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-   -   how do you use OF to decide what to get done next? (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=10504)

bigcloits 2008-11-08 08:22 AM

how do you use OF to decide what to get done next?
 
This really isn’t particularly an OF issue, but more of a pure GTD question — and the OF user community seems up for that! Perhaps someone could also point me in the direction of a good pure GTD forum ...

Here’s the thing ...

I never know what to get done!

I use OF intensively to capture ideas for things to get done, and to organize my projects and actions. I feel like I’m pretty good at it, and it seems like I’m doing it more less just as David Allen intended. But my actual work day is too filled with dealing with things that are right in my face, and rarely try to use OF to figure out [I]what to do[/I].

The result is that I have a lovely and vast database of projects and actions that I review regularly ... but basically ignore. I am “going through the motions” of GTD, but what I actually choose to do all day every day is not really guided by anything stored in OF. Rather than choosing an action from OF, doing it, and then checking it off, I do things that come up essentially at random, and then go looking for those actions in OF so that I can have the satisfaction of checking them off!

And when I [I]do[/I] try to use OF to figure out what to do ... it just seems totally overwhelming. Dozens of “due” next actions from dozens of different projects, with, frankly, absolutely no sense of which with them is actually the most important next thing to do ... I just end up winging it and doing whatever “feels” the most urgent, a process does not feel at all organized! :-)

How can I better use OF to actually [I]choose[/I] actions?

malisa 2008-11-08 09:05 AM

Since you're asking about this from a pure GTD perspective, I would comment to make sure that if you're attaching a "due" date to something that it's a 'hard' date. Not a 'I'd kinda-like-to' get it done date. But then the question becomes, how to prioritize? I know, prioritize is almost a bad word in GTD.

I come from a Franklin-Covey background, and it's been really hard for me to break the lettering/numbering habit. But what really didn't work for me was kind of the same thing that you're describing. I'd end my day with 10 things that were on my list for the day that didn't get done.

Granted, I don't have a lot of super-time sensitive things in OF. But I use a combo of flags and durations. I thought that the durations were kind of 'silly'. But when I'm stuck and I'm not sure what to do...I often look for a 3-5 minute task to get me rolling. I find that once I'm moving, momentum kicks in. I don't assign durations to everything, but I have several repeating things that I can look to to get me moving. And those are the things that durations are easy to plug in, because you do them often, you know. Plus, since it's repeating, you only enter it once.

Flags, I use to give me my 'do today' list. I don't feel as bad unflagging an item at the end of the day (for instance if it was a work task and I didn't get it done on a Friday, I'll unflag it and then re-evaluate on Monday) as I did when I stared at items that weren't accomplished on an FC daily list. Also, I never flag so many that I'm overwhelmed.

Others successfully use the next-action, which would be even more GTD, but I guess I like to be more in control.

keone 2008-11-08 09:51 AM

I know how things can sometimes get out of control for all of us, and that managing our projects on OF can sometimes feel more like a chore than a help. One suggestion I have is to try to break down your tasks into smaller bites. I've done this with much success whenever I've started to feel overwhelmed. Also, look over your projects and tasks and make sure that they are as specific as you can make them.

Example: One of your projects may be to repaint a bathroom in your house. You may have a task in that project "Buy paint." Well, no. What color paint are you going to buy? And from where? Here's how it would look given my suggestions above:

PROJECT: REPAINT GUEST BATHROOM (sequential) With start and due dates.
Task 1: Discuss the new color scheme with my wife. Context: Home
Task 2: Measure walls to be painted. Context: Home
Task 3: Get paint sample cards. Context: Errands-Lowes
Task 4: Tape paint cards to bathroom walls. Context: Home
Task 5: Decide on paint color. Context: Home
Task 6: Purchase paint color xyz and supplies. Context: Errands-Lowes

And so on. You get the idea. Now, some may say that that's a little too detailed. But it really isn't, because once you look at your contexts--errands at Lowes for example--you'll see all these tasks grouped together that you can get done while you're at that particular store, or out running errands.

After you get all of that laid out in OF, two other powerful features of the application to help you well, focus, is to utilize the FOCUS icon in the toolbar for projects or folders, and the NEXT ACTION filter in the view bar. Both of these go a long way to lessening that overwhelmed feeling you described.

Lastly, are you religiously doing your weekly reviews? I schedule mine for Friday mornings, first thing, before I start plowing into my work for the day. When I first started with GTD, and later OF, I let those scheduled review sessions sometimes slide and suffered mightily for it. Only when I started making a do-or-die appointment with myself to do those weekly reviews as scheduled did I find that I was more on top of things.

Hope this helps.

abh19 2008-11-08 10:42 AM

Two things I think may help in this situation: clarify goals and make your "current projects" more selective.

One thing that can make deciding what to do difficult is not having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. I find it helpful to remind myself frequently of those goals I have set for myself. These can include mundane things like keeping the bills paid, weekly goals, short term goals like get the house more organized, or long term/life goals like start a business etc. If you don't have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, then it'll be worth your time to make some goal lists, and do some practical thinking about the steps (projects) that will move you toward the attainment of those goals. And review your goals periodically so they're fresh in your mind. There is some blending between small goals and "projects", so it's important to keep your actual goal lists as small as possible and not start listing random projects in there.

Where you list your goals is up to you. Wherever's easy for you to view them. You can post them on your wall or in your filing system. You can also put a project in OmniFocus that is either paused or in a separate folder that makes it not appear in your action lists. Record your goals in the notes field. This way, it's just a click away from you when you need it.

This leads to my next piece of advice, which is to be more selective about the projects you allow "on your plate" at any given time. Everyone is different, and I personally have a great deal of trouble trying to pick out the proper next action from a list of a hundred items. So I only allow those projects that I'm sure I want to accomplish now. I try to keep my current project list concentrated, so that every single action on there ought to be done as soon as possible. This keeps me from having to constantly re-scan my action list to weed out the important projects. And when a project no longer becomes really necessary or in line with my goals, delete it or relegate it to the someday maybe list for future evaluation.

Use your someday/maybe list very freely. For me, I have use folder called Someday/maybe where I put all the ideas and projects I'm not really concerned about accomplishing soon (though some things in there ARE important). Review this once a month or so.

For me, I need something between Someday/Maybe and Current Projects. I often have a project I think I might want to do within the next month, so I don't want it to get lost in my someday maybe list (which is very big & tedious to scan every time I want to find a new project to do). In this case, I put it into my Next Projects folder, which is really just a someday maybe list but for things I'm pretty sure I'll want to put on my plate within the next month, but which I don't yet want to tackle. It doesn't need to be done now and I don't want to dilute my focus by sticking it in among the things I am currently working on.

I'm not sure what David Allen would say about having a "Next Projects" folder (or, basically, a long-term someday maybe list and a short-term someday maybe list), but for me, it really helps me to keep those next projects out of my head until they need to be there, and allows me to keep my current action lists focused and simple to pick the next action.

bigcloits 2008-11-08 07:41 PM

Okay, first of all, let me say ... what a community. OF users are half the reason to use OF! Thanks abh19, keone, malisa.


@malisa: I use flags very similarly. (And now I’m wondering how many others do.) And I seem to more or less get away with it. And I also don’t know if I’ll ever truly feel comfortable with it. Both flags and bright red “due” item seem to really push my psychological buttons — I do a little “oh %$@!#, that!” every time I see them. And that’s maybe okay if the action REALLY has to be done that day. But there are actually very few actions that are truly like that. Time and again I find myself blowing off even the flagged stuff, and realizing that it was optional after all — despite my best intentions not to flag stuff unless it truly must be done when due. Those little mental oh-crap anxiety seizures whenever I see a flagged, red item are exactly the kind of thing I wanted GTD to save me from. I think the calm, rational, mentally uncluttered and pure-GTD approach of only thinking in terms of what’s next is what I want ...

@keone, yes, absolutely religious about weekly reviews, despite the fact that it usually feels pointless, because I never actually do anything except mark everything as reviewed after looking at and thinking things like, “Nope,” “Nuh uh,” “Not even close,” “Can’t deal with that one yet,” “Not that one either” etc down the whole list. Occasionally I check something off that got done days ago but didn’t get checked at the time. That’s about it. It’s a ritual I am devoted to without much reward, yet.

(A little context ... part of my problem is that I have only one project I’m taking seriously, and that’s been true for a long time.)

@abh19 re: “selectivity” ... yes! More and more I’m noticing that most of my “active” projects are apparently wishful thinking. I am not being honest with myself. They ain’t. So, call a spade a spade and pause a few of them. Or maybe a lot of them. Or maybe [I]most of them.[/I]

So... I just tried putting a bunch of this advice into work and ...

I’ve paused a LOT of projects. Most of them. (I had been thinking of “paused” in terms too absolute. It’s not a permanent condition! It’s not project death, just hibernation.) And with the ones that remained, I defined more specific actions. And moved a lot of them to someday/maybe. And then I tried to “utilize the FOCUS icon in the toolbar for projects or folders, and the NEXT ACTION filter in the view bar.” I had done that before, but the result was always a humungous list of first actions from too many active projects. With only the truly active projects ...

Interesting effect!

For the first time, I feel as though I have in my OF window both [I]complete and useful[/I] and yet [I]not overwhelming[/I] information about what I might choose to do next. Which also frees me to be choosier about what to make due and/or flag — that is, I don’t have to make something due and flagged as a way of making sure I notice it. Which means less of those oh-crap mental moments.

I’m sure this isn’t over, but I think I made a huge leap here ... thanks!

bigcloits 2008-11-08 08:00 PM

A more specific question about zooming in on next actions ...

When viewing only next actions of active projects, I notice that my single action projects show ALL their actions. I understand the rationale for it (I think), but they sorta visually overwhelm projects that may be much more important yet are displaying [I]only[/I] a next action. So I get this kind of effect ...

sequential project: save Earth from hostile aliens
action: hack mothership wifi network from iPhone

single action project: misc cat stuff
action: buy cat food
action: pat cat
action: clean litterbox
action: do cat’s bidding
etc, etc for fifty cat-o-centric items

Really, saving Earth is probably more important than (indeed a pre-requisite for) doing the cat’s bidding. But the cat’s list takes up waaaay more screen real estate and consequently seems more important, which is doubtless how the cat would want it, but it constitutes clutter and heats up me brain.

Can anything be done about this? Some lists could be paused, but other need to stay active. But it seems like if they are active, they show all their actions.

whpalmer4 2008-11-08 08:42 PM

Making the cat care project a parallel project might do the trick. My cats haven't complained yet :-) Truth be told, I actually changed my daily pet care project to a single action list (with lots of repeating actions/groups) in the last week or so, after a long time with it as a parallel project. I don't spend a lot of time working from a next actions only view, and usually do the pet care stuff immediately upon rising, so it doesn't have much visual impact. I'm not entirely sure why I changed it, other than a vague thought that perhaps it isn't really a project, having no real desired outcome.

gcrump 2008-11-09 03:12 AM

This is a great thread. I've made an action to come back and read it in more detail. :)

I would like to see a Applying Omnifocus section of the Omnifocus forum. This area would be for how to apply OF in your daily life as opposed to the "why won't it sync with x" stuff. Both are important but I like to see some additional threads along this line...

SpiralOcean 2008-11-09 07:09 AM

Great Thread.

Something I'm trying out is using the Due grouping and assigning project due dates. The grouping will place the projects in handy containers like: due this week, due next week, due a month from now.

This assigns all tasks without a due date the projects due date.

Then when working in the contexts list, I can also group by due date and sort by due date. This helps to prioritize the actions on the list.

Jantz 2008-11-09 07:23 AM

Using Flags
 
I started using Flags to help with the GTD-style of choosing what to do.

Context
Time
Energy
Highest personal payoff

In each context I put a flag on one item, and one item only, that I think might give me the highest personal payoff. It might not be THE best choice but maybe a good place to start. Identifying this flag forces me to review my next actions a little more closely.

I think using flags more than this would be counterproductive (for me!) by adding noise to my lists but it helps a little.

Another "trick" I've found helpful is to open a context and pick one item and DO that one. Don't worry about whether it's right or wrong just do it. It helps connect with your lists and to also make sure your next actions are truly the next physical, visible action.

Good stuff here!

- Mark

GregO 2008-11-09 08:32 AM

Another option might be to use flags a little differently to identify those projects which are critical to moving ahead on your primary life goals(or quarterly, yearly goals as appropriate). The tasks under those projects get the "ghost flag" and you can see which activities are truly important (although not necessarily time sensitive). This way you can balance those tasks with the urgent activities which are coming at you day-to-day. Of course the downside here is that negates the ability for folks to use flags to identify things you want to get done today.

SpiralOcean 2008-11-09 09:52 AM

Great point about just doing one thing Mark. I find that helps me as well. When I'm resisting getting anything done, I just tell myself... just do this one thing. It's the journey of 1000 miles starts with this one step mindset. I don't have to walk 1000 miles, just one step.

needles27 2008-11-09 02:46 PM

@bigcloits -

I saw in one of your posts that you mentioned anxiety whenever you would see your due dates turning to red and passing by.

One thing that I have internalized through reading other people's experience was that I never put a due date on something unless it *absolutely needs to happen by that date. I used to put due dates as a way to spur me to take action on something by a certain day, but I found that if it was just a "wish" to do it and not a "have to," then it would slip by and turn red with no consequence. To me, that was the same system I used to have which was to put a to-do item in iCal for a certain day, and just let it keep slipping day by day. This was the exact wrong way to utilize OF in its most GTD-ness.

But, once I understood that a due date in OF meant that it *had to get done by/on a certain day, I stopped assigning due dates as much. For example, if I have "Call Phil" in the system, and he is leaving for Antarctica on Friday for a year, then I will put a due date on that one. Because when it turns red on Saturday, then forget it - he's gone. So, red actions to me means that I blew it.

It seems like Flags are really the way to go with highlighting those things that you feel you want to accomplish today/tomorrow/this week in order to stand out from massive list, but missing one won't be a disaster.

cyleigh 2008-11-09 03:00 PM

This is a great discussion, and certainly deciding what to do is a decision that often plagues me! I had been using due dates to make me try and get stuff done, but all that really did was make them go red, have me panic and then just change the due date again (and still not do the action)! When I first got to work this morning there were probably 150 actions that were in context for me to do while at work today.

So I decided that I could try some of the suggestions in this thread. Getting things off my plate was a great thought, I'm going on maternitity leave at the end of the year, and there were so many projects that I realalistically am simply not going to do before I leave, so I just dropped them all. Others were put on hold, and marked to review in a months time. I reduced my 'active' projects by about 2/3rds.

I then went through and removed all false due dates, to get rid of the panic I discussed above. At this stage I had reduced my 'next action' list to around 30 actions so I grouped them by project and went through and quickly flagged the things that either I really should get done today, or that I felt like doing today. I now have 9 things that I will get done today (in theory). I did have 15, but on a second look I realised that I had scheduled 15 hours of stuff to do in an 8 hour work period, so I chose between some actions that took up a lot of time each.

Interestingly, I tried to order the remaining actions by duration, but I didn't like the order. So I carefully broke up one item until it was in small enough pieces that it came 'first' on the list. I think that (for me at least) this shows that there are always some items that you want to do, either because you have a block next to the others (in my case because I am resentful that these actions are my responsibility in the first place) or some seem more fun. There is nothing wrong with doing things that you want to do first, first. I find that it helps me feel like things are getting done, and then I stay on track for the rest of the day. I guess others may feel that if they do the 'boring' stuff first, they get the 'reward' of doing the interesting stuff later.

SpiralOcean 2008-11-09 06:00 PM

Regarding setting due dates that are not hard due dates.

In the past I have also shied away from placing due dates on things that didn't really need to be done by a certain date because when something really needs to be done I want to know about it.

The problem I have is... I still have many projects that then never get done. I wanted someway to plan out projects so I can be spurred to get them done.

I've gone back to setting due dates for projects so that when I look at a context and sort by due date and start processing from the top down I have a chance of getting some of those projects that have been sitting around forever completed.

I don't know if this system will work for me yet.

There are other ways to sort and group. Start Date, Creation Date, Modified Date. I've tried Start Date, but I filter my contexts for available actions which means I won't see any projects that haven't been started yet.

My goal is to complete all tasks that are due or due soon (within 24 hours is due soon for me). If I make it to the green 0 in the menu bar, then I pick a context and start working on those tasks. Which are sorted by soft due date. (the project is due but the task is not due).

I tried using Flags for a while. But I use flags with Curt's cool applescript to find projects that are stalled. sigh. If only OmniFocus would change the stalled project filter to show me projects and parents with no children. This would free me up to use flags for things I want to get done today.

The problem with flags is on the iPhone app, I can't filter tasks so I only see my home flags or work flags. I see all flags.

It's a work in progress for me. I may get to the point where I go back to never setting due dates unless i need to. But with a due soon set to 24 hours, by the time I see a project is due, it may be too late.

To recap:
I set project due dates for "soft" due dates of when I want to have projects done. I sort by due date in the context list to encourage me to work on projects that I want to have done sooner.

If I need a hard due date, I set a task due date.

bigcloits 2008-11-10 07:48 AM

Seems like I hit a nerve with this thread! I'm now a proud thread papa.

And, regrettably I can't contribute as thoughtfully and thoroughly as I'd like to this morning, because, well, I've got a lot of things to do ... ;-) But I want to quickly inject yet another due date dilemma into the discussion, something that occurred to me reading needles' comments ...

I see the need ... but I just can't ditch low priority due dates. "Due" and even "overdue" are not concepts that I want to be shackled to a sense of urgency. It should be possible for something to be due without being any kind of a problem, just information. Example ...

One of the coolest things OF has done for me is to let me know when it is time to follow-up with people. I can quickly and easily create valuable actions like "call Joe when he's back in town" due in "3w". Without that action and its due date, there is bascially [i]no chance at all[/i] that I will call Joe in three weeks!

Yet the action is also low priority. And it is likely that I won't actually call Joe the day that action is due, but probably will call him within a few days. OF brings it to my attention at the right time, and then I spend 1-5 days looking for a good time to call him.

This is what I want to happen, but the action is also red the whole time. "Oh no, RED!" sez my hindbrain. :-) Fascinating how others have said "me too" about the anxiety produced by overdue actions ...

So having low-priority due items is clearly a recipe for a buncha red, overdue items in OF alla time. Yet I need 'em. Sigh. I have no solution for this at the moment ... just pointing out the dilemma.

ext555 2008-11-10 08:22 AM

one way to relieve the stress created by the red items [red is a stress creating color for me also ] is to use the " preferences " Menu and choose " style " and change the " overdue items " to a color less stressful for you [mine are orange ]

needles27 2008-11-10 09:28 AM

This is a great thread. I am always so interested to hear how other people are using OF. Also, for Bigcloits last comment - If it were me, I would just set a start date for when your friend gets back into town in three weeks, without a due date. That way, it won't show up on your available actions lists until then (he's not in town, so why put it into your field of view) and after three weeks rolls around, it will show up as available. And, if you use Growl, then you will even get the reminder that "Joe's in town - call him." Then, if you are doing your reviews (or even immediately), you can put a flag on that one to put it into your higher level of attention.

BUT, that is the beauty of OF - everyone can find their own way to make it work best for you. I certainly don't want to make it sound like this is the only way - just a way that I feel works best for me and keeps stress of red actions to a minimum. Hope you find a system that you like!

bigcloits 2008-11-10 09:45 AM

#ext555... wow, great suggestion. Why the heck not? It sounds so wanky to be stressed out by the redness of the overdue items, but for me the whole GTD revolution in my life has been all about taming the anxieties of workaholism in their many forms. And if that includes red things, okay, fine, I will make them less red. Thanks.

@needles... wow, another great suggestion. Especially the Growl angle — would not have thought of that! That would certainly be one way of putting such an action on my radar, without actually hassling me with the sense that it's due.

However, I am still leery of the idea of relegating "due" to near meaninglessness for non-urgent items. And I'm leery of making an item that really is due "just" available, because that demotes it to the same level of urgency as hundreds of other actions that are also available, but not actually due any time soon. And, still another concern: an "available" date obviously makes sense for an action that is literally irrelevant or impossible before a certain date, but it often such actions are [I]also[/I] more or less due at the same time that they become available, or very soon after, which brings due right back into the equation a lot of the time, unless you (once again) use due only to indicate both due-ness [I]and[/I] urgency ...

Still, [I]excellent[/I] food for thought. Thanks very much for the ideas.

Gardener 2008-11-10 07:14 PM

Re:

"And I'm leery of making an item that really is due "just" available, because that demotes it to the same level of urgency as hundreds of other actions that are also available, but not actually due any time soon. "

Just as another point of view: In my case, I make most of those actions not available, so that the ones that are available do have some significance. My main goal during the weekly review is to thin out the displayed actions so that I can choose what to work on without too much confusion.

So for me, having "call Joe" pop up with a Start Date a few days before I should call him, would make me reasonably likely to call Joe.

Gardener

bigcloits 2008-11-11 11:55 AM

[QUOTE=Gardener;50609]In my case, I make most of those actions not available, so that the ones that are available do have some significance.[/QUOTE]

So, you’re using the available date to “hide” actions for arbitrary periods, i.e. until you think you’ll want to do them? Sort of like a hopeful due date, except with the added benefit that they are hidden until they become available?

needles27 2008-11-11 03:00 PM

This is a cornerstone of the software. Start Dates is one of the most important aspects of making sure you are looking at the most relevant activities at any given time. Setting a "Start Date" will hide the action from view (unless you choose to see all actions) and then have it show up when ready. So, using your example before about calling Joe in three weeks - input the action and set a start date for three weeks from now. It will not appear on any of your "Available Action" lists - so it is not on your mind at all. And then in three weeks - if you have growl set up - a little window will appear that morning saying "Call Joe." If you don't use growl, then it will just be sitting there in your available actions list, waiting for your attention.

Now it will be visible on your Available actions. You can choose now to set a due date (if you really want to!) flag it, let it sit or better yet - Call Joe!

whpalmer4 2008-11-11 09:50 PM

[QUOTE=bigcloits;50560]
However, I am still leery of the idea of relegating "due" to near meaninglessness for non-urgent items. And I'm leery of making an item that really is due "just" available, because that demotes it to the same level of urgency as hundreds of other actions that are also available, but not actually due any time soon. And, still another concern: an "available" date obviously makes sense for an action that is literally irrelevant or impossible before a certain date, but it often such actions are [I]also[/I] more or less due at the same time that they become available, or very soon after, which brings due right back into the equation a lot of the time, unless you (once again) use due only to indicate both due-ness [I]and[/I] urgency ...

Still, [I]excellent[/I] food for thought. Thanks very much for the ideas.[/QUOTE]

Build yourself a tickler perspective. This is context view, group by start date, available. Look at it each day to easily check on things newly available for action. Helps you jump on things as soon as they are available. Lots of satisfaction in knocking something off before it has a chance to sit around and ferment!

Gardener 2008-11-12 01:40 PM

[QUOTE=bigcloits;50648]So, you’re using the available date to “hide” actions for arbitrary periods, i.e. until you think you’ll want to do them? Sort of like a hopeful due date, except with the added benefit that they are hidden until they become available?[/QUOTE]

Yep, exactly. They're hidden, and if they pop up and I still won't have time in the next few days, I don't get the same guilt that I do from missing a "due" date - I just push them forward again. And they don't clutter up my "due" lists, so I can trust those lists to include things that are really really due.

Editing to add: The down side of this is that many tasks that I _could_ do, that might happen to be the perfect task for some particular moment, won't appear at that moment because I set their Start Date to some date in the future. I'm largely disregarding this for now, because having too many tasks keeps me from even looking at my task list at all, and that's worse. Eventually when I can handle a longer task list, I'll try to restrict my use of Start Dates. But I'm not there yet.

Gardener

bigcloits 2008-11-13 07:16 AM

[QUOTE=Gardener;50710]Editing to add: The down side of this is that many tasks that I _could_ do, that might happen to be the perfect task for some particular moment, won't appear at that moment because I set their Start Date to some date in the future. I'm largely disregarding this for now, because having too many tasks keeps me from even looking at my task list at all, and that's worse. Eventually when I can handle a longer task list, I'll try to restrict my use of Start Dates. But I'm not there yet.[/QUOTE]

Yeah, that was exactly the downside I was worried about when I asked for clarification! Tried to express it, couldn't, and then just decided to ask for clarification ... and you've said it perfectly.

And I completely agree that it's the lesser of evils.

Certain kinds of actions are especially suited to this strategy, though, and I started using it immediately after you first posted it. It just suddenly seemed natural and obvious for some tasks.

sgbotsford 2008-11-16 02:36 AM

[QUOTE=Jantz;50496]I started using Flags to help with the GTD-style of choosing what to do.

Another "trick" I've found helpful is to open a context and pick one item and DO that one. Don't worry about whether it's right or wrong just do it. It helps connect with your lists and to also make sure your next actions are truly the next physical, visible action.

Good stuff here!

- Mark[/QUOTE]
I agree.

It is SOOO easy to get sucked into the planning and record keeping and not get anything done. Much of the time getting *something* done is good enough. The planning helps to get the important ones done if you can't do them all, it helps you combine tasks effectively (especialy errands) and it helps you from getting into a trap where something is stuck until something else happens. (What do you mean the new shower will take 3 weeks to get here?)

I get sucked in and dither a lot from project to project. (I've got the attention span of a gnat.) Often at the end of the day, I've made some progress on 8 different things, but haven't finished a single action. I'm hoping that OF will help me focus, and spend less time flipping from one thing to another.

whpalmer4 2008-11-16 07:04 AM

[QUOTE=sgbotsford;50942]I agree.

It is SOOO easy to get sucked into the planning and record keeping and not get anything done. Much of the time getting *something* done is good enough. The planning helps to get the important ones done if you can't do them all, it helps you combine tasks effectively (especialy errands) and it helps you from getting into a trap where something is stuck until something else happens. (What do you mean the new shower will take 3 weeks to get here?)

I get sucked in and dither a lot from project to project. (I've got the attention span of a gnat.) Often at the end of the day, I've made some progress on 8 different things, but haven't finished a single action. I'm hoping that OF will help me focus, and spend less time flipping from one thing to another.[/QUOTE]

If you haven't finished a single action, perhaps you are making your actions too big. Yes, it makes the list seem even more daunting to have a lot of smaller actions (vacuum floor mats, pick up trash, clean windows, file gas receipts) vs. some bigger ones (clean car) but sometimes the smaller actions are a better match to attention span, energy/motivation, available time, etc. You'll probably make more progress getting a bunch of those done (even if you might not finish the whole project) than picking up and dropping bigger, less-defined tasks. It doesn't take that long to list a couple of steps and check them off, and you'll recoup the little time it takes with your increased productivity.

If you're running 10.5, check out the OmniFidget widget available from the OmniFocus product page. You tell it which context(s) to work from, and it just pops up one action after another for you to do (or skip).

Jody Severson 2008-11-18 08:27 PM

The GTD Police are NOT watching
 
Item #1: I have found it helps to relieve the anxiety of having too many things to do...to just go in and start marking as completed, or deleting, things that I thought of and typed in...but probably am not going to do. Just cross stuff off. Guilt sucks as a motivator. Just cross off stuff. If you screw up and cross off something you should not have, it will probably come back anyway. You can't do everything you can think of. It's OK to type in everything you think of -- clears the RAM in your head, lets you move on, helps you process. But typing it in doesn't mean you are honor bound to do it. The GTD police will not bust you: just cross off stuff. See Item #2:

Item #2: as others have noted on this thread, the secret is to get regular and systematic about weekly reviews. Set up a perspective for your reviews. It finally dawned on me that I don't have to review all projects at the same time, a big three hour weekly ordeal. The inspector in project view neatly lets you stagger the review schedule. I have some projects I schedule for review every few days because they're on fire. Others need a look once a month. Etc. Most projects once a week -- but some of those weekly ones I look at on Monday, some on Tuesday... Stagger your project reviews, but DO them religiously.

Item #3. Create a to-do that pops up every day or two to look at what you need to review.

bigcloits 2008-11-21 07:29 PM

A wee update ...

A while back I changed my due colours, as someone suggested in this space, and, dammit, blues and greens actually [I]are[/I] more soothing!

blewis 2008-11-24 06:52 PM

Using OF in e-mail intensive environment?
 
I've been using GTD and OF since Christmas. I certainly don't consider myself an expert, but I've read the book and I've really changed my method of organizing myself and my work.

My recent problem I've been having is that my work environment is just completely e-mail crazy - _everything_ is e-mail driven. I've summarized that my priority list consist of who is most frequent and most loud in my Inbox. It drives me crazy.

Trouble is, in a dynamic environment where there are too many cooks in the kitchen on everything, not responding to e-mail or problems that are in the current "flow" of the majority of people results in you getting left out of decisions. This can be problematic because decisions are made that can adversely affect you, or you can essentially lose clout or face if you're not actively participating. Maybe this is a personal problem? ;-)

So, I have these big lists in OF, I use OF Services in Mail to generate Actions based on e-mails, but really OF seems to be relegated to my "Don't forget to check this" list, instead of my "Focus on this now" list.

In short, @Work I can rarely get to my OF list of Next Actions. OF seems to not drive my work.

Home is another story, OF is working great @Home. @Work however, it seems everyone keeps switching my Contexts on me.

Maybe I'm not looking for solutions so much as empathy? In the real madness of dynamic, scattered, and voluminous information, GTD seems to really be breaking down on me and not really helping me focus.

SpiralOcean 2008-11-24 08:11 PM

I empathize with your situation. It's difficult to know the environment that you are in. For me, part of GTD was slowing down the email chatter. Checking email twice a day (morning and afternoon) and processing the email inbox down to 0. (in theory checking twice a day, in reality I usually check email when I send email as well).

One suggestion you may have or have not tried. Do you have an email context? You could process your email inbox to 0, using OF to add actions to the email context. Then right after processing switch to the email context and process all those emails.

One other trick I sometimes use is the draft email box for messages that I want to respond to. When processing the email inbox I hit reply then save as draft for emails that I know will take a while to respond to. Then have an action in OF to process all draft emails.

curt.clifton 2008-11-25 06:49 AM

blewis, my workplace is much less email driven than yours sounds, but there are still email conversations that I have to participate in promptly for similar reasons to those you have. My strategy is to quickly file the email to which I don't need to react. Then I use the OF clippings service to generate action items for things that I need to follow up on outside of email or at a later date. Those emails can also be filed once their actions are captured. Having purged those things from my inbox, I'm left with the email that warrants an immediate reply. I then crank through those.

I try not to check my email more than once every 2.5-3 hours. I have a repeating OF action to check email. If that item isn't on my action list, then I'm not allowed to check email (unless I'm waiting on something urgent).

There are certainly days where all I do is respond to email. I've just had to accept that. To me the two keys are:[LIST=1][*] accurately determining which emails truly need a response, and[*] maximizing my efficiency in processing my inbox.[/LIST]
Another efficiency item on inbox processing is to limit my categories for filing. I just have two mail folders for archival purposes: Personal and Professional. This makes filing effortless. Most every email clearly falls in one category or the other. If not, I save it in both.

bigcloits 2008-11-25 06:58 AM

[QUOTE=blewis;51543]Maybe I'm not looking for solutions so much as empathy? In the real madness of dynamic, scattered, and voluminous information, GTD seems to really be breaking down on me and not really helping me focus.[/QUOTE]

I don’t have the solutions, but here’s some empathy: [I]empathy rays, empathy rays, empathy rays ...[/I]

GTDing has made a huge difference for me in some ways, while falling flat in others. But, over time, I seem to be gradually finding more and more ways in which GTD and OF can work their magic. It’s incremental.

Here’s a tip:

I have an @meta context in which I work on my GTD and organizational skills. I have a daily action I call “five-minute meta.” I have done it almost every morning for months. It’s just a few minutes of exploring OF, looking for ways to exploit it, poking around at random, cleaning things up ... reading the OmniFocus forums ... ;-) This was my 5-minute meta this morning!

kidtreo 2008-11-27 12:02 PM

@ Needles27

Regarding Due Dates, I've chosen to use my Calendar (iCal) for hard dates...in fact, I'm currently using it as a replacement for a tickler file per GTD methodology.

The upside is that I'm very used to "listening" to my calendar for time sensitive things. A potential downside is that OF becomes a more "voluntary" task master - IE, if I don't choose to look at it and choose to get things done - I don't.

Anyone else have thoughts about using iCal this way?

kidtreo 2008-11-27 12:09 PM

@ SpiralOcean,

Good for you!

I suspect this is more how OF is meant to be used (if that can said) - and feels like it might be more GTD-like as well.

Please let us know how this works for you. My thinking is this might be a good solution for procrastination.

kidtreo 2008-11-27 01:20 PM

As well, you can install [url]http://anxietyapp.com/[/url] for free which offers a simple view by context list - and allows quick entry to OF.


"Originally Posted by sgbotsford
I agree.

It is SOOO easy to get sucked into the planning and record keeping and not get anything done. Much of the time getting *something* done is good enough. The planning helps to get the important ones done if you can't do them all, it helps you combine tasks effectively (especialy errands) and it helps you from getting into a trap where something is stuck until something else happens. (What do you mean the new shower will take 3 weeks to get here?)

I get sucked in and dither a lot from project to project. (I've got the attention span of a gnat.) Often at the end of the day, I've made some progress on 8 different things, but haven't finished a single action. I'm hoping that OF will help me focus, and spend less time flipping from one thing to another.
If you haven't finished a single action, perhaps you are making your actions too big. Yes, it makes the list seem even more daunting to have a lot of smaller actions (vacuum floor mats, pick up trash, clean windows, file gas receipts) vs. some bigger ones (clean car) but sometimes the smaller actions are a better match to attention span, energy/motivation, available time, etc. You'll probably make more progress getting a bunch of those done (even if you might not finish the whole project) than picking up and dropping bigger, less-defined tasks. It doesn't take that long to list a couple of steps and check them off, and you'll recoup the little time it takes with your increased productivity.

If you're running 10.5, check out the OmniFidget widget available from the OmniFocus product page. You tell it which context(s) to work from, and it just pops up one action after another for you to do (or skip)."

Christopher 2008-11-29 10:32 AM

[QUOTE=ext555;50558]one way to relieve the stress created by the red items [red is a stress creating color for me also ] is to use the " preferences " Menu and choose " style " and change the " overdue items " to a color less stressful for you [mine are orange ][/QUOTE]

This is a great idea - thanks!

Christopher 2008-11-29 10:32 AM

[QUOTE=needles27;50559]This is a great thread. I am always so interested to hear how other people are using OF. Also, for Bigcloits last comment - If it were me, I would just set a start date for when your friend gets back into town in three weeks, without a due date. That way, it won't show up on your available actions lists until then (he's not in town, so why put it into your field of view) and after three weeks rolls around, it will show up as available. And, if you use Growl, then you will even get the reminder that "Joe's in town - call him." Then, if you are doing your reviews (or even immediately), you can put a flag on that one to put it into your higher level of attention.

BUT, that is the beauty of OF - everyone can find their own way to make it work best for you. I certainly don't want to make it sound like this is the only way - just a way that I feel works best for me and keeps stress of red actions to a minimum. Hope you find a system that you like![/QUOTE]

I didn't realize that you could set a start date without a due date - that is brilliant. Thanks.

Christopher 2008-12-01 11:49 AM

Since making this adjustment (using primarily start dates instead of due dates), the things that are actually due stand out much better, and I'm much less stressed about work. Thanks again for this great tip. I can't believe I didn't realize this before.

bigcloits 2008-12-02 11:04 AM

[QUOTE=Christopher;51865]Since making this adjustment (using primarily start dates instead of due dates), the things that are actually due stand out much better, and I'm much less stressed about work. Thanks again for this great tip. I can't believe I didn't realize this before.[/QUOTE]

Yeah, I’m really making good use of that strategy as well now. Can’t recommend it strongly enough. Also, the combination with Growl is particularly potent: just a gentle nudge when the action becomes available. “Oh, I can do that now, okay, cool.”

Also going well is the pausing of many projects that were previously supposedly “active.” Weeks later, I can definitely confirm that this was a really important thing that I had been missing before. Limiting active projects to projects that are actually active was the critical strategy I needed to declutterize my main OF views.

Lucas 2008-12-02 07:50 PM

I agree with everyone. I think that the way that start dates are used in OF is its surprisingly best feature.


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