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Hi there at the Omnifocus Forum,

I have a general, maybe uncomfortable question. I'm struggling for years with Omnifocus. I always liked the idea of being super-efficient and always tried to push myself to use Omnifocus whenever I could.

I have a lot of small (and some bigger) creative projects and jobs that I'm doing for a living and I thought it might be a good idea to include Omnifocus into a creative life. I structured my projects and nailed down my tasks and organized my contexts into Production / Errands / Research / Be Creative / etc... but soon after doing a lot of organizational work and structuring my days I often happened to avoid OF, because suddenly all these little ideas and things to do to make the day complete, all what used to be fun, suddenly turned into 'tasks'.

In these times of avoidance I've kept putting to-dos and ideas into the lists and the lists were getting bigger with less and less tasks getting done. Some of the things I used to like doing, suddenly were no more fun because suddenly they were mere tasks that disappeared into the Omnifocus-System and were spit out at the other end in a certain "Context", that was completely "out of context" inside the project that I wanted to do.

///

In Omnifocus context view I am not working on one job in its completeness, as a whole, I am working in contexts, that expect me to be like a machine, as if I was programming myself to work like a machine.

///

It's as if I'd program for example a 'lazy Sunday' (as an awkward example, just to illustrate my idea better). Instead of getting up and stretching myself and making some coffee and then go to the terrasse and drink that coffee, a natural linear way of doing things naturally, Omnifocus compresses everything I'd do the whole day and I'd get up in the morning (bed), stretch yourself (bed), put clothes on (bed), put clothes off (bed), go to bed (bed), next context coffeemachine: make coffee (coffeemachine), make coffee (coffeemachine), make coffee (coffeemachine), etc,... for sure one will say: but you can make more differentiated contexts! yes, that's true! but how differentiated is a to-do-list supposed to be? Do I really need to program that?

or another extreme: if i was a painter and i'd put all the tasks that i need to do to make an image into Omnifocus (finding inspiration and sketching an idea and buying paint to painting itself to having the painting finished) and I use Omnifocus because I'm working on several paintings, doesnt this make the wholesome experience of painting a picture from start to finish a mere "task-group"? Like: context (inspiration): think of theme for picture a, think of theme for picture b, think of inspiration for picture c, context (artist's supply): buy blue paint, buy blue paint, buy red paint, etc etc etc....

///

I understand that Omnifocus makes it easy to work on a lot of projects and is able to compress a lot of different tasks into easy lists that can be 'just worked off'. For example I think it is absolutely the right tool for someone who's a programmer working on a lot of different codes and small task-sets that do not need a lot of "wholesome" context.

Another example: a watch-maker is repairing watches, because he loves watches. He repairs one watch after another, in the process he becomes one with the watch, learns it to know from every angle, knows its little secrets. For sure he could organize all steps he needs to finish repairs on his watches, so instead of repairing one watch he's repairing 5 at the same time: context (screwdriver 1): open watch a, open watch b, open watch c / context (screwdriver 2): etc etc etc... the watchmaker will not "be one" with his small mechanical watches anymore, he will just work of the tasks as efficiently as possible, as if he's working at an assembly line.

///

I'm not sure anymore if I want this in my life. I've struggled for 5 years to implement Omnifocus into a life that I always wanted to be a fulfilled and creative life. I've always struggled with the contexts and the "mere tasks" of "buy bananas (supermarket)", "say hello to neighbor, thanks for feeding the cat (staircase)" and always had phases of avoiding to look into Omnifocus, while still putting project-idea after project-idea into it. I struggled to re-contextualize everything after times of avoidance, to flesh everything out into a lot of little sub-tasks and folders and contexts and my task-list with project-ideas turned into longer and even much longer task-lists that were mere lifeless "tasks" that I'd have to work off instead of grand ideas that need to be filled with life and also passion...

In my opinion Omnifocus sucked out all life out of my projects for more than 5 years, out of my work that I used to love and out of my very own life. I always blamed myself that I'm the one who's not able to cope with the sudden "bleakness" of my day-to-day-life and that I would need to be even more organized to "Get Things Done": "buy present birthday sister (project:life/family&friends/birthdays, context:shopping, yearly repeat)"...

Today I was re-structuring my Omnifocus-list and realized that not I am the problem, but that Omnifocus and GTD is the problem. I'm giving it up. I dont want to be a robot anymore. I won't read any more forum posts on how to structure my context-lists and if it's good to name a folder "urgent" or not, because Omnifocus is missing the ability to prioritize single tasks. I've had enough. I was so stupid to think that Omnifocus could make my life super-efficient because a super-efficient life is not a life anymore.

I will go and buy a small squared notebook tomorrow and a pencil: my new project-planning-device. I will not put it into Omnifocus: "buy notebook and pencil" (project:own_stuff/go_analogue, context:town/errands/office_supply). I can keep that in my head.

Thank you for your understanding.

Last edited by aeiou112358; 2014-04-01 at 03:59 PM..
 
I don't agree with some of the basic tenents. They don't work for my life.

I have one context - "General"

OF is in some ways overkill for me. I've tried using simpler systems but they are always missing some element of OF that I do like.

I basically have projects and tasks and work from folder related to my various areas of responsibility.

What I do like about OF is the start and due dates, the review process, the conversion of email to task, the structure of projects and tasks, the use of folders.

Paper notebooks wouldn't work as well for me.
 
I've never been much of a pure GTD adherent. I don't agree with some of the basic tenents. They don't work for my life.

I have one context - "General"

OF is in some ways overkill for me. I've tried using simpler systems but they are always missing some element of OF that I do like.

I basically have projects and tasks and work from folder related to my various areas of responsibility.

What I do like about OF is the start and due dates, the review process, the conversion of email to task, the structure of projects and tasks, the use of folders.

Paper notebooks wouldn't work as well for me.
 
I think I might have been over-doing OF for some time.

I don't think that Omnifocus and GTD generally is a bad idea. It keeps everything for me that I need to remember, that's right.

I'll look into it once more and completely simplify my contexts into very rough divisions, without sub-divisions. And for the "contexts" that I want to do analogue I'll just invent another context: "Notebook", so I can organize and flesh out my ideas on paper.

Maybe that's a solution. Omnifocus as an overall structural base, without too much complexity.

Cheers.





Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrow View Post
I've never been much of a pure GTD adherent. I don't agree with some of the basic tenents. They don't work for my life.

I have one context - "General"

OF is in some ways overkill for me. I've tried using simpler systems but they are always missing some element of OF that I do like.

I basically have projects and tasks and work from folder related to my various areas of responsibility.

What I do like about OF is the start and due dates, the review process, the conversion of email to task, the structure of projects and tasks, the use of folders.

Paper notebooks wouldn't work as well for me.
 
I don't think I would ever want to "program" my life with any task manager.

I don't put all of my tasks into OmniFocus. I usually only put projects and tasks that I am working on and park it there. That way, I won't forget.

But other tasks tasks that are on autopilot like "brushing teeth", "buy groceries every Friday afternoon after work" are all habits. I don't need to remember these things. If I see my gas tank is getting low on gas, I know I'll have to take my car to the gas station. I don't put that in OmniFocus.

It's usually the one-off next actions or big projects that will go into OmniFocus.

The single actions can be worked in context mode. Otherwise, I'll focus hour-long blocks on a single project and work in project mode.

Sometimes my OmniFocus projects and tasks list gets overwhelming or stale. That's when it gets frustrating. Then I know I have to do an overall review. I go through each project and delete all stale projects. Projects can become stale or no longer plays a part in your life because time can change a situation (not an important project to you or to someone tied to you) or you realised that the amount of effort doesn't return a big enough reward to you. Delete those immediately.

Then look at projects that should be handled by someone else who has one or more of the following:

1. the skills, expertise, and/or tools necessary to complete project - sometimes you just don't have the skills or expertise needed to finish. Delegate it to someone else.

2. the time needed to complete project - maybe someone else has more time than you to finish a project.

I would also review a project to see if the tasks have been broken down enough. Sometimes you can write a task that says "clean kitchen." But other times, you might have to break it down into smaller steps such as "buy Pine Sol", "buy mop", "mop floor." You can break down or simplify your projects as needed.





I think it absolutely essential to do a weekly or monthly review to keep on top of things. If you have to many projects staring at you, it's time to reconsider your workload and decide what is really important and what can be delegated. If you have too many projects that just sit there, they'll have no value. Deleting or delegating projects is like decluttering a house. You'll feel much better when you declutter. Things are where they are supposed to be and you know what you really want.


There have been times where I just give it all up and switch to pen-and-paper for a while until I can get my bearings once again. I just write a list of the projects that I want to work on for the week and work from there. when I finish the pen-and-paper list, I'll go back to OmniFocus and look for a couple more projects and single tasks to write down and work from there. Focus on that paper list and don't refer back to OmniFocus until you need to grab some more tasks from the bucket list.



Don't worry about being efficient. It's all about being effective. Learn how to get something done means being effective. Once you figured out the workflow, you can become efficient at something by learning how to streamline a workflow.

http://www.asianefficiency.com/minds...re-efficiency/

Last edited by wilsonng; 2014-04-02 at 11:32 PM..
 
After a somewhat similar experience over the past months, I decided to take time away from OF. As an exercise, I have gone instead to free-float mode (do things as in the old days absent any real detailed planning). I also decided to re-develop a better top down view, primarily with mind maps and Kanban boards.

Based on this time away from OF, I suspect that I may soon dump my prior state of OF in to an archive and rebuild my OF workflow from scratch. I think the key to streamline the process from frustration will be to keep out noise that seems to arise from my constant habit to try to build a complete project starting from tasks. Instead, my projects need to start in a mind map + Kanban board and be fleshed out from this point into OF.

As a side, I cannot say that I will dump OF completely. I can say, the ongoing mish-mash of development efforts by Omni across the three platforms and my nagging sense that OF 2 will only give a fancy new UI different on each platform with the same long-worn underlying framework and will be absent some key elements in my workflow do have me thinking that perhaps I really do just need to move on to something else.
 
> Hi there at the Omnifocus Forum,

It sounds to me like you've been over-analyzing and over-categorizing the actions, and possibly putting things into OmniFocus prematurely, and in particular mistakenly thinking that you should be ruled by the context view.

> In Omnifocus context view I am not working on one job in its
> completeness, as a whole, I am working in contexts, that expect me to
> be like a machine, as if I was programming myself to work like a
> machine.

But you can work that one job to completeness, and OmniFocus certainly won't object. Let's say that we're talking about sewing. Let's say that you've planned six sewing projects, and they all require preshrinking the fabric, and then pressing it, and then cutting out, and then finishing edges, and so on. Of course you *could* preshrink the fabric for all six, and press the fabric for all six, and cut all six, and so on.

But you don't have to. OmniFocus doesn't care if you do. OmniFocus may tap you on the shoulder to say, "While you're going to the laundromat, here are five other lengths of fabric that you've told me you want to preshrink." And you can say, "I know. Shut up. I don't want to do that right now." And you don't do it. And once you realize that you really, really don't have to do anything you don't want to, maybe your feeling will be more like, "Thanks for letting me know, but, no, thanks."

And if the laundromat moves sixty miles away so that it's a major pain to get there, then maybe you'll be pleased to be reminded, because now it's worth it. It's all about what works for you. If the washing machine is down the hall, then the small efficiency of preshrinking all at once isn't worth the disruption to your single-project creative flow. If it's half a day's drive, then maybe it is worth it.

On the other hand, maybe you never want your single-project flow to be interrupted. That's fine. In that case, you don't even need to enter projects two through six in OmniFocus--you can keep them in a "sewing ideas" list, outside OmniFocus. In OmniOutliner or a text file or a physical notebook or a blackboard or wherever you want. I see this list as project support material.

OmniFocus doesn't own you. You own OmniFocus.

> It's as if I'd program for example a 'lazy Sunday' (as an awkward
> example, just to illustrate my idea better). Instead of getting up and
> stretching myself and making some coffee and then go to the terrasse
> and drink that coffee, a natural linear way of doing things naturally,
> Omnifocus compresses everything I'd do the whole day and I'd get up in
> the morning (bed), stretch yourself (bed), put clothes on (bed), put
> clothes off (bed), go to bed (bed), next context coffeemachine: make
> coffee (coffeemachine), make coffee (coffeemachine), make coffee
> (coffeemachine), etc,... for sure one will say: but you can make more
> differentiated contexts! yes, that's true! but how differentiated is a
> to-do-list supposed to be? Do I really need to program that?

No, you don't. So don't. There's no need to enter actions that you just do automatically.

There's also no need to differentiate contexts when you aren't feeing overwhelm in a single context. All of these actions could easily be "home"--if you entered them as actions/tasks at all. If I shift to actions that you might really want a reminder for, like "remember to wash silk shirt for Monday" and "make diet snacks by 10am", those can still all be "home". Yes, you wash the shirt in the laundry room or the bathroom sink, and you make the fruit salad in the kitchen, but unless and until you have so many "home" actions that you need to divide them up, there's no need for a narrower context.

> or another extreme: if i was a painter and i'd put all the tasks that
> i need to do to make an image into Omnifocus (finding inspiration and
> sketching an idea and buying paint to painting itself to having the
> painting finished) and I use Omnifocus because I'm working on several
> paintings, doesnt this make the wholesome experience of painting a
> picture from start to finish a mere "task-group"? Like: context
> (inspiration): think of theme for picture a, think of theme for
> picture b, think of inspiration for picture c, context (artist's
> supply): buy blue paint, buy blue paint, buy red paint, etc etc
> etc....

But why are you assuming that you have to stay in the same context? You don't. For that matter, I see no reason to even enter Picture B in OmniFocus while you're still working on Picture A. Unless you do naturally paint in an assembly-line style, Picture B is not ready to be a project until Picture A is at or near completion.

Now, you might have "Hey! That'd be cool!" ideas for future pictures that you want to write down before you forget them. But those don't need to be in OmniFocus. You can have, again, a text file or notebook or blackboard of "picture ideas" where you scribble those ideas. Now, an idea might briefly be in your OmniFocus Inbox because the Inbox is handy when you have the idea, but it doesn't need to go from the Inbox to the Projects list--it can instead go from the Inbox to the "picture ideas" notebook or file or whatever.

> I understand that Omnifocus makes it easy to work on a lot of projects

But that doesn't mean that you have to work on a lot of projects. Just because it's easy doesn't mean it's mandatory.

> and is able to compress a lot of different tasks into easy lists that
> can be 'just worked off'. For example I think it is absolutely the
> right tool for someone who's a programmer working on a lot of
> different codes and small task-sets that do not need a lot of
> "wholesome" context.

Programming needs focus. Believe me. :) It's not fundamentally different from art in that way.

> Another example: a watch-maker is repairing watches, because he loves
> watches. He repairs one watch after another, in the process he becomes
> one with the watch, learns it to know from every angle, knows its
> little secrets. For sure he could organize all steps he needs to
> finish repairs on his watches, so instead of repairing one watch he's
> repairing 5 at the same time: context (screwdriver 1): open watch a,
> open watch b, open watch c / context (screwdriver 2): etc etc etc...
> the watchmaker will not "be one" with his small mechanical watches
> anymore, he will just work of the tasks as efficiently as possible, as
> if he's working at an assembly line.

He could. But OmniFocus isn't telling him to. OmniFocus doesn't care, not even a little bit, whether he works on one watch from start to finish, or works assembly line style.

> I'm not sure anymore if I want this in my life.

But I think that the thing that you don't want is a thing that you've imposed on OmniFocus, not a thing that OmniFocus has imposed on you.

The ability to use a context view is a tool available for when it's useful. If you're in an art supply store that you only get to once a year because it's two hundred miles away, that's a context that's hard to get to, so it's probably worthwhile to have everything for that context in one list. But many contexts are very easy to get to, so there's no need to stay in that context.

And if you want to drive two hundred miles just for a new tube of flake white, because if you even look at your other project ideas you'll break your creative flow, *that's fine*. You have every right to do that.

> I've struggled for 5
> years to implement Omnifocus into a life that I always wanted to be a
> fulfilled and creative life. I've always struggled with the contexts
> and the "mere tasks" of "buy bananas (supermarket)", "say hello to
> neighbor, thanks for feeding the cat (staircase)"

Here, do you need to be reminded to thank your neighbor, or do you feel obligated to enter everything in your life into OmniFocus? If you're pretty sure that you'll do a good job of maintaining your relationship with your neighbor, naturally, without reminders, then you don't have to have the reminders.

> and always had
> phases of avoiding to look into Omnifocus, while still putting
> project-idea after project-idea into it.

I would suggest keeping the project ideas outside OmniFocus. I know that this isn't everyone's practice, but I don't like to have inactive material in OmniFocus. Instead, I have lists/documents/notebooks/whatever like the ones I've mentioned above--"sewing ideas", "painting ideas" (well, I would if I painted), "garden ideas". These don't have actions, they're just where I record inspiration, and where I go to when I want inspiration for my next project. Having my inspiration and my actions in one place isn't good for either one, IMO.

> I struggled to
> re-contextualize everything after times of avoidance, to flesh
> everything out into a lot of little sub-tasks and folders and contexts
> and my task-list with project-ideas turned into longer and even much
> longer task-lists that were mere lifeless "tasks" that I'd have to
> work off instead of grand ideas that need to be filled with life and
> also passion...

Don't do that any more. Again, this is just my opinon, but it's a pretty firmly held one.

An example: Let's go back to those six sewing projects. I could enter all six of them into OmniFocus, and I could give them detailed lists of actions: Preshrink, iron, fit pattern, prep pattern, cut out, finish edges, do first assembly, do first fitting, blah blah blah. I could have fifteen actions per project, for a total of eighty actions. I used to do things like that.

I don't do that any more. Now, I want one, or perhaps two (in case one is stalled waiting for thread or buttons or something) sewing projects in OmniFocus, and the rest are just bare ideas in my "sewing ideas" list. And I only have one or two actions for those two projects. And when I finish one action for a project and go right to another one, I don't write down that new action. I just keep working until I get bored or run out of time, and then I might write down the next action as the "bookmark" for the next time I get to that project.

> Today I was re-structuring my Omnifocus-list and realized that not I
> am the problem, but that Omnifocus and GTD is the problem. I'm giving
> it up. I dont want to be a robot anymore.

OmniFocus doesn't ask you to be a robot. It seems to me that you've been allowing it to rule you rather than to help you.
 
If you have projects that all have similar steps, then the templates applescript can really streamline a lot of stuff.

Beyond that, I would agree with the stuff said above, you get to decide how to use OF. It doesn't use you.

Personally, I do like to dump lots of things in there. I have templates set up for projects that recur a lot for me, like opening a client file. So when I need to start a new client project, I can build it really quickly and with the confidence that I'm not forgetting a step (e.g., get client contact info).

I do err on the side of more steps than less steps, especially when I'm building a template. I'd rather include stuff I can delete later, than forget stuff I've lost in my muddled mind.

From there, I sometimes do my actual operational work mostly outside of OF. OF is my repository. Something like Trello, Wunderlist, or a text list is sometimes a better tool for putting my head down and working on stuff.

I've been trying to use that three goals method, where in the morning you try to define three tasks that you plan to get done that day. That's a really good way of getting focus. So I put those three things on my list or in Trello and then I close OF. But in closing it, I know that it will be there with my stuff in it, when I need it next. So if I finish up my goals for today, I can always go back and grab some more.

However you do it, whether by creating a view in OF, or by pulling a few tasks out and tracking them elsewhere, the goal of putting things into OF is to get them out of your head, so you can clear it out. From there, you can put back the 2-3 you really need to do now, and work on those from a place of improved clarity and focus.

I've only done a little bit of meditation. But I will say this: It doesn't seem like it's doing anything in the moment. But it seems like 10 minutes after I do it, I often find that all of a sudden I've set to work and I'm getting something done.

I didn't think my mind was cluttered when I started the mediation. But there's something about trying to empty it out that does end up having a positive effect on focus.

Ideally, OF is the same way. It helps you to get to the goal of just a short list of tasks that are actionable right now and if it's working correctly, should encourage you to ignore everything else.

Until you start trying to start emptying things out of your head, it's often very hard to see just how much mental clutter overhead you have going on in there.
 
kingfisher and Gardener have hit it right on the nail.

I'd also just use OmniFocus as my all-purpose capture tool. Record potential projects that I want to develop further or work on in the future.

In the morning, I look at OmniFocus and write down on an index card 3 tasks that I want to work on today. Then I'd work on finishing those. Then I'll go back to OmniFocus and check those tasks off as complete. Then I'll look for 3 more tasks to work on next. I don't like to keep OmniFocus visible on my computer. It's too distracting and I might get back into constant planning mode.

As Gardener and kingfisher stated, you control your to-do list. It doesn't control you.

http://timemanagementninja.com/2014/...e-right-order/






Sometimes, you'll just have to reboot your OmniFocus setup and start from a clean slate.

http://www.asianefficiency.com/task-...nifocus-setup/

Last edited by wilsonng; 2014-04-05 at 02:37 AM..
 
 


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