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Noise of life and overwhelmed by too many OmniFocus actions Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi all,

I write this after using Omni Focus extensively for around 4 months to free my mind of everything I must do.

In short the number of actions has become overwhelming. I have projects set up that mean a lot to me but also use OmniFocus to remind me of mundane phone calls I must make.

I rely on due dates and subsequent pop ups that appear on my phone during the day. But have gotten better recently at looking over the days actions in the morning.

I try to review everything once a week.

I spend most of my evenings never actually making it to tasks that would help me further myself on the projects that mean something and have an endless list of mundanity. Actions not done get shunted into future due dates etc etc.

I'd like to get out of this cycle and start over and am asking here for any advice and words of wisdom.

I have an awful memory so OmniFocus has become a dumping ground for everything!

Yours Sincerely
In your reviews, you need to be looking at each project and asking yourself if this is really something you should be spending your time and energy pursuing. If it isn't, it's just clutter. Assuming you are steadily working away at the huge pile of tasks, and not sitting there paralyzed, you may be trying to do too much. If you are being paralyzed by the daunting size of the list, you may or may not be trying to do too much, but the paralysis is keeping you from being successful. Again, the key is the review: is this something that is important to me? If not, have someone else do it, or drop it.
As you do your reviews, try to pick out the most important projects for the upcoming week. Flag them, and work the tasks from those projects first wherever possible.
Hey there Whpalmer,

I certainly seem to get many of the actions done eventually. Just feel swamped like Im constantly doing actions such as paying bills, ordering stuff for my daughter etc that something in me is saying I really must do before ... "editing photos for my website for instance" I think yes I expect I am trying to do much and somehow must reduce it!

Thank you for wise and prompt advice.

It might help to bunch similar tasks together. Maybe you pay all bills on the 1st and 15th, for example, and don't look at that project (maybe even put a start date on it for the next bill pay evening so the tasks are hidden from sight in a view of available tasks).
Yes I have looked at start dates to help hide stuff. Also tried to figure out how to have projects as a whole due dates but to only show the next action not all of them but didn't get far with that. I think I have a propensity to expect OmniFocus to think for me when maybe I should look at what I am suggesting I do 'today' and realise it is not realistic. Also wonder if using Due dates is so wise at all.

mmmm shall think on it more.

Thank you whpalmer.

Glen, Been there, done that, all too frequently find myself there again...

Some Ideas...

Use Evernote or similar system for info, OmniFocus only for things that can be actioned. Make the title of tasks short and outcome orientated.

OmniFocus should be part of your Workflow, use other tools as well.

Weekly review:
- Am I going to make progress on this project this week? If No, put on hold (or shift the start date to next week/fortnight/month so it disappears). If yes, is the next action explicitly clear and in the right context? If not - fix it!

I have projects in folders - 'Do Now', 'Do Soon' and 'Do Later' under each of my areas of focus. Do Later is on hold, do soon is active but with a kicked out start date and Do Now is properly active. I try to limit myself to only 3 'Do Nows' for each area of focus. [The 'do soon' is a hack, it is where I put the things that I lack the courage to kick into the 'do later' pile, it really shouldn't exist]

Get rid of all your due dates (except for the ones that will get you fired, cost you money or put you in prison - bring those forward a week - if it goes red, you have a week before it bites you)

A the end of the day do a quick sweep for 'tomorrow's IMPORTANT tasks' and flag them. Use the duration box to estimate how long it will take (plan only 30 to 50% of your available time) and WRITE THE IMPORTANT TASKS IN YOUR CALENDAR as an 'appointment'. Flagged items are your 'MUSTS' it is OK to only flag one item, you shouldn't flag more than 3 to 5 (depending on expected duration)

For mundane things like calls, put a block in your diary to make them AM and PM.

Treat (most) Emails like letters. Receive them day 1, draft reply, send them back day 2.

Tomorrow, once you have done your Flagged Items (only 30% to 50% of your available time, so they WILL get done) Give yourself a Treat and then do a quick review and flag a couple more.

If you are not in 'Call time' TURN OFF YOUR PHONE.

QUIT YOUR EMAIL CLIENT unless you are in 'email time'

Write down during your Weekly Review (on an old fashioned piece of paper that you stick to your monitor, car dashboard, shaving mirror etc. so that you see them EVERY DAY) the 3 significant things that you will achieve this week. CROSS THEM OFF when you nail them.

Clear the inbox every day. (Do, defer, delegate or dump) If unsure, dump it - you have too much stuff to do anyway, so if you are not sure of the action, you are probably never going to get round to it.

Remember - There are more things to do than there are hours in the day to do them. The trick is in deciding what you are NOT going to do today.
OF is extremely capable of collecting work for you. Boy. And once you become more productive it will collect ten times the stuff it does now.

Just to make you see the landfill you have created: Fill in the duration field. Then look again, add up the numbers, and see how much time this stuff will cost. It will make you realise that you simply do not have enough time to do that pile in an entire lifetime. It will hurt. Life's a bitch. You will have to choose.

Start deleting, delegating and deferring stuff as much as you dare (not 'can', no, 'dare'!). If you haven't spent time on it in the past month, you might as well postpone it for another two. If the outcome is of no use to YOU personally drop it and see whether anyone cares.

Then, every week, flag as many tasks as you can do in 50% of available time that week. Cut yourself some slack and flag a few fun/personal/important items. The rest of your time will be gobbled up by spilled drinks, friends visiting, roofs collapsing, that sort of thing. And work only on the flagged tasks. Yes, you won't get much done. But: You WILL get stuff done. Which feels good.

Another helpful one: lower your standards. Instead of spending 4 hours finding the best paint for your boat, and then another 2 to find the cheapest place to order it, drive down to the local hardware store and simply buy the stuff in the colour they have. Three layers of paint? Well, two will do just fine (seeing as it hasn't rusted very much in the time it took you to actually get round to painting the thing).

I've spent the past five years trying to make the treadmill spin faster, while I now figured out that it's much more productive to make it spin at a steady pace, instead of spinning faster and faster and then stopping again. I'm now ready to start moving up a notch, by being much more selective in what I do and what I don't do.

This might help, good advice on setting up OF and the practicalities of contexts and the (dreaded) weekly review.
Thank you so much everyone my brain isn't melting but there is certainly a lot to digest.

I have watched numerous videos and tutorials on how best to implement GTD with software but the advice here seems to be sinking in more. It seems using flags might help a lot and also changing my folder structures. Entering durations is something I have never considered... not sure how it would work.

It's bed time here in London so will re read tomorrow evening with a fresher mind.

Thank you again.. VERY much appreciated.

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