BLUF: You can use OmniFocus (or your task management app of choice) to track your quarterly and annual goals. If you use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, the information in this post works perfectly with an OmniFocus/FFP hybrid set up.
There are probably other ways to track goals in OmniFocus, but I’ve outlined the process I’m starting with below. It may change over time.
Goals Become Projects in OmniFocus
I have three goals set up as projects in OmniFocus:
- Pass the entrance exam for National Association of Parliamentarians by 9/30/19
- Read 12 books by 12/31/2019
- Lose 20 pounds by 9/30/2019
This is my first time attempting to track goals in OmniFocus. Now that I’ve set up goals in OmniFocus, I’ve noticed that OmniFocus works more comfortably with achievement goals than it does habit goals. Many achievement goals have specific steps you’ll need to accomplish in order to reach your target. Other types of achievement goals require habit goals to be built into them. By contrast, habit goals are simple in concept and repetitive in nature: pick a habit you want to build and do that activity x numbers of times per day or week. We’ll see an example of each type of goal below.
A Word About Due Dates
I’ve written elsewhere that I strongly recommend avoiding the use of false due dates. If a task doesn’t have a hard and specific due date, don’t assign one to it just because you want to work on it on a specific day. It’s unfortunate that most task management apps operate based on dates. OmniFocus is not date-centered, and that’s a very, very good thing.
My goals are planned in conjunction with the Full Focus Planner, the analog portion of my hybrid system. Using the FFP, goals are managed on a quarter-by-quarter basis. I want to make sure the goals are either accomplished or revamped as necessary within a specific three month window, so, for these projects and the tasks that will go into them, I will use due dates.
Goal 1: Pass the entrance exam for National Association of Parliamentarians by 9/30/19
All three of my goals are written as achievement goals because I want specific outcomes. Goal 1 is truly an achievement goal. This is something I felt needed a specific plan of action with specific benchmarks. So it’s actually going to look and feel like a real project. I set each individual step in the process as a separate task with an appropriate defer date and due date.
This goal is pretty specific in that I have set days for studying each lesson, review days, etc. It actually looks like any other project you would set up in OmniFocus, so I didn’t include an image here.
Goal 2: Read 12 books by 12/31/2019
Goals 2 and 3, though, could have taken the form of more relaxed habit goals. For example, instead of setting a goal to read twelve books by the end of 2019, I could have set a habit goal of reading for x number of minutes each day. And, in a bit of honest self-reflection, this goal may resort to being a habit goal before it’s all said and done because I’m a pretty slow reader. This goal is already a significant challenge for me, so we’ll see how far I get.
I will need to read two books a month to accomplish this goal. So I’ve set defer dates and due dates for each book. Book 1—The Goldfinch1, if you’re wondering—is due to be finished by July 15. The tasks that accompany Book 2 (Living Forward) are deferred in OmniFocus until July 16, then. On July 16, I will…
- calculate the required numbers of pages-per-day for Living Forward and
- begin reading Living Forward
The final task for this goal is to reevaluate my progress. I’m really expecting to have to reconfigure the goal so I didn’t take the time to create the tasks for the last six books, although I do have them picked out and written in my Full Focus Planner.
Goal 3: Lose 20 pounds by 9/30/2019
Goal 3 is a habit goal disguised as an achievement goal. I do want and need to lose weight but, really, that just takes my getting into gear and doing something about it. I’m trying intermittent fasting for the first time. I’ve done my research, and I know it might be a bandwagon thing, but at least it’s a bandwagon thing with a great deal of scientific and medical support. But intermittent fasting doesn’t go in OmniFocus. Exercise does, however, go in OmniFocus.
There are thirteen weeks in the third quarter of 2019. So I set thirteen parent tasks (Week One, Week Two, etc.) under Goal 3. Each parent task is due on Sunday (I run Monday through Sunday weeks in keeping with the FFP setup). Under each parent task, I have four tasks: three instances of Exercise and one instance of Weigh in. Each of the three Exercise tasks has a defer date of Monday of that particular week. Exercise 1 has a due date of Friday because it’s at that point that, if I haven’t exercised yet, I won’t accomplish three exercise sessions by Sunday. Exercise 2, then, has a due date of Saturday and Exercise 3, of course, has a due date of Sunday. That means that, as far as OmniFocus goes, all three exercise tasks are active at the same time. But it doesn’t matter what days of the week I exercise. It just matters that I exercise three times during that week. When I see these tasks come up in my Forecast view on Sunday as I’m setting up the next week, I can decide on what days I’ll write them in my FFP. But OmniFocus won’t fuss at me until after 9:00 PM on Sunday.
The Weigh in task likewise has a defer date of Sunday at 6:00 PM each week and a due date of Sunday at 9:00 PM. I’ll be able to see this task in Forecast view for the upcoming week so I’ll be able to add it to Sunday in my FFP.
One last note about the tags for these tasks. You’ll notice in the image for Goal 2 (Read 12 books by 12/31/2019) that I tagged all of the tasks with the 🗓 Today tag. Actually, all of the tasks in these goals are tagged with that tag; you just can’t see it in the other images. Obviously, I don’t plan to complete (or even work on) all of these tasks today. But, I have a Today perspective in OmniFocus that is set up to show me all available tasks tagged with 🗓 Today. The key here is all available tasks. Because many of the tasks in these goals have defer dates in the future, they are not available today. They will, however, be available on their defer dates and will at that time magically appear in my Today perspective. And because I have set 🗓 Today as my Forecast tag, I will be able to see them ahead of time in the Forecast perspective on their defer dates. The text will be grayed out because the tasks are not yet available, but they’re visible and I can then enter them on the appropriate day in my Full Focus Planner during my weekly preview.
- I’m actually already more than halfway through this book so at this point, I feel like I need to finish it. But, it’s drudgery. It’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning book and received high praise from Stephen King and many others. I honestly don’t see its allure. But, that’s a rabbit I don’t need to chase here.