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Graph of tasks over time Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I was just doing some cleanup work on my OF records, and i was thinking, "wouldn't it be nice if I could see a graph of all the things I'm getting done?"

Then I though, "wait a minute, Omni did that with their bug-tracker. They could do that pretty easily for OmniFocus. I'll just send them a quick little note, saying they ought to do it."

And so I started writing.

But the idea kept growing, and before long it was this awesome tool, not just for self-assessment, but for planning as well. Imagine you're working through your inbox, assigning dates to tasks, and in the background you have a graph that tells you when you're going to be slammed, and when you'll have room to breathe.

In the graph, the x axis represents time (by days) and the y axis represents number of tasks. There are all sorts of useful lines to plot, but imagine these for your planning session:
  • available tasks
  • due or overdue tasks
  • tasks due "soon"
  • tasks completed
  • tasks added
  • tasks changed
  • tasks for review

Perhaps the graph includes the past month, so you can see how you've been doing. Data series could be broken down by groupings (project, context, relative due date, relative start date). The graph could show multiple lines at once, so that you can see whether there's an apparent relationship between adding tasks and completing tasks, or between # available tasks and your task completion rate. They could use the Perspectives to store sorting options, such that a graph would simply be a picture of the past, present, and future contents of a given perspective.

With a graph like this, you can not only do effective evaluations (how many things was I doing, when?), you can do some load-balancing while planning your work. Maybe you could tell OF to assume you'll continue your current rate of task completion (an average daily rate over the past month?), to assume no task completion, or to assume task completion exactly on deadline.

If I could get that graph (especially the one showing past performance) to serve as my desktop background, and do fun things as a screen-saver, that would probably do some amazing things for my productivity.

What do y'all think? Worthwhile feature? Must-have for version 1.1? Easy enough for version 1.0? Too challenging for version 2? Other useful things to do with pictures of our GTD progress using OmniFocus?

Curiously,
Gavin
--
Gavin White
gavin.white@alumni.reed.edu
http://wandreilagh.org
971-404-7294

Last edited by gavinwhite; 2007-12-06 at 03:39 PM.. Reason: added signature
 
Gavin,

In some ways, what you're describing sounds like a spin on a resource-loaded project schedule. There have been lots of rumors about Omni integrating OF with OmniPlan in a future release, so perhaps this would be a useful addition to that integration.

Alternatively, if Omni were to open the OF database format or create an API for other apps to harness the OF data, it would be relatively simple to write a third-party tool to provide exactly the info you're looking for. (Maybe already possible via AppleScript.)

A nice incremental feature would be a statistics tool, where you could see at a glance your open projects, closed projects, open tasks, closed tasks, etc... although this would be more interesting than useful.
 
Gavin,

That's exactly the kind of thing I need, and what I'm hoping that the rumored integration with OmniPlan will address. The basic question for me is always, "Given the work I currently have, when can I start and finish this new project?" -- in other words, what date can I promise it to the client? Or "Given the immovable date on this new project, which other projects do I have to shuffle around?"

Problem is, I don't work on monolithic projects with a herd of PMPs managing all these dates for me. I've got dozens of smaller projects (2-200 hours) always on the go, and despite years of searching, I've never found any software that can do this effectively. Ultimately, I put together a very crude system of my own for this. Essentially, it takes all my work, spreads out the hours for each task between its start and end dates, and tells me how many hours I would need to work each day/week to finish everything by the dates I gave it. So if it says I'll need to work 170 hours next week, I know some dates have to move. That also tells me how far ahead I'm booked, so if new work comes in, I know I can't start it until February.

Having the graph in real time would be hugely beneficial.

At a minimum, if I could periodically pull my projects from OmniFocus into OmniPlan, work out the scheduling, then push the updated dates back into OmniFocus, that would help a lot.

(And who knows, maybe all I need is OmniPlan and not OmniFocus. I tried this in MS Project once but it failed miserably. I haven't spent much time with OmniPlan yet. It crashed after 10 minutes of use, so I'm going to wait for the Leopard version.)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbyler View Post
Gavin,

Alternatively, if Omni were to open the OF database format or create an API for other apps to harness the OF data, it would be relatively simple to write a third-party tool to provide exactly the info you're looking for. (Maybe already possible via AppleScript.)
Not only could you do this with applescript (using the graphs from "Numbers") the OF database is very open since it is a set of pretty straight forward XML files.

-Preston
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptone View Post
Not only could you do this with applescript (using the graphs from "Numbers") the OF database is very open since it is a set of pretty straight forward XML files.

-Preston
Do you mean the new iWork app?

Wouldn't a person have to activate the script to get the graph?

If one were going to do that, wouldn't it be just as "easy" to import the data into R (or S+) and use that for graphing?

Curiously,
Gavin
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gavinwhite View Post
Do you mean the new iWork app?
Yes, I know they have awkward names don't they.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gavinwhite View Post
Wouldn't a person have to activate the script to get the graph?
Yes, but you could have it regenerate automatically at some interval in the background (not sure the iWork script could keep the window hidden for sure though).

Quote:
Originally Posted by gavinwhite View Post
If one were going to do that, wouldn't it be just as "easy" to import the data into R (or S+) and use that for graphing?
Yes, while that would be far easier to do once, the scripting route (while not trivial to set up) could maintain this up to date with few to no steps on your part. You could script the export (or extraction) of the data and then trigger a shell script on the command line to do the rest in R (I've not use R much myself).

My main point was to clarify to dbyler that OF had already put in an API to their data, and already do have an open (unofficially - the xml could change without warning) database format.

-P
 
 


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