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Finally: An elegant way to handle tasks that are "in progress" (?) Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
The vast majority of my tasks are phone calls. But what do you do in OF when you've left a message and are waiting for the person to call back? I can't mark the task "completed," because we haven't actually spoken to discuss the matter.

In a thread on "delegated tasks," one post touched on this subject:

http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost...0&postcount=32

An interesting approach, but handling "in progress" tasks wasn't really the thrust of that thread, so that was the only relevant post, and that method doesn't quite work for me.

I'm sure GTD purists will weigh in on this, but on the surface, what seems to be missing from OF (and frankly from GTD) is the concept that often, a task does not have only two statuses: "done" and "not done." There is, as we all know, a 3rd status: "in progress."

Years ago I abandoned "Now Up-To-Date" for iCal. But NUD's to-dos had 3 status options: "not done," "in progress," and "done." So each task's checkbox was either:

(a) clear and empty;
(b) yellow with a hyphen (like some Apple software, indicating that only *some* of a parent folder's contents have been enabled); or
(c) blue with a check mark; respectively.

[Screenshot attached.]

Clicking a checkbox cycled through the 3 options, and the user could specify whether completed items would remain visible for awhile or disappear immediately. If they remained visible, a dotted line appeared, and they were placed beneath it. The system was profound in its simplicity.

I realize a 3-position checkbox may not be "pure GTD," but everyone has to agree, in theory, that not every task is fully served by two positions! What if a task is "cut the front lawn," and you're interrupted before finishing? Or what if you called Susan about the potluck, but you're waiting for her to call you back? Wouldn't it be nice to have a simple and elegant way of indicating this in OF?

My instinct is to ask Omni for 3-position checkboxes (without the colors or dotted-lines) -- but only as an *option*, set via preferences, since no doubt some users will only want an "on/off switch." But for those of us who routinely use dimmers, :-) this seems like a reasonable, real-world request. And with a preference allowing users to choose either 2-position or 3-position checkboxes, we'd have a win-win situation for all.

Having said that, I'm open to new ways of doing things.... But what could be simpler? Some of the suggestions in the "delegated tasks" thread were rather convoluted. (No offense to anyone who posted there!) There were complex schemes of nested contexts. There was the creation, after placing a call, of a separate, child event; then updating the child event along the way, or deleting the child event, returning focus to the parent event after a specified period of time, etc.... Oh, what a tangled web....

Why not the *option* of a checkbox that says -- at a glance -- "this task is in progress"?
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Surely in GTD this would then become a "waiting for" item?
 
It seems to me that if you need to wait for a return call, then there's something else you need to do once you get that call. Hence there are several, if not numerous, steps that you have to go through to follow through the original call. These are actions that make up a project.

Okay, do the following:

project: Organize the meeting
actions (sequential):
...make call, leave message if needed.
...wait for return call.
...follow through with the call (do whatever needs to be done).

You might place a start date for the first action, if you don't want to do it right away.

Once you make the call, check it off, and the next action (wait) appears in your context view. When the call comes in, check it off, and the third action now appears in context view.
 
Soundsgoodtome -

I like your thoughts. I'm not 100% with you though, simply because - it would put actions in a state of "sort-of-doneness", which is just a barrier to me actually getting the stuff done.

BUT - I agree that most of the methods proposed so far are far too convoluted, and that an elegant, VISUAL way of distinguishing Waiting For items would be beneficial. I find that making a context for "waiting for" means I'm still reviewing those projects constantly, even though they're in a sort of inactive state.

I would vote for a visual indication that something is out of my hands - a visual cue that could either be applied to whole projects, or to individual tasks within that project – a different colour, a little clock icon, something.
 
Soundsgoodtome, what benefit do you get by marking "cut the front lawn" as "in progress" that you don't get by seeing that it's not yet done? If it's in your list of stuff to do, and you get interrupted, it's still in your list of stuff to do because you haven't done it yet.

The calls/voicemail situation is similar. You had an action "call susan re: potluck" and you did that. When you completed it, you had another action come out from it: "wait to hear back from susan re: potluck".

A checkmark showing that the "call is in progress" isn't "true": the call *isn't* in progress. The call is done, and you're waiting for something to come out of it. If you see an action of "call susan re: potluck", and it has the "in progress" mark, what does that tell me? That I called and left a voicemail and... what? She needs to call me back? I need to call her back later? Do I have to wait for Susan, or can I move ahead?

I fear that a third state is a recipe for ignoring, forgetting, postponing, and generally disturbing my "mind like water" goals.

The more OmniFocus moves away from core GTD principles, even with options to enable/disable them, the more worried I get.

All that said, a mechanism for handling "delegated tasks" or better support for "waiting on" tasks would be appreciated, and I have some ideas I'm working through, which I'll post for comment soon.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundsgoodtome View Post
since no doubt some users will only want an "on/off switch." But for those of us who routinely use dimmers, :-) this seems like a reasonable, real-world request. And with a preference allowing users to choose either 2-position or 3-position checkboxes, we'd have a win-win situation for all.

Having said that, I'm open to new ways of doing things.... But what could be simpler? Some of the suggestions in the "delegated tasks" thread were rather convoluted. (No offense to anyone who posted there!) There were complex schemes of nested contexts. There was the creation, after placing a call, of a separate, child event; then updating the child event along the way, or deleting the child event, returning focus to the parent event after a specified period of time, etc.... Oh, what a tangled web....
I am in the binary crowd on this one -- an action is either done or not done. "In progress" would not be of much help to me, but I am not opposed in theory to options.

What I do for phone calls like the ones you describe is to append "- WF callback" to the original action (not in the notes field, but in the title field) and change the context to Waiting For. If I want a record of when and how often I called to get through to someone or some business, I make notes in note field. I think that is straightforward. No nested actions, no switching to Planning view.
 
I put partially completed tasks and some 'waiting for's' (like if I'm waiting for an outcome to see if the desired outcome has, in fact, been accomplished, i.e., plant tomato seeds) in parenthesis. If I delegate something to someone and need to follow up, the task (or more accurately, the task of delegating the main task) is marked complete, then I enter a new task to follow up with so and so about such and such. Or sometimes I'll just put the main task in parenthesis until I know that it has been accomplished by the person I delegated to. Hope this helps.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pvonk View Post
It seems to me that if you need to wait for a return call, then there's something else you need to do once you get that call. Hence there are several, if not numerous, steps that you have to go through to follow through the original call. These are actions that make up a project.

Okay, do the following:

project: Organize the meeting
actions (sequential):
...make call, leave message if needed.
...wait for return call.
...follow through with the call (do whatever needs to be done).

You might place a start date for the first action, if you don't want to do it right away.

Once you make the call, check it off, and the next action (wait) appears in your context view. When the call comes in, check it off, and the third action now appears in context view.

Pierre, with all due respect, look at your own signature: "Simplify, simplify, simplify."

For a task as simple as "Call Steve to discuss [whatever]," I don't want to have to make a list of 3 and 4 tasks. There's nothing simple, simple, simple about that. If that's how you want to approach it, great! To each his own. But to me, that's preposterous. I want to list one task: "Call Steve to discuss [whatever], and when I've placed the call, if I'm waiting for him to call back, I want a simple -- single-click -- method of indicating that I took the first step. I don't need to write down, "Wait for return call." It's already obvious! This, to me, is the weakness of the GTD system: there's so much "planning to do" that there's little time left to do.

Don't get me wrong: I "get" the whole David Allen thing. I've read the book -- twice -- and I get it. But I don't agree with all of it. Some of it is brilliant, and some of it is not. I'm sure the system works well for many people -- lots of people *need* structure like that. I do in some aspects of my life, and in others, I don't. Personally, I think it's ridiculous to have to write down every single action for something as basic as a phone call.

I need a simple, simple, simple way of indicating that a task is "in progress." I'm sorry, but I simply refuse to create 3 or 4 tasks for that. Hence, I'm requesting this functionality as an *option*.

I really like the direction of OF, and ultimately the OmniFolk will decide what they want to include. If their goal is the ultimate GTD (and GTD-only) app, these limitations will work well, and I'm sure they'll sell copies. But if there is no flexibility in areas like this, users who do not wish to be puritanical about GTD will seek other options. I own a business, so I understand that. That's the nature of business! I'd like for OF to accommodate the needs of users like myself, but if ultimately they don't, that's their choice, and eventually we'll each eventually find the tool that works best for us. :-)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoltok View Post
I would vote for a visual indication that something is out of my hands - a visual cue that could either be applied to whole projects, or to individual tasks within that project a different colour, a little clock icon, something.
You're absolutely right: there's a difference between a task I've begun but haven't finished and a task that's temporarily "out of my hands." Well-put. And a simple, visual cue for handling each -- at the user's discretion -- would be awesome.

(When I say "each," I believe that one method would work for each. Some users might use it only for the "out of my hands" tasks, but depending upon the implementation, the same cue could be used for an "interrupted task."

I realize that, at the most basic level, an "interrupted task" is in essence "not done." But sometimes I find it particularly helpful to be reminded that a task is "in progress," as opposed to "haven't even started it, yet." Sometimes these decisions have to be made on the fly, and the "next actions" system simply doesn't work. I won't bother to create an elaborate scenario, here, but a simple, visual cue, indicating "in progress" would solve a lot of problems for me.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
Soundsgoodtome, what benefit do you get by marking "cut the front lawn" as "in progress" that you don't get by seeing that it's not yet done? If it's in your list of stuff to do, and you get interrupted, it's still in your list of stuff to do because you haven't done it yet.
Yes, but believe it or not, there are instances when it is advantageous to know -- specifically -- that a task was begun, yet not completed. I get what you're saying: even 99% done is still "not done." You're right. But for me, there are situations when I absolutely *must* abandon a particular task to complete another task or several other tasks. And by the time I complete those (and I don't mean 10-minute tasks; sometimes I'm talking about *days*) I may have forgotten about the incomplete one. In those cases, depending upon various deadlines and a ton of other variables, I'm faced with decisions: Do I (a) begin a brand-new task? Or (b) do I go back to the incomplete task? The answer is *not* always the same, and I need a way of quickly identifying the tasks in my list that are "in progress."

Again, if you prefer the "on/off" paradigm, no problem! But please do not make the mistake of assuming that "pure GTD" is the best solution for everyone, because it is not. Is it a fantastic system? Yes. And it works for many people. But everything in the world is not black and white, and I get this sense that GTD-adopters want everything to be so black and white, and frankly it's becoming a bit annoying. It's like "we know the correct way (the David Allen way), and *your* way is inferior.

Perhaps that's not your intent, but there's subtext like that in hundreds of posts all over this forum, and it's starting to become a real problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
The calls/voicemail situation is similar. You had an action "call susan re: potluck" and you did that. When you completed it, you had another action come out from it: "wait to hear back from susan re: potluck".
As I wrote in another reply, moments ago, I don't need another action. Frankly, I think it's silly to have to script out every single move, like that. The task is making the call. When I see those words, written down, my brain knows what to do next. I don't need to write down "Wait to hear back from susan"; then write down "If no reply from Susan, call again," Rinse. Repeat. That is too much busy-work. All I need is the original task, and for me, anything related to that one task (waiting for the returned call, or calling again later) is already inherent in the original task. Now, if the conversation with Susan leads to another task, then that's different. But to write down "Wait for reply from Susan" as a task does not and will not ever work for me. All I need is a simple indicator that I took the step, and the rest is already understood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
A checkmark showing that the "call is in progress" isn't "true": the call *isn't* in progress.
OK. Now you're just being ridiculous with the semantics. Of course the "call" isn't in progress, but the "task" is. This is farr too much overthinking about something that is very, very simple. I don't need to script out every singular action, regarding the call. The task is to talk to Susan about the potluck. When I mark that task "in progress," *I* know what that means. I know I haven't left the phone off the hook. I know I'm not on the phone with Susan presently. I'm not leaving instructions for someone else to pick up where I left off, I'm leaving a quick, visual cue for myself.

[QUOTE=jasong;23252If you see an action of "call susan re: potluck", and it has the "in progress" mark, what does that tell me? That I called and left a voicemail and... what? She needs to call me back? I need to call her back later? Do I have to wait for Susan, or can I move ahead?[/QUOTE]

If you truly need to ask yourself all of those questions, I can see why pure GTD is helpful to you. When I see "in progress," I know what it means, and I know what to do next.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
I fear that a third state is a recipe for ignoring, forgetting, postponing, and generally disturbing my "mind like water" goals.
And here we go again.... It's really difficult to read comments like that and not want to be acerbic and pithy in return. I don't have those problems. I have other problems in my life, but not those. So -- if you need this structure to accomplish your tasks, then I'm happy that you've found the structure you need. I don't need that much structure, and I really couldn't care less about disturbing "mind-like-water" goals. I really couldn't. And I'm really tired of these condescending comments. You'd think GTD is a religion and that only those who follow it "properly" will inherit the kingdom.

I'm sorry, but I think some of you are really taking this stuff WAY too seriously and are going WAY too far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
The more OmniFocus moves away from core GTD principles, even with options to enable/disable them, the more worried I get.
Because it won't do what you want it to do. But there are others who don't want to be forced into the GTD methodology. You need rigidity to be accomplish your goals, but we need flexibility.

I'm amazed at how much discussion this has generated, even though I went out of my way to state -- more than once -- that I was requesting *optional* features, enabled via preferences! If it's optional, and you never have to even see it unless you enable it, why do you care?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
All that said, a mechanism for handling "delegated tasks" or better support for "waiting on" tasks would be appreciated, and I have some ideas I'm working through, which I'll post for comment soon.
At least we agree upon something. :-)
 
 


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