Reviewing with OmniFocus

There are so many reasons behind my decision to stay with OmniFocus as my second brain tool, it would take far too long for you to read them all here. I would, however like to write about one of the main features that is all too easy to ignore when you are looking at developing your productivity workflow - and that is the Review

Reviewing is, for me, the cornerstone of my workflow. My Weekly Review is the one meeting in the week that is never cancelled. Without it, I lose trust in my system and as soon as that starts to go, then everything starts to unravel. I start wondering whether the action I’m working on now is actually what I should be doing, I start thinking about other unfinished projects and actions that need to be taken on them - my focus disappears and my results drop. My review is that important to me and thankfully, OmniFocus makes it easy to carry it out. 

What Is A Review

A Review can happen at a given frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually) and consists of a list of checks you carry out to make sure your ship is still heading in the right direction, allowing you to course correct if needed. At the bare minimum, a weekly review is recommended and that’s what I’m going to discuss here, however as you read, you’ll think of ideas that you can implement for other reviews as well - especially a daily one as you close down for the day. 

Ideally, you should be using your Weekly Review to gather all of your inputs. These can be emails, phone messages, physical notes, calendar entries - anything that hasn’t been formally processed needs to be either added into OmniFocus, or deleted as appropriate. This is one time when I actually ignore the 2 minute rule (for those of you who don’t know this - if a task will take two minutes or less, then do it there and then). The reason I ignore it is that I have 90 minutes maximum to complete my Review. If I spend 30 of those minutes completing 15 tasks, I will not complete my Review and that is not an option. Instead, if it looks like I have lots of quick wins available, I schedule a thirty minute window to complete them in my calendar. 

Once the inputs are processed, review your outlook. Check your calendar for the next four-six weeks to make sure that any arrangements you need to make are added to OmniFocus. Review your projects and be sure they all have a Next Action assigned to them. 

I also use this opportunity to block out periods of time in the coming week(s) for core tasks. My writing time is scheduled, my development time is scheduled, with enough white space to move things around if needed. 

Below is a sample of my OmniFocus Checklist for the Weekly Review

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Reviewing Projects

The ability to review a project is where OmniFocus shines for me. On the sidebar, there is a Review button which offers a visual indicator as to whether any projects needs reviewing. If there is a purple line to the left of the button, then you need to take some action. Clicking this button opens up a perspective called Review and lists all of the projects that are awaiting a review. 

The presence of these projects is dictated by the metadata of the project. If you click the Inspector, you’ll see a Review section that allows you to configure the due date of the next review as well as the frequency. If it’s a project that isn’t key at the moment and doesn’t need to be reviewed that often, change it to two/three weeks, perhaps a month. I’ve some long-standing projects that aren’t going to be reviewed for another three months, because they just aren’t a priority for me at the moment. 


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The list of projects will appear on the left hand pane and as you click on each project, you’ll see a Mark Reviewed button appear in the perspective header. Click this and the due date for the next review will change dependant on the metadata settings described earlier. 

You can also mark a project reviewed from other perspectives too. Customise the Toolbar to add the Review icon (it’s a coffee cup with a tick above) and every time you open a Project in OmniFocus, you can Review it as you go. 

I cannot impress on you enough the importance of reviewing your systems and projects. This gives you confidence that you are doing the right thing at the right time and frees up your brain to create magic.