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OmniFocus and Mindmapping: much more than "That'd be nice"? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I noticed a recent thread about integrated mindmapping software with OmniFocus, and it got me thinking about just how much of a chasm there is between my planning, and my use of OmniFocus. And I realized, for me, just how unbelievably awesome it would be if a mindmapping "interface" was built in to OmniFocus.

I'm thinking about those two software tools — mindmapping and OmniFocus — are counterparts to discrete stages of the GTD process. I'm quite sure I'm not exploring new conceptual ground — it's pretty fundamental stuff really, but still, when coming across threads and comments about mindmaps, I'm surprised the sentiments aren't more... hopeful, emphatic, pleading.

So I'm wondering how OmniFocus users and developers view the mindmapping/planning piece within OmniFocus:

• Tweeet! That's not what OmniFocus is for. Move along.
• Sure, it'd be handy for some people.
• It'd be ideal, but there are reasons why it can't be done.

Here's my two cents:

Mindmaps represent a crucial and necessary phase in GTD. While OmniFocus is helpful (for me, at least) in big-picture planning, it's not at all what David Allen suggests for planning / blue-sky / 30,000 feet processes. In fact, he emphatically teaches strategies that are not "Thing 1, Thing 2 — subset A and B, Thing 3". Though OmniFocus is not as static and cognitively constraining as a pencil and a sheet of paper, it is fundamentally based on lists and sub-lists, and as such, it's amenable to — no, that's too mild — it's precisely designed to implement — the serial, post-planning "runway" phase.

So I can imagine how unbelievably awesome it would be in my work, but more significantly :) , is it not the case that a pre-OmniFocus software tool, which facilitate and feeds into the OmniFocus/runway stage, would encompass exactly what GTD prescribes, and what its adherents (strict and approximate) must currently do by other means?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by paulduv View Post
So I'm wondering how OmniFocus users and developers view the mindmapping/planning piece within OmniFocus:

• Tweeet! That's not what OmniFocus is for. Move along.
• Sure, it'd be handy for some people.
• It'd be ideal, but there are reasons why it can't be done.
I fall somewhere between the (1) and (2). I've personally never really felt the need for a discrete mindmapping tool and, to be honest, I'm not really sure how to use one or what exactly they do. I'm actually pretty happy with a combination of a task/list manager (like OmniFocus or OmniOutliner) and a text editor. But I'm willing to be enlightened. :-)

Does a mindmapping tool just allow you to graphically represent your thoughts? Could something like OmniGraffle satisfy the need, or is there some additional functionality specific to dedicated mindmapping tools?

I guess it largely comes down to how we each think and work. So I suppose I can see this being of value to some people, but I'm not one of them at the moment.

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by paulduv View Post
So I'm wondering how OmniFocus users and developers view the mindmapping/planning piece within OmniFocus:

1. Tweeet! That's not what OmniFocus is for. Move along.
2. Sure, it'd be handy for some people.
3. It'd be ideal, but there are reasons why it can't be done.
Excellent thread topic. I look forward to learning from what others have to say.

Personally, I have no desire for mind mapping support in OF. I've tried mind mapping software and find that it gets in my way. Mind mapping only seems to work for me with pen and paper (or whiteboard and marker). I don't find mind mapping essential to GTD. It's helpful to me at the 50k level when I'm feeling anxious, but for translation to goals, projects, and actions, a nested list is adequate.

That said, I wouldn't answer (1); who am I to judge what others might find useful in a personal task management application. But I wouldn't answer (2) either, since effort on adding mind mapping would delay features I'd rather have available such as meta-data columns, smart folders, time-based views of data, and stronger support for Applescript queries of actions. I guess my answer would be, "Sure, add it to the list of requested features, but (at the risk of reopening the mother of all threads) prioritize the new feature request appropriately."

Cheers,

Curt
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
it would be hard for OmnniFocus to be everything to everyone.

I'd love a mindmapping function but OF would probably need to be rewired to take advantage of it.

Yes, mindmapping is a crucial and necessary phase but there are already tools outside of OF that are available.

I'd love to have one program to have everything but I find it sometimes better to have separate programs.

iCal - for my calendared action items
DevonThink Pro Office - for my file reference and project support materials
OmniOutliner Pro - for my brain dumps and other various lists



As an example, I know I'd be trying to shoehorn in file reference and project support material into OF. So I'd rather use DevonThink which is more ideally suited for this purpose.

I know it's been brought up in the past to have a built-in calendar for OF. But the OF development team has placed it in the backburner.

But who knows, if there's enough people voting for mindmapping, maybe the OF folks would consider it!
 
Support forums appear to be full of threads along the lines of "I use X, I'd like to do Y, wouldn't it be awesome of X did Y".

The answer in almost every case is "no it wouldn't", most tools were designed to do one thing best, the alternative is the Microsoft Swiss Army Chainsaw approach where the suite does everything - badly.
 
Any reason why you couldn't launch a separate piece of software for mind mapping? You can attach documents to given projects (perfect for mind mapping.)
 
I was just about to start a thread very similar to this one, did a quick scan of the forums and found this thread...

Here's my story so far: Got properly into GTD just over a year ago when I got my iPhone and realised I could sync OF to it. I've now got much of the thinking of GTD as second nature and to be honest can't imagine how I got along without this type of GTD thinking before.

I have found OF invaluable in helping me get up to speed with all of this, especially with the basic concepts of:

Getting things out of your head
Next Actions and
Projects (when something becomes one)

and also to some extent:

Contexts

So here's what I've found -

#1

I feel like I've reached a ceiling with Omnifocus. Without a shadow of a doubt with the ideas in GTD and OF together I am finally at a place where all the clutter that used to really get me down is no longer an issue. This is nothing short of amazing. Now I find myself 'off the runway' pretty much all of the time (something I never thought possible) I am now able to tackle short to long term goals with a clear head. Awesome, I love it, never going back to the old 'me'.

Now, even though this is a great place to be, a lot of the other concepts that appear in GTD, such as setting goals, 30, 40, 50 thousand feet vision seem to be something I have real problems with. It's not that I'm having problem thinking in my head about what I want to achieve, where I want to be in 5 years etc - what I'm having problems with is HOW TO USE OMNIFOCUS TO HELP ME ORGANISE THESE CONCEPTS alongside all my runway / short term goal level stuff.

So currently Omnifocus to me is a 'runway to take-off' tool, something it does very well. As far as long term planning goes, I am completely at a loss on how to configure Omnifocus to do this. I've done all kinds of fiddling with it and it doesn't seem to want to 'fit'.

Now, as Paulduv who started this thread stated, Mind Maps are a great way of personal brainstorming where you'd like to be in the future and of visualizing longer term goals. Because for the first time I'm am now CONSTANTLY off the runway and seem to be circling wondering where to fly to in the somewhat distant future, I have started using Free Mind (free mind mapping software) to help myself find out more of the further afield and occasionally somewhat abstract notions of where I'm trying to actually get to. Using a mind map is great fun, and instead of wishing that Omnifocus had this mind mapping integrated into it I quite like having it all in a separate application that allows me to think free form instead of in lists.

This still leaves the problem however that when I have kind of figured out these longer term goals and strategies, I can't seem to work out an easy way to incorporate them into my Omnifocus workflow. Adding overarching themes and ideas into Omnifocus seems impossible, and in some ways I guess it's a problem of a list based system. I guess in a way some of the life goals and 'where you'd like to be in five years' kind of concepts could be considered a kind of giant project of sorts, but still I can't figure out how Omnifocus can help me get my head around this stuff, or link the smaller projects I'm working on into the bigger picture.

IF ANYONE HAS ANY IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO DO THIS PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

I should just mention that although I like the GTD book, I really HATE the whole idea of runways and takeoff and 30, 40, 50k feet - the analogy does nothing for me and I wish he'd described it in some other way. Height, for me, conjures up nothing but going on holiday and fluffy clouds. When I think of a better analogy I'll let you know!

#2

Please bear with me, I now want to talk about something else I have problems with, and that is actually CONTEXTS. This is another part of the bigger picture for me that doesn't quite make sense. I have tried all kinds of contexts and now they're pretty minimal. Like many people on these forums, I spend a lot of time on the computer because everything I do nowadays seems to be something to do with it.

So here I am with my Computer context with almost everything in it (although I've subcontexted it a bit), a Comms context with all my email / phone / interaction stuff in it, and some other contexts which are a bit, well, meh. I swear I've fiddled with them to keep them simple, but to be honest I'm getting bored making everything one of four computer contexts.

CONTEXTS, AS THEY'RE TAUGHT IN GTD, DON'T SEEM TO BE DOING IT FOR ME

Now as I read other stuff and look at other software, the concept of the different type of person you are during your day to day life looked interesting from the '7 Habits Of Highly Successful People' book. As part of the personal brainstorming in that system, you write down all the jobs you have to do, something like:

Father
Web Designer
Musician
Semi-pro Footballer
Martial Arts Lecturer
Teacher

and use these different "you"'s to figure out what different modes of working and living you have, so you can make sure you evenly distribute your time and goals to each person that you are. In my mind this concept works very well and is 'sticky', I can really relate to it as I do many various overlapping jobs. I'm sure some of you are well aware of this book, and also the authors idea of thinking of actions in four zones etc - if not I'll let you go and do some research on that, it's well worth a look.

But what I'm thinking is this - has anyone else here ditched the 'traditional' GTD style contexts and used context based more on the various kinds of hats you wear? At one point I was thinking of creating contexts based more on mood, but I think I can really see a value in having contexts related to the kind of person I'm at at any one time. 'This afternoon I'm only going to be a musician' seems to put me in a better frame of mind to tackle musician stuff, just as 'This morning I'm going to be a web designer' would. The idea of putting on a different hat seems to help me mentally adjust to the mode I have to be in, but may also really help me create some contexts that finally have some relevance, as opposed to 'computer, computer, computer'.

So just wondered if anyone had tried this approach, and if there were any other people who really didn't get along with contexts and had tried some radical new thinking to this. I know I'm not the only one thinking that contexts, as taught in GTD, just doesn't fit properly.
 
BevvyB,

Here are a couple of threads that discuss reviews. My post 13 in the second thread describes how I'm handling the higher levels, with lots of references to Covey there.

I don't find GTD contexts extremely helpful, since I'm at a computer most of the day, but I do find standard Errands and Phone contexts useful, as well as a Chores context for when I'm working in the yard or around the house. I'm using folders for life roles and will focus on a particular folder if I need to firmly don that hat for awhile.

Cheers,

Curt
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
I would be horrified if OF confused its interface with mind mapping. I use mind mapping tools almost every day, and used the technique long before it arrived on computers. I have two mind map progs (Novamind and Mind Manager) which work brilliantly but differently. OF for me is the best at what it does, and does exactly what I want, as do my mind mappers. I'm grown up, I can cope with an OF action to develop a mind map, I can tweek the action as the map grows if it takes time.
 
I'm grown up too. :P
 
 


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