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OmniFocused 2012-01-19 11:25 PM

How do I prioritize next actions?!?!?!?
I'm the kind of person that gets VERY overwhelmed when I see 55 things in front of me that I have to (or want to) do - so much so that I wind up getting absolutely nothing done when this happens, because I can't figure out what deserves my attention at any given moment and I kind of surrender. With that in mind, I'm trying to figure out how to prioritize my next action items. I have no problem with my "due today and flagged" perspective, as that is FAIRLY shoter and much easier to manage...the problem occurs once I've accomplished those tasks and move onto my next actions. Upon opening up the perspective, I'm prompted with bunch of next tasks, all of which I want to tackle. The problem is....for example, if I'm in front of my computer and I choose all the next tasks in the "@ computer" context, I see 10-15 items, all of which are assigned to "live" projects (not on hold) and I have a hard time figuring out which is more meaningful. If I only have 30 mins to get things done and most of the items are less than 15-20 mins or so, I can't figure out what to do first. I think I'm actually getting down to the core of a much more fundimental problem of mine (ADD???) but I'm wondering if anyone else falls into the same boat and how they solve this. Maybe I need a good book/read? Thanks in advance.

I just realized this post is pretty similar to my last post (reg errands), sorry for the coincidence, I didn't mean to (semi) double post, I really just noticed now. I guess I'm really facing a crippling problem here.

whpalmer4 2012-01-20 08:48 AM

If they are all important, and you're having trouble deciding, why not just do the first one on the list, and spend the time getting something done instead of agonizing over which thing to do next? Part of the thinking behind the Getting Things Done system which inspired OmniFocus is that you can minimize the time spent choosing what you do by breaking projects down into appropriate next actions.

djc225 2012-01-29 01:06 PM

im in the same boat
i agree, it's very tough to focus on the absolutely most important next action when there is a big list. I'm new to omnifocus and gtd and i've heard other people mention shortening their list by using "contexts", but that doesn't as almost all of my projects are at my computer and breaking them down by function isnt really meaningful by my work (except for breaking out email so i can focus on only doing emails). maybe that can work for you. other thing i'm starting to try is flagged items and just break down review cycles to smaller intervals. review active projects at least every day maybe once in the morning once in the afternoon (not necessarily with the review functionality but just a quick scan of the overall projects). then you can review the onhold projects weekly or at some larger interval.

if not, maybe someone has any good solutions for dealing with 20 active projects and next actions?

ozengo 2012-01-30 01:41 AM

I have developed a couple of tricks. The most important one is to use due dates very sparingly - for non-negotiable rather than aspirational timelines. You can then, when reviewing a project, push the start date into the future instead of using the due date for planning purposes. In other words, an active task that you do not intend to tackle this afternoon can be pushed forward to tomorrow or next week. This reduces the bloat of your 'today' view and makes the most urgent stuff stand out more. In addition, I use the flags. I would actually really like two different colours, so I could use one set to flag work priorities and another one for home tasks. In the absence of that option I have started adding @1 to the description of high priority work tasks. That is a quick and easy way of making next tasks searchable across projects. Hope these thoughts are of use.


Lizard 2012-01-30 11:18 AM

When I'm looking at more work than I can possibly do today, I pick a few things NOT to do. I set their start dates to tomorrow or next week. Now I've got a smaller list of available tasks that I can get my head around.

InAccuFacts 2012-06-17 06:51 AM

Mark Forster to the rescue
Forster's AutoFocus system is basically an algorithm for going through a long list of tasks. [url][/url] for directions. (It's free).

I keep going back to it, even while trying to stay better organized with OF. This thread has made me think that the two might work well together.

EugeneB 2012-06-17 11:38 AM

It is tough when you see even 5 actions to choose what is the right one to start with.

I used GTD for almost 5 years and still didn't get how to choose what's most important. I didn't get the concept of context, time, energy because either you have priority and do it or not. And it doesn't matter if you have energy or not. Anyway as David himself told you should use your gut feeling to choose the right next action. That never worked for me.

Another Guru - Julie Morgenstern - suggested to use time, ROI and deadline system to choose. It means you should write down all your next actions and then put down their ROI, time, deadline. I think it's too complex and could take 15-30 min just to guess what to do :)

My approach is in between. Split the day between work, home, family and other roles. Read through all your available actions when in the zone. If nothing jumped at you then do them one by one starting from the top. Do as many as you can do in 1 hour. I schedule doing time because I have too many meeting requests and want to protect that time. Usually my next actions turn to be 2-5 min long. I can do dozen of them through this doing hour moving projects ahead.

wilsonng 2012-06-17 03:21 PM

THe first thing I do is to go to Planning mode and flag three big projects that i want to gain significant progress in this week.

If there are individual tasks that are not part of a big project, I will flag those as well.

I am assuming that you have a next action perspective created and probably placed on your toolbar.

My next action perspective has these settings:

Context perspective:
Context filter: Active
Grouping: Context
Sorting: Due
Availability Filter: Available
Status Filter: Any Status
Estimated Time Filter: Any Duration

I would peek into the next action perspective and flag individual available Next Actions that i want to get done this week.

The first thing I do every morning is to check my calendar to see what appointments I have to keep. Then I check another context perspective that I placed in my toolbar called "Today". Here are the settings:

Context perspective:
Context filter: Active
Grouping: Context
Sorting: Due
Availability Filter: Available
Status Filter: Due or Flagged
Estimated Time Filter: Any Duration

The only difference is that I changed the status filter to Due or Flagged.
Any available next actions that are due soon or flagged will appear here. I look at my Today perspective and try to knock off as many of the tasks in here.

I will only look at my Next Actions perspective when I don't want to do anything on "Today" perspective. The Next Actions perspective gives me a bigger menu of available next actions to work on.

Learn about the Someday/Maybe concept as well. Put all new projects and all projects that you think you will do in the future automatically to "On Hold." During the weekly review, go through your projects and ask yourself "do I want to work on this project in the next 7-14 days?" If the answer is yes, set the status to "Active". If it is a project that you think you'll put off to sometime in the future, set the status to "On Hold". If it is a project that sounded nice but you don't know if you'll invest the time in it, either delegate it to someone else who has the time, energy, skills, and tools to do it or just delete it.

When you weed out the garden, your garden will look new fresh. You have to weed out your OmniFocus projects list, be honest with yourself and your capabilities, and either set things to Active, On Hold, delegate, or delete.

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