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Next vs. available and stuff vs. actions / tasks Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
This text is made up of ashes. Originally I wanted to make some very clever points about OmniFocus being at odds with GTD. But then I realized I was wrong (what a surprise) - I ended up with suggestions that seem to be implemented already. - OF rules!

There are a few issues left, though. But most of them are about the look and feel of the app - things that probably wait for later stages of the development process.

A caveat is in place: Iīm German and have read David Allenīs book in German. So, I might use wrong terminology (retranslating what I read). Furthermore, I apologize for my English.

First things first: I guess it is possible to change text color, but it just doesnīt work for me. Am I missing something? (It works for notes, but not for tasks: I select the text, push the "colors" button, select a color, but nothing happens.)

(I desperately need this, because with the default settings I canīt read most of what I put into OF.)

Second, I feel there is something peculiar about "next actions" as defined by OF, that might stem from considering all projects sequential. I donīt know if Iīm with David Allen in this respect, or if OF is. But certainly OF is much more restrictive about next actions than I am. For OF, there is just one next action per project. Therefore it matters, if I put up one project to hold twelve tasks or if I organize these same tasks in three projects with four tasks each. In the first case thereīs one next action, in the second case there are three.

I think the important thing about next actions is this: if something from your inbox turns out to be a project, you should instantly assign a (physical) action to it (unless you put it on hold deliberately). The idea being that you should be clear about doing something or doing nothing. You might put "lose weight" onto several lists, but until you decide on physical actions that support this project, you put it on hold without admitting this.

To me it seems, the idea is to assign at least one next action to active projects - and not at most one. The goal is to foster doing something - and not to concentrate on doing something specific (because it is the next of many available actions). Why should the design of larger or smaller "projects" matter? (Concentrating on a small number of available actions is handled by the context lists.)

Of course, all this only means that "available" seems to be the more relevant category than "next".

Third, I think a project really is just a "conainer" of (related) actions / tasks. So there is no need for three categories of containers: projects, buckets and folders. But this has been discussed before, and I think buckets and folders do not hurt.

Fourth, my greatest concern was about "stuff" within OF. And the greatest discovery was that "stuff" has already been implemented - "tasks" without a context are "stuff". I would only wish for a more visible distinction. To me, the distinction between physical actions (doing something) and everything else is most basic. Therefore, the ease of converting actions into projects and vice versa (something I would always want to keep) is dangerous. You need not answer the basic question: "What is this?" But declaring something an action should always be a conscious decision. Converting stuff into actions / tasks is the magic act at the center of GTD.

To be more pragmatic: I think "stuff" items should not have checkboxes. There might even be two separate areas beneath a projectīs heading: one for "stuff" and one for actions / tasks. (The notes area might seem similar to such a "stuff" area - but this area would be like an inbox for the project, where all "stuff" items would go that have been assigned to the project.)

If there is just one "area", I would really love to have an indicator in each projectīs title bar that lets me see at once if there is any available / next action assigned to this project. Because I think it is not essential to plan your project entirely, but to collect everything that is related ("stuff" - reference material and items that might become actions or subprojects when reviewing the project) and to assign at least one physical action. Therefore, a project is in good health, if within an amorphous mass of "stuff" there is one proper action, and I can wait for a thorough review of the project to sort things out. But if there is no action I need to decide on one or put the project on hold.

These are my thoughts about OF at the moment. If Iīm wrong about GTD or miss any features of OF, I will be pleased to be told so. Thanks for reading.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by janT View Post
Of course, all this only means that "available" seems to be the more relevant category than "next".
"Available" is the more relevant category. If you subscribe to David Allen's form of GTD, then "Available" actions in OmniFocus are "next actions" in GTD. And OmniFocus's "Next" actions are actually a very limited subset of what GTD's next actions are. I have also mentioned this a couple times on the forums, but no one seems to care. I just got over it personally. I'm not so pedantic that I can't just use "Available" when I want "Next". Personally, I intend to turn off "next action" highlighting when styles are more fully implemented -- it's only distracting and not really informative (and before someone points it out, Yes, I know I once thought the distinction was really important, but I've since identified that as a bad habit. GTD is a process).

Quote:
Third, I think a project really is just a "conainer" of (related) actions / tasks. So there is no need for three categories of containers: projects, buckets and folders. But this has been discussed before, and I think buckets and folders do not hurt.
I would've agreed a few days ago, but I've just recently warmed up to the notion of folders (just as I've only recently started to warm to the idea of action groups rather than sub-projects). I think that most of us are used to using different GTD software tools. Some of us came here from Kinkless while others came here from iGTD or Actiontastic or one of the other Mac GTD apps out there. For all of their differences, most of these tools all share some common structures and elements, sub-projects being one of them.

But as I reread David Allen's book (which I am doing mostly because of discussions on this forum), I only find one mention of sub-projects and it's pretty open-ended and Allen's comments assume you're doing this on paper really -- at the time he wrote GTD, no tool for automatically tracking actions in both projects and contexts existed. I think the Omni folks may be on to something, though I'm still wrapping my head around exactly what.

I think Omni is redesigning the GTD application in a pretty fundamental way by not allowing sub-projects in favor of action groups and folders. But they're not redefining GTD. In fact, I think this might be an improvement or a refinement of a portion of GTD that was previously left pretty vague. I'm refactoring my list today, in fact, to see if I can use these different structures more effectively.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
"Available" is the more relevant category. If you subscribe to David Allen's form of GTD, then "Available" actions in OmniFocus are "next actions" in GTD. And OmniFocus's "Next" actions are actually a very limited subset of what GTD's next actions are. I have also mentioned this a couple times on the forums, but no one seems to care. I just got over it personally. I'm not so pedantic that I can't just use "Available" when I want "Next". Personally, I intend to turn off "next action" highlighting when styles are more fully implemented -- it's only distracting and not really informative (and before someone points it out, Yes, I know I once thought the distinction was really important, but I've since identified that as a bad habit. GTD is a process).
Thank you for your reply, MEP, and please excuse my late response. Of course, I was very happy that someone looks at the world (or at GTD, at least) the way I do.

I have finally found a way to turn off "next action" highlighting. Getting rid of the italics is easy. The purple was harder, but I have noticed that colors work different in OF than elsewhere. You have to drag the color onto the text instead of trying to apply it as an attribute. The only highlighter that stays with me is the little dot to the left of the checkbox (the "handle"?).

Last edited by janT; 2007-09-09 at 09:56 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by janT View Post
I have finally found a way to turn off "next action" highlighting. Getting rid of the italics is easy. The purple was harder, but I have noticed that colors work different in OF than elsewhere. You have to drag the color onto the text instead of trying to apply it as an attribute. The only highlighter that stays with me is the little dot to the left of the checkbox (the "handle"?).
Under the Format menu, you'll find Copy Style and Paste Style. If you copy the style from an available row to a next action row, it will copy across all styles (including the color of the row handle).
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
I would've agreed a few days ago, but I've just recently warmed up to the notion of folders (just as I've only recently started to warm to the idea of action groups rather than sub-projects). I think that most of us are used to using different GTD software tools. Some of us came here from Kinkless while others came here from iGTD or Actiontastic or one of the other Mac GTD apps out there. For all of their differences, most of these tools all share some common structures and elements, sub-projects being one of them.

But as I reread David Allen's book (which I am doing mostly because of discussions on this forum), I only find one mention of sub-projects and it's pretty open-ended and Allen's comments assume you're doing this on paper really -- at the time he wrote GTD, no tool for automatically tracking actions in both projects and contexts existed. I think the Omni folks may be on to something, though I'm still wrapping my head around exactly what.
I don't think it is that much an issue about not finding a definition for subproject, rather then how you define a project. As I always understood, a goal requiring more than one physical action turns into a project, whereas a goal requiring only one action is just an action. From this perspective an action group and a project are the same, and it can be nested as deep as necessary.
This is why I am confused about OF's implementation because , in my view, there shouldn't be a difference between an action group and a project. In OF there is, one of the consequences is that I can't focus on an action group ( the feature only works for projects).


Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
I think Omni is redesigning the GTD application in a pretty fundamental way by not allowing sub-projects in favor of action groups and folders. But they're not redefining GTD. In fact, I think this might be an improvement or a refinement of a portion of GTD that was previously left pretty vague. I'm refactoring my list today, in fact, to see if I can use these different structures more effectively.
Can you maybe elaborate on why action groups and folders might be improving or refining GTD? I would like to get my head around it as well :)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by joris View Post
I don't think it is that much an issue about not finding a definition for subproject, rather then how you define a project. As I always understood, a goal requiring more than one physical action turns into a project, whereas a goal requiring only one action is just an action. From this perspective an action group and a project are the same, and it can be nested as deep as necessary.
This is why I am confused about OF's implementation because , in my view, there shouldn't be a difference between an action group and a project. In OF there is, one of the consequences is that I can't focus on an action group ( the feature only works for projects).
The first difference between an action group and a sub-project is that projects are available through the various quick-entry methods (inbox, quick entry dialog and the Quicksilver plugin) and action groups are not. Therefore, if I want to quickly add an action to an action group, I'm out of luck.

Quote:
Can you maybe elaborate on why action groups and folders might be improving or refining GTD? I would like to get my head around it as well :)
At first glance, action groups may seem very similar to sub-projects, but when you start to use more of OF's advanced functionality (Focus, Perspectives, Reviews) action groups and projects are definitely not equivalent to each other. As you start to refactor your action lists to best take advantage of some of these features, you'll likely find yourself wildly restructuring your action list to accommodate OF's quirks (I've found that personally). As annoying as this may sound (and it is a little), I've honestly been quite pleased with the end results.

I'm really not in a state of mind right now to elaborate on this (I had a major project presentation a couple days ago and I'm currently gearing up for the next major project, and I'm buried in homework and I may have to move soon -- I'm not currently studying my GTD system in depth. I'm Getting Things Done as quickly as I can right now. I'll refactor again in January). If I get the chance to really review what's going on with my system right now (and actually identify why it seems to be working better), I'll be sure to elaborate on what I think it all means.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
The first difference between an action group and a sub-project is that projects are available through the various quick-entry methods (inbox, quick entry dialog and the Quicksilver plugin) and action groups are not. Therefore, if I want to quickly add an action to an action group, I'm out of luck.
Yes, I know what the differences are between action groups and projects. My point was actually that, in my view, there shouldn't be a difference. But I have never seen a tool implementing it that way :)
I had hoped OF would have implemented it that way, since it has the omni roots and OO, e.g., has the ability to drill down in sub hierarchies in the sidebar as deep as necessary.
 
 


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