Ramblings from Josh Sullivan

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From OmniFocus to Todoist

Background Refresh

Recently I started using Todoist which has been a significant adjustment, but I’ve already seen a large number of benefits. For example, I knew that OmniFocus didn’t have great background refresh, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I started using Todoist. To compare, I first I opened each app on my iPhone, then closed them and waited about an hour. On my iPad, I added a task to both OmniFocus and Todoist with a due date of today, which should sync quickly then update the badge on both applications. Within a minute Todoist’s badge updated, OmniFocus still hadn’t updated 30 minutes later. After that, I opened OmniFocus and closed it, and the badge was updated. Unfortunately, this has been my experience with OmniFocus for a long time, and I thought OmniFocus 3 for iOS would fix this, but it did not. My default defer time in OmniFocus is 12 A.M. so when I wake up I expect to see a badge on OmniFocus but almost every morning I would wake up and no badge, then opening OmniFocus would immediately update the badge. Due to my immense dislike of app badges, they serve a big motivator to check off due tasks as quickly as possible. Since I started using Todoist, I am getting more tasks done earlier in my day.


My current job is Windows-based, and therefore when using OmniFocus if I need to capture a task at work, I would write it down in Drafts and send it to my OmniFocus Inbox. Using Todoist, I can easily add a task on Windows by clicking the extension in a browser where Quick Entry is fast, distraction-free, and efficient. With Todoist’s extension, I click it, press Q’, type my task and save. Quick Entry in the extension even gives you the option to Add website as task” which has less friction than copying and pasting into my Links Notebooks file or TheBrain, although often after adding the Todoist task I directly click the BrainBox extension and add it to TheBrain for later thought attachment or creation.

On iOS in Drafts, I have only one action that I use to send to Todoist; I type with Todoist’s natural language parsing, the action then sends the text to Todoist via their API where parsing on their servers takes place. User interaction is limited compared to OmniFocus even with X-Callback-URLs because Todoist does not open on the device. Previously in OmniFocus, I had five different actions then ended up having to create a 6th action to provide a quick way to select which action I wanted to run. Any of those actions would result in being thrown from Drafts into OmniFocus where I would need to input information and often get distracted from the current task at hand and lose concentration.

The elimination of opening my task manager when capturing tasks has resulted in being distracted fewer times. On the desktop thanks to Quick Entry I’ve found I get back to what I was doing faster without encountering any distractions that come from picking up my phone. Since switching, I am completing tasks earlier thus can get a jump start on tasks that are due the next day, write a post for this blog, or catch up on reading links I’ve saved.


Labels (think tags) and Filters (think perspectives), help refine the information I want to see. Currently, I only use one Label, forums,” but Filters I use all day long. My favorite Filters are:

  • Watch: Any task I have that has the word Watch in it. I’m a stickler for naming conventions, so all of these tasks start with Watch:”
  • Read: Same as Watch, but for reading links, books, manuals, instruction guides.
  • No Due Date: Self-Explanatory
  • Reply on Forum: Anytime I want to reply to a forum, but don’t have time at the time of discovering the post, I capture the Link with Todoist and name the task starting with Reply to:” and labeled with forums
  • Recurring: Any recurring task; Todoist allows you to search based on if it is set to repeat which is great to keep recurring tasks out of other Filters while keeping a list of them. Every day I check this Filter to see if anything is coming up like bills or take the car in for servicing.

todoist omnifocus

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