set up a ‘waiting for’ perspective in omnifocus

Your effectiveness in getting things done is not determined solely by your own productivity—it also depends on the work of others and on your ability to manage and track their contribution. Not surprising then, that David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ methodology recognises ‘waiting for’ as a distinct work ‘context’. It is used to flag tasks that you are not able to complete yourself because you lack the technical expertise, the mandate, or simply the time or the interest. Whether your project is planning your gran’s 90th birthday party or delivering a major urban renewal initiative, it is crucial that you have a clear overview of all project tasks that have been delegated to others.

So how can you achieve this in Omnifocus, the legendary desktop–based task management app for Mac? I have been using Omnifocus since 2009 and I keep finding new ways of making the app work better for me. I also know from experience that newcomers can find user–defined views, which Omnifocus calls ‘perspectives’, daunting and hard to set up. This post explains how to set up an Omnifocus perspective that enables you to keep track of the tasks that you have delegated.

When I started using Omnifocus I felt frustrated that ‘waiting’ did not appear to show up in the context view. I had entered several tasks that were waiting to be completed by somebody else, so where were they? The penny finally dropped: the app’s default filter was set to ‘active’ contexts — and quite rightly did not display tasks that were outside my control. Changing the filter to ‘remaining’ made all contexts visible, including ‘waiting’.

Problem solved, except that I did not like having to change the filter setting again and again. As I frequently wanted to check on tasks where I was waiting for somebody else’s input, I decided to set up a ‘waiting’ perspective that I could access directly from the menu bar. This is how I went about it:

  1. make sure you are in ‘context’ mode (select on toolbar or type Command + 2)
  2. click on the ‘view’ button in the Omnifocus toolbar (or type Shift Command V) to bring up the ‘view bar’
  3. in the view bar, set the context filter to ‘remaining’
  4. select the ‘waiting’ context (If there is no waiting context, create one by clicking on the ‘plus’ symbol on the bottom left of the OF screen)
  5. set grouping to ‘due’
  6. set sorting to ‘due’
  7. set availability to ‘remaining’
  8. leave status filter and estimated time filter set to ‘any’
  9. in the menu bar select ‘perspectives’ > ‘save window as’ > ‘new perspective’
  10. name the new perspective ‘waiting’ (or ‘Godot’…)
  11. right–click in the toolbar and select ‘customise toolbar’
  12. drag the icon for the new waiting perspective onto the toolbar.

Your ‘waiting for’ context view should look like this:

Quickly review all your tasks with a 'waiting' context.

Quickly review all your tasks with a ‘waiting’ context.

You can now monitor all delegated tasks by just clicking on the menu bar.

If you prefer to see your ‘waiting for’ tasks sorted by project rather than by due date, set the grouping filter to ‘project’ in step 5 above.

If you want to remind yourself what the task entailed (come on, we all have days like that), check the note field. A handy trick for Evernote users is to paste an Evernote ‘note link’ into the note field in Omnifocus. Clicking on the note link in Omnifocus will launch Evernote and bring up the full note.

I hope this post has helped you and will also give you the confidence to experiment further with perspectives in Omnifocus. If you would like further tips about tweaking Omnifocus you can read my top ten tips for taming Omnifocus.

I am running Omnifocus vs. 1.10.4 on OS X (Mountain Lion, vs. 10.8.4). At the time of writing, perspectives were not yet available on the Omnifocus 2 beta (vs. 81 r191905). I am participating in the Omnifocus 2 beta testing but have no other connection with the Omni company.

I’d be interested to hear what perspectives you have set up in Omnifocus. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and take care out there.