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Noise of life and overwhelmed by too many OmniFocus actions Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Where did I recently read of a Pentagon general describing her approach to getting things done ? Essentially:
  1. List everything that you need to do,
  2. discard it all except for the 3 key items.

Fairly extreme, and perhaps middle ground is typically more fertile in civilian life, but it could be argued that OF is really best used as a circular file.

Capture everything, and then quietly discard. Those 3 key things you will probably remember anyway, and with some radical pruning you may well see (or find them) them much more clearly. Most of the rest is reverie, or other people hoping to sub-contract some part of their 3 things.
PS OmniFocus is good at capture – weak at search and retrieval.

This puzzled me at first. Now I see a kind of wisdom in it :-)

(Let's hope that search is not too much improved in OmniFocus 2 – it might well weaken our capacity for productive focus. OmniForget is arguably what we really need, and OF1 is really not too badly adapted to that ...)
There are lots of great advice in the responses above. But let me ask you, what were you doing day in and day out before OF? You seem overwhelmed and it may be due to some set-up or review issue in OF itself, but it may also be that you are now trying to do a lot more than you used to do. You still have the same 24 hours in a day that you used to have. If you add more stuff to your day-to-day actions (and OF is great at that) than you have to remove something. I found that when I started using OF I was better able to track and organize the big projects I was already working on but I was also able to keep up with many of the smaller things that I would often forget or just flat out ignore. I, too, became overwhelmed. I cut back on some of the big projects I was working on when I realized that I could not do those plus do a better job of keeping up with the mundane routine tasks that I had ignored for so long. It was a choice.
Maybe not directly related to the original question, but what I find is that you have to let your system evolves as time passes. Don't hold on to something that doesn't work anymore, and also don't be afraid to have different ways to approach different aspects of your life (I like to have one system, in my case OF, for everything, but how I deal with finance vs work vs family vs hobby is not identical).

Generally putting projects on hold or in the future helps me a lot as other mentioned. Personally I love having a "someday / maybe" (or even "defenitely not!") folder of some sort.
Hi all,

I'm still digesting and also very grateful for the support here from all that put time aside to help.

From the advice I garned:

* Using flags for definite actions has helped a lot.

* Putting projects on hold has stopped so much brain melt!

* I am being more gentle with how much I should be doing! great advice again.

My main area of confusion that still remains is my addiction to entering due dates. Advice to me has suggested only applying due dates to critical (i'll loose my job if not) actions..... a good idea I thought but now I am left with too many actions to sift through when I have done the critical / flagged tasks and have a moment spare.

I am hoping a better review process might help with this.

Thank you again all

My bag of tricks for hiding tasks but not forgetting them includes the following. This assumes that I'm usually looking at Available taks rather than Remaining tasks:

- Start Dates: Whenever possible, use start dates rather than due dates. For example, if on Tuesday you realize that the grass is going to be getting really high by the end of two weeks, but there's no chance that you'll mow the lawn during the week, you give the Mow The Lawn task a Start Date of Saturday, and a Due Date of the Sunday eight days later. Then that task doesn't annoy you during the rest of the current week; it's invisible. Of course, if you don't get it done by this Sunday evening, you won't do it before the coming Saturday, so you might need to update the Start Date again.

- Perspectives: Or, you might realize that mowing the lawn is _always_ a "weekend at home" task, and so you create a "weekend at home" context. You create a "work" perspective that excludes it and other home tasks, and a "weekday home" perspective that excludes it and all work tasks, and it only shows on the "weekend home" perspective that you also create. Home tasks that you could do on a weekday or a weekend just have a "home" context and they're on both Home perspectives.

And that "weekend home" perspective excludes things like the "weekday calls" context, for calls to your insurance agent and other people who aren't going to be manning the phones on the weekend. That "weekday calls" context does, however, show in your "weekday lunchtime" and "days off" perspectives. Whee!

No, you don't have to have this many perspectives; my view is that when you have too many tasks staring you in the face, you find a way to make the not-relevant-now ones go away, and sometimes that way is a perspective.

- Project Support Materials: Maybe it's not just Mow the Lawn, but also Mow the Lawn, Trim the Roses, Spread Grass Seed If Appropriate, Spread Fertiilzer If Appropriate, and Check For Mulch Against The Siding. You might combine all of these into a Lawn Maintenance Checklist that you store outside the system, so that you have only one task ("Complete Lawn Maintenance Checklist") in your list instead of five.

If the "if appropriate" bothers you because it involves remembering and that's not mind-like-waterish, you could have a dated log, plus a description of the rules ("spread grass seed every quarter") tacked inside the garden shed door that notes when you last did a task on the checklist and when it should be done again.

If you don't want to store the checklist and the dated log outside the system, you could do as I do and have a "lists" folder where all of the items are On Hold and you create various lists and reference facts; they're project support materials, rather than actual parts of the action/project/context system, but it's handy to have them in Omnifocus so that they accompany that system to my phone and iPad.

- And of course there's Someday/Maybe. If you've reset something's Start Date repeatedly, that suggests that that thing is Someday/Maybe, rather than an active project. When something is made Someday/Maybe, it can be useful to take its details out of the system. For example, if you planned a vegetable garden and made a bunch of actions involving seeds and seed vendors and when to plant, and then you realize, no, that's not happening this year, you could either delete that stuff or export it out of your system and replace it with a single "Consider starting vegetable garden" item in your Someday/Maybe section.

- Returning to Due Dates, if a task pops up and you say, "Eh, I'll do that tomorrow" and adjust the Due Date, and that fact has no consequences, then I'd say that the task wasn't really "due". You've been interrupted unnecessarily, and you're becoming blind to things that might really truly be "due". If you use all sorts of tricks to keep your task lists small enough to see everything, then you can just use Start Dates to make things pop up in those lists, and feel confident that you'll notice them. And when something is truly due ("Ack! If I don't mow the lawn this weekend I'm going to have to hire the guy with the tractor!") you'll notice.

No doubt there's more, but that's what comes to mind now.
Alot of really useful ideas. I'm presently trying them out. Some with success and others with a little more difficultly..

Thanks again for taking the time to write.
Originally Posted by RobTrew View Post
Where did I recently read of a Pentagon general describing her approach to getting things done ? Essentially:
  1. List everything that you need to do,
  2. discard it all except for the 3 key items.

Fairly extreme, and perhaps middle ground is typically more fertile in civilian life, but it could be argued that OF is really best used as a circular file.
A more subtle approach is to drop everything into OF, but at the start of a day, week or other time period, write down a few items on a sheet of paper and work from that, ignore OF completely. Anything left over at the end of the day goes back into OF.

On the piece of paper I have headings 'Do', 'Waiting for', 'Best effort', and 'Doodle'. The fact that it is handwriting makes it terse, and easy to remember.

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