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Handling non-action notes Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I keep hitting my head up against the fact that I want non-actionable notes in OF, but OF's structure doesn't really have a place for them. For instance, when I create my list of to-dos under a project, I often want to put in a "what if?" or "remember this" note in the list. IN the list, as a sort of tickler, not in the note field of the project--I just forget it's there.

Filing "note actions" in a special on-hold context "notes" works OK-ish, but they aren't distinct from action items, and they inherit a due date from the project, which I find a bit frustrating. Ideally, I'd like an entirely separate category of non-actionable project child that carried its own icon or colour.

How do others work with these tickler-type notes inside OF? (as discrete from reference notes filed elsewhere.) I'm referring to the sort of sticky note-type stuff that might dot a desktop or computer screen in a paper-based workflow, and seem to belong inside OF in an OmniFocus-based workflow.
 
This is a big deal for me as well. As you may have gathered from discussions throughout this forum, many of us are hoping for a little OmniOutliner functionality built-in to OF in the future. :) OO is an excellent tool for clipping together in one place the influx of info that comes at you during the day. I think many on this forum have OF and OO as a key part of their workflow. But like you, I prefer to work in one program whenever possible. A non-actionable 'info container' would be nice for each project.

In the mean time, I handle the gathering of non-actionable info in different ways depending on the situation. If the task is part of an existing project, I usually drop short notes into the notes field of the appropriate action item. For example, if I get a phone call and need to record something real quick, I pull up that project and drop a quick note into one of the pre-existing actions already there. I prefer to do this just to have one place where I capture short snippets.

For new projects, or if I know I am going to be taking longer notes (i.e., a conference call or a client meeting), I take the notes in OO and then attach it to a new action item and send it to my inbox for later processing or archiving at a future date. Again, I try as best I can to run everything through my OF inbox just to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. But this is still an unfortunate work-around as I end up creating 'dummy' actions to hold notes as you mention.

Most often though, my calls or meetings are the result of an initial email. If this is the case, then I send that email to my inbox, and attach any notes or other materials, such as pdfs. I have MANY pdfs in my OF database.

I then assign it to the proper project and context with no start or due date, and drag it to the bottom of the order in the project so it is never the next available action, but is visible in reviews. I add the text 'notes' to the beginning of the action's title; this is similar to what many do with 'waiting fors', where the title of a waiting action includes 'wf' to facilitate quick scanning.

Because the action's title also contains the title of the email, I know by looking at the action that it is really a place holder containing non-actionable info that was generated as a result of the subject of the email. Very often, these email-based notes become projects or actions themselves, and then I handle the associated info accordingly during my weekly reviews.

I use emails as 'info buckets' whenever possible; they are the electronic equivalent of a manila folder for me. This email info bucket process has really become part of my workflow. What is important to me is SPEED, using my kludge process I can Clip-O-Tron an email to the inbox, drag a file into the resulting action, and get it out of my head in seconds, while knowing that the info is captured and staged for a more thorough review at the appropriate time.

I realize that I am forcing OF to do a little more than it was designed for, but as I have discussed elsewhere on this forum, improving the capture stage and having one central place where info ends up has been the single biggest productivity enhancer for me with the GTD system.

Hope this helps...
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bashosfrog View Post
For instance, when I create my list of to-dos under a project, I often want to put in a "what if?" or "remember this" note in the list. IN the list, as a sort of tickler, not in the note field of the project--I just forget it's there.
and

Quote:
Originally Posted by LawDaddy View Post
I take the notes in OO and then attach it to a new action item and send it to my inbox for later processing or archiving at a future date. ... But this is still an unfortunate work-around as I end up creating 'dummy' actions to hold notes as you mention.
I'm not convinced that these kinds of actions are "dummies" or are out of place as "what if?" or "remember this" items. As log as they're phrased as actionable items and can actually come to some kind of resolution, they're just as valid as any more traditional action. And if they're not actionable, they're reference material and can be stored away in your filing system.

My OmniFocus database frequently contains actions that begin with verbs like:

"Think about..."
"Consider doing..."
"Refresh memory on..."
"Decide what to do about..."
etc.

The "Think about..." ones are probably the most ambiguous, but as along as I have some kind of subjective idea of when I can consider them to be throroughly thought out, I can check them off when done.

So these kinds of items are resolvable, they're deserving of my attention, they require concentrated effort, and they're an important step in achieving the project goals. It seems to me like they surely qualify as legitamite actions in OmniFocus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LawDaddy View Post
This is a big deal for me as well. As you may have gathered from discussions throughout this forum, many of us are hoping for a little OmniOutliner functionality built-in to OF in the future.
I'm a big fan of OmniOutliner too and have used it for many years. However, I'm worried that adding outliner funtionality to OmniFocus' notes fields might be too complicated.

A distinct "Note" item is an interesting idea: basically an item that behaves like an action but that has no checkbox, cannot be completed, maybe has no context, and only appears in planning mode. But I'm personally satisfied keeping all my notes in the notes fields of projects and actions - and I have quite a few notes.

Have you tried the outlining capabilities built-in to Apple's standard text view? They're not nearly as flexible as OmniOutliner, but they're surprisingly effective.

Open TextEdit and type a brief line. Then select the text, go to the Lists menu in the ruler, and choose a marker type. Now, whenever your cursor is in the new list, hitting Return will create a new item and hitting Tab will indent. Shift-Tab will outdent. Hitting Return twice will drop you out of list mode and take you to normal text editing.

The best thing about this outlining capability is that it comes for free with Apple's text view. Some other useful features in Apple's text view:

1) Columnar selections (Option-drag to select columns of text)
2) Non-contiguous selections (Command-select protions of text), which is great for applying the same style in several different place
3) Word completion from the system dictionary (type part of a word and hit Esc or F5)

OmniFocus' notes fields already support word completion (although, you have to use F5 since Esc will exit you from edit mode), but unfortunately none of the other features.

I wonder if support for Apple's text view would be easy for the OmniFocus developers to add and maybe would help alleviate some of the issues brought up in this thread.

-Dennis

Last edited by Toadling; 2008-07-13 at 11:08 PM..
 
Dennis; the basic functionality of TextEdit would be great! Basic list creation would make the note fields infinitely more useful. That's really all I'm looking for, along with more descriptive file icons (which Ken has said is coming soon).

One bummer, most of the formatting is lost on sync to the phone :(

p.s.: TextEdit is one of the best-kept secrets on the Mac!
 
I've been thinking about how to handle notes as well.

when no action is required

my strategy will be to NOT give a context to reference information. So that it appears just in the planning mode & is invisible in the context mode

I can't comment on whether it will work, as i am just about to implement it.

Maybe others that have travelled the path can inform us
 
I've been very happy with the combination of OF and Journler.

Notes take two forms for me, those that are transient and very specific to one action, those that are part of my larger learning reference of tips and knowledge that may apply to an action now, but to other projects and actions in the future. For the latter I put them in Journler, and I have a toolbar script that creates a new entry in Journler with a URL link in the notes field of the OF action.

http://www.journler.com/

Here is the OF toolbar script:
http://www.journler.com/community/fo...pic.php?t=3457

-P
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bashosfrog View Post
I keep hitting my head up against the fact that I want non-actionable notes in OF, but OF's structure doesn't really have a place for them. For instance, when I create my list of to-dos under a project, I often want to put in a "what if?" or "remember this" note in the list. IN the list, as a sort of tickler, not in the note field of the project--I just forget it's there.
I normally put my notes in the notes field, and when I want to remind myself that there's an important note there, I add the text "(see note)" to the project title. It's good to be specific, like "see note for client's instructions", so it catches your notice at the right time. This is also the place where I normally put research about the project. If I want to see it later, I don't put it under the action note, since that disappears when it's completed. Once the project is completed, I don't really need the notes anymore (but OF still keeps it around in case I need to reference it again, or I can copy the info to an external file and save it there.)

But I do think it would be nice to have more control over individual notes fields, like the option to stay "always open".

My only other advice is to try to pinpoint which action it would be most logical to tag with that information. If it's information you need for the project, it usually should be brought up at a particular point (action) in the project, not something you need to think about at every step.
 
 


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