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Dealing with Open Ended Tasks Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Omnifocus is a lifesaver for keeping track of projects which can easily be broken down into next actions, however I struggle with projects which have next actions which last for days on end.

For example, I do a lot of design work which after the planning stages ends up with a task that is essentially. "Move pixels around until its ready to show to someone". This often takes days or weeks, which leads to very stagnant lists. Ticking stuff off helps reinforce a sense of accomplishment and when you don't tick stuff off for days it can feel a little disheartening.

I have tried a system of setting up a repeating task called "Iterate on Design" to end after 5 or 6 iterations, but obviously this doesn't match up to the day to day realities of a project in which iteration happens very fluidly.

What tactics have you all employ to deal with or break down monumental next actions? I would be very interested to hear.
One strategy might be Kourosh Dini's "delete when complete" trick from the Omnifocus Setup event.

Essentially you'd create a sequential project with (at least) two tasks.

Make the first task something like "Iterate design project for 40 minutes (Delete when complete)". Set it to repeat, start again after 30 minutes (or whatever) after completion.

Make the second and subsequent tasks whatever you need to do after you've finished (e.g. email draft to Jim).

So, in context mode (assuming you've set both of these to have contexts), the first one is available, the second one is not.

So you work on your project for a while, then check it off. Now, the item "Iterate design project" gets duplicated, but isn't available to work on again yet. It won't become available until after the interval you set in the repeat "start again after", so set that appropriately (e.g. you only want to see it once per workday, so set it to start again in 12 hours; that way if you work on it at 11 a.m., you won't see it again that day at work but it'll be available the next morning).

When you finish, you delete that task. Now the next task you set up (email draft to jim) becomes available.

So, you get the sense of accomplishment by checking something off. You can set it up to, after working on it, disappear from your list for a while so you can focus on other things, while being assured it'll resurface as often as you need it to. And you can plan the rest of the project so you know what to do when you're done with the open-ended part.
Thanks, thats really helpful. Using the Templates.scpt scripts I've found a fairly catch all workflow that should solve my problems.

Take a look here and see what you think
I have a few templates that are very similar to yours, except to the extent that they are specific to my work, which isn't design.

But the concept is the same.

I've found the benefit of this to be twofold:

1. It saves me time starting a new matter.

2. It has encouraged me to think more consciously about what my workflows typically are.

I'm not slavishly rigid about sticking to the template. But often, by fitting a given project into one of these workflows, it helps me to give it a shape in might not otherwise have. And this tends to make things less overwhelming.

I sometimes forget this, but typically if I'm overwhelmed by something, it's a good sign that I should probably step back and see if I can break it down into smaller chunks (and keep doing that until I find a chunk small enough that I actually do that chunk).
I know some people say that if a task takes longer than 10 minutes then it is more than one task, but I find that just doesn't work for me. In design, or any creative work, 40 minutes is an optimal time for me to get stuck in and get lost in the process. And that task is essentially just, "Do the work".
Wait! We actually have to DO the work? We can't just spend all our time iterating on the planning of doing it? :)

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