I updated my OmniFocus and Personal Kanban setup last week. Whilst writing about it last September (part 1 and part 2), I realised that some aspects were wrong causing my setup to become stale:

  • I wasn't reviewing my work often
  • I had stuff languishing in my Someday lists for months (even years)
  • I spent too much time doing work of low value

To fix this, I decided that a clean start was the only answer. Here's my step-by-step guide.

Reset OmniFocus

  1. Back up Omnifocus data:
    • as a spreadsheet and HTML file (using File > Export...)
    • make a copy of the OmniFocus SQLite database
  2. Open Projects perspective, switch view to All, ⌘-A and hit Delete (more info from Omnigroup support)
  3. Open Contexts perspective, switch view to All, ⌘-A and hit Delete

Contexts

I had created 14 contexts in OmniFocus but I wasn't using them effectively. I had trouble prioritising work on my Personal Kanban board. Assigning a work item a context of @Email or @Computer was no longer a useful distinction. I wanted to know - at a glance - what was important and what wasn't. I redefined my contexts as:

  • @Important: actions I want to focus on
  • @Work: actions I have do for work (probably important as well but only because I have to do it as opposed to me wanting to do it)
  • @Conversation: actions involving some sort of discussion (whether by phone, Slack or text message)
  • @Writing
  • @Chore: tasks that need little or no mental effort ('fetch X from the shop', 'check bank balances', etc.)
  • @Waiting: actions that depend on someone else before I can make progress

Weekly Review

My method of reviewing my work wasn't intuitive or much fun. I regularly avoided completing it as a result. I broke the process down into a set of tasks and, in the Single Action List 'Each Week', I added a 1-week recurring task with these sub-tasks:

  1. Review last week's completed work
  2. Empty your head
  3. Process wallet, inbox & downloads folder, physical inboxes
  4. Process new notes captured in nvAlt & physical notebook
  5. Process Omnifocus inbox
  6. Update finance tracker with recent transactions
  7. Review budget
  8. Update this month's expenses tracker with any new expenses
  9. Review calendar for completed & upcoming events
  10. Review projects and redefine any unclear outcomes
  11. Review next actions
  12. Review waiting for actions
  13. Update Day One with summary of review

Personal Kanban board

My Personal Kanban board contained over 4000 archived cards. I exported the layout, created a new board based on this and made these changes:

  • added 2 new swim lanes: 'Writing' and 'Home'
  • added a 'Reading' to help track books in progress
  • removed the 'Train Home' lane (I wasn't using it as much as I thought)
  • updated the WIP limits

Results

Purging all the stuff captured over the last couple of years means that I have less to review. Starting again is refreshing and scary at the same time. I think I checked my backup process at least 5 times. I haven't looked at these old files since I reset everything.

Rethinking my new contexts and board layout is helping me to focus what's important.

It's a positive change. I'm happy.