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How do you use Omnifocus for Broad-Based Projects?

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  • How do you use Omnifocus for Broad-Based Projects?

    Hi Everyone, I'm new to GTD and just joined GTD Connect. After much review, I've decided to use Omnifocus as my GTD Software tool of choice. While I feel that I have "the basics" of both GTD and Omnifocus fairly well understood, I've been wondering how to apply the application to Broad-Based Projects, and still keep the structure of GTD in mind. For example, one of my Project Goals is to "Learn to become a Better Guitarist". I feel like this is slightly different than "Learning to Play the Guitar", if that makes sense? I'm trying to focus on tracking my skill development from a intermediate Guitarist to a more Advanced one, and I'm not sure if that's something I can track as easily through GTD/Omnifocus. There are 3 areas I'm focusing on, each with separate projects: theory work, technique development, and songs to learn. My problem is each of these areas don't really have an "end date" to check off as I complete actions, and the actions I have listed (classes to take, workbooks to read on various genres, etc.) often are vague. I'm wondering from those GTD/Omnifocus veterans out there, am I looking at this from the wrong perspective?

  • #2
    I'm not a veteran, just an OmniFocus user. But I don't see any reason why OmniFocus wouldn't be suitable for this.

    To respond to one of your concerns, OmniFocus doesn't demand end dates, it just allows them, so that shouldn't be an issue.

    It sounds to me like this is bigger than three projects - I'd say that it could end up having dozens of projects. I could imagine:

    - A project to identify the classes that you want to take.
    - Another one to identify the workbooks.
    - A project for each class.
    - A project to identify songs in a given category.
    - Possibly even a project for each song? I don't know how it works - would a song possibly involve mastering a particular technique, or would you research who did the best rendition of the song and search for a recording, or research the meaning of the song, or need to find an accompanist who plays a particular instrument, anything like that? If so, then a song could be an entire project.

    I'm slightly confused about the actions being vague, because the examples that you give - workboks, classes, etc. - seem pretty specific. Can you offer any more detail?



    • #3
      I have a number of broad based project areas in my Omnifocus system.

      What I do is collect them in folders so from your example I might have a folder that is my area of focus for Personal Development. Within that is the folder of Become a better guitar player. Within that I would have projects like
      Take class in X technique and within that are the actions to find a local class, sign up, perhaps a repeating task to practice exercises from last class or whatever makes sense.

      IF you really feel you need it you might have folders under Become a better guitar player that cover each main area such as Improve my Technique, Learn new Songs and Guitar Theory but I find that a flatter folder structure is easier for me to manage.


      • #4
        Thank you both for your replies; it has really helped me to review this in my mind!
        @Gardener, I think I get it; I need to distill my thoughts on "Becoming a Better Guitarist" down to clearer projects...I think I do have more than 3! This alone should help me in other areas of Omnifocus.

        @Oogiem, I like your folder structure idea; it'll also help in other creative areas that I'd like to apply to tracking in Omnifocus.

        Just reading your posts helps me realize that I have a LOT of work to do to really start applying both GTD & Omnifocus! Thanks


        • #5
          Folders are the go

          Omnifocus is a flexible tool that allows you to keep track of your commitments in a variety of ways.

          I think the key point when implementing your GTD system is to make a firm delineation in your mind about what is an Area of Focus and what is a Project. This helps you to know where to put new things as they appear and, perhaps more importantly, know where to find them again when reviewing and doing. There are other threads in this forum that go into this, but I currently make distinctions on the basis of scale.

          For example, an Area of Focus in my job might be Sales; this might be subdivided into smaller Areas of Focus such as Italy etc. Projects start to appear in within these as things like "Sell product x to organisation y", within which there may be sub-projects such as "Research requirements" etc.

          I'm with Oogiem here, in that I currently use folders in Omnifocus for Areas of Focus and Projects for...well, Projects. Sub-projects come in as grouped next actions, since Omnifocus doesn't have an explicit entry for these - but the end result is the same. I also prefer a flatter folder structure - no more than two deep for a particular job - so that things don't get too prescribed.

          And as Gardener says, you only need to enter an end date if there really is one. Otherwise, the GTD 'textbook' recommends simply completing the next actions within a project as soon as you can (having looked at everything in your world and deciding on the best thing for you to do at any given moment - easy huh?!).

          If you enter end dates simply to help you prioritise (i.e. the project or next action isn't really dead if it goes over that date), then you'll find you have a whole heap of overdue items flashing at you and tugging at your psyche. I know, I have this issue myself at the moment...

          Good luck with it all!