Sorry for what is likely going to be a very long post. I’ll try to get to my “ask” as quickly as I can. If you don’t want all the back story just jump to the last paragraph.
I’m a long time user of OmniFocus and even longer GTD practitioner. Many of friends and colleagues are as well. Many of us are moving into new positions within our corporation and it stirs discussion and debate on personal to-do tracking and general productivity. One recurring problem/theme is this issue of “falling off the bandwagon”. Those that I’ve discussed this issue with at length seem to all agree as to root cause. Many times it comes back to the efficiency of the system and it’s inability to keep up with what is an every increasingly fast paced world and our desire to make sure that “nothing slips through the cracks”. So recently I decided I really wanted to crack this problem for good as my life just feels out of control when I’m “off the bandwagon”.
To start, I went back and re-read Getting Things Done by David Allen from cover to cover. I also re-read Creating Flow with OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini. I then archived my entire OmniFocus database and started over. From scratch. Yes, you read that correctly…From Scratch. Every project, context and perspective (outside of the stock ones) were deleted, wiped clean or reset. I was already off the band wagon right? So not really much to lose. But it’s allowed me to look very closely at how a task or project makes it’s way through my system.
One of the revealing parts to this experiment was the identification that certain projects had no chance of getting tasks added to the “Today” perspective, because of flow. I know, your asking well why was that? I thought you said you’re a long time user OmniFocus, which somewhat implies being an über OmniFocus know it all? … yeah well bugger off! … Actually it has nothing to do with finding the magic combination of settings that generates the “one perspective to rule them all!”.
While I’d love to lock myself in my office and tinker with my raspberry pi until I’m sick/bored with it, the world doesn’t really work that way. We all have responsibilities. Those typically involve projects, which more often than not get grouped into folders representing those responsibilities. In order to make progress, one needs to review them on some “trusted schedule” such that we know the work will eventually hit that “Today” perspective. Now, I’m not sure about you but I’m pretty sure the number of projects in my OmniFocus database is near the 100-150 mark. And that brings me back to the weight of it. See a strictly pure “Weekly Review” of 150 some odd projects is simply daunting. Yes, not all of those need to be reviewed on a weekly basis. In fact, the realization that not every project should be reviewed that frequently has been one of the major changes I’ve implemented in my personal workflow. In fact, I’m starting to conclude that there are categorizations of responsibilities not necessarily projects that need to be reviewed on a periodic basis. To that end I’ve started giving each day of the week a “theme” in which categories of responsibilities/projects fall into and used that to determine when and at which frequency a project will get reviewed. Regardless of your mental approach to determining when a single project should be reviewed, I think the gang at Omni felt the same way with regard to having to review lots of projects in a single sitting when they created the “Next review” setting and reviewing perspective.
So like I mentioned, I’ve carefully made sure that projects whose “theme” is to appear the next day, magically appear in the review perspective today. I’ve included a task in my daily evening routine that directs me to the review perspective to make sure its cleaned out just like the inbox. Honestly, I was on roll and everything in my system was actually feeling pretty good. Then, I got sick. Like terribly sick. Like spending 4 days on my backside kind of sick. In that time, I kid you not, I had 50-60 projects come up for review. I was like ok, yup, I’m about to fall off again. But I told myself to suck it up buttercup, crank through these and then get on to do. About half way through I scrolled up to one of the previously reviewed ones. It’s set for Review Every 1 Week and is now showing its next review to be 7 days from today. Hmmm… So I scroll up to another with the same frequency. Up same deal. Then another, and another, and … well to my shock and horror I came to a new level of understanding of Omni’s interpretation of that setting. And actually, I get why it’s that way. I haven’t proven this to my self yet, but I think based on this, the system over time will become clumped, like a fragmented hard drive. In others words in about 7 days time I’m going to have 20-30 projects to review again, instead of the 5 or 6 that I should. Certainly all the care into my next review assignments is now wasted and I’ll have to go back and reset all that. But thats some serious friction in the system and can potentially lead to bandwagon issues. Which now brings me to my ask/question/feature request.
What I’d like to see is an additional option for handling how the next review date is generated. What I’d like to see is some of the project repeating options carried over to review timing. While not ideal, the repeat every as implemented in the repeating options for projects would actually solve my problem described above. I say not ideal as I’d fully expect to potentially mark a project reviewed multiple times before it cleared the review perspective. At the same time I see value in the current implementation and would have uses for it as well. Would that be possible and would other find that valuable?