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Suggestions on using omnifocus to complete self help programs Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Im new to the world of self help and personal development and one thing that I notice is that the programs I've got include wealth of things to go over like books to read , audio to listen to and videos to watch. I'm confused as to how to manage and plan such huge task loads and implement omnifocus to deal with managing my self help library.

I just have three really big self help programs that the meer size has me procrastinating.

Does anyone have tips or a methodology to take on the self help programs that seem to plague my inbox?
In my OmniFocus setup, I have different parts of my life separated into folders. These are my Areas of Responsibilities in the GTD dictionary.

1. Personal Productivity
2. Marriage
3. Spirituality
4. Family
5. Career Development
6. Web Site Skills
7. Golfing Skills

But I rename each folder to a sentence such as:

1. Become a Black Belt GTD master
2. Love my wife
3. Become a better person
4. Live life with my family
5. Boost personal income
6. Improve my company's web site offerings
7. Beat my golf buddy who is kicking' my @$$

You'll find something that fits your situation.

Inside each of these folders, I will create a project with the name of the book or program that will fit into any of these categories. Then I would set all of these projects to "On Hold" so that it disappears from your Active context list. I use the "On Hold" status to hide projects/tasks from my active Next Action list.

The first Next Action in each of these projects is "Read the book <title_name>" or "Listen to audiobook <title_name>"

The next step is to sort all your programs in order of interest. What are your priorities in life? Do you want to tackle the financial part of your life first ? Or do you want to improve your personal productivity habit first? Or is your relationship in serious fixing? You'll pick one that will focus on one part of your life and take care of that part first.

Resist the idea "oh, everything is important and I want to read them all now." It is best to take care of one part of your life first and then take care of the next area of responsibility. Tackle one project at a time.

I created a new project titled "Self Development projects to tackle." Actually, my personal title is "Become Master of the Universe." This project is set to "On Hold" mode and it has a list of the self help programs I want to tackle in the particular order I want. I can always reorder this list later when I feel that I want to push one book ahead of another.

1. Activate "Getting Things Done" self help project
2. Activate "Making It All Work" self help project
3. Activate "Making Toy Balloons" self help project
4. Activate "Making Origama" self help project
5. Activate "Magic Tricks for Kids" self help project

I saved this as a perspective and put it in the toolbar. I put the project status to "On Hold" because I don't really want to see the Next Actions until I am done with the current book (which is the book on the top of the list). As you can see, the first book I want to tackle is "Getting Things Done." I'll go to the "Read Getting Things Done" project, change the status from "On Hold" to "Active." Then I'll check off the task Activate Getting Things Done self help project.

We all have a lot of self help programs. We want to devour all of them to get that instant gratification that we successfully completed reading a book or program. But you won't be able to retain anything if you're reading three books concurrently. You're just reading books and not actually adopting the habits because your focus will go quickly to the next book before the first book's habits set in.

It is better to get laser focused and concentrate on one self help program at a time. If you try to do ten programs at one time, your focus will be scattered. It will take longer to complete all of the programs because you're reading a little bit from one book, a little bit from another book, and then adding another book to read. One thing at a time is probably the best lesson to heed in this case.

When you have chosen one project that you want to focus on, put all of those other programs/books away in a box so that you don't get tempted to see them until you're done with the current book that you are focused on. You will only take the next one out when you are done with your current book.

While reading, I'll use either a notepad or OmniOutliner to take notes of interesting passages or create a list of Next Actions that I gleaned from the text.

I enjoy iBooks on my iPad because I can highlight and enter notes into my eBook. When I finished reading the book, I can go back through the eBook's highlighted parts and create an OmniOutliner outline based on the highlights and notes in the ebook.

When I'm finally done with the book, I'll review my OmniOutliner outline or notepad and clean it up. Then I can create an OmniOutliner outline or a project in OmniFocus. OmniFocus can import OmniOutline outline documents saved in OPML.

Now that the project is in OmniFocus, you have the self help program in OmniFocus with all the Next Actions you'll need.

Now, the important part comes up next.... Set the project status to "Active" on start working on the next action you need to get the project going.

When I'm ready for the next book, I'll click on the perspective in the toolbar to look for the next self help program to activate. Then I'll take the next book out and start again for the next self help program. Resist the urge to take out more than one book.

This is golden! I just have some questions . First what's the point of even adding the project to omnifocus if I'm not suppose to focus on it? For instance my goals to pursue balance is

1-personal productivity
2-social success
3-spiritual enlightenment
6-business and financial success

Now setting up a daily goal / todo of reading scripture (spiritual book) something that would take me a long time to accomplish even though I'm focusing intently and neglecting other projects.

Secondly I have this video series that's 40 grueling hours long geez it's called man transformation and has dozens of guest speakers. It's a huge undertaking and suppose to be really enlightening and transformational but it's so damn time consuming that I find it really hard to get through what's your suggestions on time management with such a large project/study?

Last edited by Brian; 2012-04-03 at 04:15 PM.. Reason: removed the quote to make post more readable
Thanks for this force-multiplying post!
Originally Posted by PhiDelt View Post
Now setting up a daily goal / todo of reading scripture (spiritual book) something that would take me a long time to accomplish even though I'm focusing intently and neglecting other projects.
Don't worry. You will take my workflow and adapt it to fit your own personal workflow ;-)

For something like your Bible study, I would use a repeating task set to a schedule (daily, weekdays only, MWF, TThu, etc.) until I have it down pat. I would use OmniFocus to help set up a daily habit and remind myself to do my reading. After about 30 days, I hopefully will have adopted the reading habit and no longer need to use OmniFocus as a crutch to remind myself to read the Bible. In the beginning, you'll get the sense of satisfaction that you'll have checked off "read one proverb". But after a certain time (30 days, 3 months, 1 year?), you will find yourself in a particular place where checking it off is no longer needed as stimuli to reward yourself for having accomplished something.

Another example is shoe-tying or brushing teeth for my daughter. I reward her daily for successfully tying her shoes and remembering to brush her teeth. She gets a kick out of being rewarded with a sticker for these skills. But eventually, she'll grow numb and won't need that extra reward for something that has become automatic for her.

Your ultimate reward will be in successfully learning a new habit or skill.
Originally Posted by PhiDelt View Post
This is golden! I just have some questions . First what's the point of even adding the project to omnifocus if I'm not suppose to focus on it? For instance my goals to pursue balance is

1-personal productivity
2-social success
3-spiritual enlightenment
6-business and financial success
Hmm.... I can see that a left out a part of my workflow out of here. Here's my personal development workflow. With so many books/DVDs/audiobooks to consume and so little time...

If you'd like, you can type in your projects outside of OmniFocus. I often use OmniOutliner or NovaMind mind mapping to intentionally keep stuff outside of OmniFocus and keep my project/task list low on the visual clutter.

I'll share something about "focus" in OmniFocus that I have found.

I have two distinct types of projects: "Active" and "On Hold".

On the upper left corner of your OmniFocus window, you'll see an icon for Projects mode (a stack of cards with lines on it) and an icon for Context mode (a stack of index cards with the @ symbol).

You do your project planning in Project mode. This is where you create your outline of Next Actions for all the projects that you want to do.

You "do work" in Context mode. You check the available tools you have (I have my computer in front of me; I have my accounts ledger on my desk; I have my bicycle) or the location you're in (I am at the hardware store; I am at home; I am at work) and look at the Context that you are in. I will look at OmniFocus and check my "Work" context to see all the Next Actions that I can do at work. When I am on a train and the only tool I have is my computer, I'll look at the computer context to see what I can do. You'll find the beauty of "Active" and "On Hold" and how it relates to contexts later on this post.

I go to Project Planning mode and see all the folders that I have set up as my Areas of Focus (Personal Productivity, Social Success, Spiritual Enlightenment, Mind, Body, Business and Financial Success). I start off by creating a list of all my projects and populate each project with the various tasks or Next Actions to complete each project.

I go to #1-Personal Productivity and create a list of all my projects that are related to Personal Productivity. Usually it's a book to read, an audiobook to listen to, or a workshop that I am attending.

I try to fill out all the Next Actions for each project.

Then I control-click the project and select "On Hold" from the contextual menu on the newly created project.

I'll repeat with #2-Social Success, #3-Spiritual Enlightenment, and so forth. Keep adding your list of books, programs, or projects for each Area of Focus folder.

Then I would sort each project in Personal Productivity by manually dragging each project up or down the list. The higher up the list, the more important it is for me. During my monthly review, I'll often move a project higher or lower down the list based on what I feel becomes more important for me on a month-to-month basis.

I usually have a single-action project called "maintenance/routine chores" at the very top of each Area of Focus folder. So I'll have a Personal Productivity Maintenance project at the top of the Personal Productivity folder. I'll have another Spiritual Enlightenment Maintenance project that is at the top of the folder.

These maintenance projects usually hold repeating tasks that I need for maintenance. My "Home Maintenance" project has routine chores like "clean the bathroom, cut the grass, clean the cat litter." These maintenance projects are always in "Active" mode.

Whenever I create a new project, I automatically place it to "On Hold" status. The lefthand pane showing all the projects will either have an icon indicating status.

a white index card indicates this project is "Active."
A green checkmark indicates this project is "Completed."
An "X" indicates this project has been "Dropped."
A pause icon (a blue-circle with two white vertical lines) indicates this project is "On Hold."

I often drag the "On Hold" projects below the "Active" to give me the visual clue that I am emphasizing priority to my active projects and putting my "On Hold" projects below. But I do keep my "On Hold" projects sorted by my interest in getting to a higher-listed project first over a lower-listed project.

The "On Hold" status is OmniFocus' term for a Someday/Maybe project. I put all new projects to "On Hold" because I already have my plate full with currently active projects. When I complete a project, I will go to Project Planning mode and look for another "On Hold" project (aka my Someday/Maybe project).

So I'll have ten book projects set to "On Hold". The pause icon signifies that this is a Someday/Maybe book. An "Active" book project is the book I am currently reading.

If you wish, you can set one book in each part of your life (personal productivity, spiritual enlightenment, mind, body, business & financial success) to "Active". These books are your active books that you are focused on right now for the six areas of your life that you have indicated.

Set all the other books to "On Hold" status and these books become your "Someday/Maybe" books. I will get to these other books/programs/audiobooks/DVDs someday or maybe. I like to put my Someday/Maybe books into a box so that I am not tempted away from my currently active book.

Previously, I would have a stack of books that I want to read on my nightstand. But I found myself getting distracted from the current book and reach for another book. I kept doing this carousel and I wouldn't get any of my books read.

I do allow myself to keep one active book from each Area of Focus. I have one personal productivity book, one social skills book, one finance book, one technical skill book, one spiritual enlightenment book, and one guilty pleasure book (currently the Hunger Games --- yes, guilty pleasure). If I don't feel like reading about Finance tonight, I'll switch over to one of the other books. All the other books are hidden in a box in the closet. It's just too easy for me to get distracted and not get any particular book finished.

When you go to "Context" mode in OmniFocus, you will find that you will only see Next Actions in all the "Active" projects. You won't find any Next Actions in all the "On Hold" projects. This helps to cut your context list down by a tremendous amount. This is why I have many of the book projects set to "On Hold" and only one book project from each area set to Active.

If I am currently reading David Allen's book "Making It All Work", this book becomes my active book. All of my other personal productivity books are set to "On Hold" (someday/maybe book). The only Next Action I want to see in Context mode is in the "Making It All Work" project. I don't want to see the Next Action for the project "Read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" or the bookshelf of books waiting for me to read.

When I have finished "Making It All Work", I will check off the I have completed reading it. Then I will go to my "7 Habits" project and change the status from "On Hold" (someday/maybe) to "Active."

Use "Active" and "On Hold" to give you focus on the current things you want done.

I like to follow the 7 Habits tip about 3 Big Rocks. During My Weekly Review, I'll look at my currently active projects. If I feel like I'm stuck in a project (just not getting anything done in this project), I'll probably brainstorm and reorder the Next Actions or reword the Next Actions to get it unstuck. But if I just lose interest or momentum, I'll put this stuck project back to "On Hold" status and select another "On Hold" (someday/maybe) project and change it to active. The newly active project is usually a Someday/Maybe project that I decided to bring back to the forefront. Maybe the time is right or I'll have renewed interest in an old project. At most, I'll try to select my "Three Big Rocks" of the week. These are the projects that I have on my mind.

For books, it can be the six Big Books (one book from each of the six areas you want to work on).

Another tip that I learned about self-help programs. It's so addicting. I've learned to stop going to the bookstore or checking Amazon for the latest self-help book. i already have enough books to read. I use Amazon's wish list to gather up a list of possibly interesting books. I know that Amazon will always have them in stock or I can always buy the eBook on the Kindle or on the Apple iTunes store. If I am at a bookstore, I'll just write the name of the author and title down (or better yet, take a picture of the cover with my cellphone camera). I resist the urge to just buy the book immediately.

I will buy the book only when I finished a current book. This is my own reward system.
Originally Posted by PhiDelt View Post
Secondly I have this video series that's 40 grueling hours long geez it's called man transformation and has dozens of guest speakers. It's a huge undertaking and suppose to be really enlightening and transformational but it's so damn time consuming that I find it really hard to get through what's your suggestions on time management with such a large project/study?
I am guessing that this 40 hour program is broken up into logical sections. If it's a history of the world, I'd imagine that there are probably one to four DVDs devoted to a particular country. Or if it is the scriptures, I'd imagine that the DVD is broken up into sections focused on one book of the Bible.

I would probably break this 40 hour DVD (I think it's a DVD or possibly a serious of audiobooks?) into bite sized projects focused on each section.

It would be easier to digest small portions of it rather than look at it as one monster project.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2012-04-03 at 01:20 PM..
The whole point of self help programs is that you will adopt a series of habits or a work plan that will help you achieve whatever goal is set before you.

While reading the book, use your notepad, favorite outliner, or favorite mind mapping program to create a list of Next Actions that will help you achieve your goal.

After you have finished reading the book, review the outline with the book to clarify the Next Actions. You may have missed a Next Action or two along the way.

Then enter the series of Next Actions as a new project in OmniFocus.

I like being able to use OmniFocus to create an outline of Next Actions. I save the outline in OPML format and import it into OmniFocus as a new project.

Reading a self help book is pointless unless you actually implement the steps outlined in the book. I always try to make sure I get the Next Actions.

But some books are meant to be informational and not necessarily a project. I see in my library "The Richest Man In Babylon." I use OmniOutliner to create a list of passages that I want to remember. This becomes my Cliff Notes. Next time, I won't have to read the whole book. I only need to read my outline to get the passages I wanted to remember.

Alternatively, I read the eBook on my iPad. I can use iBook's highlight function to create an index of various passages that I like.

So not all programs need a Next Action list. Maybe you just want to pull out certain facts for your convenience.

Whew..... I'm breathless.... Hope this helps, everyone!

You will find more workflow ideas and strategies on using OmniFocus by getting the "Creating Flow with OmniFocus" eBook or audiobook by Dr. Kourosh Dini. It's an excellent book. He has a way with words. I'm no writer but I try to do what I can in the OmniFocus forums. Aw heck, he can probably take some of these posts and wordsmith it into something legible.

It's worth every penny to get this book. I learned a lot from it.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2012-04-03 at 05:11 AM..
Originally Posted by PhiDelt View Post
This is golden! I just have some questions . First what's the point of even adding the project to omnifocus if I'm not suppose to focus on it? For instance my goals to pursue balance is
We need to focus on what is in front of us. OmniFocus can become your trusted system. You brain dump everything you need to remember into it. Then you can forget about it. It is in OmniFocus and you can always look at your inventory of projects and tasks.

During the weekly review, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that we have a finite capacity to achieve accomplishments within a certain timespan.

So I'll put all of my new projects to "On Hold" status because I realize that I already have a list of currently active projects. These become my Someday/Maybe projects. I'll get around to it eventually. But the immediate stuff needs to get done first. Those are the things I need to accomplish today (from my calendar), things that I would like to focus on (my flagged tasks/projects), and things that will be due in the next 7 days (OmniFocus forecast view and calendar).

OmniFocus gives you the ability to set projects to "Active" or "On Hold" (Someday/Maybe).

Before GTD and OmniFocus, I would have a difficult time staying focused on what I need to do. There was always something floating around - a scrap of paper with someone's phone number to call about house renovations; movie tickets for tomorrow night; a yellow Post-It note to remind myself about a client's case; a photocopy of a price quotation that needs reviewing.

I would be too unfocused without OmniFocus and GTD.

When you have your projects set to "On Hold", it no longer appears in Context mode which shows a list of all the Next Actions for each Active Project. I no longer have to look at Next Actions for projects that I have placed "On Hold" or set to start at a later date. I have a Next Action for "Prepare 1040 Tax forms by April 15, 2013." But I don't need to look at that project and Next Action until January 15, 2013. So it gets hidden by either setting a start date of January 15, 2013 or placing it "On Hold."

If you have all your projects set to "Active", you will have a long context list that will just leave you numb with fear. There's just too many things to achieve and a limited time to do them.

By focusing yourself on the Active projects, you'll be able to slowly but surely knock off each project one by one.

I also become vicious with my projects during the Weekly Review. It's just a weekly housecleaning. There will be projects that will linger in OmniFocus for a long time but it never gets cleaned out. I'll set the status to "Dropped" and it will disappear from my Active contexts. But I have a record of it forever. I'll often put a note showing the date and the reason why I dropped it. Maybe it is no longer relevant and the time has passed where it no longer makes sense to start or complete this project.

I may have brainstormed a great idea and entered it into OmniFocus. But later, when I am calm and have time to reflect on the project, I may have realized that it will take up too much time, attention, and focus for me to realize this project to completion. I'll either delete it or drop it.

Sometimes my wife and I will talk about some kind of house renovation and we brainstorm new ideas. I quickly enter it into OmniFocus for further exploration. Weeks and months of talking and brainstorming may result in either the project getting cancelled or scaled up or scaled down. Things will morph. Maybe we want a jacuzzi? Maybe a little flower garden is better? Hmm, how about a little fish pond? When I sit down with my wife, I'll open up OmniFocus on the iPad and go over the proposed projects. Then we start dropping things that we really didn't want after all.

If you don't do regularly housecleaning, your trusted system becomes stale and no longer becomes trusted. It is no longer up-to-date.

Eliminate projects with a vengeance and you'll be able to keep your project list tidy.

These are some of the small things we do to keep us focused on what we want to do now (Active projects) and not have to worry about the other things (Someday/Maybe or On Hold projects).


Last edited by wilsonng; 2012-04-04 at 01:28 AM.. Reason: Added a little bit of text for Weekly Review
Awesome wilsonng thanks for going into great detail about this it's really going to help me achieve my goals and move forward with something I've been putting off

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