Batching Errands and Keeping Others on Track with OmniFocus

Two Perspectives to Keep Yourself (and Others!) on Task

The Today and Scheduled perspectives are great ways to use OmniFocus to track what you’re doing today and for the next week. These two perspectives will help you stay on top of 90% of what you need to do. Here are two more perspectives that will help you stay on top of things and even help others stay productive, too.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / F8studio

The Errands Perspective

I check an Errands perspective whenever I’m ready to leave the house. I can quickly remind myself of every errand that I need to run—these are flagged. I also scan the unflagged tasks to see if there is anything I hadn’t planned on doing but could opportunistically take on now. If there is, I flag it and head out the door.

Errands Perspective in OmniFocus for iPhone

The perspective is pretty simple—available actions, grouped by whether they’re flagged, and sorted by due date. This sort of perspective is helpful for any context that isn’t constantly available. The flagged tasks need to be done. Anything that isn’t flagged represents a chance to get further ahead. Sorting the unflagged tasks by due date lets you see which tasks would have the greatest benefit if you did them today.

Errands Settings in OmniFocus 2 for Mac

The Follow Up Perspective

I have two contexts in OmniFocus that are very useful and very easy to forget about: @Delegated and @Waiting. I have subcontexts for the people I most commonly delegate to and wait on; the top-level contexts serve as catch-alls. Both contexts are on hold, so tasks moved there don’t show up in most lists. The benefit (and the danger) is out of sight, out of mind.

Follow Up Perspective

Rather than check two separate contexts for similar information (“what do I need to follow up on?”), create a Follow Up perspective that shows remaining tasks grouped by context and change the context side bar filter to On Hold. Then, you’ll need to do the following so that this perspective doesn’t show Inbox tasks:

  1. Select the Follow Up perspective.
  2. Select Contexts in the sidebar.
  3. Select Take Snapshot of Follow Up from the Perspectives menu.

Follow Up Settings in OmniFocus 2 for Mac
If you take the Follow Up perspective and group tasks by project instead of context, you get another useful perspective: Stalled. I hope things never get to the point where your projects are actually stalled because you’ve delegated to someone (@Waiting… okay, maybe). Review one of these perspectives at least weekly. Which one you use will depend on which question you want to answer: Who do I need to follow up with? Or which projects are at risk of stalling because I’m waiting for someone?

Conclusion

Perspectives are a powerful tool when it comes to executing with OmniFocus. They help you to sort through all the things you could be doing and focus in on what you need to be doing now. The Today perspective shows you what you need to do today. The Scheduled perspective keeps track of what’s coming up. The Errands perspective (and its kin) help you identify batches of tasks you can work on. The Follow Up perspective helps you keep things moving as you help others be more productive.

Question: What other perspectives have you found useful? How do you help others be productive? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. For more information, see my comments policy.

  • Hi Colter:

    I’m trying your Follow-Up perspective but it’s showing all on-hold contexts (correctly) but it’s also showing all items with No Context, including everything in my Inbox. Any idea why and how to filter out “No Cotext” items?

    Thanks, DAVE

    • colterreed

      Morning, Dave. I’m not sure why OmniFocus includes No Context tasks when the sidebar filter is “On Hold”. To get around it, select the Follow-Up perspective, select the top-level Contexts folder, and choose “Take Snapshot of Follow Up” from the Perspectives menu. Since the perspective restores the selection, only tasks which have been assigned a context will be shown.

      Thanks for catching that! I’ll update the post.

      • Can’t figure out why but your “Take Snapshot” trick fixed it. Thanks.

  • devyn

    I love these perspectives. Already helping me – and I just set them – so thank you! I’m curious about your distinction between “delegated” and “waiting on”. They’re obviously very similar. Is waiting on a task for which you require a response before proceeding yourself, whereas delegated is a task that is not stopping your next actions?

    • Hi, devyn. Glad you’re liking them!

      That’s pretty close. “Waiting” is something that I can’t do anything about right now. I need more information before I can proceed. “Delegated” is a task that I’ve given to someone else. It’s on their plate now, and I just need to circle back later and make sure they followed through.

      Hope that clears it up!

  • AthenainCA

    I’m trying to figure out how to create this errands perspective with OmniFocus 2 and since the Perspective edit window is now different and I’m a newbie, I can’t seem to get it to work. Any tips?

    • Hi, Ellen. First, make sure you’re using OmniFocus 2 Professional. Standard doesn’t let you create your own Perspectives. You just have the built-in ones.

      The options are basically the same for OF2, though the inspector panel has changed considerably. I’ll update the screenshots. Hope it helps!

      • Ellen34

        I am using the Pro version. I can’t seem to figure out how to set the settings so that only items with @errands as a context show up. I’m getting a whole host of items showing up. I really appreciate the help.

        • Are you missing the sidebar selection? Bring up the Perspectives window, view the Errands perspective, select @Errands in the sidebar, and click “Add Current Sidebar Selection”.

          • Ellen34

            That’s exactly what I couldn’t figure out how to do! Thank you so much.