The Omni Group
These forums are now read-only. Please visit our new forums to participate in discussion. A new account will be required to post in the new forums. For more info on the switch, see this post. Thank you!

Go Back   The Omni Group Forums > OmniFocus > Applying OmniFocus
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

At the GTD Crossroad... Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hello everyone. I feel I'm at a GTD crossroad and could use your help...

I've been a loyal OmniFocus user since 2009 (I think); have all three versions, and think their products are phenomenal.

I'm just not so sure GTD works for me anymore.

I put EVERYTHING I need to do in OF, from birthday party projects for my kids, to my work stuff, to daily reminders, to house maintenance. I've recently re-read GTD by David Allen. I've tried several approaches to figuring out "what needs to be done next" (not to be confused with Next Action). I'm just coming to the following realization(s):

1. I don't have a lot of time for the personal side of the house to get things done. Meaning, I get up around 5am, go to the gym, help get the kids ready for school, then work (from home) at 8. I get done work around 6, spend quality time with the kids before getting them ready for bed, then I have about 2 hours left in the day that, quite honestly, I want to spend with my wife on a good movie, or some videogames for me. You know...ME (or US) time. And I don't want to positively CRAM my weekends of stuff to do.


2. I've tried the "context" approach that David mentions where you do all your available tasks that can be done in your current location/mode/etc. That doesn't seem to work because I have so many tasks I have to constantly make decisions on what NEEDS to be done. So I've resorted to the following:
1. Flagged tasks
2. Tasks with Due Date (as not part of a project)
3. Projects with Due Date
4. Tasks without due date
But as I mentioned before, I have SO MUCH stuff in OmniFocus (and I feel it's "organized" quite well), that I have so much to do (with due dates), that I'm constantly using Dan Byler's "Defer" script to push dates back. I feel like I only have time to do my flagged tasks (for "home/personal" type tasks).

I've even begun to think...maybe I just need a ToDo application (I used to use "2DO" by Guided Ways Technologies) and just fill it with the stuff I need to get done "today" and not use OF for awhile, and see if the world ends...

Has anyone felt this way after using the GTD method for awhile?

Of course, I probably need to find a (or a few) good OmniFocus perspective(s) to use, but I'm feeling like my system is broken because it's flooded with things to do.

Just wanted to get some insight from all of you. This forum always has great ideas.

I'm hoping (selfishly for my sake) some of you have faced this crossroad yourselves so you can share your wisdom and help a fellow user out...

Thanks for listening and I apologize for the long post...

That is a lot! A few questions ...

* What does DUE DATE mean to you? Do you find a due date useful, anxiety laden, or just something you mostly ignore anyway?

* What generally makes a task so important to you that you will do it in spite of anything else on your list? Do such tasks show up on any of your lists in a way that it shows up immediately, or do you have to dig it out and "remember" that it is so important?

* What is the real difference to you between cramming things in on the weekend and getting things done on the weekend? At what point is the balance tipped? Is it based on number of tasks to do or on context-driven things to do, such as work versus house upkeep versus personal hobbies versus ?

* At what point do you just give up and drop tasks or projects in the trash because you realize they are not going to get done anyway? Do you reach that point a lot, or do you just keep things hanging around "as reminders"?

* What does it mean to you this word "NEEDS" to be done? When you look at a list of tasks, what says that one NEEDS to be done? Why is that different from a task that does not NEED to be done? What internal dialog and/or notice in OmniFocus causes you to make that distinction?

One of my gut feelings is, you are missing the review portion of the GTD approach. I gained a lot to tame anxiety and clutter when I took on more routine and serious review sessions. My other gut feeling is, you have yet to decide whether or how to bring in priority and/or importance to your tasks. I typically do this from a top-down perspective. I often have to spend a lot more time stepping back to look at the big picture to keep from getting lost in the little details.

Other than that, I could say that some times just getting away from it for a while helps your mind ferment the solution to the right degree. So, put away OmniFocus (and any other ToDo tool) for a week and see what you end up missing the most about it. Then, start from scratch to create just that part. Do that for a week. Then see what you want to add back next, if anything.
I agree with DrJJWmac. It's easy and glamorous to do the collecting part. But you collect and hoard everything in your mindsweep. After a while, you'll have filled up your OmniFocus system with all kinds of stuff - some relevant and some that is just debris.

Doing the review is like spring cleaning. You declutter and viciously delete any projects or tasks that no longer mean anything to you. Renegotiate with yourself about your projects. What's worth keeping? If I keep this project, am I willing to spend time on this project in the future? Will the amount of effort provide enough of a reward if I complete this project?

Imagine being a pack rat and hoarding all kinds of stuff in your house. Your house gets so full of things that you don't want to let go. But you get to the point where all your stuff overwhelms you. Every room is full. You can't navigate your corridors. Your friends joke that your house is more of a warehouse than a real house.

You'll eventually get frustrated, roll up your sleeves and start decluttering. Look at one thing at a time with a clear mind and determine what's worth keeping. I know I had tons of Happy Meal toys for my kids that I never even opened. I had books that were no longer relevant and belonged in a used bookstore where someone can use it. There were baby clothes that my wife kept for sentimental reasons. We finally donated it to the Good Will shop.

When my wife and I finished decluttering, we felt so much lighter and relieved when we finally saw everything in its place.

You'll need to do the review process and become your life editor. Delete, Delegate, or Defer. If you want a clean house, you'll need to declutter. Afterwards, a weekly review will help you keep things under control. Even now, I still remember to do a weekly cleaning in my house. Otherwise, I'll return back to the same cluttered state I was languishing in before. So, do your weekly review, prune the trees and keep everything under control.

Remember: the secret ingredient to OmniFocus is the Review process. I used OmniFocus for iPad to help do the review process. This helps a lot.

Here's an article about rebooting OmniFocus.

In any productivity system (Franklin-Covey, Do-It-Tomorrow, GTD, AutoFocus, or whatever system you are running), I think reviewing and editing your commitments (goals, projects, tasks) is essential in keeping your life manageable. Otherwise your monster will outgrow you and you run away in fear.
Thanks very much for both of your insights. I will look into them further!
DrJJWMac and wilsonmg. Very thoughtful replies. You guys are appreciated.

Lightstorm's post feels all too familiar. If I bulk selected all my hundreds of work related projects and corresponding actions, then blindly changed their context to "computer," they would all still be mostly accurate. I think that is the problem.

I wish I could change the real world context, but the truth is, almost everything I do requires staring at this screen. It also seems the longer I stare at it, the less productive I become.

Using a pomodoro technique helps, I also work mostly on a treadmill desk, but the context field feels burdensome, futile, and creates resistance. Looking at the situation with Ocham's Razor, the simple accurate solution is do less computer work, but I don't see that happening, and I don't think I'm alone in this situation. Bringing this back to the OP's point, contexts in the GTD system, as designed, don't seem to be helpful anymore.
I've recast one portion of my contexts to remind me that every project has a start and an end. In reverse order (as I have them sequenced in the context list)

close - end the project or action group
tidy up - put all the pieces away
deliver - send the report
do - make it happen
propose - make certain it will end ok
research - collect what is missing
define - state the problem
consider - think it over

My weekly review goes thru a sequential project with steps somewhat akin to tidy up (mail, desktop, inboxes), propose (for next week), do (OmniFocus, calendar, Kanban set ups), deliver (report last week), tidy up (archive last week), and close (ready for coming week)

I have the "traditional" location contexts such as Errands, Home, Office, or Lecture. I also have a global Waiting For context with sub-contexts of people's names.

My illustration here is to note that contexts are only useless in the sense that you decide what they should mean for you.

I tried Pomodoro off and on. It is great to avoid sticking in a seat for hours on end. It does not substitute for a top-level alignment and a weekly review.
Originally Posted by danlandrum View Post
DrJJWMac and wilsonmg. Very thoughtful replies. You guys are appreciated.

Lightstorm's post feels all too familiar. If I bulk selected all my hundreds of work related projects and corresponding actions, then blindly changed their context to "computer," they would all still be mostly accurate. I think that is the problem.

I wish I could change the real world context, but the truth is, almost everything I do requires staring at this screen. It also seems the longer I stare at it, the less productive I become.
Thanks for the kind words.

Perhaps you only need to stay in Project/Planning mode. You may not need even need to be in context mode. If you're working on one project, just stay in that perspective/view.

Press Command-1 (View > Planning Mode), go to the left sidebar on click on one project or folder and work off of that. There's no need to go to context mode if you're staying on your computer.

There are several perspectives that I saved that are strictly project perspectives. I often look at this when I'm focusing all of my attention on just one project.

I'm hoping that a future revision of the iPad/iPhone app will allow me to save project perspectives. But I can always navigate my way to the projects and stay there.

I've been playing with contexts using energy level and different hats. I'm also still trying to figure it out too.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2013-11-15 at 11:06 PM..
Originally Posted by Lightstorm View Post
But as I mentioned before, I have SO MUCH stuff in OmniFocus (and I feel it's "organized" quite well), that I have so much to do (with due dates), that I'm constantly using Dan Byler's "Defer" script to push dates back. I feel like I only have time to do my flagged tasks (for "home/personal" type tasks).
I have stopped fiddling with juggling and pushing start dates forward. There was this discussion about start dates here.

I'd usually use start dates only when necessary. I would set all of my project status to "On Hold". During my weekly review, I'll look at active projects and change some active projects back to "On Hold" when I know I won't be working on it in the next week or near future. I'll look at my "On Hold" projects and turn on just a small handful (set Project status to "Active") when I know I'll be working on it in the next 7 days.

This helps me from having to figure out when to start a project (make it active) or when to put a project on the back burner (make it "on hold").

I know I'll be reminded in the future when I do my Weekly Review on my iPad. The On Hold project will pop up for me in Review Mode. I'll look at it and decide to either keep it in "on hold" mode (someday/maybe) and click "Mark as Reviewed". This will push the next review date to the next review cycle.

During Review mode on the iPad, I can look at an "On Hold" project, change the status to "Active" and click "Mark as Reviewed". Then I'm on my way to starting a project today or whatever start date I want (hopefully in the next 7 days).

I think you like using the Start Dates as a way to remind yourself to Review. Don't use Start Dates as a tickler or reminder. You can tickle yourself in Review mode instead.

If you are in "Review" mode on the iPad, you can also hold down the button where it says "Review every week" and you can change the review cycle to something longer or shorter to change the review cycle.
Much of what I am required to do has to be done regardless of my desire or energy level. So, as interesting as energy level contexts are in principle, they do not work well for me.

I also use start dates only when enforced by external conditions, not as a way to systematically push things forward.

I have a few "tricks" if you will that I use to keep the list of tasks in any perspective view to a more resonable number. In one case, I preface a project that has a long list of sequential tasks with a task that is the equivalent of "start project x". I also try to cluster tasks in projects with long lists of tasks in to action groups that have a formal "define - do - close" approach. That reminds me to keep a healthy respect for the idea to achieve an outcome, not just do lots of stuff. Sometimes such action groups end up as their own projects. Finally, when I am still in doubt about the reason or outcome of a project, I put it only one task statement to the effect "decide something about this" with the context consider in an @Admin single-action project for the given folder. That keeps the task low in the list of my Next perspective, where close is at the top.

I too have tried to find ways to bring project views to my iPad as perspectives. In the meantime I realized, the iPad is better just kept as my go-to-action reference and the Mac is better as my plan-my-adventures tool. I often sit with my iPad next to me and refer to its Forecast, Active, and Next perspectives in action even as my desktop OmniFocus sits open and unused (with only a Geektools view to remind me what my perspective lists have). By comparison then I plan my tomorrow or coming week with the iPad at hand only for quick reference and the desktop in full swing to do the setups (delete, duplicate, archive ... tasks and projects).

Finally, I will note as wilsonng that even I continue to find different ways to explore the use of OmniFocus. In the end, the two biggest advances for me have been to formalize routine daily and weekly review cycles and to (use other tools to) keep closer track of my bigger picture.

Thanks for the respectful comments and hope this discussion continues to help you find a better way to move forward.
I too have EVERYTHING in Omnifocus. Several tricks mentioned here are what help me.

In my work I keep active everything that can be done in this season, which is about 3 months., I sort the seasons based on the calendar so from winter solstice to the spring equinox is the winter season, Spring equinox to summer solstice is the spring season, summer solstice to fall equinox is summer and fall equinox to winter solstice is fall. SO I typically have any project that can be done in that 3 month period active and available. I set review times on everything appropriate for the project. For the active projects it's weekly, for the ones on hold it may be monthly, a few are set to review only twice a year or even only once a year, long term pie in the sky ideas I may or may not ever get to this lifetime.

Contexts are also critical. I live and work at the same place so I can go into nearly any context at any time, but I found that for me if any given context gets to over 1 page of actions (about 20) I go numb. When that happens it's a sign to me to split that context in some other way. I have 19 different computer contexts, one for each major software package I run on a regular basis and one for each major device. I also have contexts for locations (hay barn, shop, guest house) as well as phone and phone business hours and so on. I will create, use and then delete contexts on the fly as needed for my work.

Review is the critical item. Without a good review things get totally lost and I feel frustrated. With a good review at least weekly and in some times of the year (during lambing for example) more often are what keeps me on track.

Stepping back to review higher horizons (Why am I doing this? What is the benefit of doing this? What is the penalty if I don't?) are also critical. I do a very high level review at each seasonal change (equinoxes and solstices) That's when I set things up for the next season, review progress and get my mind in gear for a different set of tasks.

I typically have between 200-300 active current projects, I also typically have about 100 that are pending, waiting on a start date based on season, that I can't even think about now and I have about 1000 projects sitting on hold as my someday/maybe list. Those numbers go up and down a bit, I think my high was having over 2000 projects but then I was able to complete bunch, decide a bunch were never going to happen and got the numbers down to my current set.

I'd suggest you take some time to review higher levels and see if that helps you weed out the lower level stuff.

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:55 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2024, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.