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how do you use OF to decide what to get done next? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Another option might be to use flags a little differently to identify those projects which are critical to moving ahead on your primary life goals(or quarterly, yearly goals as appropriate). The tasks under those projects get the "ghost flag" and you can see which activities are truly important (although not necessarily time sensitive). This way you can balance those tasks with the urgent activities which are coming at you day-to-day. Of course the downside here is that negates the ability for folks to use flags to identify things you want to get done today.
 
Great point about just doing one thing Mark. I find that helps me as well. When I'm resisting getting anything done, I just tell myself... just do this one thing. It's the journey of 1000 miles starts with this one step mindset. I don't have to walk 1000 miles, just one step.
 
@bigcloits -

I saw in one of your posts that you mentioned anxiety whenever you would see your due dates turning to red and passing by.

One thing that I have internalized through reading other people's experience was that I never put a due date on something unless it *absolutely needs to happen by that date. I used to put due dates as a way to spur me to take action on something by a certain day, but I found that if it was just a "wish" to do it and not a "have to," then it would slip by and turn red with no consequence. To me, that was the same system I used to have which was to put a to-do item in iCal for a certain day, and just let it keep slipping day by day. This was the exact wrong way to utilize OF in its most GTD-ness.

But, once I understood that a due date in OF meant that it *had to get done by/on a certain day, I stopped assigning due dates as much. For example, if I have "Call Phil" in the system, and he is leaving for Antarctica on Friday for a year, then I will put a due date on that one. Because when it turns red on Saturday, then forget it - he's gone. So, red actions to me means that I blew it.

It seems like Flags are really the way to go with highlighting those things that you feel you want to accomplish today/tomorrow/this week in order to stand out from massive list, but missing one won't be a disaster.
 
This is a great discussion, and certainly deciding what to do is a decision that often plagues me! I had been using due dates to make me try and get stuff done, but all that really did was make them go red, have me panic and then just change the due date again (and still not do the action)! When I first got to work this morning there were probably 150 actions that were in context for me to do while at work today.

So I decided that I could try some of the suggestions in this thread. Getting things off my plate was a great thought, I'm going on maternitity leave at the end of the year, and there were so many projects that I realalistically am simply not going to do before I leave, so I just dropped them all. Others were put on hold, and marked to review in a months time. I reduced my 'active' projects by about 2/3rds.

I then went through and removed all false due dates, to get rid of the panic I discussed above. At this stage I had reduced my 'next action' list to around 30 actions so I grouped them by project and went through and quickly flagged the things that either I really should get done today, or that I felt like doing today. I now have 9 things that I will get done today (in theory). I did have 15, but on a second look I realised that I had scheduled 15 hours of stuff to do in an 8 hour work period, so I chose between some actions that took up a lot of time each.

Interestingly, I tried to order the remaining actions by duration, but I didn't like the order. So I carefully broke up one item until it was in small enough pieces that it came 'first' on the list. I think that (for me at least) this shows that there are always some items that you want to do, either because you have a block next to the others (in my case because I am resentful that these actions are my responsibility in the first place) or some seem more fun. There is nothing wrong with doing things that you want to do first, first. I find that it helps me feel like things are getting done, and then I stay on track for the rest of the day. I guess others may feel that if they do the 'boring' stuff first, they get the 'reward' of doing the interesting stuff later.

Last edited by cyleigh; 2008-11-09 at 03:02 PM..
 
Regarding setting due dates that are not hard due dates.

In the past I have also shied away from placing due dates on things that didn't really need to be done by a certain date because when something really needs to be done I want to know about it.

The problem I have is... I still have many projects that then never get done. I wanted someway to plan out projects so I can be spurred to get them done.

I've gone back to setting due dates for projects so that when I look at a context and sort by due date and start processing from the top down I have a chance of getting some of those projects that have been sitting around forever completed.

I don't know if this system will work for me yet.

There are other ways to sort and group. Start Date, Creation Date, Modified Date. I've tried Start Date, but I filter my contexts for available actions which means I won't see any projects that haven't been started yet.

My goal is to complete all tasks that are due or due soon (within 24 hours is due soon for me). If I make it to the green 0 in the menu bar, then I pick a context and start working on those tasks. Which are sorted by soft due date. (the project is due but the task is not due).

I tried using Flags for a while. But I use flags with Curt's cool applescript to find projects that are stalled. sigh. If only OmniFocus would change the stalled project filter to show me projects and parents with no children. This would free me up to use flags for things I want to get done today.

The problem with flags is on the iPhone app, I can't filter tasks so I only see my home flags or work flags. I see all flags.

It's a work in progress for me. I may get to the point where I go back to never setting due dates unless i need to. But with a due soon set to 24 hours, by the time I see a project is due, it may be too late.

To recap:
I set project due dates for "soft" due dates of when I want to have projects done. I sort by due date in the context list to encourage me to work on projects that I want to have done sooner.

If I need a hard due date, I set a task due date.
 
Seems like I hit a nerve with this thread! I'm now a proud thread papa.

And, regrettably I can't contribute as thoughtfully and thoroughly as I'd like to this morning, because, well, I've got a lot of things to do ... ;-) But I want to quickly inject yet another due date dilemma into the discussion, something that occurred to me reading needles' comments ...

I see the need ... but I just can't ditch low priority due dates. "Due" and even "overdue" are not concepts that I want to be shackled to a sense of urgency. It should be possible for something to be due without being any kind of a problem, just information. Example ...

One of the coolest things OF has done for me is to let me know when it is time to follow-up with people. I can quickly and easily create valuable actions like "call Joe when he's back in town" due in "3w". Without that action and its due date, there is bascially no chance at all that I will call Joe in three weeks!

Yet the action is also low priority. And it is likely that I won't actually call Joe the day that action is due, but probably will call him within a few days. OF brings it to my attention at the right time, and then I spend 1-5 days looking for a good time to call him.

This is what I want to happen, but the action is also red the whole time. "Oh no, RED!" sez my hindbrain. :-) Fascinating how others have said "me too" about the anxiety produced by overdue actions ...

So having low-priority due items is clearly a recipe for a buncha red, overdue items in OF alla time. Yet I need 'em. Sigh. I have no solution for this at the moment ... just pointing out the dilemma.
 
one way to relieve the stress created by the red items [red is a stress creating color for me also ] is to use the " preferences " Menu and choose " style " and change the " overdue items " to a color less stressful for you [mine are orange ]
 
This is a great thread. I am always so interested to hear how other people are using OF. Also, for Bigcloits last comment - If it were me, I would just set a start date for when your friend gets back into town in three weeks, without a due date. That way, it won't show up on your available actions lists until then (he's not in town, so why put it into your field of view) and after three weeks rolls around, it will show up as available. And, if you use Growl, then you will even get the reminder that "Joe's in town - call him." Then, if you are doing your reviews (or even immediately), you can put a flag on that one to put it into your higher level of attention.

BUT, that is the beauty of OF - everyone can find their own way to make it work best for you. I certainly don't want to make it sound like this is the only way - just a way that I feel works best for me and keeps stress of red actions to a minimum. Hope you find a system that you like!
 
#ext555... wow, great suggestion. Why the heck not? It sounds so wanky to be stressed out by the redness of the overdue items, but for me the whole GTD revolution in my life has been all about taming the anxieties of workaholism in their many forms. And if that includes red things, okay, fine, I will make them less red. Thanks.

@needles... wow, another great suggestion. Especially the Growl angle would not have thought of that! That would certainly be one way of putting such an action on my radar, without actually hassling me with the sense that it's due.

However, I am still leery of the idea of relegating "due" to near meaninglessness for non-urgent items. And I'm leery of making an item that really is due "just" available, because that demotes it to the same level of urgency as hundreds of other actions that are also available, but not actually due any time soon. And, still another concern: an "available" date obviously makes sense for an action that is literally irrelevant or impossible before a certain date, but it often such actions are also more or less due at the same time that they become available, or very soon after, which brings due right back into the equation a lot of the time, unless you (once again) use due only to indicate both due-ness and urgency ...

Still, excellent food for thought. Thanks very much for the ideas.
 
Re:

"And I'm leery of making an item that really is due "just" available, because that demotes it to the same level of urgency as hundreds of other actions that are also available, but not actually due any time soon. "

Just as another point of view: In my case, I make most of those actions not available, so that the ones that are available do have some significance. My main goal during the weekly review is to thin out the displayed actions so that I can choose what to work on without too much confusion.

So for me, having "call Joe" pop up with a Start Date a few days before I should call him, would make me reasonably likely to call Joe.

Gardener
 
 


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