Declaring OmniFocus Bankruptcy

I feel like my system has gotten so complicated that I need to start over. I have perspectives I don’t use nor trust. I feel like I am going to miss something important. I go to Projects and scan everything to see what I need to do today.

I am starting from scratch. Removing all tags, flags, dates, etc.

My question for the group is how do you setup your task and projects? Do you use folders, sub folders? Work vs Personal? How do you organize one step task that don’t need a separate project. Examples are “pay electric bill” or “check portal at work for assigned training”.

I feel this is my logical first step. It is so difficult to find task on the iPad the way I have it structured now.

Anyone ever felt like this? I would love to read your best practices. I am also going to watch some older videos for guidance.

Thanks in advance!
Clay

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Two recommendations to start:

  • Don’t do the equivalent of nuke and repave. Instead, pick one target area and develop it to the new approach.

  • Backup before you start, and know where that backup is located in case you want to recover back to the starting point.

With this in mind, consider these thoughts for the setups

  • Map Top Level Folders as Areas of Responsibility (AoR). Examples: Projects, Sales, Teaching, Marketing, Finances, Surroundings, Family, Hobbies, …

  • Include a commonly-prefixed Single-Action Project in each AoR Folder. Examples: Admin > Projects, Admin > Finances, Admin > Hobbies …

  • Use due dates only for hard deadlines. Examples: US Taxes (due April 15) …

  • Use defer dates only for hard cases with external limits. Examples: US Taxes - start process (defer to Jan 1 every year b/c notices do not start to arrive until no sooner).

  • Break Projects into “digestible” Action Groups. Example (Project - Paint Attic): Prep Wall (clean, mud, sand, clean), Prime Walls (prime, touch up), Paint Walls (paint, touch up, re-paint).

  • Only flag a task (or Action Group) when you are actively working on it toward completion.

  • Set tags in “clusters”. Examples: Location (home, office, errands), Waiting On (colleague, spouse, friend), Processing Level (start, do, tidy up, deliver, close, file).

With the above structure, you can build Perspectives that are designed to group actions in ways that

  • Process (flagged or due, not deferred)
  • Administration (prefixed by Admin >)
  • Waiting On (tagged with Waiting On)

Lots of sage advice is otherwise (buried) in the forum posts here. You are not the first to give notice that you are considering this approach.


JJW

11 Likes

Thanks for the insight. Very helpful. Can you expand more on the single action projects? Not sure I am tracking properly.
Thanks!

I have Single Action Projects (SAPs) at the root folder level that are prefixed with @Admin-> for each of my AoRs. I also have the same for certain projects within the AoR folders. For example, I mentor students and have a SAP called @Admin-> Mentor. Each student’s folder has its own @Admin-> John, @Admin-> Joe and so forth.

The SAPs are exactly this, projects for single actions. They contain collections of “one-off” actions that arise randomly that are not associated with any one project. For example, @Admin-> Social has an action “send updates to family” that is flagged and repeats monthly and @Admin-> Surroundings has flagged, repeating actions to remind me to renew my car tag, buy the university parking tag, and schedule the furnace service visit. Not all actions are flagged and repeating. Sometimes, I just dump actions into the SAPs with the phrase “initiate project X” or “discussion publication with colleague Sam”.

The SAPs are set to review weekly. I can add, subtract, complete, promote (flag), or drop actions within them as appropriate.

I also have a Pespective called Admin that collects all @Admin-> projects. One reason why the prefix is @Admin-> is because a search on Admin will bring up any task that includes words also such as administrator, administration, and administrate. The Perspective search on “@Admin->” assures that only the SAPs are captured.


JJW

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The problem begins with the fallacy of collection.

Just switch the roles of OmniFocus and the Trash Can.

(Vigorous use of the latter is much more productive).

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( the literature on hoarding may shed some light on the genesis, culture and outcomes of GTD – collecting to the point where some resource can no longer be used for its intended purpose )

I recommend that you check out Kourosh Dini’s setup, which he shares here and elsewhere:

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I’ve had a similar problem to yours in the past (overcomplicated system).

Some of the changes I’ve made, maybe useful to you.

  • I use folders for areas of responsibility (Work 1, Work 2, Personal, etc.), but no sub-folders. Sub-folders are problematic as far as navigating through them is concerned.
  • One step tasks get their own project, something like (Personal - miscellaneous; Work 1 - Miscellaneous, etc.)
  • I’ve reduced tags to a bare minimum. This is crucial to me. I only have tags for: Errands, Communicate (for tasks that envolve sending an e-mail or calling someone), Week and Today.
  • These last two tags are very important because they allow me to create shortlists that considerably reduce the amount of tasks I have to look into in order to not fall behind on what I have to get done.

In terms of procedure, it’s fairly simple, once again. Every week I do my weekly review and select all tasks that I must or should get done with a “Week” tag. I have a dedicated perspective for this. Having selected these tasks, I know that unless something shows up in the following days, these are the only ones I have to look into during the week. Then, I do a daily review of that Week Perspective and tag whatever task I feel should get done that day. When that’s done, I try to work from that Today Perspective only. If something comes up, I tag it with a “Today” tag when it has to get done during the present day or “Week” when I should do it the during the present week.

It’s a quite simple workflow, nothing fancy, but it’s nimble and more than enough. Hope that helps!

2 Likes

I also started over. I kept all the action items but removed all projects and tags and dates, then re-sorted them. I am retired so don’t have the work/personal divide. But I realized I wanted tasks sorted into recurring versus one-off. So “Home Inside Once” versus “Home Inside Recurring” really helped simplify and clarify.

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But the key message of the overload ⇄ reboot cycle is just that:

Substantial progress towards your central goal grinds to a halt unless you say no to almost everything.

  • Saying no is the core skill.
  • It’s difficult, and needs a lot of experimentation and practice.
  • Software can’t be expected to help with it.
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I do it very simple (single actions) with a single action project called Miscellaneous - Misc -

For the rest I have three folders: Work, Private, Personal

I’ve got 2 single action lists, one for errandsa nd one for misc. I have an active projects folder, then these folders for recurring projects, Weekly, Monthly, Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec and one folder for checklists. No sub folders.

For me actually Pay electric bill is a project that recoccurs once a month. I have toset to autocomplete when I finish the last action and it has a start date for each month. It seems overkill an 90% of the itme I just check off the actions as I do a weekly review, I rarely actually use the project but in the event something happened tome, someone else could handle it. Mine has actions like waiting for electric bill notices (we have 4 different electric services all with different due dates) downloading the electric bills as searchable PDF files (we need them for tax reasons and they are not stored on-line for that long) verifying the autopayment has processed (we typically have 1 automatic payment a year go MIA due to bank errors and the electric company has no grace period for late payments or missed payments) I also verify tha the solar credits match what our solar panels have put into the grid. (again, this has been in error on occasion)

Similar to others. Folders but no subfolders – just easier to navigate. I use the same areas of focus folder structure as in my Documents folder on my Mac (Finances, Health, Travel, etc.). Each folder has a Miscellaneous single action list, and whatever other projects I create from time to time. Some projects have repeating tasks and I put those routine projects near the top under Misc. I use tags to create next action perspectives by location, showing first available task I can pick up.

I can’t thank you all enough for your valuable insight. I use my iPad 90% of the time and eliminating subfolders has helped me navigate much easier. I prefer the Mac interface but I don’t want to carry my MacBook Air around when my iPad works for everything else. Also, moving the single action tasks to separate projects has helped. I think my next challenge is looking at a Planning Perspective and a Today perspective. I feel like my Today perspective has too many unrealistic items that I simply won’t do.

I hope this thread helps others who feel the need to start over.
Thanks again!

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oh gosh, OP, I feel like this post was made for me - only you had a wonderful way of putting it. I’m finding Kourosh’s approach helpful. But I wonder if it’s also the pace of life just now - I’ve never seen it this fast and furious, and I’m academic at a University - must be manic out there IRL. Between supporting students & colleagues in crisis, and so many collaborative projects, my own omnifocus tasks seem to constantly get bumped. Not at all GTD… best wishes with your new system. FWIW, I use a today tag and go to that tag each morning, so I can prioritise. I don’t seem to be able to set it as a perspective (someone please correct me if I’m wrong), but that would be a game changer for me.

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A “Today” tag perspective is perfectly possible. What are you having trouble with?

Oh yes, I should have been more clear - a today tag perspective that doesn’t group them, but lets you move the tasks up and down. I don’t seem to be able to create a perspective that doesn’t group them.

In my experience, that situation usually results from not clearing my inbox regularly and not reviewing my projects often enough. It can be hard to work a regular review into your routine, but for me, it’s essential. I set review intervals for each project according to what makes the most sense: weekly for most, more often if deadlines are approaching, less often if they are active but not yet in need of sustained attention.

I also find that it’s important not to overly complicate my setup. I’ve been using OF since the alpha testing days in 2007, after using Kinkless GTD for a while, and while I understand the move from contexts to tags, I try to keep Occam’s razor at hand: no more perspectives or tags than absolutely necessary to achieve my goals.

Collection isn’t a fallacy, at least not for me. If I have an idea that I can’t act on immediately, I put it in my inbox so I can let it go for the moment. That doesn’t mean I’ll keep it, though. The GTD processing scheme is useful, but there’s one tweak I would make:

The first question on processing an inbox item is: Is it actionable? The GTD workflow states that if it is, you should choose one of these three: do, delegate, or defer. If not, it should be trashed, filed as reference, or added to a someday/maybe list.

I would amend that question to the following: Is it actionable and worth acting on? I get some odd ideas that after a few minutes’ consideration turn out to be not worth it, at least not any time soon. I delete them or put them in a separate file I check a couple times a year. That keeps my OF list from being clogged with things that I’m not realistically going to do any time soon, if ever, and thus makes the review process manageable.

Unless you are truly your own boss and answer to no one, you can’t always say no, even when there is too much to do (and who has only one central goal?). Ideally, your OF database is a record of your current commitments, either to yourself or to other people who have a claim on your time and attention. If there’s too much on it and you have already said no to everything you can, then it becomes a tool to bring to your boss (using the term loosely) so you can renegotiate some of the items on it, by dropping them, handing them off to someone else, or getting an assistant.

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You could try this change:
Group actions by: Tag
Sort actions by: Tags Order

What I think @Andre.Sena is referring to is the possibility in the Forecast View options to set a tag to be shown there, which could be an alternative for you.

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You can try grouping them by Tag and ordering them by Tags Order, as suggested by @Jan_H. Its’s a game changer! :)