Escaping The 1-to-10 Ratio?

One of the most powerful things about OmniFocus - and also GTD methodology - is its ability to capture everything.

It’s so easy to add things to my Inbox via email, AppleScript, hotkey on OS X - that I’m finding that for every task or project next action I complete, I’ve created ten new ones!

I call this my 1:10 ratio and unfortunately it is exponentially counter productive because it makes prioritization, Inbox processing, Daily/Weekly/Monthly reviews prohibitively time consuming to the point where one is spending more time Processing rather than Doing.

So I’m curious: How do others here manage the 1:10 Ratio or better yet, how do you escape it?

TIA for any insights.

Right there with you. You’ve eliminated the friction in capture, so you’re allowing yourself the means of being creative without having to make an immediate commitment for fear of losing the thought.

I think I am paraphrasing David Allen correctly by saying that you’ve ‘created’ a bunch of brain space for new ideas by releasing it from the duty of having to hold old ones that lack clarity.

However, he also advises that as the fur starts flying to rely more heavily on specific Someday/Maybe lists. For me, these live in OmniOutliner documents. Having S/M lists in OmniFocus allowed my 1:10 ratio to overwhelm any review and create a block to processing.

I have found that although I use one Inbox to capture, I am building a stricter filter on what I allow to become a project, and what I put onto S/M.

Just because you have the idea does not obligate you to develop it into a project. Use Areas of Focus and the various elevations in GTD to keep focused on the larger goals set before you.


Ok, you’ve got the capturing part of GTD down pat. The next phase begins for you - curation.

I created two Single Action Lists or Projects. The first one is Office Actions. The second one is called Office Someday/Maybe. I also do this for my Home as well as any other areas of responsibilities.

The Office Someday/Maybe’s status is set to “On Hold.” The Office Actions’ status remains “Active.”

If I capture a new action, I would most likely put it into the Someday/Maybe list. It’s something that caught my interest but I don’t want to do it right now. But I would like to investigate it further or possibly move it over to my Office Actions list.

When I do my weekly review, I will see these actions in my Office Someday/Maybe. I usually get vicious and just delete a task that is no longer relevant.

Example: I have three possible ideas for a marketing campaign for Spring 2016. I can delete two out of the three because the boss choose one of the ideas.

Tasks that are in the Someday/Maybe list are not shown in any perspective that shows available actions. That’s because the Someday/Maybe list’s status was set to On Hold.

During the weekly review (or even daily review), I will change the project of a task from Office Someday/Maybe to Office Actions. This will make the task appear in any perspectives that shows all available actions.

Using Someday/Maybe can help widdle down the inventory of actions in the Office Actions list. The Office Actions list contains actions that I really want to work on this week. All other actions that are in the future can be placed into Office Someday/Maybe.

You can also create a “Today” perspective that shows all due and flagged tasks. If you have a due task, it will pop up in this perspective. If you flag some of your Office Actions tasks, those tasks will pop up in this Today perspective. The tasks that show up in the today perspective are things that demand your most immediate attention.

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I totally understand the “mega inbox of ideas/actions/projects/project concepts”. As @TheWart and @wilsonng have said, the key here is in the Processing/Clarifying (whichever version of GTD nomenclature you prefer) phase. Since this happens so tightly with Organizing, I find that defining “what something truly is” is enabled by “where things of what natures go” and vice-versa.

To that end, what I think helped me the most was the creation of a variety of project states in my OF structure.

I have these folders:

  • Outcome Projects: these are projects, both parallel and sequential, that have a defined end state that can be evaluated by completion criteria (write a document, make a decision, take x to y, etc.)
  • Areas: these are projects that can’t end, and so are homes for actions related to areas of responsibility, such as “Home & Household”, “Friends, Family, & Relationships”, “Car”, etc.
  • Ideas: like areas of responsibility, but more like reference lists, a flavour of someday/maybe, like “Books to Read”, “Things I want to Buy Myself”, “Gifts for Others”, “Wines to Try”, etc.
  • Someday/Maybe: these are outcome projects I know I’m not moving on anytime soon, and is reviewed only monthly, divided by personal, professional, and household projects

This gives me an organization system that works for my way of thinking, so that I can more quickly define my stuff and where it will then go.

The key then, for me, to ensure that I organize effectively and don’t get overwhelmed with the 10:1 ratio is to keep everything I don’t need to see out of sight. These are my three ways of doing that:

  1. I actively flip “Outcome Projects” between being Active (and a perspective that focuses on those) and On Hold (with a perspective that focuses on those). Active projects get reviewed daily, On Hold projects get reviewed weekly. If something sits On Hold for a long time, it gets demoted to Someday/Maybe territory. If I know a given project doesn’t need to be actively reviewed daily? It gets moved to on hold.

  2. I use a “Someday/Maybe” context (in addition to the folder) to keep area-related actions and ideas out of perspectives I work from. I review this context monthly (and in fact, my “Someday/Maybe Projects” are actually tasks with the Someday/Maybe context so that I can see all the “Someday/Maybe” things in one view.

  3. I use defer dates for everything I can’t or won’t move on (potentially) now. In this way, they are out of sight.

I guess what it comes down to is separating the two sides of OmniFocus. On one hand, it is an inventory of everything, but on another hand, it is an organizer of action. Know what to really have and what to work from are two different questions that I think is at the crux of your situation.

I hope this is helpful!



Very interesting approach @deturbulence!
Curious to know how your folder structure look like overall. (eg. are those top level folders, or go under some other top level structure?)

Thanks, @ediventurin!

Indeed, these are top-level folders. Overall folder structure looks like this:

  • Outcome Projects
  • Areas of Responsibility
  • Professional
  • Personal
  • Routines
  • Ideas
  • Someday/Maybe Projects

Like I said, defer dates and On Hold states help clarify what needs action now and what needs to be reviewed at some point.

Hope you’re well!


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Hi @deturbulence!
This is awesome. Such an interesting approach.

What about Professional and Personal projects with outcomes. They get all mixed on the “Outcome Projects” folder?

I’m doing well, Scotty. Hope you too.
Thanks again for the inspirational ideas.

@ediventurin Yes I keep all outcome projects, personal or professional, in the same folder. This helps make me be very judicious about what is active (since I am reviewing all active projects daily) and what is put on hold.

Reviewing them and making that call between what moves from backburner to active (or vice versa) is part of my weekly review.



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@deturbulence that’s amazing… I’ll think about it, but I guess I will try some variation. I like to have those areas separate, for organisation. Let’s see. Thanks again ;-)

You’re making me curious…
For these tasks, which context do you use? And, are these tasks On Hold or not?

These are all under the context “Someday/Maybe” which is on hold.

My Someday/Maybe perspective is organized by project, so I can look at all these options according to organized lists. :)

Hope that helps!


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