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Suggestions for and from a non-GTD user Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hello everyone!

First of all, I would like to thank the whole OF team for thinking about us poor people who have no special interest in GTD but still need an application to help them manage their tasks despite the obvious influence of this organizational method on the development of the application.
Secondly, let me say I chose OmniFocus over the rest because of its high degree of customizability. Unfortunately, despite that fact, OF still is way too GTD oriented and I find myself struggling with it every once in a while. Even the font customization is based on GTD, so I end up deactivating features like coloring "next actions" and sobbing because of my inability to color flagged items instead. I find absolutely no use in having OF tell me what my next actions are supposed to be but do rely very heavily on the flag system and would like to be able to pick up my flagged items with one quick look at the screen. Would it really be too much to ask to add more options to the font changing feature in OF?

On the other hand, I believe that the thing most non-GTD OF users have trouble with is the use of folders and projects. I know this has been discussed over and over again, but I think that the problem could be very easily solved by adding a second category of folders, sub-folders, that could be customized independently. Let me try to explain.
As most people do, the only two folders that I use are called "Work" and "Home". Inside those folders, are projects that are actually "titles" instead of projects. Unfortunately, I find myself forced to use action groups as projects, something that OF does not like at all. I have tried everything to use OF correctly but it just doesn't fit my working method. As a filmmaker, I usually have many projects (literally) in preproduction or postproduction at the same time (spots, music videos, films, etc) that need to be treated separately. I obviously need to have different "folders" for each thing going on at the same time, otherwise having everything under a single "Work" folder would be insane. Inside each folder, I also need sub-folders for the different departments involved (screenplay if I am still writing, cast, production design, cinematography, etc) who also have their own needs and have to be treated separately, and only inside those folders would be the projects and then the actions and/or the action groups. The issue I am constantly having with OF is that it is absolutely impossible to customize the folders and the folders inside other folders separately, meaning that they are treated as if they were hierarchically the same. If I actually did all of this, I would end up with tons of folders that would look exactly the same, one on top of the other, when all I am really asking for is a big "title folder" on top and many other smaller folders piled up underneath it until the next big "title folder" announcing the beginning of a new list of things to do related to another project in the works. Phew, I hope I am not being too incoherent.

Anyway, thank you very much in advance for reading this and I hope my post will be viewed as a suggestion and not a complaint. OF has made my life easier since I discovered it and I am very happy owning every single version of it (desktop, iPhone and iPad). I only wish I was able to organize my life just as GTD dictates so I wouldn't have this kind of issues. Nevertheless, I still use OF many many times a day and intend to keep doing so for a very long time.

Any suggestions would also be highly appreciated!

Last edited by Brunosc; 2010-08-14 at 04:52 PM..
 
You can nest a folder inside of another folder. Not sure if this is what you are asking for.

Maybe you should take one of your most challenging projects and post it up here with all the actions and complexity. Then let users on the forum show you how they would organize it?

There is an art to reducing to complex to the simple... but not too simple because that would break it.

I think action groups are probably what you are going to use within a project.
Example:
Complete Film Booya Baby
-complete preproduction
--get final draft script from screenwriters -waiting context
-complete production
--complete shooting of film
---find genius director of photography
----email bob about suggestions for DP
-complete post production
--find brilliant post house
---call joan about post house suggestions -phone

The method I use for outlining is this:
-write down what you want to accomplish, as if it were in a finished state
-ask yourself: what actions do I need to take to move this to completion
-these actions are child actions. each should have a context
-then go to that first action, ask yourself the same question. can I complete this action? if not, what actions do I need to take to move this to completion? Those actions are then child actions and you have another group.

Keep doing this method for every action until you can't think of anything else.

When you have completed child actions and are left with the action group, ask yourself, is this complete? if not, what actions need to be taken to move it toward completion.

Example:
-complete post production
--find brilliant post house
---call joan about post house suggestions -phone

you called joan and she didn't have any suggestions. So you are left with:
-complete post production
--find brilliant post house

what action can you take to move Find brilliant post house forward?
-complete post production
--find brilliant post house
---search mandy.com for post houses or freelance editors -internet
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brunosc View Post
I find myself forced to use action groups as projects, something that OF does not like at all.
I'm not sure where this conception comes from. Action groups are an important part of OmniFocus. I'm not sure why there is so much resistance against them. But they are a part of OmniFocus, and for me, if action groups didn't exist, they system would be a mess.

Last edited by SpiralOcean; 2010-08-15 at 04:36 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiralOcean View Post
I'm not sure where this conception comes from. Action groups are an important part of OmniFocus. I'm not sure why there is so much resistance against them. But they are a part of OmniFocus, and for me, if action groups didn't exist, they system would be a mess.
I think I may know where this concept comes from. Action groups are not really in the GTD system. Why? Because GTD started off as a paper based solution. Papers & folders. There was no way to get to an action, and ask yourself the question: what other steps need to be taken to move this forward and create child actions out of it. It was all flat lists. A paper for projects, and papers (or folders with 'action papers') for contexts. You would pick up a context paper and process all those actions on it... but there was no way to link that action back to the project. There was no outlining. (nested structure)

David Allen does reference outlining in GTD, but it was mostly used as a brainstorming tool that you would then copy actions into your context lists.

I think this model still exists in the GTD subculture, maybe even subconsciously. Flat lists for everything. This is one reason why the weekly review was so important. You had to try and make sure there were actions in your context list for projects in your project list. If GTD were still paper based I probably wouldn't be doing it because I'd have to hold too much in my head to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

Many GTDers haven't fully grasped the power of outlining... due to the GTD software out there or notebooks or moleskins they are using. Many take great pride they are paper based.

However, Omni started with OmniOutlining many years before omni-focus. The ability to outline is a powerful addition to GTD. Simply because you can break down an action into smaller actions that move the first action toward completion. And you can see this visibly.

You can run filters on actions that don't have contexts assigned so you know the project is stalled and won't move forward. You can instantly switch over to a context view and your project list is broken from it's structure and put into contexts. This is a huge improvement over the paper based system where there was no way to see a project with all it's actions and a context with those same actions. (unless you made duplicates by hand... maddening).

Here's what it comes down to:
flat lists work great when it comes time to doing... processing... going through the contexts.

Outlining works great when it comes time to plan.... projects... reviewing.


Last edited by SpiralOcean; 2010-08-15 at 06:37 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brunosc View Post
Hello everyone!
Secondly, let me say I chose OmniFocus over the rest because of its high degree of customizability. Unfortunately, despite that fact, OF still is way too GTD oriented and I find myself struggling with it every once in a while. Even the font customization is based on GTD, so I end up deactivating features like coloring "next actions" and sobbing because of my inability to color flagged items instead. I find absolutely no use in having OF tell me what my next actions are supposed to be but do rely very heavily on the flag system and would like to be able to pick up my flagged items with one quick look at the screen. Would it really be too much to ask to add more options to the font changing feature in OF?
This is good suggestion. Maybe the default could be a background color that stands out. Anyway, seconded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brunosc View Post
On the other hand, I believe that the thing most non-GTD OF users have trouble with is the use of folders and projects. I know this has been discussed over and over again, but I think that the problem could be very easily solved by adding a second category of folders, sub-folders, that could be customized independently. Let me try to explain.

As most people do, the only two folders that I use are called "Work" and "Home". Inside those folders, are projects that are actually "titles" instead of projects. Unfortunately, I find myself forced to use action groups as projects, something that OF does not like at all. I have tried everything to use OF correctly but it just doesn't fit my working method. As a filmmaker, I usually have many projects (literally) in preproduction or postproduction at the same time (spots, music videos, films, etc) that need to be treated separately. I obviously need to have different "folders" for each thing going on at the same time, otherwise having everything under a single "Work" folder would be insane. Inside each folder, I also need sub-folders for the different departments involved (screenplay if I am still writing, cast, production design, cinematography, etc) who also have their own needs and have to be treated separately, and only inside those folders would be the projects and then the actions and/or the action groups. The issue I am constantly having with OF is that it is absolutely impossible to customize the folders and the folders inside other folders separately, meaning that they are treated as if they were hierarchically the same. If I actually did all of this, I would end up with tons of folders that would look exactly the same, one on top of the other, when all I am really asking for is a big "title folder" on top and many other smaller folders piled up underneath it until the next big "title folder" announcing the beginning of a new list of things to do related to another project in the works. Phew, I hope I am not being too incoherent.
I would suggest using Contexts to identify the department a particular task is involved with. That would remove the hierarchical problem you seem to have. I would use the top level folders as broad areas like you are, Work and Personal. Under Work, you could use folders to indicate broad status for preproduction, production, and postproduction. Then it's a question of whether you want to use another folder for each film which has multiple projects in it or one project with many action steps. So the tree might look something like this:

Folder: Work
- Folder: Preproduction
- - Project: Gone With The Wind 2
- - - Action Group: Complete Screenplay
- - - - Action: Edit dialogue in Scene 12 (@Writers)

In the absence of what you want with flags, I would get really agressive with using Perspectives. Build a very detailed Flagged perspective so you can pull out your flagged tasks and projects but with enough context that you understand them better. That's where the "status" folders help by allowing you to further focus on just your pre- or postproduction tasks.

I would also take a look at the Omnifocus 1.8 sneaky peeks (if you aren't already) where action groups are more powerful, especially if you go the route of having one project per film. If you go the multiple project route I would read these two articles about how you can link one project to the completion of another.

Finally, I would think about embracing next actions a little more and thinking about parallel vs. sequential projects. Maybe what the next action is isn't as important for you, but what actions are available certainly is. With as many active projects as you have, being able to remove the clutter of tasks you cannot do yet is necessary. But coloring the next action could be helpful to avoid projects getting lost in the shuffle or falling behind.

Hope that helps.
 
 


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