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“What is a project” and other confusion Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hope it’s ok to start a new thread to pick up on some points which are scattered through others. Several people are confused by the nomenclature in OF, such as “projects”, “contexts”, “library”, etc, and this has led others to ask for extra features which would move the app more towards being a fuller project planner. It seems to me there’s some misconception here, cutting several ways.

I’m not a great GTD adept, but the confusion seems to arise there rather than in OF itself. It sometimes seems to me that GTD can confuse what is basically rather a simple task-planning scheme, overloading it with jargon and sending everyone spinning off into arcane discussions of what it all means, when actually it’s pretty obvious. “Projects” can sound grandiose for getting simple stuff done, and leads to the strange explanation in one of the threads that OF is “a task manager, not a project manager” so we shouldn’t be confused by the use of the term - duh! Obviously, “errands” or “phone” or “urgent” or whatever aren’t strictly speaking “contexts”, either. A list of projects and actions isn’t a “library”. It’s odd to think of a task as “available”. Is “bucket” really the best term for the place to keep single tasks (a bucket is for slops, or washing floors, surely, and its use in computing doesn’t seem the right metaphor here).

There’s probably not much to be done about this, though it would be great of someone could come up with more useful terms. The main thing is to hang onto the fundamental idea: setting objectives, listing the steps necessary to achieve them, setting priorities and seeing where shared “contexts” allow these steps to be carried out more efficiently (buying the stuff you need for several “projects” at the same store, for example - traditionally known in pre-GTD language as killing several birds with one stone). All pretty obvious really, but a huge help once it’s structured and clear, and OF is a great tool to do this - never mind the jargon.

But the terminology thing works the other way, too. To say that OF is only a “task manager” despite the “projects”, and that therefore anyone thinking beyond this needs some much larger-scale planner like OmniPlan sells OF short. Obviously it isn’t for multi-person, highly complex projects in an office or similar environment. But, as Ethan describes it on the new video, it is a “professional level” task management tool. It can be used for much more than planning painting the woodshed. For people like me, professionals who mostly work alone, it is a godsend for planning work projects (yes, folks, projects), and was conceived as such - or am I wrong?

And this is where there is a major lack, IMHO. One aspect to planning this level of projects is listing tasks, assigning dates and contexts and the like, and for this OF is superb. But the other is planning these projects over time, seeing how they fit together organizationally and how time can best be spent on them over a given period. And this requires some calendar/time/Gantt-type visualization. Not on anything like the scale of OmniPlan, but something far simpler that that would still translate the task and action lists into such visual terms. To say that OF is intended as too basic for this isn’t a good answer, as for many users such a visualization is part-and-parcel of task management, not some different sphere requiring the big guns of OmniPlan. Without it, OF, as excellent as it is, is left hopping along on one leg. With it, it would be the true killer app for this level of project planning . As I think it is intended to be.

I understand the dangers of bloating. Some suggestions in posts, such as allowing full-scale inclusion of web archives, etc, do seem to me to imply this. In this sense OF is not a full project planner, and, yes, should be used together with other apps designed for this. What I am suggesting here is not that, but a logical but missing aspect of what is already in OF.

Sorry to go on for so long and mix topics somewhat, but here’s hoping it may jog some response.

Last edited by mcoad; 2007-11-24 at 08:38 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
But the terminology thing works the other way, too. To say that OF is only a “task manager” despite the “projects”, and that therefore anyone thinking beyond this needs some much larger-scale planner like OmniPlan sells OF short. Obviously it isn’t for multi-person, highly complex projects in an office or similar environment. But, as Ethan describes it on the new video, it is a “professional level” task management tool. It can be used for much more than planning painting the woodshed. For people like me, professionals who mostly work alone, it is a godsend for planning work projects (yes, folks, projects), and was conceived as such - or am I wrong?

And this is where there is a major lack, IMHO. One aspect to planning this level of projects is listing tasks, assigning dates and contexts and the like, and for this OF is superb. But the other is planning these projects over time, seeing how they fit together organizationally and how time can best be spent on them over a given period. And this requires some calendar/time/Gantt-type visualization. Not on anything like the scale of OmniPlan, but something far simpler that that would still translate the task and action lists into such visual terms. To say that OF is intended as too basic for this isn’t a good answer, as for many users such a visualization is part-and-parcel of task management, not some different sphere requiring the big guns of OmniPlan. Without it, OF, as excellent as it is, is left hopping along on one leg. With it, it would be the true killer app for this level of project planning . As I think it is intended to be.
I don't think OF will ever be a project management software, but it is a task management software based on GTD concepts but flexible enough to allow other methods of planning if the user so chooses.

As such, you would not expect to see Calendar, Gantt-chart, etc. If you want those, you should look at Omniplan or other project management software.

OF does allow you to manage your projects via hierarchical planning view and allows you to manage your tasks via context view. It allows parallel or sequential processing. However, if you need more sophisticated organization such as linking items or seeing related items, and path diagram, etc., then this is not the right program for you.

OF syncs with iCal, and as such you can use iCal to manage your calendars if you need to hard code a task into appointments.

It's ironic that some folks are asking to expand the features of the OF to include certain project management tools or calendaring tools, and that to me is for OF to lose its FOCUS . . .
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
I’m not a great GTD adept, but the confusion seems to arise there rather than in OF itself.
Your description of GTD makes me think you don't get it - which isn't unusual; it took me a long time. GTD really is just a to-do list. The genius of David Allen's approach lies in the way he deviates from traditional to-do lists:

1) Even "simple stuff" (your phrase) needs to be looked at to see whether it will take more than one physical action.

2) All projects and next actions need to be written down to get them out of the head and free up the mind for better purposes.

3) Context can be useful as a way of listing what you can do depending on your physical location or the tool at hand. To take your examples, "phone" can be a context, "urgent" can't.

4) A weekly review is crucial to create new next actions for projects.

5) If you can't commit to something, renegotiate; don't keep it on an active list - you'll get numb to it and to your entire system.

There are many other components, of course, but these are the ones that really resonated with me once I groked them.

Anyone is free to disagree with GTD or to modify it for their own use - for example I find schedules & rules very useful, and so I add them on. But don't ask for Gant charts. Don't blame the developers for adapting GTD terminology. Don't blame users if they create contexts that aren't really contexts (maybe it works for them). Reread GTD if you want to get what's going on.

Last edited by Usable Thought; 2007-11-24 at 09:33 AM.. Reason: Someone else jumped in before me
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Usable Thought View Post
Your description of GTD makes me think you don't get it - which isn't unusual
No - I agree with everything you say. GTD is not basically a complicated idea. My summary fits exactly with yours. You’ve just elaborated on it, and very well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Usable Thought View Post

Don't blame the developers for adapting GTD terminology. Don't blame users if they create contexts that aren't really contexts (maybe it works for them). Reread GTD if you want to get what's going on.
Whoa, where did blame come from? Of course it’s good that people do these things. My point was the confusion in several threads about these terms and the touch of dogmatism that creeps in here and there about what GTD supposedly does or doesn’t allow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ksrhee View Post
I don't think OF will ever be a project management software, but it is a task management software based on GTD concepts but flexible enough to allow other methods of planning if the user so chooses.

As such, you would not expect to see Calendar, Gantt-chart, etc. If you want those, you should look at Omniplan or other project management software.
This is exactly the problem, kshree. OmniPlan is a largescale app for multiperson project planning environments, total overkill for small scale planning of the kind I was talking about and which OF is intended for (Ethan says it in the video, “professional” task management). The fact is that in some circumstances OF-level planning does require simple time visualization, not bloat but another view of the same data, allowing time use to become clearer and improving task management. This is all I’m suggesting, very far from the transformation of OF into a fullscale project planning app. That would be a big mistake, and obviously ain’t gonna happen.

iCal sync in the present form doesn’t cut it, unfortunately, as it’s not just a matter of scheduling tasks but seeing how long a sequence will take in relation to another. If All-day or multi-day events could somehow be synced, this might be an approximation, but clunky in iCal, whereas a simple time view in OF would do the job easily and elegantly.

If this sounds like OmniPlan Lite, with which OF could be integrated, great - perhaps that would be the answer. At the moment there is nothing out there (that I’m aware of, anyway) designed for small-scale project planning with time vizualization. But I’m not convinced even this is necessary - just the present lean, svelte OF, exactly as is, plus the additional view. Then there would truly be nothing to beat it in its field.

Last edited by mcoad; 2007-11-24 at 01:00 PM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ksrhee View Post
...you would not expect to see Calendar, Gantt-chart, etc. If you want those, you should look at Omniplan or other project management software.
Omni has future plans for integrating the two applications and I'm sure they'll accomplish it with active linking and sharing. The two levels of perspective will work well together. I think of OmniPlan as being the tool of choice when dates and durations can be known, but for focusing on Now, OF does enough. Overviews of a more time-fuzzy nature may best be laid out in Outliner or Graffle.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ksrhee View Post
...OF syncs with iCal, and as such you can use iCal to manage your calendars if you need to hard code a task into appointments.
iCal is lousy for this or anything at a "professional" level; OF Tasks and iCal Events do not interoperate. I hope Omni moves toward a more universal Sync Services approach. (for example, OF won't move someting onto the iCal calendar and moving a iCal ToDo to the calendar does not delete it from my ToDo (ie OF Task) list). A poor standard calendar app should not be the reason Omni adds a large feature to OF.
 
as a registered user of omni plan I'm not getting why you refer to it as " big guns " only ? yes , it's true that it's designed for a multi user enviroment .

but it's easy usable by one person --weekly I chart my omni focus tasks that I want to accomplish , every OF project just becomes a task under the OP project " this week " it works quite well and FOR ME [ymmv] fills the gap left by OF's current lack of time representation for commitments .. [oh for the day when the estimated time columns in OF will total ] It's nice to list that a task requires 10 minutes but how long will the whole project require .

anyway , it's very easy to get OP to work on a small scale basis or to use it for a 10 person project team .
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pjb View Post
iCal is lousy for this or anything at a "professional" level; OF Tasks and iCal Events do not interoperate. I hope Omni moves toward a more universal Sync Services approach. (for example, OF won't move someting onto the iCal calendar and moving a iCal ToDo to the calendar does not delete it from my ToDo (ie OF Task) list). A poor standard calendar app should not be the reason Omni adds a large feature to OF.
I agree that iCal is not a fancy calendar, but it does its job pretty well. As far as interoperation between OF and iCal, we do not need OF to move tasks to calendar appointments or delete to do's when we move them to calendar appointments. The current sync scheme is just right for me.

In fact, we need to schedule our tasks manually rather than relying on a program. I start the day off by looking at what I need to accomplish, and if there are items that are critical and need a chunk of time, I scheduled them into my calendar appointments during the day. When I get the stuff done, I check them off as a task, and it syncs back to OF as completed. I do this also on Sunday morning for assigning any major tasks into time blocks during the week as well. As things change I move the time blocks during the week or day, but the task stays put waiting to be "completed."
 
What's great about GTD is how DA came up with some very simple high-level concepts that can fix the common shortcomings people have when "doing stuff". But simple concepts are always the hardest to explain, how do you teach someone how to "get things done"? You have to come up with names for concepts that most people didn't even think of naming. And then OmniFocus comes along and layers its own terminology on top... yeah "library" and "buckets" still don't make sense to me.

The danger I see in GTD and other systems is that users (myself included) tend to turn it into a system for making to-do lists, or a system for documenting projects, rather than as a system for GETTING THINGS DONE (hey, that would make a good name for a book... :-) ) .. in other words, somebody says "get it out of your head", so we feel an urge to document the entire project, with all its nuance, in some external system.

Lately I've tried to get more into the mindset that my lists are triggers for what's already in my head. For instance, priorities are usually something I can determine on the fly.

Same with time estimates and dependencies and other "metadata": it's interesting but unless I'm managing huge projects, I don't get value out of it. It's just a little "model" of reality that I have to maintain, but I'm already busy working with reality itself.

So, hmm, what's my point... my ideal task manager would be incredibly minimal. Very few moving parts, very few degrees of freedom. If for no other reason, to keep my "latent OCD" from kicking in. A step above pen and paper.

Of course, everybody works differently, so that's why we have multiple products to choose from. But I'd love to see OmniFocus stay as simple as possible (maybe even become simpler than it is now). I'd like the core of OF to always be: lists that can be grouped by project or context.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OOO View Post
So, hmm, what's my point... my ideal task manager would be incredibly minimal. Very few moving parts, very few degrees of freedom. If for no other reason, to keep my "latent OCD" from kicking in. A step above pen and paper.
Have you looked at TaskPaper from Hog Bay? It might be what you want.
 
task paper fills a special niche . but if you're looking for due dates , there are none . [I think it's a pretty common request on their forums ] You can get around it by inserting dates in the text ..but then , you have to search for them .
 
 


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