Advice for a newbie regarding projects and contexts

Hello all! I’m glad to be part of the community.

So I have been working through setting up some GTD habits while working through David Allen’s book. I’ve been trying to use Omnifocus as a tool to help. However, now I’ve created a system that exhausts me every time I look at it. The lists of projects are unwieldy long.

I recently moved to a position in my company where I am involved in the management of many business units. I have set up each of the 60 business units as a separate Project, into which I can dump tasks. This isn’t working for me, as every time I try to look at my projects list I’m scrolling forever.

So my question is this, in looking at the design, intent, and function of Omnifocus. Should each of my facilities be a folder? Or perhaps each facility would be a context? I currently use contexts to group tasks by region or state. I’d also love to be able to shorten the amount I have to type to place tasks in a project. I often work on the iPad and typing isn’t quite as fast.

So far I love Omnifocus and want to offer a Thank You to Omni Group for the great work.

Thanks for any advice or guidance.

Universal caveat: do what works for you.

A project ought to be a concrete, desired result: Something like “Hand in TPC report for Western region.”

I don’t know your job, but it sounds like facilities are folders in which you might put projects of various sorts.

Alternatively, you might create your own project like “perform quarterly review of facilities” with tasks like “get report from western facility” and “get report from southern facility”. You could use contexts like “waiting for” and write your tasks like “Western facility head - to send me quarterly report”. Etc.

There’s lots of flexibility. Just focus in terms of concrete results for projects and concrete steps for tasks and you’ll be fine.

Echoing @cpac 's sound advice above, keep the projects concrete. Sounds like you are doing a version of what I used to do with Single Action Lists — creating graveyards for undefined projects.

If you think it would be helpful at first, create 60 folders for your business units and scrap the 60 separate projects. Then, define projects (more than one step to desired outcome) as OmniFocus projects within the folders. Perhaps later, as you get more comfortable in the position, you can concatenate the 60 business unit folders into a few larger areas.

I sympathize with your initial 60 project approach because it seems like you catch everything. You do, but without definition. I hated scrolling through my long lists of (really) project outcomes because I knew that underneath the surface I had not defined the next action.

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Thank you for the guidance. I appreciate the input.

I think I’ll try organizing a short group of Single Action Lists by the people with which I collaborate. By defining single actions in this way, I should be able to define my next actionable step, OR that I’m waiting for something (for which I can use my waiting context.)

Then I’ll set up projects with a standard nomenclature in the Title, indicating the facility to which it pertains. (But only projects with a defined actionable step.)

Lastly I’ll set up some general recurring tasks such as “Send weekly report…” that repeat on a specific day.

One additional question. Is it possible to “nest” task lists in some way. Sometimes I find myself wanting to put a step inside a parallel project that is actually a sequential project in and of itself. (or vice versa). Example - I need to complete a report with several items for my superiors, but to summarize a particular line item I need to have received and reviewed the reports from certain facilities. I can work on all the other steps of the report, but since I cannot complete that step until I’ve received something, I am currently just checking for the information, then deferring it until I think I’ll have it. I’d rather be able to have a dependent project - check check check I have the info, so activate the task in the parent project. (Perhaps I’m not making sense.)

Is it possible to make a task in one project dependent on completing a different project?

As always, thanks so much for any expertise you can share.

Your proposed project setup makes sense. Give it a whirl and see if it maintains a trusted system without frustrating you with upkeep.

On the nesting issue, you have a couple of options. Unfortunately, there isn’t an automatic way to make dependencies between projects. You can, however, make tasks that ask you to review the dependency manually. Here is a rough visualization

-Project 1
–Task a
–Task b
–Task c
–Task d
-Project 2
–Task a
–Task b: check that Project 1 Task c is complete
–Task c

For my own complex projects I use action groups (mini projects) within projects. If the whole project is truly sequential, perhaps have a parallel action group that collects more tasks upon which the next sequential step depends. Feel free to sketch out the project in a reply and I will do my best to offer a suggestion.

My own personal trap is over-planning on the front end. I can make a killer sequential-within-parallel-within-sequential project that looks great on paper, but ignore the fact that all I really needed were a few next action triggers that would give me all I really needed to move the project along. At the end of the day, I need completion more than a nice OF plan.