it working? Or are there tasks that get buried?
  • How readily do you access a list? (For example, is an agenda list not readily seen with a particular person because you are not near your computer when you run into him or her?)
  • Do tasks sit in their proper context?
  • Is a particular context overburdened and, therefore, less useful than it could be? In other words, has the list become more of a storage tank or wish list than action list?
  • Would there be benefit in breaking down a context into sub-contexts?
  • Conversely, would there be benefit in reducing and simplifying the number of contexts?
  • Are there simply too many active projects? If so, what commitments need to be renegotiated? What losses need to be acknowledged?
看到那么多问题, 我就不想回答

any of the above questions can be entered as their own tasks in the review process

mdoule work

release a piece of music

  1. record
  2. edit
  3. mix
  4. review
  5. upload to sales sites
  6. write web cpy
  7. draft a mailing
  8. decide on where else to upload

each of these activities takes multiple steps

modular templates: each of the partso f the process was drafted as its own project and placed On HOld

  1. create a central project Data and Management
  2. duplicate necessary module/template
  3. activate
  4. drag and drop into Data and Management

example of modular work

  • sound patch recording

When remember tasks in one module, then become a single task

routine => template => habit

There are many ways in which a routine may appear or be represented:

  1. Multiple repeating flagged tasks (seen in Dashboard view).
  2. Multiple repeating unflagged tasks in a context triggered by a flagged task. (See An Evolution of Systems.)
  3. Multiple repeating unflagged tasks triggered by an experience (supported by habit).
  4. OmniFocus Project(s) on Hold triggered by a flagged task. (See Combining Routine Maintenance and Templates)
  5. OmniFocus Project(s) on Hold triggered by an experience (See Retiring a Repeating Task.)
  6. External template (OmniOutliner/paper/other) triggered by task. (See From Tasks to Template.)
  7. External template triggered by experience. (See From Template to Guides.)
  8. Intrinsic memory triggered by task.
  9. Intrinsic memory triggered by experience.

templates in different stages

at least several factors which support to put a template externally, such as in OmniOutliner, as opposed to an On Hold project in OmniFocus:

  • One can generally do the work in a single session.
  • The tasks are relatively stable.
  • The tasks can be easily isolated from the rest of one’s work.
  • The template can be accessed away from OmniFocus.

Examples of Templates housed in OmniFocus

  • Weekly Review (triggered by weekly flagged task).
  • Write Newsletter (triggered by a considered task) The task repeats daily with a meta-task to move it several weeks to months out when completed. (See Double Cycles and Offset Days.)
  • Office Vacation Preparations (triggered by experience of upcoming vacation).
  • Packing List (triggered by experience of upcoming vacation requiring travel).
  • Coffee machine cleaning (triggered every 6 months by @File & Flow : Office task).
  • Client Setup (triggered by experience of upcoming new client).

Examples of Templates External to OmniFocus (OmniOutliner)

  • Bank Deposit Preparation (triggered by need to deposit checks).
  • First Thing Morning (mostly memorized, triggered when feeling unsettled).
  • First Thing Office (mostly memorized, triggered when feeling unsettled).
  • Workday Wrap-up (mostly memorized, triggered when feeling unsettled).
  • Website Maintenance (triggered every month by @File & Flow task).
  • Website Migration Procedure (triggered by need to set up site).
  • GTD Trigger List (triggered from review project).
  • Monthly Salary, Taxes, and Investments (triggered monthly by flagged task).
  • Monthly bills and bank payments (triggered monthly by flagged task).
  • Weekly Office Paperwork (triggered weekly by @File & Flow : Office task).

Examples of routines that are individual repeating tasks

  • Car maintenance (@File & Flow task)
  • Water plants (Flagged task)
  • Weekly home paperwork (@File & Flow task)
  • Twice daily communications (Flagged task)
  • Check office supplies (@File & Flow : Office task)
  • Import photos (@File & Flow : - Desktop task)
  • Review family agendas (links to @Agendas : Family) (Flagged task)
  • Update and review financial software (monthly Flagged task)

Examples of regular considerations

  • Consider preparing weekly billing (Flagged task one day before billing due date). This way, if I consider that I have the time to do so, I get a jump start on the work to do for the next day.
  • Consider studying at Duolingo.

some templates are best housed in pen and paper.

  • interacting with others

    A printed template + a pad of paper + pen


  • add word Template prefix in the title of template files
  • add date to the title of the project when activating a template
  • add a hierachical step for OmniFocus-native templates

    easy to activate in iPad

Ch 19: commnication workflow

calls & taking notes

simple phone workflow

  1. create a task Call XXX about stuf
    • flag

systemize calles

batch the work of all comunication tasks into 2 sessions druing the day

take notes

take note when check messages or have conversations

  1. create a task in Inbox
  2. take notes

iPhone phone number

OmniFocus automatically convert number in note filed into a phon number

emails, agendas, and waiting

routine email checks

email conversation capture

  • gmail

    • Method 1: copy and paste URL into the note field

    • Method 2: directly copy and paste the texts

agendas + call

multiple stuff of one person when assign to @Calls

  1. create multiple actions

    • perfix Discuss
    • @Agenda: XXX
  2. copy @Agenda: XXX as Link

  3. create a task Call XXX

    • paste in note filed

gather ideas for a regular agenda

  1. create a repeating task to email xxx

    • flag
    • add the agenda context link to note field
  2. create tasks to report

    • @agenda
  3. when report

    1. jump through link to @agenda
    2. select tasks
    3. copy
    4. paste into a text file

      in iPhone/iPad: use Share option

waiting for & time stamps

call -> leave message

  1. @Call -> @Waiting for
  2. Call -> Waiting for response from
  3. open note filed cmd+'
  4. TextExpander
* `illm`: `I left a message on %snippet:ddate% at %snippet:ttime%`
* `ilrm`:`I last received message on %snippet:ddate% at %snippet:ttime%`
* `ilre`:`I last received email on %snippet:ddate% at %snippet:ttime%`
* `wld`: `We last discussed on %snippet:ddate% at %snippet:ttime%`

* “ddate” = “%Y-%m-%d”
* “ttime” = %1I:%M %p”

waiting for perspective

can be put in Commication perspective

  • Maintain a record of when we have contacted someone.
  • Maintain a record of topics in the conversation.
  • Maintain a link to an important file related to the conversation.
  • Maintain a sequential state among surrounding planned tasks.
  • Provide instructions for follow up.

determine when to follow up at the time we leave a message



  • cte3: (%@+3D%Y-%m-%d => Email) Waiting for response from
  • ctc3: (%@+3D%Y-%m-%d => Call) Waiting for response from
  • ctd3: (%@+3D%Y-%m-%d => Drop) Waiting for response from

a communication perspective

advantage: minimize the compulsion to check or respond to emails outside of the dedicated times

use communications perspective

  • Check email
  • Check phone
  • Check waiting for

Ch 20: prioritization & horizons

prioritization at runway

  1. context view
  2. order of context
  3. the Sorting Filter
  4. Context selection - Location-Specific Dashboards
  5. Context selection - Only vs Any
  6. Ordering Perspective Tabs
  7. Deepening a view
  8. time estimates
  9. Name Changes in the Sorting Filte

Method 1: context view


2 ways of prioritization

  • Due Date & Flagged
  • Project

4 ways to show

  • First Available
  • Available
  • Remaining
  • All

Total: 2*4=8

Method 2: order of context

work on the list from top to bottom

Context Perspective

group “contexts” in custom perspective

Method 3: the Sorting Filter

custom perspective: use Sort actions by

Method 4: Context selection - Location-Specific Dashboards

smaller component of the Full Dashboard view by reducing the number of contexts

  • Office
  • Home
  • iPad

Method 5: Context selection - Only vs Any

  1. What can only be done in a particular setting
  2. What can be done in a particular setting


  • Office Only
  • Office
  • Home Only
  • Home

    Method 6: Ordering Perspective Tabs

  • sidebar
  • toolbar
  • iPhone/ iPad

    Method 7: Deepening a view

  • Focus on a project
  • custom workspace perspective

    • Group actions by Add
    • Sort actions by Changed

      Method 8: time estimates

  • Sort Actions by Duration
  • Filter by Duration


  • all tasks require to add time estimate
  • order: place the shortest actions first

Method 9: Name Changes in the Sorting Filte

Sort actions by: Name

  • communication perspective

prioritization at 10,000 (projects) and 20,000 feet (Areas of Responsibility)

Method 1: order projects & folders

  1. routine folder
  2. order areas of reponsibility by priority

affect custom perspective: group/sort by project

Method 2: place projects on hold

reduce the number of active projects

reasses during Weekly Review

simple higher horizons

30,000 feet: Constellations of projects that create large encompassing goals. For example, one may have the intention of publishing a book. Such a project is composed of many smaller projects.

overlap with how to order projects

time span: 1-2 years

all leves are interrelate

  • 30,000 contain multiple projects and folders

    • 10,000 projects
    • 20,000 folders

methods for prioritization at 30,000 feet

  1. daily review
  2. rolling defer dates
  3. an external outline
  4. a meta-project for the 30,000 feet

methods are not mutually exclusive

Method 1: daily review

built-in review system

edit review frequency of all projectsto 1 day

suitable: number of projects is small

Method 2:rolling defer dates

  1. a project defer date perspective

  2. a pending project perspective

    any project with a future defer date is automatically a pending project

    disadvantage: defer projects all the time

Method 3: an external outline

create a task to review this external file

  • daily repeating
  1. create an outline

  1. mindmap

    我以前有用这个方法, 但是当我画了之后, 太大太多,不好管

  2. omniplan or gann chart

  • 40,000 feet: A longer term vision of about 3-4 years.
  • 50,000 feet: “Ultimate purpose and core values.

complex higher horizon: land&sea

Method 4: a meta-project

我一直在用, 感觉不适合我

Land & Sea

  • range: weeks to about a year
  • agile method: choose 3 important tasks daily

channels of attention

use land & sea

  1. click link to the relevant project
  2. if the projec is on hold, activate
  3. consdier

    • Are these projects moving forward today?
    • If not, what is the next action to get them to move forward?
    • Which tasks could be flagged for work today?

3 main types of adjustment of land & sea

  1. Increase focus in one or two projects (decreasing focus in others).
  2. Add new projects.
  3. Change the order of projects.
1. increase focuse

set one or two other tasks to On Hold context

example: focus on Channel 1

  • set first actions of both Channel 2 and Channel 3 to @Someday/Maybe

2. deactivate projects
  1. remove the Defer date from the task.
  2. Select the now inactive task’s link to go the project.
  3. Remove any flags from the project’s actions.
  4. If needed, create a separate project to renegotiate agreements.
3. Change the order of projects

drag and drop a task to a new position

adjust/reduce workload

a process of reducing workload

When there are too many tasks or projects that are presently running in daily view:

  1. Enter them into the Land & Sea channels.
    • If something requires attention now, add it to the top of a channel.
  1. After grouping the tasks into three channels, follow the procedure of deactivation outlined earlier for any projects that require it.
  1. Examine the Dashboard and Forecast views to make sure that the days seem realistic
  2. Move anything else into the Land & Sea project by the same procedure above as indicated.
  3. Reduce frequency of routine maintenance tasks as is reasonable.
  4. Move any repeating tasks that can be moved to the @Considerations context adding the phrase “Consider …” beforehand. Take care to maintain the utility of the @Considerations context by deleting any that need not be considered.

  5. Schedule open blocks of time on the calendar.

    Scheduling large blocks of unscheduled time is more possible in the distant future.

The saying “anything is possible” is, quite frankly, irresponsible.

There are limits. They may be explored and tested, but when recognized, I find the greatest strength when I respect them.

tips for land & sea

  • consider number of channels works best for you
  • consdier a maximum to the number of tasks in each channel
  • consider the types of projects and their relationship to each other

    author: not work 3 different writing projects running at the same time

  • consdier the length of projects


    • One channel: year long
    • One channel: months
    • One channel: weeks
maek sure that some projects that would be quicker than others do not get displaced by the large ones
  • consdier whether delayed projects should be set on hold

  • consider alternate repeat structures

    every day can have different focus

    Each tasks Repeat on different day weekly

  • consdier using flags so that they appear in the Dashboard

    do not need to create repeating task to review land&sea

    alter the title Review project xxx

  • time block for one or all the channels


  • 40,000 feet: A longer term vision of about 3-4 years.
  • 50,000 feet: “Ultimate purpose and core values.

Single Action projects Vision

  • each task represent sth. important and meaningful
  • tasks are set to On Hold context

  • weekly reivew

if change

  1. copy and paste the task’s title into the note field
  2. add the phrase (Archiving [today's date])


  1. Navigation
  2. Routine
  3. areas of responsibility
  4. secondary routine

Ch 21: meta-tasks

define meta-task

a meta-task: a task designed to be changed

  • a task within a task

used for

  • task arrangements
  • decisions
  • triggers


  1. problem: Quick Entry cannot assign “sequential”

    • solution meta-task: Adjust task-

    • snippet: .at: (Adjust task - %|)

    • context: @File&Flow
  1. problem: Quick Entry cannot assign repeating frequencies

    • solution: (Add daily repeat) or (Add weekly repeat)
    • snippet: .adr: (Add daily repeat)

      .awr: (Add weekly repeat)

  2. problem: change context in the above

    • solution: (Change context to)
    • snippet: .cct: (Change context to %20|)
  3. unflag

    snippet: .rf: (Remove flag)

  4. .alp: (Add link to project)

alternating repeat frequencies

problem: a task with 2 repeating frequencies

solution: defer until 15th of next month when complete

  • tasks repeat daily
  • when done, change defer date, then check off

Ch 22: creafts with a clear scale

large projects: anything that uses 2 or more OmniFocus projects that is still not an Area of Responsibility

2 ways

  1. gather into an OmniFocus folder
  2. one OmniFocus project with many action groups


  • 2 type of projects

    1. project: the technical terminology for OmniFocus projects
    2. craft or endeavor: a major thing you wish to do

      divide crafts into those with and without a clear scale

      scale: the size of the work and how we can represent it in OmniFocus

      scope: our ability to zoom in and zoom out the body of tasks, projects, and folders

      The two are not entirely separate from each other.


    • craft with a clear scale

      • a book
      • an academic class
    • craft with unclear scales

      • write a book
      • develop a skill
      • build a business for the first time

create the project with clear scale

example: one online course

  1. add the project to one of Land & Sea channels

  2. deactive the old first project in the channel

  3. create a project
  4. create a repeating trigger task that will appear in the Dashboard

  5. get the syllabus

4 focus areas for master

  • consume: study and research
  • create:

    • build things
    • iterate
    • ask questions
  • connect

    • connect with others
    • connect to a final product 我会放在create
  • organize(build&maintain systems): build and maintain the systems and habits

input questions in project Questions&Experiments

Ch 23: crafts with an unclear scale

the size of the craft is unknown.

To maintain throughness, require a method to adjust scope while working daily

The endeavor should be able to grow as needed

  • view and access the work at all levels
  • zoom in and out as needed
  • allow craft to take the time and space it needs without losing our hold of the entirety

when studying or learning, a feeling of getting lost or overwhelmed is not uncommon. It is that feeling itself that signals a good moment to step back and ask:

  • What is this confusion?
  • What does this part of the work mean in the greater scale of things?
  • How can I break this into something smaller?
  • What other information might I need to gain to understand this?
  • Is there something I’ve missed?
  • Where can I find what I’ve missed?
  • What does the work mean to me?

adjust scale

an overview of scale expansion

  1. Start with an idea in the Inbox.

  2. Assign the task to a project and context.

  3. Assign the task to a Dashboard view.

  4. Set the task to repeat as it begins to appear larger.

  5. Design a project to which the repeating task links. The task is now a trigger to the project.

  6. Assign the task to the Land & Sea project.

Deactivate any displaced projects.
Re-evaluate routines as needed.
Assign time on the calendar as needed.

  1. Divide the project into multiple projects and folders.

  2. Create an Overview/Administration project (to be covered).

When something takes a considerable amount of time, see if there is romm for the project in Land&Sea

an overview project

try to do all with some regularity

1. Cosume/Study: study external sources
2. Create/Play: generate from internal sources

create find an interplay between internal and external source

3. Connect with others: an audience or others in the field
4. Organize: build and maintain systems

Craftis with a Clear Scale Crafts with an Unclear Scale

numerous projects and folders at an even larger level of work

Overview project directs the process of working within a large craft

advantage: set the scope of work fairly easily depending on flag placement

4 areas of mastery

  • Cosume/Study: folder Study
  • Create/Play: folder Processing
  • Connect: folder Connection
  • Organize: folder DAW/System

project Thoughts: unstructured thoughts

  • default context @File&Flow: -laptop: transfer ideas to

    • OmniFocus
    • other place

contents in the overview

  • each action repeats daily
  • Develop: Music: the most broad of actions
  • the other actions refer to the individual folders of mastery

steps of work

  1. focus Develop: Music (Focus project)
  2. Shift+cmd+r: go to Workspace Perspective

4 levels of focus in the overview project

  1. broad focus
  2. focus on specifici area of mastery
  3. focus on a particular project
  4. focus on particular tasks
1. broad focus

falg the overview creative tasks

work on whatever areas I want to do most

example: Develop: Music (Focus project)

2. focus on a specific area of mastery

flag an area of mastery

example: Practice a piece of music

3. focus on a particular project
  • flag a creative task
  • no flagged actions in the Overview project

author: favor this focus most

example 1

example 2: Practice the Moonlight Sonata

4. focus on particular task
  • add flags to specific actions

set parts of large crafts On Hold

  1. set project on hold
  2. write in the title (Activate After XXXX)
  3. all the Weekly REview process to trigger activation

the Practice Perspective in Practice

Ch 24: creative work & conditions

  • concrete tasks: a simple completable step


    • make a phone call
    • do the dishes
    • purchase sth. at the store
  • creative tasks: less defined

    • ends are not apparent
    • plan cannot be clearly laid out from begin to end because the destination is not clear
    • no apparent time estimate necessary for completion
    • revisit and re-draft instead of only one draft


    • draft a letter to a friend

    • crate a buisness report
    • programming code
    • write a piece of music

reduce pressure

  • start early
  • start small
  • start regularly

the combination of time and frequency

  • 30 min daily to practice an instrument
  • 10 min twice a day to draft an important email
  • 45 min twice a week to prepare a busniness presentation

find fix context


a concrete task

  • fixed context
  • fixed time

a creative task/project

  • context
  • time
  • frequency

    • OmniFocus

      • set repeat
      • add a time estimate
    • Calendar

  • repeat daily until the report is done

when done

  1. change the task’ name
  2. remove the repeat
  3. change the context

    creative action structure

integrate deadlines

  • a repeating task. Name includes (Delete when done)
  • an embeded meta-task
  • a completion task
  • a sequential group

verbs to start the creative tasks

  • Continue
  • Draft
  • Consider
  • Practice
  • Develop
  • Build
  • Begin
  • complete

energy level

  1. create a context @Creative
  2. put this context rank high in the context list

To learn rhythms, at some point during the day, it is useful to sit in the appropriate context and attempt the task, regardless of energy level. When done with regularity, we gain a real sense of what works and what does not while also moving the work forward.

4 techniques for creative work

  1. touch the keys technique
  2. Pomodoro technique
  3. closing technique
  4. aim to simmer technique
  5. patience

Pomodoro technique and closing technique are the only ones that are mutually exclusive.

1. touch the keys technique

promise to myself to do at least the tiniest bit of a craft daily

2. Pomodoro technique

a formalized construction fo the seesion include

  • intention
  • time
  • attention
  • a clean break between sessions of work

  • 25+5 easily suitable to a calendar

integrate Pomodoro

in the morning

  1. review the calendar
  2. estimate where and how many Pomodoros may fit in the landscape
  3. choose projects to work on

two scenarios

  • multiple Pomodoros for one large project

    1. sequntial action group
    2. both tasks link to the project itself

      if repeat daily, set the action group repeat

  • group smaller tasks together

Pomodoros are useful when
  • Do a project that has at least 25 minutes of work in one context, but will not suffer from interruption.
  • Do a project that has 25 minutes of work in a number of contexts that are close to each other (e.g. @Laptop and @Call)
  • Do the work of any number of projects within a single context.

Creativity involves the unconscious which often does not like to deal with such pesky things such as reality, and a fixed timer is far too much reality for such work

3. closing technique

  • a timer can be set for

    • several minutes
    • several hours
  • make conscious estimate of the length of session to close a session

the closing of a session: a time to wrap up

Closing takes time

Each task or project has its own nique time period

  • a brief moment

    • palce a bookmark in a book
  • a longer period of closing

    • writing
    • designing
    • deep creative work

alterations for the Closing Technique

  • the seesion’s length is variable
  • an alarm is set to clse, not end, the session
  • pauses occur as needed

example: writing

  • Pomodoro technique:

    • 25-min session
  • closing technique:

    • 40 min writing
    • 5 min closing

4. aim to simmer technique

a mindset

  1. complete a project until it is done well before the due date.

  2. do only a light amount daily to keep it in intrinsic memory before it is due.

The Aim to Simmer process works for most anything with a due date:

  • Examinations
  • Presentations
  • Due Reports
  • Performances
  • Events

The main components of the Aim to Simmer process (Throttling Pressure & Supporting Work):

  • Start early
  • Start small
  • Start often

For example: exam in 2 months

  1. attempt to have its major preparations done much sooner
  2. after doing the bulk of study, set a light study task to repeat daily until the exam.
  3. In this way, we aim to be done with the major aspects of gathering the information needed (e.g. online searches) or building the system of study (e.g. creating flash cards) early on. Then just review any prepared flashcards daily. As the exam approaches
  4. return the heat by increasing the amount studied.

The same process works in the very shortly “due” scenario.

example: the family and I need to go to a dinner party this evening. 4 hours away

  1. get ready now


  • presentation
  • report
  • exam


  1. set a repeating task early on

5. patientce

patience: a skill to allow and accommodate for a process to develop at its own pace

Ch 25: sessions of work

things impede flow

  • each visit to the task manager slow you down
  • an structure can slow you down

Even if it takes a short period of time, any interruption regardless of time can be very disruptive.

As a general principle, we are looking for a reduction of impediments or the number of steps to attain a place of creativity. We seek to minimize the resistance between thought and action in a consciously guided manner. Any block, no matter how small, takes some processing power. Added up, these can make the difference between doing something and not. Sometimes a threshold of ease needs to be met before an action unfolds smoothly.

crafting conditions brings three very important points to mind when attempting to avoid procrastination:

  • The conditions and the contexts can be projects themselves.
  • The conditions should allow or improve focus on the project or task.
  • At every session, the creative task or project itself should be attempted regardless of the conditions.

session defined

a session: the time, space, and attention used to develop an individual piece of work

  • a period of time during which work is done in a single context
  • characteristic: a single period of focus


  • the work of a single task related to a single project
  • the work of a series of tasks related to a single project
  • the work of a series of tasks for several projects within a single context


  • Processing the Inbox until it is complete.
  • Processing email until all messages are addressed or stored.
  • Weekly review.
  • Planning the week’s meetings and tasks.
  • Planning the day’s work.
  • Meeting with a client for 45 minutes.
  • Performing a morning routine.
  • Performing a piece of music.
  • Writing a section of a book.

the time is defined by

  • A defined measure of the clock, such as a Pomodoro.
  • A self-defined measure, such as when tired.
  • An externally defined measure, such as an interruption from people or other obligations.
  • A work-defined measure, such as natural breaks that the work reveals as it progresses, or simply when the work is complete.

a session’s overview

balance between decision of primary and organizational work

without time, there is no attention

phases of a session

  1. initializing phase: define the work
  2. entry phase: the time during which the resources of time, space, and attention are arranged to develop our work
  3. working phase: longest

    try to do work with the available of time, space, and attention

  4. closing phase: the time to wrap up the work

    arrange materials to be ready for next time and out of way until then

summary of a session

  1. initialization

    1. choose a task/project
  2. entry phase (2-min rule)

    1. Perform related organizational tasks estimated to take less than 2 minutes.

      • Move unrelated materials away, preferably out of sight.
      • Gather related materials, preferably within reach.
    2. Add to the Inbox until thoughts no longer come to mind:

      • Unrelated ideas.
      • Organizational ideas estimated to take longer than 2 minutes.
    3. Pause.
  1. Working Phase (Task Writing Rule)

    1. Allow the work to come to mind. (Alternately phrased, gently nudge the work forward.)

    2. Add to the Inbox as needed:

      • Unrelated ideas.
      • Organizational ideas estimated to take longer than writing a corresponding task.
      • Branches of work.
  1. Closing Phase (2-Minute Rule)

    1. Decide to end the work (for the time being).

    2. Add next actions to the work and Inbox.

    3. Process the Inbox.

    4. Consider how well the work will be off of your mind, pausing for assessment.

Considerations & Definitions

Timers and/or templates may be used throughout. A timer can be particularly useful to allow time for the closing phase.

2-Minute Rule: do the organizational task if estimated to take less than 2 minutes to do.

Task Writing Rule: do the organizational task if estimated to take less than the time to write the task.

an Organizational Task: a task that supports or clears a path for development of the primary task.

  • The organizational task is not necessary to do the work (though it may improve efficiency).
  • If a task is necessary, then it is best considered as the next Primary Task.

Ch 26: a session’s phases in detail

1. define the work

can be a task or a project

  • What are you doing?
  • What are you not doing?

  • What is defined as the work may be changed. When we do change our minds, we simply begin the closing phase for this work, as will be outlined, and prepare for the altered work.

2. entry phase

Distractions can be reduced but cannot be eliminated

external organization

  • mover everything unrelated to chosen work away, physcially and digitally

    • preferably out of sight

    • If estimate moving something to take longer than 2 minutes, and it is not critical to doing the work, enter it as a task in the Inbox.

  • Place the materials of the chosen work nearby, physically and digitally, preferably within ready reach.
    • if estimate moving something to take longer than 2 minutes, and doing so is not critical to the work at hand, enter it as a task in the Inbox.

internal organization

  1. open inbox
  2. do a “mind-sweep”

    • enter any unrelated ideas into the Inbox, regardless of estimated time
    • For organizational ideas related to the work:
      • <2min: Do
      • 2min: enter into Inbox

  1. Continue until nothing else comes to mind.
  2. Pause.

    This pause is very important. Ensure nothing else is coming to mind.

    If anything does:

    • Continue the mind-sweep until you can pause for several moments with little else coming to mind.
* At that point, consider this stage complete.

3. work phase

  • Allow the work to come to mind.
  • Add organizational ideas (or ideas unrelated to the work, for that matter) to the Inbox, regardless of time.

distinction between organizational tasks to do and those not: wehther doing takes long than writing to do

4. closing phase

  • Place or create reference items, tasks, projects, and notes bookmarking the work for next time.
  • Clear the Inbox, so that ideas entered before, during, and after the session are at least addressed.
  • Move the work out of the way so our other paths of the day remain clear as well.

  • Write tasks that will help you to remember where you left off.

  • Place those tasks “on top” of the work, however that might appear, whether in the medium of the work or in OmniFocus.

Ch 27: bring it all together & master productivity

mind process