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Implementing High Level Goals into OmniFocus Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hey all,

I'm a relatively new GTD practitioner and OmniFocus user. I've been attempting to incorporate both systems into my daily life over the last month. It's certainly a work in progress but I'm hopeful that things will really take off once I'm able to really nail things down and dial it all in to my personal workflow. I'm still massaging and tweaking my project hierarchy and contexts to work for me (I have another thread I started awhile ago relating to this).

OmniFocus has been pretty helpful for me when it comes to smaller definable projects and tasks regarding personal responsibilities around the house and at work. I'm able to get these things off my mind and into OF which helps me not forget some small detail or responsibility that appeared sort of out of the blue.

However, the one area I'm having a really hard time working into my OF flow relates to High Level Goals, or what many of you GTD practitioners might refer to as "Someday/Maybe". When I initially setup GTD I had various high level goals that I added to my inbox. Many of these were personal goals or things that I'd like to accomplish. They were also very vague. I was able to more or less break them down into projects but I'm still not 100% happy with the results. I've tried hard to think about the "next actionable step" for each of them but sometimes even this is difficult. It's also difficult for me to wrap my head around what the end result really should be. I've read from different sources that people phrase their projects in a way that reads what the outcome of the project should be when it's finished. However, I fail to see how this applies to certain high level goals like "Learn Acoustic Guitar", which I find to be a project that has repeatable steps and no real "end" to it.

One of the other issues I've noticed when working with these high level goals is that I now have a list of all the things I would like to do with my free time (which is difficult to come by itself these days) and I start to get anxiety when looking at the list as a whole and considering, "Hey...this is all of the stuff I need to do in order to feel good about making any progress." This is in direct contrast of what GTD is all about but I'm not entirely sure where I went wrong.

One of my biggest personal problems deals with biting off more than I can chew whenever I get motivated to make a change in my life and start tackling my goals. I feel like I have a hard time selecting a single thing to focus on because part of me feels like I should be tackling everything at once (i.e. I should be making time to further each of my dream goals individually every day!). When I start to think about sitting down and prioritizing my goals, I get even more anxiety because I'm not sure where to start. If I wanted to knock them all out one by one, I wouldn't know the best way to approach that since, once again, some of them don't feel like they have a concrete end goal and should be factored into my everyday life. If I did decide to focus my efforts on learning guitar, when does that actually end? Also, when it comes time to shift my focus to another goal, what happens to my progress in playing guitar if I have to pick and choose what project gets my attention at any given time.

I'm really curious to hear how some of you have implemented your high level goals with GTD and made things work for you. Right now I feel like I've sort of hit a wall and I'm not sure which way to go.
 
I am a bit confused. On the one hand, you mention higher-order goals. On the other, you mention someday/maybe projects. They are two different things to me, but then I am known to focus on even the subtlest shades of gray. I consider higher-order goals as the drivers behind the projects. I consider someday/maybe as a category, perhaps of a project, a task, or even ... a higher-order goal.

I have for example a companion to your Learn Acoustic Guitar ... Relearn Classical Guitar. Right now, it is a someday goal, so much so that I have no real structure to what the work will be. I also have a higher order goal ... Buy a New Car ... that recently became a reality. The process involved creation of a Folder ... New Car ... in one of my Areas of Responsibility Folders. Within the New Car Folder, I put sets of Projects as they became clear to me ... Research Car, Define Budget, Buy Car, Change Insurance, Change Tags ... IOW, this higher-order goal developed as I learned more about what I needed to finish it.

In any case, I work outside of OmniFocus to manage my "higher-order" goals. I have played around with Goalscape to do this. I am since less enamored of it ... mostly for the non-Mac compatible UI. I've since gone over to Curio, where I have been working out mind maps and Kanban type organization schemes. In the case for the Relearn Classical Guitar goal, I have this posted on my Curio Kanban in a row called "Adventures" under a column called "Big Rocks". It serves there as the placeholder until I decide to translate it to OmniFocus in some form. I should mention, I purged my OmniFocus database completely at the start of the year and want to work diligently now to keep it to a bare bones for its best use ... managing the workflow on projects. I found the accumulation of "clutter" from un-finished "higher-order" goals in OmniFocus was probably one reason I was getting overwhelmed with playing around in OmniFocus (instead of doing what was required), let alone that sync times with my iX devices were slowing down.

Hope this gives you an idea or two to explore.

--
JJW
 
OmniFocus seems better suited for the Runway, Projects (10K), and Areas of Responsibilities (20K) levels.

But to go up higher, it can probably be done but I tend to use something else outside of OmniFocus.

I tend to use mind maps as a way to define my higher Horizons of Focus. From that mind map, I'll create projects and areas of responsibilities inside OmniFocus.

If you like to think in a list fashion, you can try an outliner in your favorite word processor or in an outliner program like OmniOutliner.
 
One of the things I really struggled with when I started using OmniFocus was learning that it was okay - in fact, critical - to put projects On Hold. On Hold is different than Dropped. It doesn't mean "I'm giving up on this. I will never do it." It means "this project will distract me from the other ones I'm working on right now; I need to focus my energies elsewhere".

Rather than trying to deal with every project you've ever considered, I'd recommend that during your next review you pick a handful of projects that would be most satisfying to work on in your free time. If your free time is limited, it's even more important to work on the most satisfying projects.

In any case, work on that set of projects for, say, the next month. In the meantime, you'll cut the number of projects you're looking at (and thus stressing out about) down to a less-stressful number. It also gives you enough time to make some progress towards those goals. That, in turn, will help you feel better about deferring the other projects and coming back to them later.

The goal here isn't to complete those projects; it's to get some satisfying amount of progress on them, then decide which to stop working on for a while so you can reactivate some others if your needs change. Especially for personal-growth projects, the process tends to be more import than the achievement. Speaking as someone who used to optimize all the fun out of my entertainment: trust me. ;-)

For the rest of the projects, put them on hold and consider using this approach to get the projects to come up for review in semi-random & not-overwhelming quantities in the future. (I'd suggest using a review period of weeks rather than days.)

Reviewing them in chunks will let you reactivate projects when you feel like you can handle them. Nothing will get deactivated forever.

Hope that helps!
 
I look at the higher levels of GTD as not so much sources of actions, but sources of projects. I don't tick off actions like "Accomplish 1/1825th of 5 year plan to rule the galaxy", but instead generate smaller projects from my goals ("Take over block party"). Put the overall goals in OmniFocus as projects on hold, with review intervals set to some appropriate amount of time. Each time you look at them during the periodic review, you spin off some new projects, axe projects that are no longer seen as advancing your goals, etc. There's nothing that says you have to do this in OmniFocus; OmniFocus just gives you a handy mechanism for prodding you on schedule to do those reviews.
 
Thank you all very much for the input.

I think part of the problem in general at this point is that I'm sort of hitting a wall with GTD/OF as a whole and I'm a little uncertain how clear the hurdle. I'm not very trusting of my current project setup which in turn makes me not trust the system as a whole and creates anxiety around even opening it up or looking at it. Most of this seems to derive directly from my high level projects.

I guess the first issue relates to determining what my High Level Projects actually ARE and how they differ from the Someday/Maybe lists. In my head I'm not currently separating the two and really define these goals as things that I'd like to be taking actionable steps towards completing. However, focusing on all of them at once is causing me some stress obviously and not being able to properly delegate them in a functional manner within my own system/workflow causes even more.

Some of my "High Level Goals" are as follows...
Become a Better Designer
Learn C#
Learn Unity
Learn Guitar
Become a Better Photographer
Learn Adobe Lightroom
Become a Better Brewer
Get back into Creative Writing
Improve Math Skills

Some of these are pursuits of pleasure while others are personal enrichment goals that I want to tackle in hopes of just becoming a better, smarter individual.

Some of these are fairly easy to break down into next actions, but others not so much. Beyond that it's also difficult to really peg any of them as truly being "finished". Do you ever really finish learning something? How do you continue to make time for each of these tasks as you move forward? What happens if you shift focus from one to another (focusing on photography means any progress I've made with Guitar might be hindered).

Also, scheduling time begins to creep up as yet another concern. I just recently became a new father and time is very limited and precious. My current implementation of OF uses a "Free Time" context that I had set aside for all these different goals I had but jumping around from one to the other seems to be difficult.

Brian, your suggestion of focusing on one at a time certainly makes sense but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to get this process worked into my OF system in a way that I feel confident about and lets me get back to trusting the system as a whole. The concern here is both, when do some of these projects get completed and what happens when I shift my focus away from one to another. Then there are things like Photography which sort of just pop up randomly. There are times when I just pick up a camera and start taking pictures unwarranted and then I'm left with several photos to edit but no real organization took place in line with my goals.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jables View Post
...
Some of my "High Level Goals" are as follows...
Become a Better Designer
Learn C#
Learn Unity
Learn Guitar
Become a Better Photographer
Learn Adobe Lightroom
Become a Better Brewer
Get back into Creative Writing
Improve Math Skills
...
I might scope these (somewhere outside of OmniFocus) as follows:

> Duties
(Important / Urgent in the 7 Habits paradigm -- e.g. you ABSOLUTELY MUST do these, and the reason is clear and well-defined)
--> Improve Math Skills (as an example)

> Expeditions
(when you undertake these, you set out for clear, well-defined reasons and with clear, well-defined outcomes)
--> Learn C#
--> Learn Unity
--> Learn Adobe Lightroom

> Quests
(these goals are foreseen as life-changing in scope)
--> Undertake Creative Writing as a Full-Time Passion / Profession

> Adventures
(you do these just for fun, who knows what will come of them)
--> Learn Guitar
--> Become a Better Brewer
--> Become a Better Photographer

Does this layout bring any better sense to what you might do in a top-level review?

--
JJW
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJJWMac View Post
I might scope these (somewhere outside of OmniFocus) as follows:
I think this is a bit of a step in the right direction. Some of the titles for the breakdown come across as vague in terms of how they relate to the individual projects beneath, but overall I'm seeing sort of what the point is here.

Last edited by Brian; 2013-02-05 at 03:56 PM.. Reason: improve readability by reducing quantity of quoted material.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jables View Post
I think this is a bit of a step in the right direction. Some of the titles for the breakdown come across as vague in terms of how they relate to the individual projects beneath ...
The scope of each area reflects four views that I am testing now about what I see as I look at the broader scope of my life. The titles are just concise (and cute) ways I decided to label them. They could just as well be labeled Obligations That Routinely Arise to Steal My Time, Goals with Outcomes of Significance to Meet My Life's Purposes, Goals That I Want to Accomplish For Fun, Life-Changing Missions That I Want to Undertake

Within my paradigm, I considered your statements as goals rather than projects. I put those "projects" in to my categories for example only. Any one "project" (goal) in this set up in itself might spawn a slew of projects in OmniFocus.

So, the categories came first, then the goals where put in to them. Let me stress this another way in case it was not clear (and your response suggests it may not have been) ... Following my approach, the projects you have should not be used to make up categories for them. Rather, your life's desires and missions and purposes should generate the categories for you.

--
JJW
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJJWMac View Post
The scope of each area reflects four views that I am testing now about what I see as I look at the broader scope of my life. The titles are just concise (and cute) ways I decided to label them. They could just as well be labeled Obligations That Routinely Arise to Steal My Time, Goals with Outcomes of Significance to Meet My Life's Purposes, Goals That I Want to Accomplish For Fun, Life-Changing Missions That I Want to Undertake

Within my paradigm, I considered your statements as goals rather than projects. I put those "projects" in to my categories for example only. Any one "project" (goal) in this set up in itself might spawn a slew of projects in OmniFocus.

So, the categories came first, then the goals where put in to them. Let me stress this another way in case it was not clear (and your response suggests it may not have been) ... Following my approach, the projects you have should not be used to make up categories for them. Rather, your life's desires and missions and purposes should generate the categories for you.

--
JJW
Thank you for the additional details here, that certainly helps clear it up a bit. I'm actually in the process of re-organizing my high level folders as a whole and trying to apply the concept of not letting my individual projects define the organization but rather my goals/wishes/hopes/dreams etc. It seems like this is exactly the point of finding what my "areas of focus" truly are.
 
 


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