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Omnifocus 2 Projects and Contexts need to be sortable Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi Lizard.
Not hoping for this in OF2. Realise it's too late. But wanting to argue the case for how OF could be designed going forward.

Please watch the video linked to in thread called "How to (Elegantly?) Implement Sorting of Context Actions". In it I put forward an interface which improves sorting and filtering in more than just one respect. And I have one further idea not represented in the video (you will need to watch it for this next sentence to make sense). I suggest flagged items be manually sortable and in so doing provide a way to sort items ACROSS contexts. Again you won't understand the next sentence until you watch the video. Where, in the video, in the last subsort field in automatic sort mode I have put "manual sort" (which is sort by dragged context order) we should add the option of subsorting by Flagged order to enable sorting across contexts. If it doesn't make sense get back to me and I will try again.

Everyone please watch video (getting desperate now...)

Last edited by usertech; 2013-02-23 at 04:41 PM..
Originally Posted by usertech View Post
You do, whether you meant to or not, make a good point Dale. If you know already which action to do first do it and don't think about the others until you are forced to make your next choice. But often choosing what is first involves having insight into what ought to be 2nd, 3rd etc so why not store that insight, as you think it, as more often than not the order doesn't change. And when your day does change, often the change is only to insert one item further up your list.
We could spend all day trying to manually sort and trying to get insight into what should be done 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Why not just do the first task and don't worry about #2, #3, #4, to infinity.

I could have a decluttering project and decide the 1-2-3-4 tasks to be completed.... Sure, I might want to get efficient and predetermine things and arrange them in order. But why not just start somewhere instead of planning ad infinitum? I don't want to spend my days in front of a computer planning pretending that I'm being productive. Just go ahead and pick a point in cleaning the storage room. It will eventually work itself out. As I take things out, I'll often change my sort order based on what I see during the "Doing" phase. So what I already had pre-planned gets thrown out the window.

Life is too dynamic and fluid to be worried about sorting.

I'm going to make an attempt to figure out why manual sorting seems important to you. It sounds like you want to have multiple contexts so that you can view anything and everything. But if you attempt to show a lot of contexts with many tasks, you'll end up with a very, very long list of tasks that will seem to scroll infinitely. You'll get numb just looking at an impossibly long list. I'm guessing that manual sorting may attempt to bring some sense of order to control this mind-numbing list. But I can't help but think that manual sorting is not the answer here.

Perhaps it might be a better solution to break down those contexts into sub-contexts. Breaking tasks up into just enough sub-contexts can help with this long, long context list.

I can have an Agenda context, I can create sub-contexts for the different people in my life. I'll have:

Agenda: Peter
Agenda: Paul
Agenda: Mary
Agenda: Wife
Agenda: Boss

I can create a context perspective that shows the Agenda perspective. This includes all of the sub-contexts including Peter, Paul, Mary, Wife, and Boss. But this creates an unusually long list of agenda items that I don't want to look at. If I'm with my wife, I'll click on the Agenda:Wife context to narrow down and view just those items I want to talk about with my wife. I'm not looking at the agendas for Peter, Paul, and Mary.

In context view, I can also change the sort order so that I get this:

Agenda: Wife
Agenda: Boss
Agenda: Peter
Agenda: Paul
Agenda: Mary

When I go to Agendas context, I can see that my wife's items are listed first, my boss is second, Peter is third, Paul is fourth, and Mary is fifth. That's another way of putting sort.

A good task management system allows you to see just what you need at the moment. It puts all the other projects and tasks away so that you can view just what you need now.

I would rather look at smaller, easier-to-digest lists rather than long lists that scrolls on for several screens. When the list is smaller, it is easier for you to process and sorting becomes not as important. You can focus more on what you should be doing, not on what other distractions that may lurk about.

I have a work context perspective, an errands context perspective, an a home context perspective. The sort order doesn't really matter because I can see the available choices in these smaller contexts and make a choice on what to do.

I used to have a Mac perspective but it just started to get too long. So I broke it down into a few sub-contexts:


I can view the Mac perspective to see all the tasks that are possible when I have my notebook with me. But if I'm on an airplane, I won't have internet access. So I know I have a context perspective that shows just the Mac perspective but hides Online and e-mail.

Sometimes, I'll want to focus just on e-mail and I'll select just the e-mail sub-context and process e-mail for the next hour.

Would this help you shorten your contexts so that they are more manageable and not scrolling ad infinitum?

I used to go numb with fear with long lists in OmniFocus. Putting projects on hold and into Someday/Maybe has helped me eliminate 90% of all those tasks. I just focus on the active projects which shows up in context view. My productivity system runs better when I knowing what I'm not doing and what I am really doing.

Here's a quote:

You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing.

Sure, I have a hundred projects. But I only have about 10 of them active at any one time. The rest are hibernating in "On Hold" mode. I know I won't be doing them in the next 14 days. So I'm not even going to concern myself about these projects and tasks. My ten projects will hold enough tasks to keep me busy in the short-term and mid-term future.

This shortens my context and task list. It might feel awesome to say that I have everything available to me. But sometimes too many choices is not a good thing.

Manual sorting is easy when there are a small number of items to handle. Manual sorting is a horrible idea when you have more than a handful of items to take care of.

Last edited by wilsonng; 2013-02-23 at 10:02 PM..
Thanks wilsonng for what you have written, not just now but in this whole thread. A lot of people have put a lot of time into this thread and in so doing make us all wiser to the issues that underly our discussion. I think that there are people on this forum who are willing to help people who want to make a go with the program and that is great.

pjb I was interested in what you were saying a couple of pages back about how others have asked for time sensitivity. Instead of divert this thread I will start a separate one concerning OF and time sensitivity when I have the chance.

Last edited by usertech; 2013-02-24 at 02:00 PM..
Usertech, I have read through most of this thread. Wow, there are some very thoughtful, generous answers. I admire Usertech's tenacity in doggedly bringing this issue forward.
I was listening to a podcast interview with David Allen this afternoon on Proritizing your todo list In the interview he is adamant that one cannot plan ones todo's without using one's head. We (as humans as opposed to an automated set of criteria) understand the subtlety of prioritization in relation to our goals as well as the shifting state of life as it comes at you. Not being able to shuffle one's todo list (and here I am only really talking about today or this week's tasks in the context mode), is very limiting - and I would say dumbs down ones productivity. When I use my brain, I need to be able to respond to what makes sense. If a task list appears in the wrong order of priority and I can't make the subtle adjustments required to make it flow logically - I am switching my brain off to logic!! It is really hard to believe that there is opposition to what Usertech (and I ) am requesting)!!

I have cut and pasted my comment from another thread: "I find it very frustrating that one cannot prioritize tasks more efficiently. There are some things where it makes sense to insert a start date, but then as you mentioned, if you keep ignoring those tasks (because life sometimes gets very busy all at once, and those tasks, whilst important are less important than the new priorities), they clutter your review process. Making a decision about the priority status of a task means that you are not handling that task over and over.

I think that I am going to try changing my context labels to:
Now: phone;
now: email;
Now: desk;
errands: groceries;
waiting for

But really, what I wish is that OF would introduce a way to prioritize tasks, without me having to give up my contexts!!!

On another note, I do not understand why one cannot change the order of tasks within a perspective. I have created a "today" perspective with flagged items - but I would like to stack the tasks in the order of priority (that I determine at that moment - not be dependant on sometimes arbitrary start dates) - but OF wont let me do this!!! As a result, I look at my list of "Today's" tasks and spend time inefficiently weighing up what I should do next all through the day. I would like to get the step of prioritization out of the way at the beginning of the day whilst I am in scheduling mode - make a decision once, not multiple times through the day.

Last edited by clarejulian; 2013-02-26 at 09:20 PM..

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