You can drown in your to-do lists if you’re not careful. You get a new assignment, then there’s a new project, and you need to order that gift for your mom, and run by the grocery store, and did you remember to pay that bill? So much can pile up, and you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We all want to be more productive—and apps like OmniFocus are there to help us. This task management app wants to help you take control of your life and accomplish all your tasks. But is OmniFocus worth the price? Will it actually help you be more productive? Let’s walk through our OmniFocus review to find out!
What Is OmniFocus?
OmniFocus is a “task-management system built for pros.” The company is based out of Seattle, and started as a consulting firm in the 90’s. Now, they shifted their focus to be a maker of Apple apps. OmniFocus is just one of their products. OmniFocus is based off the work-philosophy of David Allen, who wrote the book, “Get Things Done.” The theory behind the method is to write things down as soon as they pop into mind—without organizing or sorting them. This saves your mental energy, and keeps you from forgetting, because haven’t we all had that moment where we go, “Wait, what was I about to do?”
OmniFocus gives you the tools to create to-do lists, organize your projects, see what’s coming up next, and weekly review your progress, to help you take control of your work life.
How Does OmniFocus Work?
OmniFocus only runs on Mac and iOS, though you can view your subscription from any web browser. You can start with their 14-day free trial. You begin by downloading their app, where it askes you whether you want to save your information on that device or the cloud. Unless you plan on having to come back to that device again and again, and only ever using that one device for anything productive, we’d advise using the cloud. Once you start, OmniFocus offers helpful tutorials and tips to get started.
The dash is set up with three windows. On the far left is your navigation, the middle window displays the primary information of what you’ve selected, and there can be an additional page on the far right to display extra information like notes, tags, or subsets within that project.
There’s five main parts of OmniFocus, the Inbox, Tags, Projects, Flagged, Forecast, and Review.
Inbox is where you put the principles of GTD into play—it’s a spot to write down anything and everything, right when you think of it. Just got a great idea for a book to write? Put it in the inbox. Remembered something you need to get at the store? Put it in the inbox. Just though of a gift idea for your mom? That’s right, in the inbox. Once you’ve dumped everything out of your brain into the inbox, then you have the freedom to start organizing and scheduling it.
When it comes time to organize and schedule, that’s where the Tags come in. These allow you to start organizing your projects. You can tag certain projects with the same tag, like “writing” “presentation” or “shopping.” You can make tags for length of time, or for a particular person or place. Customize it to whatever works best for your needs.
Then are the projects themselves—you can create parallel projects, where you can complete the parts of it at the same time, sequential projects where you can’t complete tasks out of order, and free-form tasks, which can be anything from unrelated tasks to a grocery list. You can group similar projects in a folder together, and put subfolders to help you stay more organize. Once you create a project, and put tags on it, there’s other information you can add. You can put a due date on a project—or a defer date, telling OmniFocus not to show you that task until a certain time. You can put additional information in as well, whether that is notes, estimated duration, or even set up a notification to alert you to start.
Flagged works much like Tags—but these are ones that you’ve flagged to work on today, or ones that need input from others to allow you to continue on.
The Forecast tab is where it all comes together. Here, your tasks for the day are synced with your calendar, so you see all your appointments and tasks in sequential order. Not only that, but you can see what’s coming down the pipeline as well, so you’re never blindsided by a large project.
Finally is the review tab, which allows you to check your progress throughout the week.
As you finish each task, you mark them as complete. OmniFocus is focused on the individual user, as you can’t share or sync your tasks and projects with anyone else.
How To Make The Most Of OmniFocus
Just like any good tool, the more you understand how to make OmniFocus work for you, the more you will get out of it.
One thing you can use to your advantage is the tags. While it might be tempting to brush these aside as unnecessary organizing, you can actually make specific tagging categories to help you in every situation. Create a “low-energy” tag for projects that are mostly just busy work, so that on those days when you’re chugging your fifth cup of coffee, you can search for that tag and still mark some things complete. Create a “less-than-20-minutes” tag for task that are quick to complete—look up those when you only have a few minutes to spare. You can also create tags for specific locations and sites, so that you don’t forget everything you were supposed to grab at the mall, or everything you were supposed to order on Amazon.
You can also take advantage of OmniFocus’s reoccurring projects. These help you set up habits—you can schedule them for a specific time every day, or every week. You can use these to help you create routines to help you get into the workflow.
Is OmniFocus Worth The Price?
OmniFocus is on the higher-priced end—a subscription costs $9.99 per month, of $99.99 for a year. It does allow for a lot of customization, and it is finely honed to the GTD method. If you are an Apple user, and want to use that method to organize your life, then it’s worth the money. If you find yourself always buried by all the tasks coming in, and don’t have time to organize them, then it’s worth the price.
Will OmniFocus Work On My Device?
Currently, OmniFocus does not run on Windows or Android. While you can access your account through OmniFocus Web on any device, you must first have made an actually account on an Apple device—and OmniFocus Web is an add-on subscription that will cost you another $4.99 per month.
OmniFocus VS Todoist
Todoist is another task-management site—but unlike OmniFocus, it offers a free subscription for its users, that has most all of the tools. Even their paid subscription costs less, with their Premium costing $39/year, as opposed to OmniFocus’ $99/year. While Todoist also allows you to tag projects, it also allows you to give them priority ratings—so you know exactly what to focus on when you’re low on time.
However, Todoist does have a project limit—you can only have 300 projects. OmniFocus doesn’t have any project limit, and instead allows you to continue create projects, and even sub-projects.
OmniFocus is made for a niche audience—Apple users who work well with the GDT method. If you’re passionate about this productivity method, and live in Steve Job’s world, then OmniFocus is a great fit for you. The usefulness of their tagging system, the Forecast layout that allows you to see your whole day and week in a glance, and the built-in review system makes it a powerful tool for organizing your life. If you’re still in the market for other apps that can help you stay organized, check out our guide to the best planner apps.
Ease of Use
Need to find a way to stay more productive? OmniFocus is a task-management system that is “built for pros.” It is based on David Allen’s, author of “Get Things Done”, method of writing things down as soon as you think of them, without organizing or sorting these thoughts. The theory is that this will save you mental energy and help keep you from forgetting. OmniFocus includes features such as an inbox, tags for organization, the ability to create projects and parallel projects, a forecast showing your appointments and calendar, and a review tab that allows you to check your progress. Can it help you stay organized? Find out in our review of OmniFocus.