Folder Setup Help

I have always struggled with my folder/project setup.

I have tried to create folders for areas of responsibilities but this just made things harder to find for very little benefit. I have also tried a simplified two-folder setup with work and home folders which is a little better although I’m not sure what benefit this brings other than not having a super-long list of projects.

What do other people do and, more importantly, why do they you do it?

On a similar note, where do people put recurring single actions? I used to have a ‘recurring tasks’ single action list so I could easily find these tasks and delete the completed ones every once in a while.

Thanks in advance.

I’m in the middle of organising my setup these days. I use 4 apps if we include Reminders, primary app being OmniFocus.

Currently, I have one work folder which contains a project for each of my clients. The other folders are more personal in nature; such as one folder for an exam. But there are also some projects in the main view i.e. not inside a folder.

I started with - here are all the projects, no folders except work folder because I know I have several clients which need to be managed client-wise so I’d put them in Work folder. Then I clubbed some projects into one folder if I thought of them as very related.

I think the best organisation scheme is very case specific and will change with time. But since it may not be efficient to always obsess about structure, one can start with one and fine tune it for a short while and then just let it be, revisiting only periodically, say every year or two, except for any obvious changes.

For single actions, one can create a single actions project. Some have a routine folder, with projects for daily, weekly, monthly routines inside.

Thank you for the reply.

I like your idea of creating a folder to group certain projects, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I might try that rather than forcing a strict hierarchy. A folder for routine actions as well as my someday/maybes would work.

First, I completely separate Work and Personal: personal database on my personal equipment, work database on my work equipment…never the twain shall meet. I know some people shudder at that thought but I don’t want to think about work when I’m not at work. :-)

My personal setup is pretty locked down, I have one folder per AOR and each AOR has one SAL within it, and all the projects related to said AOR.

Financial & Legal (folder)
-Financial & Legal (SAL with sort-first character in name)
Project #1 in F&L
Project #2 in F&L

Household (folder)
-Household (SAL)
Project #1

I like separating by AOR because if I want to do a deep-dive session on my finances or tackle all my household projects while watching a day of sports, I can drill down to just that area. Since I separate work and personal, without folders my project list would be insanely unwieldy (currently 34 active projects, 211 total projects).

I have a SAL per each area for the same reasons: to drill down and because I have too many SAs that putting them in a single container makes it cumbersome to review. These SALs contain both one-off tasks and recurring tasks that don’t rise to the level of being their own project. I use AppleScript to periodically clean up completed recurring tasks (and I manually archive so there’s no problem of the archive getting cluttered with these completed items).

My work setup is a little less locked down, primarily because the AORs aren’t as easily definable. Most of my work is client/project based so I’ll create a client folder if there are multiple projects or a project folder if there are multiple subprojects. As much as I love the ability to indent tasks within a project, you can’t search on that subproject so I’ll create multiple independent projects as needed. Work doesn’t have many SAs, they are mostly related to administrative tasks (complete expense report, update file A, etc.) so those go in an “Admin” SAL.

I used folders for AOFs for a long time and I too found it unwieldy and hard to maintain. I got some coaching from DavidCo and the coach suggested a simplified folder structure. I have 1 main folder called Active Projects, in it are all the normal GTD projects I am working on this season. I live and work in the same place so I don’t distinguish between work vs home projects. I have one folder where I’ve drug some of the projects called Waiting For Projects for things where the entire project is waiting for something to finish. I have 1 folder for Delegated projects where the entire thing got sent to someone else. (PS Omni, this is what I’d like to share with a team or set up individual folders for different teams/people) Then I have a set of 5 folders for recurring projects. Recurring Projects Monthly for things that happen regularly either every month or some more frequent time frame, like every week. I have 4 folders for the recurring projects for each season, Recurring Projects Jan-Mar, and similarly folders for Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep and Oct-Dec. I have many recurring projects and once I figure out the steps I don’t want to reinvent the wheel so I corral them in these folders. They are effectively checklists in that I use one and then it will repeat next season once this instance is done. My last folder is called Checklists. It’s all on-hold projects for things I don’t do on a scheduled basis but that I may have to do fairly often, things like moving the sheep registry database to another computer for a while, or the getting the guest house ready for guests and cleaning up after them lists. When I have one of those tasks I copy the project, move it to active projects and then change the name to be this instance rather than Checklist I also have 2 single action lists, one called errands that are things that have to be done outside our farm and the other is miscellaneous for the small one off things I don’t want to forget to do.

For me moving my recurring projects out of the main folder was the critical step. When they were jumbled in they got lost in the noise of all the other projects. With a separate folder I can easily see if I am behind this season or on track.

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I wrote up my own project structures splitting up repeating maintenance stuff (Admin work) and Big Rocks (special projects) in a series of posts here:

It takes a while to absorb it all but maybe you’ll find something to take for yourself.

Hi, I have read through the posts in the link and, I have to say, I’m impressed. I have always followed the standard productivity advice to do the Big Rocks before everything else. In practice, I end up so focussed on these big rocks that everything else suffers. Your suggestion to spend time on admin tasks first seems to fit with how I would like to work; first thing I like to get to inbox zero then tackle the admin stuff that needs doing. Then I can spend as long as I want on the Big Rocks without the worry of things falling through the cracks.

Another benefit of your method is that it allows me to easily see what I’ve currently got on my plate (the active projects) and what I’ve got coming up (the ‘on hold’ projects). I usually have a long list of GTD-defined projects which contains everything from major projects to those with just a few actions. Your method of keeping the big projects separate allows me to really see the big picture (like you said, the admin stuff is a constant stream that I have no control over but that I can’t ignore).

Thank you for this. I’ll put my new system to the test once I return to work. 👍

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Thanks. My workflow is a work in progress and I’m glad you were able to adopt some of the ideas to make it your own. If you have any workflows ideas, it would be great if you shared it here in the Omni.focus forums and the Productivity Guild forums. The more we can help each other, the better we all get.

Another thing I wanted to focus on was the calendar and making an appointment with your contexts, Big
Rocks, and Admin Work. This is important when using contexts, Big Rocks, or Admin Work.

Make an appointment that cannot be moved. Each appointment of 30-60 minutes is focused on a context (@computer, @office, @house), a Big Rock project, or admin work. It helps to batch groups of tasks together instead of randomly selecting a task. It cuts down on time spent trying to decide what to work on next. I’m always surprised at how many minutes get burned up choosing the next task. I’ll just so all the @computer work, or all the admin work, or tasks from a Big Rock project.

I don’t let anything make that appointment and try to stick with it. Think of it as a dentist appointment. It’s hard to move it and I’d rather just get it done so that I can move on to the next appointment/time block. I get a penalty if I cancel a dental appointment inside of 24 hours. So I’ll try to keep that appointment. I can think of it as gym time. If I don’t schedule gym time, I definitely won’t be working out.`

I usually try to say no to other people demanding my time when I already scheduled an appointment. It has to be an emergency for me to cancel one of my appointments for OmniFocus work.