Today we’re going to look at how to combine two of our favorite productivity tools and systems – Agile Results, and OmniFocus.
Agile Results is a revolutionary way to set and achieve outcomes on a consistent basis. OmniFocus is the best task management tool available for Mac. Let’s put them together and see what happens.
- Agile Results should not be implemented solely in OmniFocus.
- You will have to use another tool (Evernote recommended) for the writing part of Agile Results.
- Use OmniFocus to hold lists related to your hotspots (areas of life), and bring them into focus using flags, contexts and perspectives.
Not an Exact Match
Let’s be clear: OmniFocus is first and foremost a GTD tool, that is designed with the GTD workflow in mind. This being said, after trying multiple other options such as Things and Remember the Milk, I still prefer to use OmniFocus as my go-to task manager.
Agile Results is about setting outcomes and achieving them using descriptive language, strong project management and an outcome hierarchy. If you’re already familiar with OmniFocus, you’ll know that it does have options to hold hierarchical task information – it just doesn’t have enough hierarchy to make it fully compatible with Agile.
You can most definitely try to implement Agile Results solely in OmniFocus (we’ve tried), but you really shouldn’t. It kind of ends up looking something like this:
As you can see, outcome descriptions, and that 10,000-foot overview, don’t work all that well in OmniFocus.
Instead, what you should do is put what you can in OmniFocus, and put the rest in a different application like Evernote. We’re going to show you exactly how to do that.
Agile Results and OmniFocus
OmniFocus is a great tool for highlighting what you need to do, when you need to do it. Agile Results is not so great at this – it tends to excel more in the area of highlighting which tasks are related to which outcomes across different timeframes.
Here’s what we’ve done to make them work together.
1. Setting up Hotspots
The first thing is we create a folder called “Hotspots” and then create 1 single-action list per hotspot (area of life). We then move each task or action related to that hotspot, into that single-action list:
You can use a simple breakdown of hotspots into “health”, “wealth” and “relationships”, or you can use Agile’s recommended hotspots:
- Active Projects
- Active Projects
2. Using Flags
In a minute we’re going to show you how to set up perspectives so that you can highlight exactly what needs to be done as you’re setting your outcomes each morning (ala Agile Results). But in order to do that, we need to use OmniFocus’ flags system to make it a bit easier.
What you want to do right now is go through each hotspot list, and flag any items that are due within the next 1-2 weeks as such:
Normally, you would perform this flagging during your weekly review, as you are setting your outcomes for the upcoming week.
3. Creating an Active Perspective
In OmniFocus, select the Hotspots folder that you created in Step 1. Now select View –> Show View Bar. The second drop-down from the left is the Status Filter – set this to Flagged.
The other filters should read:
- Project Filter: Remaining
- Grouping: Ungrouped
- Sorting: Unsorted
- Availability Filter: Remaining
- Estimated Time Filter: Any Duration
Go to Perspectives –> Save Window As –> New Perspective.
Name this perspective “Active”.
4. Using the Active Perspective
The easiest way to use this active perspective is when you are setting outcomes. Each morning, or during weekly or monthly planning, pull up this “active” perspective as you set your outcomes – any items that need actioning will then be brought to your attention.
Other Agile Things
There are some other lists that we recommend keeping in OmniFocus:
- Inbox. We highly recommend using the OmniFocus inbox as THE place to collect your thoughts, loose bits of information and anything you have to write down. You can clear it during a weekly review, or daily if you wish.
- Rituals and Routines. I like to keep checklists for my morning/daily/evening rituals, weekly reviews, monthly reviews and annual reviews in OmniFocus as well.
- Future/Someday Lists. You can keep these as separate lists if you like, or you can simply file the items under the appropriate hotspots.
- You can’t put all of Agile into OmniFocus and use it effectively.
- OmniFocus is great for keeping track of tasks, which ones are important and when they’re due – use it for that.
- We recommend using Evernote to store the other parts of Agile Results.
For more information on alternative ways of using OmniFocus, check out our Omnifocus page. Or, if you want to know more about Agile Results, read our articles on how to implement this amazing productivity system.
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Photo by: EmreAyar
Hi! The article is great, thank you!
I’ve a question about implementing these rules using a 2Do app. How do you think is it possible or not?
Also what about reference materials and their organization. In my case I’ve a big project I’m working on and all materials, files and so on are stored in many places: notes, pdf files, office files, papers and others. So it becomes to difficult to find the one I need.
Thank you for your answer!
Hi, I love this post, and this directly addresses the fatal flaw that made me stumble with GTD-the-AE-Way (difficulty seeing the Big Picture in order to prioritize).
I notice, however, that many posts from 2 or 3+ years ago don’t always match the technology being used. Since in many of these posts, the technology IS the substance of the post, these posts silently die.
Solution: Whenever you post on a topic related or dependent on software, give it a tag of that software and version. When you discover that said package has been updated, you can revisit exactly which old posts need to be tweaked, and given new screenshots (and update the tag, of course). This is just the way I thought of it…
I don’t understand the point of the “Backlog” folder in this system. Isn’t everything outside of the 3 outcomes considered backlog?
One more thing. In your OF screenshots, I don’t notice any contexts. Is it because you’re using OF strictly for listing outcomes now, as opposed to the GTD methodology?
Great work outlining how to implement AR, I’ve found it very useful!
I’m wondering if it’s safe to say that when using OF as described in this post in conjunctions with AR, you tend to store “outcomes” and not so much the tasks related to completing them?
It’s just that I’m used to using “projects” in OF, so switching to an outcomes only system seems odd but makes sense when implementing AR.
Do you have an example of your current active OF setup you could share?
I’ve been using GTD and OF for a while now and really love they both help me to be both more organized and effective. I’ve just read the series on Agile Results and have bought the book to dig deeper into Agile Results.
I assign all tasks in OF with a Due Date and do my weekly review adjusting dates as based on the upcoming week. This approach, to me, seems easier than setting flags on tasks during the weekly review.
Overall, I think it gets me the same results as your approach but wanted to see if you think I’m missing anything.
Love the site and advice.
Couple random thoughts as I’m trying to do this…I may have missed this in the Agile Results series, but I am not quite sure how to implement the Active Projects sections. Should each task that supports an active project go in there, or is it just one big task for the whole project?
Also, if you could point me to some helpful article that I’m sure you’ve written about how to put your Rituals into Omnifocus, that would be great too :)
Thanks for the article some days ago tried to combine OF and AR.
I have questions:
How do you set daily tasks? As I understand correctly you flag only week tasks.
And another question, mayby it would be a great idea for your new post. How do you manage projects with many people in team? As for my own tasks I use OF. But it’s a problem for me for managing projects in different systems like OF and Basecamp. It would be very kind of you if you show me the workflow you use.
I set daily tasks in Evernote with one note per day (outlines the tasks + couple of other things). I use OmniFocus as a storage for tasks and actions – not something that I refer to while working.
For team projects we use Asana at Asian Efficiency. I’ll make it a topic for a future post!
Here you use 1 single-action list per hotspot (area of life). Did I understand you correctly that in this aproach you do not use projects?
If so how do you manage them?
Like your blog. You help me to build my own workflow using OF.
Thanks for answer.
You can if you like.
For AE projects we manage them in Asana or mindmaps. Our Asana setup and protocols are pretty awesome, so I don’t really need to port my items over to OmniFocus.
For my personal projects it really depends. If I can define a project as an outcome I would prefer to do that. If it’s a really complex project where there are lots of things I need to remember, I’ll create a separate project under Personal and store all related actions as a list under there.
Thank you for a great post! I have been following this blog for months now and I am very thankful for your insights.
I started up with only OF (as explained by asianefficiency). This gave me one reliable system to guide my actions but it has its limitations. I am now very much interested in implementing AR in my GTD system.
However, there is one thought that comes up while reading your way of implementation: how do you keep track on all separate systems and programs (OF, GTD, AR, Evernote, Asana, Mindmanager, and more)?
I can grasp the intellectual way of implementation but when I start working with all separate programs and ideas I feel somewhat overwhelmed.
How do you handle this feeling (if you have it)?
Hey Alve the best way to make it work is to ensure everything you use can work together as much as possible. So if you want to use different programs and systems together, just make sure they are suitable for integration. The second thing that is really important is that you document everything – how does this program work, how does this program x work with program y, etc.
Once you start using programs a lot (preferably on a daily basis) you will get the hang of it. Just start with a couple at a time and slowly expand.