Organizing Projects in Omnifocus

Today’s post is going to be all about projects in Omnifocus. Here’s where I probably deviate a bit from GTD mainly because I haven’t really gotten a good grasp on David Allen’s “altitudes” concept. I’m currently reviewing his book so that I can hopefully get a clearer understanding, but for now, what I have works.

Omnifocus is great in that it lets you put projects in folders and even nest sub-projects inside projects {something Things surely lacked}. Even better it has different types of projects and lists.

  • Single-action lists are great for those collections of things you have that don’t have a clear end like a shopping list {because let’s be real, when is a girl ever done shopping?}
  • Parallel projects are good for projects with a clear end in mind that don’t need to be completed in a specific order.
  • Sequential projects on the other hand do have an order. For instance you can’t complete turn in a paper if you haven’t even written a first draft.

Now onto the fun part – how I’m actually using projects and organizing them.

For an updated look at how I’m now using projects see my new post.


I’ve broken things down into my three main areas of responsibility. I tend to see my life in terms of being a graduate student, employee, and everything else so my three categories are Work, School, and Personal – listed in order of importance. I do this so that they show up in my perspectives in order of importance automatically.

It’s also worth noting, I try to arrange my projects and lists so that general single action lists are at the top, followed by specific projects, then Someday/Maybe lists and templates. Having things in this order pleases my OCD tendencies. The one exception to this arrangement is my folder for personal 2014 Goals which I have above my routine tasks purely because I like seeing them before my mundane tasks like clean the bathroom floor.

So let’s look at how I have my Work section organized.


  • Single Action Lists:
    • General Work Tasks – This list is for miscellaneous tasks that don’t have a specific project. Things like turning in my timesheet, re-charge my mouse, or wipe down my desk periodically would go here.
    • Student Management – This is where I keep all my supervisory tasks to keep me on track for semesterly performance and pay rate evaluations, scheduling, tracking the hiring processes of new employees, and fun things like bringing in treats for special occasions too.
    • Agendas –  I’m a big believer in saving up my miniscule thoughts and questions until I meet with someone or have enough to make sending an email worthwhile, so I keep track of those things here if they don’t fit in a specific project below.
  • Projects
    • User Support Meetings is a sequential project to track a new departmental bi-weekly meeting I’m chairing. Realistically speaking, once this gets going it will become a single action list as these will hopefully not end.
    • Remote Support Solution is also a sequential project to track the work I’m doing to research a new remote support solution for our department. Tasks here involve working with the vendor as well as members of our department to find something that works best for all of us.
  • Someday/Maybe is simply a list for things I want to do at some point, just not now.
  • I’m going to save discussing Templates for a separate post.


Moving down to School, I honestly don’t have much to say about this one right now as I’m currently taking a break from school. I was planning on applying to a new program for the Fall, but there were complications in getting my third recommendation letter submitted and I’ve missed the Fall deadline. Even though school is technically on hold,  I’m still tracking my application process for the Spring so I’ve left it active. When I’m taking classes, you’d find a project for each class. Within each project, I break down the semester into sub-projects by week and list any assignments within that.

Personal is undoubtedly my largest area, so let’s break it down:


  • General Tasks is a single action list for one-off tasks that don’t fit anywhere else.
  • Shopping List is another single action list where I track things I want to buy. (Items on my wishlist also go here but with a “Someday/Maybe” context.)
  • Next I have a folder for 2014 Goals. Inside you’ll find:
    • Run a 5K, a parallel project that contains a sequential project I’m using to track my training progress.
    • Read 52 books in 2014 is a sequential project where I’m checking off my reading progress. {I’m also tracking this in Goodreads, but I like checking things off.}
    • Room remodel is a parallel project where I’m tracking all things room remodel related.
  • My next folder is Routine for things I do on a regular basis broken down further into:
    • Cleaning
    • Computer Tasks
    • Finances
    • and Personal Care
  • Up next is Blog which I’ve broken down into
    • General Blog Tasks (things like reminders to post on a regular basis
    • Post Ideas
  • And of course these are followed by Someday/Maybe and Templates as with the Work section.

So there’s my Omnifocus Project set up. What I love most about writing these set up posts is that they give me a chance to be really critical about how I organize things. Certain projects or contexts seem to make perfect sense, but when you try to explain them to someone else, you realize they really fit better in another project or context. For instance, I had a single-action list for tracking what I set my DVR to record in my personal routine tasks section, but there’s nothing routine about recording a movie once, nor do I do this enough for it to need it’s own list.

Up next I’m going to discuss templates as promised, and then to the fun part, perspectives.

Until next time,

Signature Update


2 thoughts on “Organizing Projects in Omnifocus

  1. Nick Cohen says:

    This is great, thanks so much! I’m in the process of reorganizing my folders as it’s gotten so cluttered and I’ve been bad at not keeping it organized. I also like how you have some things consolidated into one project that I might make several projects for. I always have trouble remembering to keep it simple!

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