Totally agree with you there. I actually don't see a real issue with using OmniFocus itself. I understand the program and everything it can do and I have no issue with actually using it. It's more an issue of organizing my projects and contexts in a matter that is useful and beneficial to the process. The issue is still relevant regardless of which software I decide to use or not use. That being said, since several people have suggested it, I might take a crack at sorting things into a pen and paper format if for nothing else than seeing if it makes things a little clearer.
Originally Posted by TesTeq
As a side note, I'm feeling that the initial removal of my subfolders has been a beneficial step to making things a little more "flat" and simpler, also suggested by pretty much everyone here. There are still a few tricky areas to organize given some overlaps (mainly personal projects such as hobbies, enrichment projects like continuing education, and career projects like game design) but I think I'm on the right track here. Less is more.
Feel free to post any additional feedback or tips you might have. It's all helpful. I'll be sure to update you on my progress as well. Thanks again!
Just a thought on this: Paper is indeed probably more natural for most people. But at least for me, someone who's used the computer at work and home to the almost complete exclusion of paper (except for reading books) for years, it's the use of paper that would be the new skill to learn. :) ("It takes _how long_ to write those six words? I have to _erase_? If i use a pen there will be visible errors on the page? Oh, my God!") I didn't experience OmniFocus as a second barrier, but instead as a bridge easing my path to the GTD practices.
Originally Posted by TesTeq
First off I suspect everyone starts out feeling nervous when you look at what you have on your plate and think what that really means. I don't know of anyone ho did not end up with more to do than they could possibly accomplish. 150 items actually sounds very low to me. I currently have almost 1000 projects in my Omnifocus system with 170 of them current active ones I am working on.
Originally Posted by CSicking
I also use omnifocus and I have a fairly flat system of folders. So what f something can fit in several place, instead I just put it where I am most likely to look for it first and go with it.
Defining areas of focus is critical IMO to corralling the wild projects. I have at most a 3 level system. My top folders are my areas of focus
Family and Friends
Manage our Farm Sustainably
Computer and Technology
Oil and Gas Issues
Keep a Comfortable House
Work in My Community
Within each AOF folder I have folders for other detailed areas. For example under Manage our farm sustainably I have the following layer of folders:
General Farm Work
Sheep Meat Work
Sheep Association Work
Terror Ditch Work
All active projects go into those folders. If I get a lot of projects that I put on hold (my someday/maybe) then I create my last final folder for those projects labeled something like Wool Someday/Maybe or Sheep Someday/Maybe. I only create the third level when I get too many projects on hold and I find them harder to look at.
Personal Development is my overall AOF that covers learning new things, hobbies, healthy living and so on. SOme of the sub-folders within it are Reading, Writing, Knitting, Sewing, Spinning, Weaving, Scrapbooks, Photography, Maintain Healthy Lifestyle, Quilting, Genealogy and so on.
I looked at the major categories of stuff I do and how I would be looking for it again when defining my AOFs.
I like to have lots of choice in my lists so even though I do a weekly review I keep active all projects that I can possibly work on during this season, typically a 3 month period. As a farmer my time scales are different.
As for contexts, try a set, see how it works and then modify it later to fit. I am currently running with 43 contexts. That is up a lot from my normal. Feel free to create, use and then delete contexts as your focus changes. Right now I have so many because I have separated out 20 different computer contexts. I have one cotext for each major application I need to work in (Omnifocus, finder, LibreOffice, Scrivener, DEVONThink, Quicken, Android Programming, Calendar, E-mail, Safari, Fetch among some of them) and some for several devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, MainMac, Scanners and so on) and a few more like that for specific things. I have a lot of computer related stuff to do right now and I was wasting time flipping from one app to another so keeping the actions within a single app context is helping me manage the volume of stuff I have on my plate right now. Once spring arrives my big monolithic Outside with Help context will get split into a separate context for each major field, barn andfarm building and my computer contexts will collapse back down to @Computer Internet, @Computer Mac, @Computer MacBook and perhaps one for @Computer handhelds to cover the iPhone and iPad together.
You will have to adapt GTD to you so create a project to Tweak and adapt GTD to my working style or something that will be a place to put all the new skills you are learning as you do this.
Thank you very much for the additional input. I think these were two of the most important takeaways for myself.
Originally Posted by Oogiem
So I've actually been re-organizing things here and there over the past few days and I'm starting to feel a bit better about the organization. For starters, I've gone from about 50+ folders/subfolders down to only twenty or so. I also realized that I had created a lot of single action projects "just in case" that actually never got populated after my mind dump. This seemed a bit odd, as if I was creating additional work for myself before I even had something tangible to populate it with.
As it stands here are my High Level Folders...
- Family - Anything relating to my wife, kids, parents, siblings, etc. previously this was a folder called "relationships" but I decided to break it out temporarily into Family and Friends.
- Home - Tasks relating to my home itself. Chores, Maintenance, Landscaping, things that need to be done with the house itself. I've also lumped tasks relating to my vehicles here as well. I've seen some people label this folder "Owner" which makes a little sense but feels like it could potentially get a little muddy. I own several things, what does and does not make that list?
- Finances - Pretty straight-forward, anything regarding money. Retirement accounts, bills, insurance, taxes are all under here.
- Work - This one is a little tricky but for now I keep it strictly to tasks that revolve around things that need to get done at work.
- Hobbies - My "fun stuff" including Brewing, Photography, Gaming and Reading. Things that I do for entertainment.
- Career - This sort of ties into "Work" in terms of trickiness. I've separated these out for now because I sort of see them separately. Work are things that I have to do as a designer, but my career relates to things that I want to do on my own as a designer. This relates to things like Networking and Personal development to some degree (Learning C#, Unity, improving Math skills). However It's still a little fuzzy how these things should be setup.
- Health & Fitness - Anything relating to physical activities I take part in, Jiu-Jitsu, CrossFit, Hiking, Running, etc.
- Travel - This one is a little weird as well for the moment. I had initially thought of putting it under Home or something like that, but my wife and I are transplants from the midwest living in Colorado so we travel pretty regularly to visit our families.
- Friends - Again, previously this was under a Relationships folder that I had but I decided to break the Family and Friends out into separate folders of focus. I guess we'll see how it plays out.
That's where I'm sitting right now. The inspiration for this new setup came much from the advice posted here and another link that a fellow GTD/OmniFocus user had shared with me... http://andrewminer.tumblr.com/omnifocus
However there is still some work to do/questions to answer regarding a few of my projects and organization.
- It's obvious I need to utilize some sort of Someday/Maybe list for certain projects. However, I'm curious if I should just create an entirely separate folder for all the goals/projects I hope to tackle someday, or if I should have something for those within each of the high level folders themselves (Someday/Maybe for Home, Finanaces, Hobbies, Career, etc.)
- Work, Career and Personal Development sort of seem to blend together. I work as a designer and I have tasks that need to be accomplished there, however I have career aspirations and side projects that exist outside of my everyday 9-5 work schedule. I have things I'd like to accomplish in hopes of being a better designer. These are things that I need to learn though, so they could potentially be labeled under a Personal Development folder but again, they're more focused on my career/role/"hat" as a designer.
- There still seem to be a few holes in my structure when thinking about certain projects though. Learn Guitar, for example is one that I have a difficult time placing in this hierarchy. I don't really consider it "Personal Development" because it's not something really needed or necessary in my life, it's more of a "hey that would be cool!" thing. Also, I'm hesitant to label it a hobby because it's something I don't yet know and I'm not even entirely sure it will become a hobby. Maybe I don't enjoy it. Maybe I don't have time for it. Maybe I can't afford the lessons. It feels like I'm missing some sort of High Level folder to classify projects like this under. Another example might be a project to learn Japanese. Something I've always wanted to do, but not entirely necessary.
- Then there are several 1-off sort of tasks that don't really seem to fit into any particular area. Again these are things that don't really NEED to be done but that I'd like to do eventually or would be nice to do. One example is organizing the NAS I have at home. It's not really something that has to be done, but I feel the need to organize all the files and data there for clarity's sake. Other tasks would be things like research building a new PC for myself, organize my bookmarks on my various PCs, checking in on things that I've lent out to friends. These just feel very nebulous in terms of categorization and I'm not sure where I should stick them.
I can't thank you all enough again for all the help you've provided thus far. I'm sure I'll continue to have questions and I'll continue to post them here, if for nothing else than the fact that it sort of forces me to think in detail about what my problems are so I might better understand how I can fix them on my own. As always, thoughts, feedback and critiques are always appreciated.
Again, I babble on at length:
Your structure sounds much more usable now. But I think that in worrying about the overlaps you may be over-worried about what I'd call the taxonomy. The primary purpose of all of these groups is not to label your work and goals, but to do them. If all of your activities could be divided into two manageable chunks of Work and Not-Work, that would, IMO, be enough high-level folder division until one of those got so big that it needed dividing again. If a big chunk of the Not Work actions/projects were about gardening, then I see nothing wrong with Work, Gardening, and Other-Not-Work. And so on.
None of this should be taken as my advising against creating projects - I think that anything that can't be done in one obvious straightforward action is a project. I create projects at the drop of a hat (though I resist making purely theoretical someday projects, instead adding a one-line "project seed" entry to a list), but it takes a lot to make me create a folder.
The high-level goals don't have to affect the folder structure at all - they can be elsewhere, such as in a list. But IMO the perspectives should affect the structure. If, say, you want your C# actions to show up when you're looking at your available actions at work, versus showing up when you look at them at home, versus showing up both times, that's a preference that will probably need to be reflected in your folders.
Hmm. This brings me to one of those thoughts that's so entrenched in my system that it doesn't occur to me to say it: I rarely look in my project folders for actions to do. I look at them during my weekly review, but it's my context-side-based perspectives' jobs to actually remind me of tasks on a day-to-day basis. If something is quite important, it's my system's job to make it float to the surface and show it to me, rather than my job to remember to go look for it. My job, in the moment, stops with choosing the right perspective to look at. My job in the weekly review is to make those perspectives do their job for the rest of the week.
So, that Hobby thing. You're not going to be graded on your taxonomy, so I don't see any reason not to put your Guitar projects in your Hobbies folder. Sure, you might lose interest; you might lose interest in any of your hobbies. Then you'll drop or delete the projects. That seems harmless.
I don't even have a "Hobbies" folder. I have a top-level "Assorted Projects" folder, and projects live there until there are too many and it's time to split some off to another folder, at which point I try to find some unifying theme for grouping some of them. So if one day I'd had six or ten projects for _different_ hobbies, I would have moved them to a Hobbies folder. But as it turned out, at one time I was focusing heavily on sewing and had a dozen sewing projects, and another time I was focusing heavily on gardening and had six or eight gardening projects. So my top-level folder list includes Assorted Projects, Sewing, and Gardening, among others.
Someday if I get too many top-level folders, I might create Hobbies to move Sewing, Gardening, and others one level down from the top level - though before I do that, I'll look at those folders to see if they could instead be ungrouped and dumped right back into Assorted Projects. If I have ten or fifteen hobbies, odds are that few of them have enough activity to justify the hobby having its own folder, at least by my standards for a folder.
My top level also includes a "Lists" folder, because some of my hobbies are largely tracked by lists. For example, I don't need a whole "Reading" folder just to store a "Stuff to read" SAL and a "Choose something from Stuff to Read" repeating action. So the stuff to read is in a SAL in Lists, and the "Choose something..." is up in Meta: Repeaters. (Meta being where I keep things that serve the whole system.)
I _could_ put the project "Develop a more reliable creative writing habit" in Home: Personal Enrichment: The Arts: Writing: Creative Writing, and "Find and master a good buttermilk fried chicken recipe" in Home: Cooking: Skill Development:Poultry (just to get extra extreme for the sake of demonstration), but I don't have any use for those intervening layers. So they're both in the top level "Assorted Projects" folder.
Again, I'm not saying that you would necessarily want to be this flat. I'm just giving examples of the structure being driven by use instead of taxonomy.
Haha, the "babbling" is very much appreciated and I really think you make good points about taxonomy. Really...I could go completely without folders, especially since, as you mention, there shouldn't be much reason to be viewing the system from a project level (outside planning mode). The perfect scenario would be to get everything setup in a way that appropriate tasks that require attention all bubble up to the surface at the appropriate time, that's what it's really all about. Still though, there's a part of me that really REALLY wants the initial project categorization setup in such a way that it makes sense to me. Again, I can't entirely speak to the reasoning behind this other than to say part of the problem I ran into initially was that behind the scenes I felt my over organization was somehow effecting my system.
Originally Posted by Gardener
I am getting closer though. I've got a few more projects to setup and then some contexts to work on before I start tailoring perspectives into a something actually useful that will help make some decisions for me about what I should be focusing on.
Remember, none of this is set in stone. You'll carry on tweaking your system indefinitely as your circumstances change, and that's fine.
Originally Posted by CSicking
It's very easy to get really hung up making the 'perfect' system and never actually do any of the stuff on the lists. :D
Now you've got a good structure to work from, just start working it. You'll find the holes as you go along.
Most of my stuff is electronic. I have setup my folders in OneNote, Outlook and Windows Explorer the same way.
#Integrated Water Management
Those with a # are my areas of focus (I've only listed the work ones above, at home I have Social & Fun, Self, Sustainability) and obviously they have subfolders. I use AOF folders for support of habitual routine activity information (eg in financial I have notes on how to do the monthly accruals for our opex budgets).
I have a flat projects file like Gardener recommends. I did what you did first, found it didn't work, and listed to a DA webinar on the topic, he recommends a flat project folder. So there is one folder under @Projects for each project and they are not grouped by area of focus. However since I have separate work and home systems, by default only work projects are on my work laptop, home projects on home laptop.
If you try to sub categorise the projects it becomes hard especially at work, when a project fulfils several areas of focus.
I like OneNote for searching and storing info.
When I finish a project I move it to @Done for later reference.