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I'm trying to improve my use of OmniFocus and I realised that I'm not sure of how detailed I should be on action descriptions. Here are two examples of my current usage problems.

Example 1: shopping list
I have a project called "General Home Shopping" where I add a list of all the groceries I need to buy; it usually looks like this:

General Home Shopping
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Spinach
  • Juice
This organisation is obvious in planning mode, but it doesn't make as much sense when seen in context mode, where I will have "Eggs", "Cheese" and other similar actions listed under Errands. It's not absolutely clear what those actions are supposed to be. "Buy eggs" would be a much better description, but I find it annoying to add "Buy" to the beginning of each action description.


Example 2: software development
I use OmniFocus to make a list of all the steps I need to do in order to finish a particular assignment. One such assignment is a database I'm working on at the moment where I have a long list of integrity restrictions I need to apply. Again, in planning mode, it looks like this:

Programming Assignment
  • Read specification
  • Integrity restrictions
    • Person of type A cannot do action B
    • Action C can only be done on location X
    • Action B has to be done by at least N persons
    • Etc...
  • Write report
  • Submit code on website
  • Deliver report to teacher

It's quite obvious when looking at it in planning mode, but it doesn't make much sense when I look at it in context mode, where I see "Person of type A cannot do action B" under the Mac context.
I could write a longer description such as "Apply integrity restriction: Person of type A ...", but it becomes quite annoying to write that for a long list of restrictions.

How do you guys handle these things?

Thanks!

Last edited by JoaoPinheiro; 2008-11-09 at 06:17 PM..
 
I seem to recall someone, might have been Ethan from Omni Group?
Talking about writing your tasks so detailed as if you were assigning them to someone else . The description needs to tell them exactly what to do , and this eliminates a lot of second guessing that your mind does when you look at your lists .
I've found that a lot of times I don't even need the project column reference because the task title tells me all I need to know .
 
I write out long action descriptions, sometimes including the project name or parent name in the description.

The trick for me is to write out a description so when I see it I can just do it without trying to remember what exactly the task is.

I use waiting for context for dependancies.

example:
waiting for results to be determined from in project A
I set the start time to a week or a month in advance.
Everyday I review any waiting for items with the available filter. This means only waiting for items whose start date has passed will show up. if I need to wait longer, I change the start date.

for waiting for items I'm often typing out:
waiting for email from John about status of hard drive order

For groceries I use splash shopper. Then I have a task called Grocery Shopping. When I go grocery shopping I use splash shopper. It has a nice feature of being able to sort by aisle so I can glide through the grocery store.

For the programming Assignment I would prob rely ably heavily on contexts.
Action C can only be done in location X
would turn in to
Action C - location X context
Change Oil - context = errands
update server OS - context = main equipment room

I don't know what the
Action B has to be done by N persons? Is that number of persons? If it's an action assigned to a specific person I would either:
create the action in the waiting for context
action B - waiting for - start date
When the action B reaches it's start date it becomes visible and either I ping the person by email or phone call or I move the start date into the future

Or I may assign it to an agendas contexts with the person's name
action B - context = agendas : john
I may give it a start date so it doesn't show up until I need to talk to the person about something.
 
I've recently moved my grocery shopping over from Splash Shopper. It had some features that I liked better, but OF has others I like better. And in the interest of keeping things together...I'm giving this a try.

I'm finding that for the places I frequent regularly, I set them up as an individual project AND an individual context (nested under my 'go' context). I'm not entirely sure if this is good/right/helpful/the best solution or not. I was going to try it out for a while and see.

But otherwise, and for the places I don't frequent as much, I run into the same issue that you do in your example 2. If I use action groups and have the parent action be the place (Staples) within a general Go Buy project, then when the items go over to a general Go context, it's not helpful. So I've set up many more individual contexts and projects for specific places. Again, I'm not sure I like it so I'm looking forward to hearing what people have to say.

In general, any time I've got an action group, I find I have to type (or at least abbreviate) the parent at the beginning of the child action.

Again, I'm looking forward to what others have to say. I think that this is one of the reasons I work from planning mode more often than I otherwise would...these awkward bits.
 
Thanks for the replies everyone, I think I'll give SplashShopper a try as for my shopping list as well. I'm not too keen on their desktop interface though.

As for the software projects, things like "Person of type A cannot do action B" and "Action C can only be done on location X" aren't real physical actions, but database restrictions I need to implement. Think of them as features I on a to-do list

Perhaps OmniOutliner would be better suited to this kind of checklist and planning, but I'd really like to be able to consolidate all the actions I need to do into OmniFocus.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoaoPinheiro View Post
As for the software projects, things like "Person of type A cannot do action B" and "Action C can only be done on location X" aren't real physical actions, but database restrictions I need to implement. Think of them as features I on a to-do list
Sounds like a job for the action notes field.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by malisa View Post
In general, any time I've got an action group, I find I have to type (or at least abbreviate) the parent at the beginning of the child action.
Yes. Absolutely. There needs to be some way for OmniFocus to display action group parent in context view. It could be tagged on to the Project description, possibly. I know this has been discussed before, but I'm not sure where.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by abh19 View Post
Sounds like a job for the action notes field.
I thought about that, but it wouldn't work well. Those things are usually a long list of features and I want to be able to check off each one individually, since I won't finish them all in one step.
 
I've found that I need to write out descriptive actions as well. Not only due to viewing by context, but also when viewing on the iphone (especially when viewing by overdue and due soon tasks). It takes more time to write out initially, but saves headaches later :)

I utilize the notes areas tremendously for more detail, and I tend to start all of my actions with an action verb.

When I look at some of your examples, I might word then as: "Restrict database to allow Action C only on location X" and then give more detail in the notes field. :)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CorgiGirl View Post
When I look at some of your examples, I might word then as: "Restrict database to allow Action C only on location X" and then give more detail in the notes field. :)
I agree. If they're things you want to check off of a list, then they must be actions or waiting-for's of some sort. Try to convert anything that you want to check off as a discrete action, then put any pertinent reference material in the notes or elsewhere. This is critical for me, as it keeps the non-actionable items off the to do list... keeps it from being an amorphous blob of undoability.

Of course, there are some arbitrary lines that must be drawn between actionable and reference.... after all, you alter your actions based on what you find in the reference. When I notice that I'm trying to plan a project more than I really need to, it helps to remember that the purpose of GTD isn't to plan every project from start to finish in miniscule detail, but to provide an organized place to do a brain dump, so I can focus my energies on only one thing at a time.
 
 


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