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Planning and "Listing" too Integrated? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
As I sit here doing my weekly review, the following question came up. Does OF presently integrate planning a project too closely with listing actions?

In the past I used iCal with simple "contexts". Since all of my actions were visible at the same time, I tended to keep only next actions or maybe 2-3 next "parallel actions" on my lists for each project. This kept them to a reasonable size and I felt like I had a good handle on what things needed to be done and that I could see them when needed. I kept my project planning materials written down (mostly just brainstorming or general list of non-ordered tasks) on the inside of the project folder or in a memo in my Palm. During my weekly reviews, I would spend a few minutes on each project and review my "brainstorm" list and transfer next actions to iCal.

With OF, I find myself planning in OF since it is so easy. However, there are sometimes a mix of parallel and sequential tasks for my projects. Without making the entire project parallel and creating task groups, which feels forced, I am often missing out on the chance to do actions which I really could be doing (and that really could be next actions). This is especially aggrevated by the fact that I rely heavily on my Palm, but the the unavailable tasks of course don't get synced to it, thus I don't know about the tasks I really could be doing (e.g. an Errand task that I really could be doing, but it is being held up by a Phone task for no real reason, other than I didn't make the project parallel and create basically all other tasks in the sequential task group). During my weekly reviews, I find myself fiddling with the action order (to force a sequence of tasks) rather than figuring out what remainting tasks need to be done that I have not listed.

So my question, again, is planning too integrated with the "listing"? For example, should there be a way to plan a project but not actually put them on the Tasks view (I consider the Tasks list the current Projects list)? Then as part of your weekly review you simply move tasks to the Tasks view from the Planning view (which is always parallel)?

I see it as a way to brainstorm ideas and tasks for projects, but not worry about assigning the correct order at that time. Then, during the weekly review, you transfer tasks to the Task view which contains all actionable items (not items waiting on other actions to be done). Then of course the Context view simply picks up tasks from the Tasks view and presents them in contexts. So basically, I have available for view (and on my Palm) all available tasks for a project for all contexts as appropriate. My dependencies live in the Planning view which I manage as part of my weekly review.

Perhaps I am thinking too hard and complicating things even further. What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself fiddling with the task order so that you don't miss things (especially Palm/iCal users) or try to get tasks to appear when they feel like they should?
 
I think task planning and task order adjustment are important activities that need to be well supported in GTD software. Most task planning probably best takes place outside of the consolidated daily/weekly review, but adjustment of task order and some creation of new tasks would be a reasonable part of the review.

The relationship between task order and next actions is important. Software that automatically links the two (the top task on the project task list is automatically the next action) may be too confining. As you note, projects may have both parallel and sequential components, and thus more than one, but not all, tasks in a project's list might legitimately appear in the next actions list.

In my current software, I create a task list for each project that optionally can be manually ordered. During daily review, I choose from this list one or more tasks to mark as next actions and then they appear in the next actions smart folder in the order that they appear in the project task list. Next actions are the "on deck" tasks for the day and I choose from that list as I work through the day. Any mix of sequential and parallel tasks are accommodated, and next actions that are not completed may, in the next review, be demoted in favor of tasks that have become more important in the interim.

This explicit choice of next actions works well for me. I like setting up next actions manually as the daily to-do list, and in the software this is done per task during a brief project review, from a quick popup menu. The potential drawback for some is that, since next actions are manually chosen, the next task on a project's list does not automatically promote to the next action for that project when the top task is completed. I don't have a problem including several tasks from a project as a correctly-sequenced set of next actions if I think I'll get to them all in one day, and the flexibility and balance between planning and action seems about right to me.

Last edited by jharrison; 2007-08-19 at 05:37 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jharrison View Post
During daily review, I choose from this list one or more tasks to mark as next actions and then they appear in the next actions smart folder in the order that they appear in the project task list.
That's how I use flagged actions in OmniFocus: I review my projects, flag the things that I want to work on, then switch over to Context view and view only my flagged actions.
 
Quote:
So my question, again, is planning too integrated with the "listing"? For example, should there be a way to plan a project but not actually put them on the Tasks view (I consider the Tasks list the current Projects list)? Then as part of your weekly review you simply move tasks to the Tasks view from the Planning view (which is always parallel)?
It doesn't look to me as if OF is designed to be a heavyweight project-planning or brainstorming app: you can do that in any number of other apps already. It might better suit the way you like to work to continue to outline/plan in another app and keep less stuff in OF.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jharrison View Post
This explicit choice of next actions works well for me. I like setting up next actions manually as the daily to-do list, and in the software this is done per task during a brief project review, from a quick popup menu.
I'm not sure what you're getting at here: isn't one of the basics of GTD that you don't have a daily to-do list, since all of your next actions are things you want to do as soon as you can?
 
One thing I've settled on for the time being is as follows:

1. Make the project a parllel project
2. Create actions that are all next step actions (e.g., call Jim, buy milk, etc).
3. Create actions which are not the next step (i.e. you are basically planning ahead) but do not assign them a context.
4. During your weekly or daily review, review projects with no next actions. Assign contexts to actions that make sense or replan as necessary.

I did this today for some projects and so far has prevented me from trying to tweak the system to automatically do what I want (which it never seemed to do). Obviously I loose the automatic nature of inserting the next sequential task in my context lists, but a routine review helps that.
 
 


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