My Omnifocus Setup

Matt Perman’s new book has me re-examining my time and task management systems. I have seen some questions floating around about optimal OmniFocus setup, so I thought I’d share mine. I don’t know that it’s optimal, but perhaps this will be helpful, and if anyone has any insights to optimizing, that would be great!

Here’s a screenshot:


The Folder Structure

Top level: by area of responsibility.

I organize the top level by major areas of responsibility in my life. This is the top-tier differentiator in tasks for me. It helps me focus on a sub-set of tasks during my various schedule “zones”. My major areas are:

  • Stonebrook – The church I serve as pastor, music ministry leader, and in theological training. (SFP = Spiritual Formation Process, the super-structure over our theological training, mentorship, and overall discipleship)
  • Home – Speaks for itself. (If you look closely, you can see that I don’t currently have any tasks entered here, that is simply a failure to capture several that I know are currently outstanding.  Going to remedy that after this post!)
  • Mere – The Web Design and Development Agency I own and direct.
  • Zeke’s – The non-profit, all-volunteer music, arts, an community events center I direct.
  • Personal – Most all of my tasks fit somewhere above, but this is a space I use for tinkering, avocational projects, or things that cross areas.
  • Someday Maybe – This should really go as a sub-folder in every one of the above top-levels.

Second level: by category of task.

I think I use this level because I’m a little OCD about taxonomies, but it helps me to know the difference between admin and vision type tasks in the case of church, or support vs. new work vs. business dev tasks in the case of  Mere.  These categories should be pretty self-evident?

Third level: by specific project

If a specific project contains a number of sub-projets, I’ll use a folder to contain them all.  For example, under “Active projects”, I will have a specific site’s name that I am working on, with an OmniFocus project “card” for each major sub-project.



I don’t use contexts. I find that it slows down my task capture to enter them initially, and it doesn’t help my review process or execution to have a context attached.  My folder structure covers this.


Per GTD principle, I almost never use deadlines.  The only time a deadline becomes relevant are 1) in the case of a contractual agreement (in which case you cannot miss it), or 2) if a project or task becomes irrelevant after that time.


I use flags extensively during my daily review.  This sets up my tasks for the day.  Most of the time I’m viewing OmniFocus in this perspective.

Hope this was helpful!




5 responses to “My Omnifocus Setup”

  1. Doug Dale Avatar
    Doug Dale

    That was helpful. I’m reading “What’s Best Next” right now and I’m guessing by the time I’m done I’ll be reevaluating my system as well. I really like OmniFocus, but I never feel like I’m using it quite as I should. Your comments about not using deadlines and heavily using flagging were helpful. I’m going to think about that in my system. I suppose I ought to finish the book first, though!

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      I recommend finishing the book, and then reviewing the book Getting Things Done, while working with Omnifocus :)

      BTW, I feel pretty comfortable with how things are working with OF, but I do get that feeling of “am I using this correctly?” as well!!

  2. Matt Stephens Avatar

    Matt, I just downloaded OmniFocus 2 for Mac (already had version 1 for iPhone and iPad) in order to help me manage a number of ministries, since I have just started as lead pastor of a church. The Omni2 interface is different from the one in your screenshot. Did you rename “Projects” as “Library” and then setup your areas of responsibility as Projects, with sub-level projects as your “actual” projects? I’ve been trying to move in this direction, but am having trouble translating the default setup/labels to something more along the lines of what you’re doing. Any guidance you could provide would be coveted.

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      Matt – this is my OF1 setup. I should do an update for OF2! I bought the pro version and set up a custom perspective for “What’s Best Next”. I’ll have to post about it and will update here when I do!

      1. Matt Stephens Avatar

        Thanks, Matt. I agree that’d be helpful. I figured out the answer to my primary question: Grouping projects. This was the “missing link” in my system. Very excited about the potential impact of this!

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