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I am curious to hear how people are using OmniFocus. I always wonder how "micro" to get with OF.

As a teacher, I have the following questions:
- would it be good to create a project for each class?
For example, "Lesson Plan 10/3"
* brainstorm plan
* create handout 1
* sign out lab
* grade hw
* upload grades

or would each class be an action group? or would you just reserve OF for things that might be out of the ordinary, like sign out lab?

Another situation: I run several weekly meetings. Would you have a project called action X and then have as NA's things such as:
* brainstorm agenda
* write agenda
* email agenda to participants
* duplicate agenda

One problem (fear) I have with GTD is I can spend so much time fiddling with my action lists, I could just hammer things out. If you have a chance, share some of your usage patterns or questions.


I use a separate project for each of my courses, each term. I have detailed templates for starting a course (pre-term planning), prepping each week (including individual meetings during the week), and wrapping up a course. I do a bit of planning to design these templates up front, and add to them as I get a feel for how the course is working. I use my Populate Template Placeholders script each week to populate a new week's worth of tasks. I drag the resulting one-week project into my course project as an action group. This lets my Focus on the course.

This seems to strike a good balance. I don't plan the tasks completely ahead of time, but after a few weeks my templates evolve to cover most circumstances. Because I'm not populating the templates for the whole term at the beginning, subsequent weeks benefit from the discoveries of earlier weeks.

The level of detail in your examples is about what I strive for. I want enough detail that I can just crank out widgets. Second offerings of courses are seamless this way.

I plan out each of my projects and sub(action group)-projects to as full an extent as I possibly can. Some of the later tasks in my projects are left vague in the beginning, but they're all pretty much hashed out before the project is complete.

The general principle of GTD is that each next action represents the next physical action you can take. As a student, I tend to treat each of my classes as a project and each assignment under them as a sub-project with miscellaneous single tasks (all still part of the class project though) filling in the blanks.

As a consultant, I tend to treat meetings in different ways depending on what my responsibilities really are for each meeting. If it's a meeting that I am conducting or presenting during or otherwise playing a major role in, I make that meeting a project and include actions like:

- Prep material for meeting
- Double check that participants know the right time and date (this step varies depending on the situation)
- Conduct meeting (action group)
--- Agenda item #1
--- Agenda item #2
--- and so on (this part obviously varies from meeting to meeting depending on what you're meeting about)
- Collect and organize meeting notes (maybe do a little mini review if any new action items have popped up in the course of the meeting)
- Follow up with other participants (again, only if necessary)

I break it down to the absolute atomic level with pretty much every action and project I have in OF, even including the things that are repetitive and kind of obvious (the things I do every day at the same time of day for instance). I even have tasks for "Process mail inbox" and "Collect notes from the day" which recur daily. It sounds like a lot of planning and refactoring, but it pays off in spades when it comes time for me to actually get things done (and it serves as an end of day checklist too which helps in my regular reviews).

I don't ever find myself looking at my action list and wondering if anything is missing or "Am I forgetting something?" because I know it's all in there. That's an integral part of having a trusted system for collection and organization. You have to trust that it is complete or you won't trust it at all and then pretty soon you'll find yourself falling off the GTD wagon.

I also never find myself faced with a less-than-atomic action on my list and wondering what is the actual next action associated with that action. I don't ever have to drop out of context/execution mode back into planning mode unless I make the conscious decision to stop doing things for a moment to plan things. I'm never forced to plan when I want to do.

Last edited by MEP; 2007-09-01 at 05:28 PM..
I agree with MEP. Not everyone wants the same level of details, that’s true, but striving to get smallest action listed can greatly help you to get lost thinking “Am I missing something?” and, perhaps more importantly, can improve the feeling of completion.

This is particularly important during complex sysadmin/development tasks. It’s easy to say: “refactor this class”, “install and configure this software”, make it the next action… and then get lost in some unforeseen bug. Step back; try to come up with some debugging micro-plan; put down the needed actions; proceed through them. Maybe you can’t solve the problem right away but at least you have a plan and a list of things already tried.
I have a mixture of micro-planned projects, moderately planned projects, and unplanned, evolving projects.

The micro-planned projects are usually for things that have a definite outcome and that I need to think through completely to keep from going off in the wrong direction. I plan those out in detail.

On the other hand, I often record an evolving project as a singleton action and keep adding singleton actions as I progress.

For example, I might decide to consider buying a widget. I don't know yet if I will or not. The first step for me is to research widgets, so I enter just that on my singleton list (instead of creating a project). Once I finish researching, I might buy, I might discuss it with someone else, I might think about it for a while, or I might decide not to purchase. In any case, I check off the research action as finished.

If I decide to buy it, I either buy it online immediately or make a singleton action to purchase it online later or while out on an errand. If I buy it online, I make a singleton action to track the package. If I decide to discuss it and the someone else is available, I discuss it. Otherwise, I make a singleton action to discuss it. If I decide to think about it, I make a singleton action as a placeholder.

The point is that the project is not one I can plan out in advance because I don't know at the beginning where I will end up.

Last edited by dhm2006; 2007-09-02 at 04:00 AM..

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