Keyword Kanban with OmniFocus

Recently I had the honour of appearing on LearnOmniFocus and I spoke about a system I have in play that allows me to use OmniFocus in a form of Kanban structure. It’s rudimentary in nature and certainly isn’t, in any way shape or form, a substitute for a dedicated Kansan-Style application, such as Trello - however if you are fully invested in OmniFocus and need some kind of Kanban functionality, then you may be able to look at my system and tweak it for your own ends. 


The reason I started looking at this system stems from the fact that I am increasingly finding myself working in different modes at varying times of the day. When I am at home, with the kids at school, it’s the optimum time for me to be recording for an upcoming project. In the evenings, I like to use this time to prepare the environment for these videos and, when complete, move into writing mode where the scripts or bullet notes for content are created. 

I also need to schedule in editing and upload times for these video segments and, in order to maximise my time and effectiveness, it’s beneficial for me to batch this work. If I can spend a day recording multiple videos, when the environment is most conducive to this, that is going to be the best use of my time. 

The issue with OmniFocus is knowing where I am at any given time in the project. I can focus on the project easy enough, however, listing just the tasks that fit one of the modes above is a little more problematic. Sure, when multiple contexts come into play (early 2018 is the plan) then assigning the mode as a context will solve the problem easily, however until that time comes, I need an alternative. That’s where Keyword Kanban has come in. 


The setup for this process is surprisingly simple in execution. In this example, I’m going to create a project for a set of video screencasts for a mock application called Everything Is Awesome. 

This application is going to have a lot of videos and each video has 8 repeating actions. The steps for Video 1 will be exactly the same as for Video 30, so it would be great to get some automation in - that’s where Curt Clifton’s Populate Template Placeholders script comes in. I’ve recently created a post for that 


My screenshot above shows the tasks for the first 5 of the videos to offer some context. Each one of the videos has a list of sequential tasks, so I cannot see the editing actions until the recording actions have been completed. 

I also needed to be sure I was naming my tasks/actions in the following manner:

(Verb/Mode): Action

So, If I was looking to Prepare the environment for the first in a series of videos, I’d write the action:

Prepare: Environment for Video 1 

As the video moves between the different stages of production, the verb changes. You can see that once I’ve prepared, the video, I need to write the scripts or notes. The sequential setup of these projects allows me to see only the actions I can complete, at a time I can complete them. 


Once the project has been setup, with actions in play, then it’s time to create the Custom Perspectives. Again, this is simple. The most important points are as follows:

1) Any projects that I do not wish to work on currently are deferred until a later date, so they can’t appear. I do this as a matter of course, I hate seeing an overloaded plate. Alternatively, you can just set the Focus field to the key project of your choosing. 

2) The Find Text field contains the Verb/Mode with supporting colon

You can see by my screenshot that I have Perspectives for the four main focus areas of the project - PrepareWriteRecordEdit. I don’t have ones for Encode and File as the former is one that I set overnight if needed and the second isn’t dependant on me being in any particular context or frame of mind to work. 


So, by accessing the Prepare perspective, I can see a list of actions that I need to complete before the script, or notes, for that particular video can be written. 


In order to give this more of a Kanban Card feel, I’ve placed the shortcuts for these perspectives into the Toolbar. This allows me to move from left to right and this feels a more fluid way of working to me - especially as I am working for myself. As soon I find the Prepare perspective empty, I know that I can release the next video in the guide from it’s current deferred state and let it into the system. This prevents overwhelm when I look at the amount of work that needs to be done and allows for, in my opinion, a tidy little system.


I'd love to hear about ways that you take the existing functionality of OmniFocus and manipulate it for your own ends. Get in touch!