We’ve been having a lot of discussions about Omnifocus at the Sydney GTD Meet-Up over the last few weeks. One of the common questions is around how to lay out the projects view.

OmniFocus gives you a lot of flexibility in how you arrange your projects, giving you folders and nesting as ways of customising things.

Over the years, I’ve played around with many different ways of laying things out. It was about 12 months ago that I hit on my current layout that works really well for me.

Being an avid GTDer I have a mindmap which lists my areas of focus. These are the key areas of your life that will be the focus of your projects and next actions.

You might want to think about these are the different hats we wear in different parts of our lives. This is an excerpt of my areas of focus:

  • Work
    • Management
      • Budgets
      • Training
      • Strategy and roadmaps
      • Communication and PR
    • Service Improvement
    • Projects
    • Monitoring and reporting
    • Personal Development
  • Personal
    • Family
    • Health
    • Personal Development
    • Jobs around the house
    • Administration
    • Finance
    • Holidays and recreation

I found that if I laid out my folder structure in OmniFocus in the same way, I could accomplish two things. Firstly, I could use the structure as part of my weekly review. Because all of the projects would appear under the relevant area of focus, I can tell at a glance if there is an area that I’m not focusing on enough.

This happened to me in the last few days. I did my review and noticed that I didn’t have any projects in my budget folder - yet we’re fast approaching budget season.

The second reason is a bit more subtle but, in my opinion, more powerful. Unless you have put a due date on a project or action, the context view will list tasks in a set order. That order is the order they appear in the projects list.

That means, all things being equal, tasks for projects in my Management folder will appear higher up the next action list than tasks for projects in my Monitoring and reporting folder.

For example. I have two phone calls to make, one to book in a budget meeting (area of focus == budget) and one to talk to a project manager about resourcing (area of focus == project). If neither of the tasks or projects have due dates, the call about the budget meeting would appear above the call to the project manager.

This means you can arrange your folders with a pseudo level of importance. This helps a lot if you’re working off larger next action lists. It doesn’t remove any other filtering or sorting you may do, just adds another metric to assess your next action decisions against.

This workflow is valid in all versions of OmniFocus (Mac and iOS)