Learn about Dropping Tasks – a New OmniFocus Function

The Omni Group is adding some functionality in allowing the user to drop tasks. You can join the beta here.

The 3.4 update adds a new “Dropped” state for a task. Tasks can now be:

  • First Available
  • Available
  • Remaining
  • Completed
  • Dropped

A dropped task appears with a new corresponding sign:

A dropped task has similarities and differences with a completed task. They are similar in that a dropped task is removed from any views that only allow Remaining and Available tasks. A dropped task is different in that it still allows for a differentiation between the two.

An example may illustrate its use better.

An Example of Using a Dropped Task

Here I have an exercise task set to repeat every 2 days:

We can drop the task by selecting it, and then, either:

  • Use the menu command:
  • Type the key command (Option-Space).

When dropped, OmniFocus offers the following options:

We can either:

  • Skip This Occurrence which drops the current task and creates a new identical task 2 days from now.
  • Drop Completely which drops the current task and does not create a future task.

Where the benefit may come in is in retrospect. For example, we can create a perspective that only looks at dropped tasks, grouping them by the date they were dropped.

A Dropped Tasks Perspective

This gives you a perspective that you could visit at the end of the day:

Dropping tasks would help to free up a Today view of things as you felt that you could not get to them. But, using the Dropped Tasks perspective, you would still have a way to review dropped tasks at day’s end to see if you could return anything to a working list if time permitted.

Cautions

There are certain cautions to this approach, however. I could easily imagine a user getting into the habit of overburdening the Today view reasoning that tasks could always be dropped and later reviewed. However, an overburdened list is poisoned in that it must be thought through precisely at those times when it should be instead be supporting you.

Dropping tasks is fine, but perhaps it is best considered a signal that some estimation of workload was amiss during the day. When thought through, we can use a goal of minimizing dropping tasks as a way to practice visualizing what we feel is realistic in our work days.

A second caution appears when returning a task from dropped repeating to active. Since OmniFocus created a new task at the repeat frequency when we originally dropped the task, we already have something set for 2 days from now. Returning the dropped task, perhaps if we suddenly find time in the day, now creates a second task. Once completed, OmniFocus will create another instance 2 days from now. This duplication of tasks won’t be apparent until 2 days from now. For this reason, instead of returning a repeating task from dropped to active, it might be better to simply create a new exercise task for today, instead.

A Change of Key Commands

Please note, the default key command for dropping a task is Option-Space. Previously, I had written about using Option-Space to open links using Keyboard Maestro and an AppleScript. I have, therefore, changed the key command for doing so to Option-Command-Space.

To make this change, I also had to make an adjustment to the mac system settings:

  • Open System Preferences
  • Go to Keyboard
  • Go to Shortcuts tab:
  • In the left column, go to Spotlight
  • Uncheck Show Finder Search window:

Certainly, feel free to chose a key command less troublesome to set up, but I like this one.