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Feature Request: task prioritization! Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lecter View Post
The debate would have settled down, but the priority zealots keep seeing it pop up in their daily to-do list, due to it being marked as "urgent."

:)
I enjoyed that one.
 
I'm amazed that this debate still goes on a year later now. I thought I'd check in and wow.

Efficiency is getting a lot of things done.
Effectiveness is doing the right things.

When I work in a reality where every day I have too many things to do, I am not going to be very effective by employing silly tactics like doing all the easy, short things first. Fear of prioritization is odd to me. It seems it's better to have a plan that you can change than go have no plan at all.

I need prioritization. I fake it with the blank column that I have in the right-hand side of OF -- which I think might be a remnant from an early alpha release -- which has a 10-digit number for every single entry. I can change the number and sort by that column, and there, I can at least fake having an effective task management system.

I wonder how much of the back and forth in this thread is simply because it doesn't take much time to reply, so it ends up at the top of many GTD lists. Not important, but certainly easy and quick, right? ;)

Last edited by laura; 2008-06-16 at 08:37 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laura View Post
I'm amazed that this debate still goes on a year later now. I thought I'd check in and wow.

Efficiency is getting a lot of things done.
Effectiveness is doing the right things.

When I work in a reality where every day I have too many things to do, I am not going to be very effective by employing silly tactics like doing all the easy, short things first. Fear of prioritization is odd to me. It seems it's better to have a plan that you can change than go have no plan at all.

I need prioritization. I fake it with the blank column that I have in the right-hand side of OF -- which I think might be a remnant from an early alpha release -- which has a 10-digit number for every single entry. I can change the number and sort by that column, and there, I can at least fake having an effective task management system.

I wonder how much of the back and forth in this thread is simply because it doesn't take much time to reply, so it ends up at the top of many GTD lists. Not important, but certainly easy and quick, right? ;)
What do you envision a prioritization scheme giving you that you don't already have? It seems to me that you've already got some tools you can use for this, even if we don't include your mysterious 10-digit number column. You've got the binary flag - flag individual actions or flag whole projects, and you can easily spot those actions in the scrum when looking for the next action to do. There's also that time estimate field, which could be used much like your 10-digit number (and unlike your 10-digit number, can be filtered by perspectives) if you don't need to filter or sort on duration. You could still keep notes on duration in the notes field.

I'm curious how you manage your prioritization scheme. How often do you update priorities? How many priority levels do you find you need? Do the top-priority items at any given time tend to be the next actions from a bunch of different projects, or a large number of sequential actions from a small number of projects? Do you want to completely block lower-priority actions from sight until all of the higher-priority actions have been handled?

I'm a little mystified by multiple-priority systems, because back in the days when I had to prioritize what I worked on from the pile of way too much stuff, it was pretty much impossible to get agreement from all the affected parties on what was really the highest priority, and my binary prioritization scheme worked well. Everything was classified into two states: "this needs to be done yesterday or the world will come to an end", and "this needs to be done yesterday or the world will come to an end (or so you would have me believe, but I know you're full of it)". Generally, the only clue the requester had as to which priority it was assigned was whether or not it ever got done :-)

How often do you get all the high priority stuff cleared out such that you can work on low priority stuff? It just seems to me that if one only works on high priority items and has a continual influx of new tasks, anything more than a level or two down in the hierarchy should really be assigned to some other person, unless the priorities are always being shuffled.

Looking back over the last 1/3 of this discussion thread, my impression is that there are people asking for a priority system, but not making it clear to me as an interested bystander what the essential core of that which they want is. Frankly, if you've got X requests for an ill-defined feature, and about X-3 ideas of what it should look like, there will be a lot of unhappy people unless the designer is really, really good and can come up with the core idea that makes everyone happy...either it will get done in a fashion that best suits the designer, or not at all...
 
A - Absolutely must get done today
B - Should be done today
C - Would be nice if done today

A flag system does not handle that, as it's only binary.

As for what we're all talking about, Franklin-Covey has been around a while. Call it "ill-defined" if you want, but GTD is the new kid on the block, and I have to say that being on the receiving end of a GTD practitioner is an experience of urgency but not necessarily importance.

Call me persnicketey for wanting more functionality than a glorified laundry list of tasks. Some of us can actuall evaluate tasks and know which ones are the most important for the day, and not based on how long they take (which strikes me as a ludicrous idea).

Quote:
It just seems to me that if one only works on high priority items and has a continual influx of new tasks, anything more than a level or two down in the hierarchy should really be assigned to some other person, unless the priorities are always being shuffled.
Ha! I would submit that this would be important data then. After all, if you take the alternative and are constantly doing all the little tasks that come in, you aren't getting the important things done. If that doesn't matter to you, wonderful. Me, I need more, and I guess my investment on this app was wasted in the battle against dogma.
 
As I recently mentioned in the Tags thread, our plan all along has been to allow people to create their own columns of metadata, which they can use however they want: with generic tags, or with specific columns for priority, people, etc. (We have this capability in OmniPlan, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraffle.) We just didn't have time to do it for 1.0, and we won't for 1.5 (which has to focus on synchronization so it can be ready to synchronize with the iPhone).

Hopefully in 1.7.

Last edited by Ken Case; 2009-03-10 at 08:14 AM.. Reason: Bumping the targeted version; hope springs eternal!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laura View Post
Some of us can actuall evaluate tasks and know which ones are the most important for the day, and not based on how long they take (which strikes me as a ludicrous idea).
Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but GTD does call for prioritization. The difference is that they're not explicitly recorded in the system because, by David Allen's reckoning, priorities are ephemeral, frequently changing, and entirely relative to the other actions on your list and the situation you're in.

So once you've established your context, and have a reasonably-sized list of items that can be acted upon, you scan down the list and prioritize them on the spot. Merlin Mann did a nice job explaining this approach at the recent OmniFocus Meetup in San Francisco. I think he called it the "Hair on Fire" system. :)

Given a reasonably-sized list of options, the human brain is very good at making these impromptu judgments. And this approach is much more flexible than rigidly recording arbitrary priority assignments with a numerical or alphabetical value on your list. And without recording priorities, they never need to be managed or updated in the system.

I think that's the reasoning behind the current implementation in OmniFocus. And I've actually found it quite liberating to get away from traditional priority tracking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by laura View Post
Me, I need more, and I guess my investment on this app was wasted in the battle against dogma.
If you *must* have traditional, Franklin-Covey style priority tracking, then maybe a GTD app is not the right tool for the job.

Blaming dogma, however, is a straw man argument. I don't think anyone claimed there's only one way to do this. Arguing against priorities is no more dogmatic than arguing for priorities.

OmniFocus was inspired by the GTD methodology. It says that clearly on the product's web page. I don't think it should be a big surprise that the app actually favors that approach over others.

-Dennis
 
Take Dennis's explaination. Print it out. Read it over and over and over and over again until you underand.

Sum.

1. Priority IS in GTD
2. Priority is too FLUID to capture in tool
3. Brain can do priority FASTER than too.

BZ
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but GTD does call for prioritization. The difference is that they're not explicitly recorded in the system because, by David Allen's reckoning, priorities are ephemeral, frequently changing, and entirely relative to the other actions on your list and the situation you're in.
I can't speak to what GTD is or isn't. I'm just going by the rather huge push-back against prioritization in OF.

The reason that in F-C approach you start with your governing values is because then you find that your day's priorities aren't shifting around on you so much. This may come more naturally to a goals-focused orientation than a process-focused orientation. Otherwise what you end up doing each day may not end up serving your longer-term goals, or even short-term goals if they span beyond the day.

The tags Ken Case mentions might be a kludge that could work. I may give them a try. But in the end I think I've been spending time on something that doesn't serve my long-term goals.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laura View Post
A - Absolutely must get done today
B - Should be done today
C - Would be nice if done today

A flag system does not handle that, as it's only binary.
Well, I also suggested how you could use the Duration field (which you denigrate as a useless concept, so it should prove no loss of vital functionality to you) to have as many states as you might need. Or another approach would be to knock off all the A tasks, then scan again to see what deserves your attention for the rest of the day. As I said, they've provided some tools with which you can implement a priority scheme; if you don't care for them, by all means, you should investigate other options. I was hoping to hear something interesting about why you couldn't make the current offering work, but I guess that won't be forthcoming. My loss; I don't bother asking questions if I'm not interested in hearing the answer.

I find the duration field to be useful, myself; it lets me fill up small blocks of time productively when all the more important stuff comes in chunks that can't be done in the time available. If I have a meeting starting in 10 minutes, it isn't going to be a productive use of my time to start reading a block of code looking for a subtle bug; I might be able to knock off 2 4-5 minute lower-priority tasks in that time if I don't have to spend 3 minutes figuring out what my options are. Same argument as is used for needing to keep the prioritization effort written down, except in my opinion slightly better justified as the time it takes to photocopy your timesheet or call to make an appointment for a tune-up isn't going to change because the boss decided the team needed to go in a different direction today. And while you sneer at doing the short things first, it's also useful in the other direction, when one finds that unbelievably there's going to be a solid, large block of time without interrupts, what's some task that needs to be handled as a unit and never gets worked on because there's never enough time to do enough work to make it practical? Better do the biggest one that will fit! A co-worker mentions that they won't need their test gear for an hour, and I can make faster progress on a given class of problems using their gear; what are some test cases I can do that will make best use of that time? It's all the same priority, it all needs to get done before we can ship...

Quote:
Call me persnicketey for wanting more functionality than a glorified laundry list of tasks. Some of us can actuall evaluate tasks and know which ones are the most important for the day, and not based on how long they take (which strikes me as a ludicrous idea).
How does OmniFocus interfere with your workflow, in that case? Oh, right, you need a pre-printed glorified laundry list that has a priority column and fits in a snazzy leather binder :-) You've got all your tasks, can view them in ways not remotely possible with a paper system, seems like a step forward to me.

Quote:
Ha! I would submit that this would be important data then. After all, if you take the alternative and are constantly doing all the little tasks that come in, you aren't getting the important things done. If that doesn't matter to you, wonderful. Me, I need more, and I guess my investment on this app was wasted in the battle against dogma.
I'm afraid you misunderstood my point. My experience was that I could fill just about every day of the week, week after week, with what you would call "A" tasks. And behind them, when there was an occasional lull, enough "B" tasks to fill my days, week after week. So assigning tasks of priority "C" to me (never mind "D", "E", and so on), if I was expected to only work on the highest priority tasks until no further progress could be made on any of them, that was equivalent to dropping the task for a few weeks (until someone came around asking why nothing ever got done about it, and took my advice that if it was important to them that it get done, find another resource to do it). It's a pretty short step from there to flagging or focusing on whatever it is I'm going to work on today, because on most days, everything that gets touched will be on the same priority level. Little tasks, if they got done at all, were usually done only because there was some reason a bigger task couldn't be worked on, or it was something that interested me and I'd already spent as many hours working on priority matters as anyone could reasonably ask (in other words, done on my own time).

As Master Yoda might say, "do, or do not - there is no priority C" :-)

I'm not anti-priority. I am however opposed to the good folks at Omni spending too much time on it when there are already some features that can (so it seems to me) do much of what the priority requesters want when that prevents them from getting work done on features that can't readily be done with what they've already given us. This will undoubtedly lose them some customers who feel they just can't survive without a purpose-built multi-level priority scheme, and undoubtedly gain them some customers who think that whatever else they did with those resources was something that made the app worth buying. I want the company to make the choices that enable it to thrive in the long run, even if some of those choices aren't exactly what I want, because I look at how much time I spend using everything except OmniDazzle and OmniGraffle and I think of how much more time I would have to spend with other, lesser tools. Right now, they seem to be spending their OmniFocus resources on the iPhone app and synchronization. In my opinion, that's the right thing to do -- and at the moment, it's of absolutely no use to me whatsoever.

It's good that I still have a few hours left in which to do the important stuff today :-)
 
Quote:
Oh, right, you need a pre-printed glorified laundry list that has a priority column and fits in a snazzy leather binder :-)
It's snide comments like this that make me feel like this is just an argument about dogma. You might as well say "All you F/C people can go take a flying leap because we don't want you here." Well, that "snazzy leather binder" changed my life very much for the better, and while I may have become disenchanted with the software that was designed to support it I did not become disenchanted with the ideas behind it.

For better or worse there seem to be plenty of people who feel a priority system would be useful. There are also plenty who don't, and that's ok with me. What I don't understand is the investment that some people seem to have in telling other's what the tools they use should, and should not, be able to do. After all, no one but me sees my projects, or my next actions, or anything else that I do in OF. What could it possibly mater to anyone if I chose to implement a priority system, or for that mater if I ask for one. I payed my $80 like everyone else.

I bought David Allen's book, as I said I would in another thread, and I've been reading it. OF, being based on a different system than I'm used to, does some things that I don't understand yet, and I'm trying to figure out why, and how I can use these new tools to make my life a bit easier. If you want to offer some tips and suggestions about how I can make better use of OF that's great, but don't treat me like some empty headed ninny who was dazzled by a "snazzy leather binder." Frankly I find it insulting.
 
 


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