Issues with projects and areas of focus

yentltijssens

Registered
I have used OmniFocus together with the GTD method for half a year now. The things I need to do in my life are quite diverse and complex, so the folder structure in which I organise my projects looks quite crowded and I don’t like how overwhelmed I get by it:
Then I read the pdf on implementing GTD in OmniFocus that you can buy on the official site, and I found that their project list seems way simpler: as if it was a kind of inbox that would be empty if you have finished all of the projects. I like that idea very much compared to my list that is still full even if there aren’t any projects, but I don’t know how to implement this without losing track of all the aspects of my life which I need to follow up on. Even though there aren’t any active projects for my Masters Thesis, how can I keep reflecting on it in case there are things I need to add? Make a list in a separate app?
 

kelstarrising

Kelly Forrister | GTD® Coach
Hi there. As there writer of the GTD Setup Guides and a coach, I'll offer some tips.

It can get complicated when people want to combine Areas of Focus with Projects and Next Actions in the same list manager app. More often than not, I see people start to get repelled by their lists when they do this because it starts to feel like "a lot" every time they want to add something to their lists or pick something off of it. If you do want your Areas of Focus represented in OmniFocus, I would suggest high level only--not all of the deeper detail.

I would manage the deeper detail somewhere else and not embedded in your list structure. That could be within a reference not in OF or in another app.Make it a part of your Weekly Review (or consider it part of step 8) to scan your Areas of Focus and see if you are on track/off track with your current projects.

Hope that helps!

Kelly
 

Gardener

Registered
Even though there aren’t any active projects for my Masters Thesis, how can I keep reflecting on it in case there are things I need to add? Make a list in a separate app?
That's what I would do, yes. Having your projects at different levels and mixed in with empty levels is likely to make it hard to see what you're actively working on right now. If you want to take action be sure that you reflect on your Areas of Focus you could have a specific project for that, or you could make it a step in your weekly review.

For me, areas of focus don't affect my Omnifocus folder/project hierarchy at all. My general organizational philosophy for my project lists is:

- Default to having all projects in one list.
- When that list gets too long (more than perhaps fifteen items) find logical groupings to use to pull out items until it's no longer too long.

Right now, my top level of folders in OmniFocus is:

Other
Shopping
Lists
Farm Projects
Home Projects

That's all. And right now I have no subfolders at all--sometimes I do.

(I should note that OmniFocus is my personal system; my work system is separate, but the philosophy is similar.)

"Other" is where projects go by default--it's the "one list".

When "Other" gets to be more than about fifteen projects, I pull some out.

For example, long ago, I pulled out the Farm Projects. (I have thirteen of those right now.)

If Farm Projects gets a little bit bigger, I'm likely to create a subfolder. Maybe "Farm Projects--The Simplification Effort" or "Farm Projects--New Perennial Beds" or "Farm Projects--Winter 21/22 Structure Changes." It will depend on what the mix of projects is at the moment that I make the folder. Edited to add: Actually, no, I won't make it as a subfolder. That is, I will, and then, as always happens, the subfolderness will annoy me, and I'll make it a peer folder instead.

Similarly, at some point I pulled out the Home Projects. (Eleven.)

Not long ago, I had a folder for Decluttering Projects, containing projects that I had pulled out of Home Projects. but I compressed my decluttering efforts into a smaller number of projects and re-merged Decluttering Projects and Home Projects.

"Lists" and "Shopping" are different. They're both Someday/Maybe--where random thoughts go by default, and where once-active projects get sent when they become Someday/Maybe projects. Logically much of Shopping isn't really Someday/Maybe--
the desire to buy a dozen eggs is an active action. But instead of "buy eggs" showing up in my list of actions, I'll instead have an action telling me to organize a grocery delivery, and as part of that organizing I'll go to the List - Shopping - Food list.

This is a little bit fuzzy--several of my Farm Projects have actions telling me to buy irrigation tubing, or to buy seeds, and those are active actions. Whether shopping is active or inactive tends to be an "I know it when I see it" thing.

I'm babbling on. My main point was: IMO, your lists are mainly for regular, daily or several-times daily, scanning, to decide what to do. For that function, organizing those tasks into an areas of focus structure is likely to be more expensive, in terms of repeated cognitive effort, than it's worth.
 
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TesTeq

Registered
It can get complicated when people want to combine Areas of Focus with Projects and Next Actions in the same list manager app. More often than not, I see people start to get repelled by their lists when they do this because it starts to feel like "a lot" every time they want to add something to their lists or pick something off of it. If you do want your Areas of Focus represented in OmniFocus, I would suggest high level only--not all of the deeper detail.

I would manage the deeper detail somewhere else and not embedded in your list structure. That could be within a reference not in OF or in another app.Make it a part of your Weekly Review (or consider it part of step 8) to scan your Areas of Focus and see if you are on track/off track with your current projects.
@kelstarrising Kelly! Thank you! The "whole life catalog" approach was always an obstacle for me. Now I see the obvious solution - two sets of lists: the "Action" lists set and the "Whole life catalog" lists set. Both reviewed regularly but only the "Action" set used daily!
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
how can I keep reflecting on it in case there are things I need to add? Make a list in a separate app?
The Areas of Focus level is sometime referred to as the horizontal dimension, whereas Projects, Actions and Goals as the vertical dimension.

If I understand the other posters correctly, having a complete list of the horizontal dimension, probably multilayered, would be the Whole life catalog.

I've made use of a mind map for that and to good avail. I'd therefore recommend an approach using several lists or documents. Like the prior posters did as well.

This also frees up the Projects list to find it's own best way to be sorted by.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
When I look at the outline, I have trouble seeing what’s a project, what’s an area of focus, and what’s something else. There’s no sense of intentionality. A lot of things look potentially time sensitive, like prep of pieces of music. Then there are the students, who are recurring, but may not require much prep. My prescription is more calendar, more next actions, clarify what the projects are, and let hierarchy emerge naturally. Use single action lists to group actions together in ways that make sense. Students and Music to practice might be two good single action lists. Within each list, you can use the outlining features of Omnifocus to organize where you are for different students and different pieces of music. On the other hand, a performance or set of performances is probably a project.
 
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