I am in a period of aversion to OF and GTD, something that seems to occur in cycles for me. These cycles pretty much correlate directly with the amount of things collected that no longer seem relevant. It’s my sense that the method is to blame, but the software is an enabler.
I usually reckon with this state by clearing out the coffers, or even declaring bankruptcy, but this time I hit a wall, realizing my methods of asking Siri to remind me of this or that, or evoking the quick entry in a moment of optimism, leaves me in a future state with too many tasks that are good ideas that I just don’t want to do.
I’ve gone back to managing everything in my Bullet Journal as an antidote. Just yesterday, in the span of a single hour, I recorded the following items:
- Read Hailey’s thesis!
- Write a paper with Hugh
- Check out Mindful Moments initiative
- Read Tim’s paper
- Look up that essay by CS Lewis and the beam of light
- Get The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker
- Doodle poll for next meeting?
Easily a week’s worth of work jotted down in moments of fleeting inspiration. The only ones I feel inspired to migrate today are filling out the doodle poll, and maybe reading Hailey’s thesis and/or Tim’s paper, more like 3 hours of work. Had I entered them into OF, they would have sat patiently waiting for me forever. Right now in my bujo, they sit waiting for me to decide. Should I migrate or cross out? This bit of effort causes me pause and I cross out the things that were a good idea at the time, but have not aged well. After a day or an hour, I’ll forget them and so will the bujo and the problem of amassing aspirations is avoided.
I know review hygiene is supposed to fix issues like this, but that’s not been my reality. The inertia in review mode is for things to persist. It takes action to forget (delete) instead of action to remember.
This morning, the idea of a forget date occurred to me. In addition to due, defer, and review, one might image that every task also has a forget date that tells OF to drop the task in x amount of time (which could include an option “never”). If the task isn’t done in a day or six weeks or whatever, OF drops it without you needing to act. For the worriers among us (myself included) a perspective “show me forgotten tasks” might take the edge off such a risky setting.
It’s funny; I had this exact thought not that long ago—I was thinking of it as an ‘expiry date’ and more for things that actually become irrelevant after a particular date has passed.
I had thought of putting something together with Omni Automation but I think there’s a few other things I would like to make first. I’ll let you know if I get around to it, though. :-)
I think you’re right, and improving the software’s capacity to forget does sound like a worthwhile experiment.
I wonder though, whether anything can really match the depth and subtlety of the processes of selective pruning in our own neural networks ?
I think expiration dates leads to a dangerous path. I do my weekly review to check if something is still worth doing. If it’s not worth doing, I’ll delete it. Having a task automatically purge itself does not engage me into really thinking about what I put into OmniFocus. I need to be thoughtful of what’s in my task list during the weekly review and will make deliberate choices. If I let it expire, why would I want it in the first place?
Mmm, I tend to agree. The way I was framing it (I think slightly differently to @Beck) was where a task actually becomes irrelevant after a certain date, but I think that occurs infrequently enough that the weekly review is sufficient for dealing with these. Here’s part of a post I added to a discussion about due dates and start dates in the OmniFocus Slack channel a few weeks ago (emphasis added):
On a related note, I’ve also been thinking about other types of dates when it comes to tasks, and how (and whether) to reflect them in OmniFocus. Obviously we have defer dates (for me, the date after which I can start a task) and due dates (for me, the date after which there are negative consequences if a task is not done - funnily enough, just as I was thinking about this I read this article which I think sums it up nicely: https://inside.omnifocus.com/peter-akkies2) but I think there are other types of relevant dates too and I’d be interested in others’ thoughts on dealing with these. I’ve given them names that reflect how I’m thinking about them but they’re arbitrary really:
DO/PLANNED: I think this is really what we’re talking about here. I think there’s benefit to in the idea that this might not be a date, but might also be a range of dates. Like, ‘this week’ or ‘next March’. I think I’m going to be using a tag/automation-based system to manage this.
DESIRED COMPLETION (or maybe ‘Aspiration’ Date!): This is similar to due, but there might not be any consequences if they don’t get done by this date. Some examples are—1. I would like to update my blog more and post on a regular schedule. There’s really no negative consequence if I don’t, so I’m reluctant to have a ‘Due’ date set on this. 2. University assignments have set dates for assignments, but in the lead-up to assignments there are typically a few weeks’ work to be completed on which the assignment is based. Ideally I finish each weeks’ work in the week it’s assigned, but it’s not really a /due/ date as such. I haven’t worked out how to deal with these yet. Maybe some sort of tag in the notes with an automation that can run me a report and maybe put the tag list in order. Still thinking about this one.
EXPIRY: Sometimes there’s a task that’s no longer relevant after a certain date. For example, next week I’m going to see a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I’ve never studied the play and it’s been a while since I’ve done any Shakespeare at all, so I’d like to do some research on the plot before I go. After the performance, if I don’t get to the task, it’s not going to matter any more. I think this is often going to be a subset of ‘desired completion’ dates (like in this case) but not always: for example, I am starting a new degree in November and I have the textbook already. I have a task to get a head start on reading it, which I may or may not get to, and am not particularly committed to necessarily doing, but it’s in my system to remind me that it’s an option. I thought about another tag/automation combo for dealing with these but (especially as Omni Automation doesn’t yet include an option to ‘drop’ or ‘delete’ a task) I think this would be more effort than it’s worth and this would be more easily just dealt with in a weekly review for the few tasks it applies to.
So I think I’ve got ‘Do/Planned’ covered, with some further experimentation (and automation) needed. I think I’ve decided ‘Expiry’ is not worth worrying about. I’m still trying to work out whether there’s a good way to deal with a ‘Desired Completion’ date.
(Side note: Omni Automation does offer the option to delete a task. I just didn’t know it at the time I wrote the above.)
I’m still giving some consideration to these, but I think they may be (at least tangentially) relevant to the discussion here.
I disagree with the OP’s premise on either GTD or OF.
GTD has a remedy for this built in, it’s called the Review. OF is not an enabler, it just allows you to log as many projects and actions as you wish, any system which is artificially constrained seems poorly designed IMHO.
Ultimately you have to be responsible for what gets done, this is where your reviews of actions and projects are key.
If something is active then it should be getting some form of regular review (GTD’s weekly review) by canon GTD anything else should be marked as Someday/Maybe or on such a list, this should also be getting reviewed regularly (again by Canon it’s the weekly review), but maybe less so than active work. OF actually makes this easier by allowing you to review projects on whatever basis you wish. My Someday/Maybe list is set for monthly reviews.
You have to cull things which you’ve recorded which are no longer a good idea or you no longer wish to do.
I think that on OF for Mac (sorry I don’t use the Mac version) there Is a “created on” date but I could be wrong, maybe you can report on this within a perspective so you can see how long ago you added things, but like @wilsonng I think it would be wrong for the system to automatically drop things on your behalf.
These cycles pretty much correlate directly with the amount of things collected that no longer seem relevant. It’s my sense that the method is to blame, but the software is an enabler.
I have been experiencing something similar recently, @Beck, and I have concluded that the problem is trying to use one app for essentially two different functions. The first function is to manage the projects and tasks that I am actively engaged on or that have a rigid start date in the future. OmniFocus is great for this. The second function is to manage projects and ideas that I’d like to do in the future, and possibly soon, but that I know I can’t get to right now. Managing these things requires two actions, (1) efficient capture and (2) carefully prioritisation during a routine planning procedure.
OmniFocus seems the best app for efficient capture. I often find that ideas occur to me when I’m in the middle of a piece of work, and the OmniFocus quick entry window is an excellent way to get these things out of my head with minimal interruption to the task I’m working on. However, I’m now beginning to realise that OmniFocus is not the right place to store most of these items, so when I process my inbox I’m mostly looking to move items out of OmniFocus. If I use the quick entry window for something related to an active project then filling in the project name comes easily and I usually do it straight away, so those items go straight to the project and don’t end up in my inbox.
I’m still exploring how to store and process the items that I move out of OmniFocus, but at the moment I’m using Curio, in which you can create boxes called ‘stacks’ that will hold list of projects. Projects can easily be dragged from stack to stack creating something like a kanban. I’ve only just started setting this up, but I’m thinking that during weekly (or monthly) planning routines I will assess the projects in the ‘backlog’ stack and decide which are a priority and should be activated during the next week (or month). Those projects will be transferred to OmniFocus. Any currently active projects that need to be deferred will be taken out of OmniFocus and moved to the ‘deferred’ stack in Curio.
Processing the OmniFocus inbox becomes easier because I only have to consider whether I need to act on the item before the next routine planning process. If not, then it can go into Curio. I am wondering whether to experiment with Curiota as an alternative to the OmniFocus inbox, but initially I’m just going to focus on setting up Curio.
I know that others on this forum have spoken about Curio so someone may already have a system that is better-developed than mine (which is still very much at the experimental stage).
Why not, when you process your inbox, just put these types of ‘someday/maybe’ ideas and items into Single Action Lists in OF that have the ‘On Hold’ status?
It’s easy to later promote items to an active project, so that they appear in perspectives that show ‘Available’ actions (or conversely decide that some active items should be placed on hold). This approach doesn’t preclude using a separate tool to map out your potential projects/goals at a higher level and possibly in a visual way, but you don’t need to shuttle lots of items back and forth in separate tools.
Thank you for this message, @Fritillary. I’ve been doing my longer-term planning in Tinderbox, similar to Curio in the ways you describe, and your suggestions resonate.
In the way I’ve been using OF, most things flow into it. The way you describe your use, OF can still be used as quick capture, but most of things could then move out to Tinderbox (or be deleted) in the weekly review process. In an extreme case, I could endeavor to clear out OF, entirely, each week during my weekly review.
🤔You’ve got me thinking, thanks!
Why not, when you process your inbox, just put these types of ‘someday/maybe’ ideas and items into Single Action Lists in OF that have the ‘On Hold’ status?
That would certainly be a good approach, @MultiDim, and would enable everything to stay in OmniFocus, which might be important for someone who uses multiple devices as Curio doesn’t have an iOS version.
In fact, reflecting on my original post I realised it is not so much whether the tasks are active but whether they require prioritisation. So I have a commitment to a lot of projects that are not due for several months, but have a rigid start date and once this arrives there is no question that I will start work on the project. Those projects go in OmniFocus. So when I’m in OmniFocus I know I’m looking at things that need to be done once the defer date arrives, whereas when I’m in Curio I know the things I’m looking at only have to be done if I make a decision to prioritise them. So the two apps help my mental switch between action and prioritisation.
Interesting you use Tinderbox, @Beck. I love Tinderbox but I always seem to end up over-complicating it, and then go back to Curio to simplify things. I will be interested to know in due course how your process develops. I have found just contributing to this thread has helped me to clarify some of my own ideas, and I always love hearing how others use the same software.
I was getting overwhelmed with this too. Then I re-listened to GTD, and weekly review seemed important so I reinstated time for that. Then I listened to Ferriss’s interview with the GTD guy, and remembered next steps.
Next steps are crucial ie. what is the next action. that’s all you need to look at. And then the dates on todos shrink massively.
So review, next steps, and, my next fix…
More importantly, I realised that I stressed out having personal and professional items together.
So, not I use ‘Things 3’ for personal chores, house chores, and gift lists etc (which turned out to be quite small), and omni for work.
At home, I check in on things. At work, I check in on Omni.
It gave me relief, well along with happy pills, meditation, daily journal… and the list goes on…
best wishes, L
Thanks for the reply, @teataotu.
When you say “next steps are crucial” do you mean that you only maintain next steps in OF? Are your projects lean and mostly focused on the very next thing? I’m curious and would appreciate it if you might give a real world example. Thanks!
Sorry, I wasn’t clear, thanks for the question.
I mean that in the weekly review, (and sometimes daily), I make sure I am very specific about the exact next step (the action), and having that at the top of the project list. Then in OF3 perspective ‘next steps’ only 1 action from each of my live projects shows up. It’s a wonderful way of taking about 4-500 actions, and reducing them to 26 (1 for each of my live projects)
So for instance, I have a paper on indigenous research ethics to write with a colleague, and amongst other todos for that project, I have identified that I have to re-read my notes on Smith’s Decolonising methodologies and decide what to include in the paper. In my weekly review I identified that particular todo as the critical next step, so put it at the top of my OF3 project indigenous research ethics. Then, if I manage to get to writing next week (hahahaha…end of semester coming…hahahaha), and that project is what I want to work on in a block of time. I will go to OF3, open up next steps perspective, and see that task as the next step for my project indigenous research ethics.
Most wonderfully, for that particular project, I will only see that task, and so don’t feel guilty for all the other work that I should have done.
This is my way of managing not to have a forget date. I retain everything, clean it out during weekly review, and focus for each day on the next steps I feel like. Hope that helps, best, L
I have tried to find out if next steps is a built in perspective or I created it, but can’t find anything, so here it is - you can see that you could limit it to a few projects which would be even more sparse as a way of reducing the magnitude of lists.
This is a very helpful explanation, thank you!
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