Project Status question

I decided to recategorize/spring clean the structure of my OF 2 (macOS) database - ahead of the major changes in v. 3, which I’m looking forward to :-)

Most of my Actions are Parallel Single item Actions. That’s what I want - because I am meticulous about top level Projects and using sub-Projects indented within each one; I have fewer than ten at top level.

But - I have maybe half my Actions waiting to be begun… I simply find it easier to record them that way.

So each Project has a mixture of current Actions and Actions waiting.

Because I can’t mark an entire Project('s status) as On Hold, I have to use ‘Waiting’ Contexts (which I can make as On Hold) and ‘Active’ Contexts. And I also want to simplify (the number of) Contexts because I don’t really work along GTD lines.

I don’t want to have two sets of Projects: On Hold vs Active with my Actions distributed across two Project hierarchies according to their Status.

Am I setting about this all wrong, please?


Could you clarify this?

Reason for asking is that 100% of the actions on my list are waiting to be begun - that’s exactly the purpose of the lists - so it’s not clear to me what you mean by this. Can they not be begun until something you’re waiting for has happened, or are you just choosing not to start them yet?

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Thanks for your reply! I’m sorry… Yes, of course. I should also say, I guess, that I rely heavily/most of all on the Forecast Perspective:

I should have said, Many of my Actions are not urgent and are part of groups of Actions which have no dependencies or dates whatsoever; they just don’t need them.

I just don’t have time for them yet. I record them and review them periodically.

For example, ‘Computer’: some day (I have no need to pin down when) I really must get to it and learn that keyboard shortcut utility which I own but have never really made full use of. And I know I shall have to buy a new external hard drive for Time Machine some day; those are waiting Actions with neither Deferred nor Due date. They are, though, in the same Project (‘Computer’) as those which are regular or time-sensitive.

For instance, I back up to my other external hard drives weekly; those backup Actions are scheduled and active. I also run maintenance routines regularly. They too are Repeating tasks with both Defer and Due dates.

ATM I am distinguishing between these two types of Action using Contexts.

For the former (now, dated), each one has a Context assigned according to resources… ‘computer’ etc.

For the latter (no rush), I have a Context (again ‘computer’) to which I append ’ - On Hold’ with an On Hold Status because I can’t have the ‘parent’ Projects for each set of tasks’ Status as both ‘Active’ and ‘On Hold’.

Hence my temptation - and question, please - to duplicate all my Projects so that I can have some Projects’ Status set to ‘Active’ and the rest to ‘On Hold’. But that seems wrong/absurd?

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It sounds like you have a pretty different set-up to mine, so I’m not sure I’m following entirely.

But things like, “must learn that keyboard shortcut utility”, or “must buy a new external hard drive some day”, these sound like things you haven’t really committed to doing, just that you might like to do one day. Originally I did something similar to what you describe, but with a single “Someday” context that was set to on-hold. I didn’t find that it added any value to have separate contexts for “Someday - computer”, “Someday - home” and so on, I just had one. But the tasks were still mixed up in the same projects with the tasks I had committed to.

Later I decided that it was better to not have such tasks in my regular projects at all if I haven’t committed to doing them, they just add noise. So extending the idea, I made one single “Someday” project set to on hold, and they all went into there. You could have a bunch of them if you wanted, and duplicate your existing structure as you say, but my experience has been that’s more trouble than it’s worth and that it doesn’t actually add anything, so I’d say it’s unnecessary.


I hear you, PGR, thanks.

Yes, you’re quite right: they are tasks to which I haven’t (yet) committed; and have no intention of doing so at the moment.

But they are important. In fact, many of them are tied conceptually to Actions in the same world as those which are very firmly scheduled, and which scheduled actions may also often recur.

I see how you simplified your Contexts to one global Someday one; then eventually to a Someday Project. You have understood exactly, thanks :-)

I certainly want to avoid the unnecessary work.

But I do also want to be able to distinguish between ongoing and as yet unstarted Actions.

At least I think I do! Don’t I?

I know I have a feeling that sometimes I’m assigning a Context merely to record it, because I’m supposed to; and that sometimes it really doesn’t reveal anything fresh or something which I can’t get at any other way.

Perhaps that’s what I should revisit?

Is it known whether in OF 3 it will be possible to mix or otherwise categorize Projects as both Oh Hold and Active?

I like to do some spring cleaning every once in a while too! I think it’s essential to do a review of our folders (Areas of Responsibilities), projects, and single actions lists. It’s a time to clear the cobwebs and refresh. Update our organizational structure to reflect our current situation.

It’s amazing how Life sneaks up on us and we evolve over the years. But sometimes we forget to update our task manager to resemble reality.

I also believe in simplifying our projects and tags/contexts as much as possible. I love the idea that OmniFocus can scale up and down to meet our demands as needed.

Everybody will have different setups that will work differently for each of us. Our unique demands and needs can be met easily with OF. It’s just a matter of experimenting with a workflow for a few weeks and tweak it to get it closer to what we want.

It seems that a lot of users want a pre-made workflow that we can easily enter our stuff into and it will work by magic. But I have come to believe that we need to develop our own workflow and then use the task manager as a tool to operate our workflow.

I’ve started to believe that we should develop our workflows first. Set a foundation of routines and habits that can be translated into any task manager. After screwing around with most of the major task managers, I’ve always been able to do pretty much everything (except for collaboration) in OmniFocus.

@MarkSealey: I think you are on the right track. If it works for you and your life is not falling apart, go for it! Develop your workflow and experiment with it in OmniFocus. If all cylinders are clicking in high gear, you’re doing a great job!

You might want to document your workflow and create your own “productivity book” to help you. After you’ve created Mark_Sealey workflow version 1.0, you can revisit your system after a few months and see if you need to tweak it.

My workflow has changed considerably since OmniFocus 1.x. I experiment and re-iterate over the years. It hasn’t really changed a lot. It’s more of an evolutionary process instead of revolutionary. I tried to figure it out here:

As long as your workflow works and it makes sense to you, I don’t see anything wrong with what you have. Scale down when you need to. Then you can scale up when life becomes more demanding.


Thanks so much, Wilson: very wise. Very encouraging, too. All makes perfect sense.

One of the reasons I returned to OF after years experimenting with other systems was that very flexibility which defines OF; it really is able to adapt to most styles of use.

I shall build on what I have, thanks, encouraged that if it’s right for me and works for me, then it’s likely to be just… ‘right’!


This. So much this.

I’ve been using GTD since 2006 and on various tools. With each iteration, I find that the process evolves a bit. Even while on a single tool, I regularly find tweaks that I think would be helpful for me and over time, I introduce fairly significant changes to my workflow. I use a project called Someday/Maybe to store things might one day want to do (e.g., “Build treehouse for my kid”) and then as I select one, I just convert it to a project and begin to think about next actions. I don’t use a special context for this, I typically code them based on what I think the context would be; building a treehouse would have a Home context. During my monthly review, I scan through these and might convert one or two to projects. I may also delete one here and there if I’ve lost interest. The goal (for me) is just to get them out of my head.

In my opinion (and keeping in mind that HOW you use your system is entirely personal preference, so you can decide how much my opinion here matters) is that projects are really for things you’re actively engaged in. I put projects “On Hold” in OF from time to time, but if they sit that way for two long, ultimately I end up dragging the project back into the Someday/Maybe folder just to get it out of my way.


Oh yes.

The more I think about things, the more I come to realize that the decisions we make are the hardest part (what will I do, and in doing that, what will I therefore not be doing?), and the tool workflows are more about managing the outcomes of those decisions, as well as trying to inform future decisions.

The tool and its workflows, then, need to operate around how you think. This is highly nuanced, and very personal. Something as seemingly small as a nomenclature change can change what something means, and so change the whole operation.

It’s so cool to see how other people use their workflows, but I think everything needs to be tailored and made personal to be most meaningful and effective.

This post was probably entirely unhelpful haha.



Thank you very much, ScottyJ and jdavidcarr!

Agreed: the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s up to me - and I’m perfectly happy with this - to carve out a workflow that suits me.

I am grateful that OF allows such flexibility. I have made strides in rearchitecting my database after reading everyone’s comments here… much appreciated!