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Daily Tasks in OmniFocus vs. Calendar

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  • Daily Tasks in OmniFocus vs. Calendar

    I am a huge proponent of using OmniFocus for GTD, but also use Evernote for reference. I seem to be experiencing a problem lately: I use my daily forecast in OmniFocus AS my calendar.

    I have a lot of routine tasks (No Project/Single Actions) that I NEED to perform every day (work tasks, taking medicine, make sales calls, etc.) and several others that I would LIKE to perform every day (Social Media to check, sports news sites to check, flagged email to check, etc.) . I have all of these tasks programmed to re-occur daily in OmniFocus. I love how OmniFocus automatically moves these to the next day after I complete each task.

    I think the problem I've created for myself is that OmniFocus has also become my calendar. Those daily/routine tasks are muddling the "sacred ground" of my calendar. I'm finding most of my time is going to these daily tasks because my mind thinks these daily tasks are more important than other things because they are "overdue" or "expiring". Therefore, I am not getting into my next action lists or projects as much as I would like to. I am also spending more time looking at the "Forecast" View which only shows the things due today, when I know I should be doing more by context.

    I have a few different ideas or things I could try, but I wanted to see if any other GTD/OmniFocus experts experience this and how they fix the problem.

  • #2
    One possible solution could be to put these tasks in a daily checklist and have a single repeating item "Complete daily checklist." That task is in the same place that the tasks were before, but it's just one item, not a bunch of them crowding everything else.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by slgwsm View Post
      I have a lot of routine tasks (No Project/Single Actions) that I NEED to perform every day (work tasks, taking medicine, make sales calls, etc.) and several others that I would LIKE to perform every day (Social Media to check, sports news sites to check, flagged email to check, etc.) . I have all of these tasks programmed to re-occur daily in OmniFocus. I love how OmniFocus automatically moves these to the next day after I complete each task.
      I have a few ideas:
      The red and orange highlighting OF uses for due soon and overdue is a very powerful visual cue, and it tends to overwhelm other visual cues, like the washy-washy flag (except in iPhone OF2, where they made the flag too similar to due soon). The number of red and orange items needs to be as small as possible, and they need to really be due. One way to do this is to build habits. You probably don't check off brushing your teeth every day. You may be able to build the habit of taking meds, for example, or checking email. There are other things, like checking social media and sports news sites, that you would probably do regularly anyway, because (I'm assuming) they are more recreational than anything else. My advice is to dump them from your lists. Finally, there are going to be things on your lists that you would like to do daily, but the world will not end if they are not done on any one day. These can be made recurring but with no due date. If you want to make them important, flag them. If you want to indicate that a task may or may not need to be done on a given day, you can end it with a question mark: "Check XYZ?" Note that in the desktop version of OF, you can set up perspectives that sort on start date, which may help keep things, well, in perspective. Checklists can be good too, as Gardener suggests, but I find thay they are best for things that belong together.

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      • #4
        Excellent advice. I agree with all of that.

        If we take a step back and look at our daily lives we see that much of what we do (perhaps even most of it) is not even on our lists or calendars at all. We eat, breathe, sleep, watch the news, watch movies, read books, talk to colleagues, neighbors, family, answer phone calls, save drowning children and so on and so forth without any of this being planned or recorded anywhere. It runs on auto-pilot (intuition, habit, experience, values ...). And this is usually fine.

        David Allen says that if something keeps coming back to you, keeps bugging you, then "collect" it (write it down) for later "processing". It should not be written down immediately on the next actions list or calendar. It needs to be processed first, and there are several interesting buckets that these collected items could end up in. One of those is Trash.

        For example, if it keeps worrying you that maybe you are not paying enough attention to social media or the news or your sleeping habits or eating habits or medicational habits, then by all means write it down (collect it). You should. Then analyze it (process it).

        If you find that some of these things really are so critical and your habits so unreliable that you really need to track them on a daily basis, then by all means do that.

        If you find that your currents habit are more or less OK in view of the importance of what is at stake, then maybe you can settle for a tickled re-processing after say a year or two. This will give you the assurance that it is "monitored" in a sense, so if you start thinking about this again you know that a new review is already on your list.

        Or maybe you can just put in the trash.

        As mcogilvie and gardener said, you can group related things together into daily repeating checklists of things that are all going to be done at one time in one context, e.g. an "arrival at the office" checklist.

        You can also group other "nice to do" things on other lists somewhere, e.g. "nice evening pastimes" and list possible ideas such as watch a movie, read a book, or whatever you fear might not come to mind automatically unless you have it written down..

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        • #5
          Excellent advice, thank you everyone. I had already considered some of these methods, but was curious if other people had the same problem I did.

          I messed around with some of the repeating action options in OF. I think removing the due date and having the actions re-start a day or two from whenever I COMLPLETE a given task will solve my problem. I have tried this today and am not feeling as stressed. I can see all of my next actions (and single actions) in relation to context now, so I feel like I have a much broader scope of what is going on/needs to be done. I also made a couple of small daily checklists in Evernote I can pull up quickly at certain points in the day when I need them. When I was done re-organizing, I only had 2 or 3 time-specific appointments today, and everything else was organized by context.

          I also found that by doing this, the routine daily tasks "stick out" more in the next action lists because they are easier to do and help get the ball rolling for me to feel more productive (David Allen's "little wins").

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