How to deal with actions you 'chip away’ at?

Hi all,

I’m noticing that there are certain actions in my database that I keep skipping over because they are a little too amorphous. I know actions are supposed to be concrete, achievable steps, but there are certain kinds of actions that I can’t figure out how to break down. For example, say I want to get a new car and I have the action “research car models”. Or I want to get a new job and the action is “browse job sites”. Actions like these could take days of time, and it’s hard to consider them finished.

How do you guys chip away at scary tasks like these? Perhaps some sort of repeating action? I find Omnifocus really useful for concrete, acheivable actions (“buy lamp”, “cancel amazon prime membership”, “write letter to Alfred”) but not these larger goals that seem difficult to break down.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

I create a repeating action and allow myself to mark it complete just for having spent 10 minutes or an hour on it (whatever’s appropriate to the task and my current energy level, etc.). I know that it’ll come back around in a week or two, and meanwhile it’s good to get a tiny dose of feeling the sense of achieving progress on it.

Or if I suspect the work really could be more clearly defined, I’ll change the action to something like “plan out car research”. Either I’ll get back to that later, or more often, just typing that out kicks something in my brain to start the planning and within a couple minutes my list looks like “Check Consumer Reports’ latest car info”, “ask Bob how he likes his Subaru”, and 5 other concrete tasks.


Thanks for your response! I especially like what you said about making the action to “plan”. That gives me something concrete to work with, while allowing me to come back to the action when I’m in brainstorming mode. Thanks again for the suggestion

Emergent problems like these really call for judicious use of your trusted reference, since often you can’t predict the next step until the current step is complete. For the goal of “buy new car”, I would create a new note / document for the project and tackle “research car models” and take as many notes as I could for whatever time I’ve allotted myself for this task. Step back and assess your progress - if you have enough research, create a task for the next step (“talk to Bob about his Subaru”, or “find local dealerships for test drive”), if you don’t have enough information… defer the task to a date where you can complete it, or check it off and re-add it. Don’t try to force the unknown into being before its time!

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I made a suggestion to the Omnigroup that you could click on the circle and it would fill up 1/4 or 1/8th to at least show you did some work on the task


Or you add/replace a tag called 25%, 50%, 75% etc.

I’ve recreated sort of a KANBAN board with nested KANBAN tags (e.g. KANBAN:To-do, KANBAN:WIP, KANBAN:Waiting).
I have a KANBAN perspective that is sorted by these tags that I check everyday and can assign the tasks with a tag according to the current status. For me this is a more pleasant workflow than having countless redundant repeat-after-completion tasks that fill up my database.

I wish OF would include a view that could make such setups more visual by default.