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I'm new to GTD, in fact I haven't even finished the book yet. I'm still wading through Allen's (IMHO rather unnecessary) philosophical discussions :)

That said, I "get" the concept completely, and am quite excited by it. I absolutely love the diagram below, and am trying to implement a workflow as close to it as possible. At the same time I don't want my system to be the thing I concentrate on, it should be trusted and thus, as far as possible, transparent.



At the moment though, I'm spending more time thinking about OF than using it intuitively to support the above workflow, and I worry constantly that I'm missing something (hence, it's not "trusted").

Since day one with GTD and OF, I've thought it'd be good to have an app or other tool that literally walked me through the steps of the diagram, almost to the extent of having an interactive version of the diagram there in front of me, to drag and drop to or click around (I hadn't thought about the detail of how it'd work).

I think OF is great when you eventually get to the "Do" stage, but less so at walking me through the other steps.

Yesterday I found Inbox (no link - I don't think it's fair to link to a competitor on OG's forum - go Google it if you need to). This app appears to do a stunningly good job of doing exactly what I describe above, and is very close to holistic.

In practice Inbox is full of bugs and omissions. Just one example; it walks you all the way through collecting, processing, organising and reviewing items, then leaves those items unfiltered when you actually get to "Do", so that you still see actions that are not yet available!!! However, the principal is stunningly good, and there are some features that I think OG should consider for OF:

1) Using Spotlight, it automatically collects new e-mails, files, bookmarks, calendar events, iCal todo's, notes and other "stuff". I.e. it has a comprehensive and above all automatic inbox bucket. You don't feel like the app is only automatically capturing some of your items, and that you have to maintain separate systems for other things (except maybe paper post, though even then you can add a "collection" to at least remind you to empty that bucket at the appropriate stage).

2) Having collected it, it walks you, item by item, through processing your stuff: is it actionable, is it reference, is it trash, do it if less than 2 mins, defer, etc etc etc.

3) It actually helps you review, item by item: is this still current, etc.

4) It files (links to) reference items.

5) It has a next item box to concentrate the mind - it's almost like a slideshow, showing ONLY your next action, with a countdown timer and a big tick box for when it's done. There's also a Yak timer to nag you if you get distracted easily.

6) The whole workflow is laid out for you in the sidebar, in a logical order closely reflecting Allen's diagram.

So overall my question is, is this the kind of behaviour people want from OF, or am I missing something about it that would allow it to walk me through the workflow as I'd like? Have others set OF up to do exactly that? Are there add-ons or other complementary apps I've not found yet, to do much of the above?

If only one of the things above could ever be implemented in OF, I'd vote for the automatic collection and processing of "Stuff". In fact, someone PLEASE write an add-on to do that, and send the results to OF.

Mark

Last edited by MacBerry; 2008-08-14 at 03:44 AM..
 
Hi Mark,

I read GTD by David Allen - I'm not sure - about 5 times in the last four years. The first two times a little more intense and since then more for refreshing the knowledge and reminding me of the most important things. Additionally, I'm coaching friends and colleagues about GTD and in that learned a lot about the workflow itself and the individuals needs needs for a workflow.

I implemented the methodology for me first with a paper agenda and some folders for the projects and the next actions (about 4 years ago). And since day one (actually a little earlier ... about november or december 2007) I'm using OmniFocus and trust it since february (completely switched from paper to mac).

From my point of view, OmniFocus focuses pretty good on the GTD process by David. It supports all the steps in the process, even if it's not guiding you through.

I have two inboxes on my computer (OmniFocus Inbox and Mail Inbox) and two on my (i)phone (OmniFocus Inbox and Voicemail). When I got something on my mind or someone puts something on my mind, I put it into my (trusted) inbox. Every now and then (at least three times on a workday: in the morning, before I start, after Lunch, before I restart and in the evening, before I finish) I process all of my inboxes (as OF iPhone and Mac sync, there are only three left: OF, Mail and Voicemail) and do a quick review of the remaining actions. That is perfectly supported by OmniFocuses perspectives.

For processing (that's in the planning view of OmniFocus), I follow the process described in GTD. I look at my inbox and decide, what the desired outcome is, if it's actionable, if it's a project and what's the next physical action. In OmniFocus, all that is supported. It's easy to change an item in the inbox to a project.

And concerning Email: An automatic collection doesn't work for me. I have to see the mail in the mail view (html or whatever) to decide, if it's something I can, should or want to do anything about. And what I then put into my (OF) inbox is the desired outcome and maybe some comment from the mail (via copy & paste), but nearly never the whole mail with all the blabla. OK, that's only my personal workflow, but it works pretty fine. And by the way: you can set up OmniFocus for collecting items from your mail application ... look in preferences -> mail.

I think, GTD is less about tools and automation and more about a change of mind on how to handle all the "open loops". As soon as someone learned how to implement it (individually), they don't need a tool that is guiding them through a standardized workflow. At least I needed a tool, that is flexible enough to support my personal workflow.

OmniFocus is not (yet) perfect, but it works pretty great for me.

But that's of course only my point of view.

For me, OmniFocus is the best (GTD) tool available on the market ... and not only for macs. Because of the coaching stuff, I do a continouus review of the tools available. If someone asks me for a tool recommendation for GTD, I always answer: If you've got a mac, get OmniFocus, and if not, get a mac first. OK, that is at least based on a little personal prerferences, but the people, I recommended OmniFocus to, are as well pretty happy with it.

But if you found a tool that suits your personal needs better than OmniFocus, I can only recommend to use it.

Kind regards
Boris

P.S.: If you want to have the "next item view", you can use OmniFidget, it's a free dashboard widget by the OmniGroup ... I don't use it, because I didn't see the need to do so, but you can give it a try.
P.P.S.: Whow, my first estimate of two minutes or less was a little optimistic. Anyway, now it's done.

Last edited by boris.baesler; 2008-08-14 at 04:45 AM..
 
Thanks Boris.

I think the thing OF doesn't do so well is collection and maybe then processing. I know about getting mail into OF, but what I really want is to get EVERY message in so that I know I won't miss any, then have OF ask me what I want to do with each (trash, defer, do it etc). Inbox even helps you wth the "do it now" step - if you choose that it gives you pretty much all the options you could think of for dealing with an e-mail in less than 2 minutes.

But it's not about just mail anyway. Inbox also collects files, bookmarks, notes, etc etc etc. Found a site you want to do something with later - bookmark it (in a specific folder if you like), and you'll automatically be asked what you want to do with it when you process your inbox bucket in Inbox. Download a file, same thing. Create a new appointment in iCal, same (because maybe you need to prepare for it). Add a new todo to iCal (or more likely, have someone else do so and have it turn up when you sync iCal across machines), same thing happens. It's stunning, and it takes away all the thinking about "did I remember to add that <whatever> to my inbox bucket?".

I'm not saying Inbox is better than OF; it's not, because despite the fact I love the concept, it simply doesn't work very well, so I wouldn't recommend it (yet - the developer claims the next version will solve, well, all of my issues with it). I just think OF could become more holistic and therefore trusted. To trust it, I need to know it's capturing everything.

Because Inbox uses Spotlight to do all this automatic collecting, you can still see the original item if you need to - it's just that everything is being collected whether you remember it or not, and you're being asked what you want to do with it later. That's what OF can't do AFAICT.

I like your three inboxes, but you still have to remember to add things to them, which is where it all falls apart for me. I admire your discipline if you can do that, but I can't! Obviously there will always be things (thoughts being the obvious one) that no system can collect automatically, but if I was left to only collect thoughts myself, and every thing else was there automatically, I'd be ecstatic!

In fact Inbox can collect thoughts automatically, so long as you remember one step - put them into a file, e-mail, note or whatever else happens to be handy, that Spotlight can find. It doesn't even have to be an Inbox item, so long as the file or note or whatever lands on your computer by some method at some time.

But yes, each to his own - that's why I headed this "for discussion".

Mark

Last edited by MacBerry; 2008-08-14 at 05:35 AM..
 
I actually found Inbox before I found OF and initially I too liked the idea. However, once I became comfortable with the GTD idea and internalised its steps, I found the "ubiquitous" capture philosophy of Inbox to be, well, too ubiquitous. To my surprise, I found Inbox was holding my hand a little too tightly.

For example, let's stick with email. I try hard to follow Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero approach. Basically, I try to keep my inbox completely empty. This means that, several times a day, I (manually!) check for new mail, and then I methodically and ruthlessly go through each one following the gtd workflow. Most of my email is actually routed straight to the trash and a few can be responded to in a one or two line response so I do that right away. Those that are actionable I use the clip-o-tronic thing-a-ma-bob to send it to OFs inbox. Many of these are simply to read later. Once my email inbox is empty I know all my actionable items are in OFs Inbox ready for processing. Nothing is missed. This *is* a two-step process, unlike Midnight Inbox, bit what I like about it is that I actually *do* have to think about the message a bit. I found that Inbox actually deferred my thinking until later. I prefer to do it right up front because the I can trash things sooner and I LOVE trashing things!

About the capturing thoughts, I do that all the time with OF through the quick entry. Whatever I'm doing, if a thought pops into my mind, I lay down a mighty option-command-space, type in my thought, and I know it is in OFs inbox ready for processing. For files, I highlight a file in Finder, lay down a mighty option-command-. and a link to the file appears in OFs Inbox. It *is* true, as you say, that you have to remember to do this, and it *is* true that this requires thinking. But, again, I found it best, for me, to think about and contemplate every item that crosses my path and put it in it's appropriate place. I found that Inbox just ended up in practice clogging up the entire workflow with too much noise and not enough signal. Coupled with the fact that it is way too buggy, and the developers are a bit on the slow side, I find OF to be a much better fit for me. I also have a few index cards on me to jot down ideas and a good old inbox tray sitting on my desk. About two or three times a day, I cycle through these and empty them.

Finally, I guess I want to summarise by saying that I think Midnight Inbox's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness; by taking the thought process out of the collection and processing phase, you treat everything in a very uniform manner. But very little of life is so uniform. In the end, it of course is a personal matter. Of the trio of Things, OF, and Midnight Inbox, I find Things to be the least structured, and MI to be the most structured, whereas OF fits somewhere in the middle (probably closer to the structured side), and that's the sweet spot for me.

PS, sorry for the stream of consciousness, I'm procrastinating!
 
Thanks Ambi. I can see your points, but for me the Inbox approach wouldn't take the thinking away, it'd just allow me to do it all in one place and hence not forget that I needed to think about something. It doesn't process anything automatically, it just gets them all together ready for processing, and then asks you David's questions about each one, to assist with the thinking stage.

Re the Zero inbox approach, I agree with that, but surely if everything appears in Inbox, and you go through the list in there deciding what to do with each, that's effectively the same thing? Yes you can clip-o-tron-a-me-jig them into OF, but if you then delete them you don't have the message to work on any longer. Not sure what happens if you clip then move a message, but my point is if you clip it into OF, you have to decide there and ten what to do with it otherwise it's a pointless multi-stage process (clip in mail>go to OF to process your inbox bucket>come back to Mail to move/delete the message). With Inbox you don't really ever need to look at your Mail inbox (and hence it doesn't matter whether it's zeroed or not), it just becomes a big bucket for messages that you organise within Inbox.

Quick entry in OF desktop is great, but the problem for me is that I'm rarely at my desk when a thought hits me (I spend most of my time on the road). If iOF was better at this it'd probably alleviate the issue, but for now I use other tools to capture thoughts, which OF can't collect but Inbox can.

I think bottom line is I don't want several inboxes that I have to remember to fill and empty, I want just one, and Inbox does a great job of producing that.

Mark
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ambi View Post
I found the "ubiquitous" capture philosophy of Inbox to be, well, too ubiquitous. To my surprise, I found Inbox was holding my hand a little too tightly...

I found that Inbox actually deferred my thinking until later...

I found that Inbox just ended up in practice clogging up the entire workflow with too much noise and not enough signal.
I'm completely with Ambi on this. I briefly tried Inbox last year and was immediately turned off by the restrictive, even annoying (for me anyway), workflow process. As Boris mentioned above, I think the GTD process is more about personal behavior change than enforcement through tools.

That behavior change will come if you want it to, and once it does, the GTD mindset and process will happen automatically and naturally. It just takes a little time to recondition your mind and unlearn old habits. :)

Once the GTD mindset (mind like water) has taken hold, I would think a less flexible tool like Inbox would start to get in the way and become more of a burden than a benefit. I think just about everyone puts there own personal spin on GTD and having a degree of flexibility in your tools makes that a lot easier once you're ready to start fine-tuning your approach.

Just a question about the Spotlight "auto-inbox-collection": Does Midnight Inbox really collect every single email, bookmark, iCal event, note, file, etc. into a list for review in a single, GTD-style inbox? Don't you have some items that you wouldn't want included in a GTD inbox? For example, a file or calendar event that you've created yourself that doesn't require "inbox processing?" Surely, the app must allow you to filter what items get included otherwise it seems like it would just be overwhelming.

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
I'm completely with Ambi on this. I briefly tried Inbox last year and was immediately turned off by the restrictive, even annoying (for me anyway), workflow process. As Boris mentioned above, I think the GTD process is more about personal behavior change than enforcement through tools.

That behavior change will come if you want it to, and once it does, the GTD mindset and process will happen automatically and naturally. It just takes a little time to recondition your mind and unlearn old habits. :)
Yes, makes ense. So what I need is to use Inbox to help me get into the mindset (because I do need help, then OF after that. Or, better still, a choice of "structured" or "training", and "flexible" modes in OF.

David talks about approaching knowledge work like "pressing widgets" (I don't think it was widgets, but I can't remember, and all that Inbox does really is make the actual implementation of GTD like that - I don't have to think, I just have to follow orders!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
Just a question about the Spotlight "auto-inbox-collection": Does Midnight Inbox really collect every single email, bookmark, iCal event, note, file, etc. into a list for review in a single, GTD-style inbox? Don't you have some items that you wouldn't want included in a GTD inbox? For example, a file or calendar event that you've created yourself that doesn't require "inbox processing?" Surely, the app must allow you to filter what items get included otherwise it seems like it would just be overwhelming.
You can filter to a certain degree, especially by "new in the last....", and by location. It could do with more options though.

For e-mail it appears to only pick up new stuff in each accounts inbox, so you can filter by having rules move stuff before Inbox spots it. Not ideal, but helpful. For me though, I'd like to see everything, even if the process is as simple as "actionable?>No>ditch it" for most.

Anyway, I guess really I'm just asking for help making sure I really do collect and process EVERYTHING no matter where it comes from. That's where GTD is falling apart for me right now.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacBerry View Post
Anyway, I guess really I'm just asking for help making sure I really do collect and process EVERYTHING no matter where it comes from. That's where GTD is falling apart for me right now.
For me the key to developing the habits was to make checklists for my reviews. These checklists helped me to remember to process every one of my in boxes.* I made these checklists in OmniOutliner. Partly because OF didn't exist at the time, but I've found having the review checklists in a separate app. makes it easier for me to bounce around in OF during the review.

My regular reviews are morning, evening, weekly, monthly, and bi-annually, with different things covered in different reviews. I put these reviews on my calendar until I developed the habit of doing them without prompting. (Truth be told, my evening review is still on my calendar after 2+ years of GingTD.) Snapshots of some of my review checklists are on the forums. I plan to blog about them one of these days.

* My current minimal set of in boxes: physical in box at home, physical inbox at work, in box folder in my laptop bag, voice memos on phone, and whiteboard marker on bathroom mirror.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
From my perspective, GTD is about habits (habits I wish I was better at doing consistently, like reviewing, like getting x to empty, etc). And GTD is also about having a trusted system, where you can find everything.

For several years I used another system: Ready-Set-Do. It's a cool set of apple scripts that walk you through the GTD system: for each item in your inbox, you get asked a variety of questions, through which you process things. I like the concept. I'm not sure whether the implementation worked for me.

I would LOVE to see a sort of "guru" or a training mode or a ADHD-mode or whatever in Omnifocus. Ideally, it would be an option you could turn on -- or a series of scripts. It would look at your OF inbox, and ask you what is it? actionable or not, what is the next action, context, etc., and would just loop through all your inbox items until you had identified a next action and context for each. Of course you could do this with the existing system.

So why bother with a structured series of questions? If it were done well (like with the ability to customize questions*) and worked as an add on to OF then you would have an expert system that prompted you and guided you through the process, encouraging you to stay focused on the 1 issues at hand, and not dart about to other issues. Some days I'm more focused than others. One of the many best things about OF (the ability to get a quick overview of everything) can be overwhelming. On those days, the ability to just focus on 1 thing at a time, just do 1 thing, then finish, then move on--well that would be helpful to me at least.

* Ready Set Do mentioned above does have the ability to customize questions.
 
I use the same method as Curt. I created checklists for the processing tasks.

I created a workflow for GTD that takes a user through the steps using boolean logic (yes/no questions).

 
 


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