Revisiting Project Organization in Omnifocus

A lot has changed in the 2 years since I last wrote about how I organize my projects in Omnifocus. I actually had to chuckle a bit when I looked at the projects I used to have. Things look so much simpler when you compare that list with my list of projects today. Now that I’ve been using Omnifocus consistently for over two years now, and one of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned is that how you organize your projects and contexts can make or break how well perspectives can work for you. I now pay close attention to how my projects are listed so that the most important ones show up first.

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At the very top of my projects is my Daily Routines list. This is a single action list for all the little things I want to make sure I’m doing every day to keep my life on track. This includes things like checking my calendar, flagging tasks I want to accomplish for the day, and reviewing emails. It lives at the top of my projects and stays flagged so that it shows up front and center when I’m working from my perspectives.

The next section of my project lists is my Areas of Responsibility, which haven’t really changed that much. You’ll still find Work, School, and Personal as before. However, you’ll now also find an area called Home. Turns out being a homeowner is almost a full time job in itself, so it quickly earned its own section. Again, the areas, as with everything in my projects list, are listed in order of priority so that they show up in order of importance in my perspectives.

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Each area of responsibility is organized in a similar way – each having its own single actions list for any miscellaneous tasks followed by single action lists for sub-areas of responsiblity. These are areas like personal development for work, finance under personal, and cleaning under home. After the sub-responsibilities, you’ll find sequential or parallel projects for any current projects I’m working on.

Following the areas of responsibilities, you’ll find a single actions list for my shopping list. I’ve written a couple fairly detailed posts on how I use Omnifocus in conjunction with my recipe manager, Paprika, and my Amazon Echo along with a custom perspective to manage grocery shopping, but this list also includes anything else I need/want to buy that isn’t tied to a particular project.

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Next up is the Someday/Maybe folder. For those of you familiar with GTD, this is self explanatory. For those of you who aren’t, anything I might want to do or haven’t committed to doing currently lives here. This also includes a sub-folder containing any stalled projects (prefixed with their area of responsibility) so that they don’t clutter up my lists of active projects. Another thing you’ll find in this folder are various lists of things to do or check out and places visit. I’d been keeping these lists in various locations over the years but recently decided they were better stored here in Omnifocus where I could regularly review them.

Last but not least, you’ll find a folder for templates. There aren’t any real changes here. I use it to hold lists for things that happen over and over again but don’t repeat on a regular basis (e.g. hiring a new employee or packing for a trip).

Note: I used to keep separate Someday/Maybe and Templates folders inside of each area of responsibility. Not only did it make my list incredibly long, it was a pain to browse through on my phone too. I consolidated these into single folders and haven’t looked back.

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Organizing Projects in Omnifocus

Today’s post is going to be all about projects in Omnifocus. Here’s where I probably deviate a bit from GTD mainly because I haven’t really gotten a good grasp on David Allen’s “altitudes” concept. I’m currently reviewing his book so that I can hopefully get a clearer understanding, but for now, what I have works.

Omnifocus is great in that it lets you put projects in folders and even nest sub-projects inside projects {something Things surely lacked}. Even better it has different types of projects and lists.

  • Single-action lists are great for those collections of things you have that don’t have a clear end like a shopping list {because let’s be real, when is a girl ever done shopping?}
  • Parallel projects are good for projects with a clear end in mind that don’t need to be completed in a specific order.
  • Sequential projects on the other hand do have an order. For instance you can’t complete turn in a paper if you haven’t even written a first draft.

Now onto the fun part – how I’m actually using projects and organizing them.

For an updated look at how I’m now using projects see my new post.

Overview

I’ve broken things down into my three main areas of responsibility. I tend to see my life in terms of being a graduate student, employee, and everything else so my three categories are Work, School, and Personal – listed in order of importance. I do this so that they show up in my perspectives in order of importance automatically.

It’s also worth noting, I try to arrange my projects and lists so that general single action lists are at the top, followed by specific projects, then Someday/Maybe lists and templates. Having things in this order pleases my OCD tendencies. The one exception to this arrangement is my folder for personal 2014 Goals which I have above my routine tasks purely because I like seeing them before my mundane tasks like clean the bathroom floor.

So let’s look at how I have my Work section organized.

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  • Single Action Lists:
    • General Work Tasks – This list is for miscellaneous tasks that don’t have a specific project. Things like turning in my timesheet, re-charge my mouse, or wipe down my desk periodically would go here.
    • Student Management – This is where I keep all my supervisory tasks to keep me on track for semesterly performance and pay rate evaluations, scheduling, tracking the hiring processes of new employees, and fun things like bringing in treats for special occasions too.
    • Agendas –  I’m a big believer in saving up my miniscule thoughts and questions until I meet with someone or have enough to make sending an email worthwhile, so I keep track of those things here if they don’t fit in a specific project below.
  • Projects
    • User Support Meetings is a sequential project to track a new departmental bi-weekly meeting I’m chairing. Realistically speaking, once this gets going it will become a single action list as these will hopefully not end.
    • Remote Support Solution is also a sequential project to track the work I’m doing to research a new remote support solution for our department. Tasks here involve working with the vendor as well as members of our department to find something that works best for all of us.
  • Someday/Maybe is simply a list for things I want to do at some point, just not now.
  • I’m going to save discussing Templates for a separate post.

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Moving down to School, I honestly don’t have much to say about this one right now as I’m currently taking a break from school. I was planning on applying to a new program for the Fall, but there were complications in getting my third recommendation letter submitted and I’ve missed the Fall deadline. Even though school is technically on hold,  I’m still tracking my application process for the Spring so I’ve left it active. When I’m taking classes, you’d find a project for each class. Within each project, I break down the semester into sub-projects by week and list any assignments within that.

Personal is undoubtedly my largest area, so let’s break it down:

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  • General Tasks is a single action list for one-off tasks that don’t fit anywhere else.
  • Shopping List is another single action list where I track things I want to buy. (Items on my wishlist also go here but with a “Someday/Maybe” context.)
  • Next I have a folder for 2014 Goals. Inside you’ll find:
    • Run a 5K, a parallel project that contains a sequential project I’m using to track my training progress.
    • Read 52 books in 2014 is a sequential project where I’m checking off my reading progress. {I’m also tracking this in Goodreads, but I like checking things off.}
    • Room remodel is a parallel project where I’m tracking all things room remodel related.
  • My next folder is Routine for things I do on a regular basis broken down further into:
    • Cleaning
    • Computer Tasks
    • Finances
    • and Personal Care
  • Up next is Blog which I’ve broken down into
    • General Blog Tasks (things like reminders to post on a regular basis
    • Post Ideas
  • And of course these are followed by Someday/Maybe and Templates as with the Work section.

So there’s my Omnifocus Project set up. What I love most about writing these set up posts is that they give me a chance to be really critical about how I organize things. Certain projects or contexts seem to make perfect sense, but when you try to explain them to someone else, you realize they really fit better in another project or context. For instance, I had a single-action list for tracking what I set my DVR to record in my personal routine tasks section, but there’s nothing routine about recording a movie once, nor do I do this enough for it to need it’s own list.

Up next I’m going to discuss templates as promised, and then to the fun part, perspectives.

Until next time,

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May 2013 Goals

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April was pretty hectic for me so I’m going to make May’s focus on getting my life back on track.

  • I want to start using my planner more. To be totally honest, I didn’t really use my Filofax in April. It was probably pretty apparent to any of you who read my {My Week} posts or look for me in Philofaxy’s Web Finds. I have some big changes coming up which I’ll discuss in some later posts.
  • Along those same lines, I’m continuing my time management improvements. Instead of reading 9 books a month, I need to start paying attention to and whittling down this media overload that I have right now. Total count as of the first week of May is 61 articles in Pocket, 114 videos to “Watch Later” on Youtube, 4 books to finish, and of course the usual Netflix, Blockbuster, and DVR queues to work through. (I am going to cancel Blockbuster though so that will be a few less movies to watch.)
  • Eating healthier. It’s no secret that I’ve become an avid Tone It Up follower. My mom has been saying she wants to lose weight, but Tone It Up workouts are totally out of the question for her since she’s recovering from shoulder surgery and has bad knees. The next logical solution, eat better.I had considered buying the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan but that price tag is pretty steep. (If anyone’s tried it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!) The next best solution was actually free. Our library has a free subscription to the online version of Clean Eating magazine. What do they put in there? Meal plans and shopping lists. Our fridge is now stocked with tons of fresh fruits and veggies rather than microwaveable burritos, and I after only a few days, I already feel better, hopefully she will get more on board too.
  • Working out more. I’ve noticed a pretty significant correlation to how I feel and working out. No workout = no energy for me, and that’s just not okay. In keeping with the Bikini Series, I’m going to try it as closely as possible. My motivation is having a rocking bod to show off on vacation next month.
  • The room. I absolutely need to get my room painted this month. No excuses. My room is in shambles right now. There’s a step-ladder in the middle of the room, paint buckets on the floor, rinsed out paint trays in my shower, and a gigantic cat tower sitting in the middle of my room that I have to climb around every day. Oh, and my cats love bopping me in the head as I walk past them too…
  • The blog. Last but not least, I have neglected this blog tremendously. My stats have reflected it, and I just feel like I’ve let not only readers down, but myself as well. I promise to get back on track and remember why on earth I love this blog so much.

What about you? Do you have any goals or big projects coming up this month?

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April 2013 Goal Recap

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April was basically hell for me thanks to the pollen, but I made it through thanks to some Allegra, an air purifier, and sadly staying cooped up inside. April’s focus was Work so how did I do?

  • Compiling a list of Skillsoft Courses – Nope. It’s still on the to do list.
  • The semester ends in May, and I’d like to provide our student employees with performance evaluations and maybe raises before they leave, so I need to figure out the budget which I’ve never had to do, iron out the processes I want to use, and schedule to meet with all of them before they get all stressed out with Finals.  – I got these done in a record 3 days. Meeting with 12-14 students in 3 days was a daunting task especially when you’ve never done it before. I didn’t have any formal managerial training, and I’ve never had to plan out a budget for a company before in my life. I know I’ve been in my office the longest, and I’ve been worked in every single position in the office so I suppose I am qualified to judge performance, but it still felt very new to me, but at the end of the month, raises were approved and evaluations were given before finals week.
  • Lastly, our department is trying to focus on an online support knowledge base of sorts to help continue to provide answers to our customers while also being able to focus on improving things for the future. Tidying up this space has been on my radar for a while, and I hope that with the help of my colleagues we can get some Spring cleaning done. – I’m going to say this was both a hit and a miss. Some of the pages got tidied up and revamped because I was asked to, but that wasn’t really the clean up I had intended. I’d love to be able to just sit down with the other people involved and figure out a plan of action, but they don’t seem to be so interested in change.
  • Evaluating my current wardrobe to see what I need to add or replace for warmer weather.After spending a whopping $476 dollars at Forever21, I’m going to call this a success. I now have a plethora of new tops to pick from and some workout gear as well. I actually hit a limit on Forever21’s site that told me I had too many items in my cart. When a website tells you to stop shopping, I guess you should listen. Now the only things I need are a few new pairs of shoes and pants from American Eagle.
  • I’d like to tackle painting at least my ceiling in my bedroom. – It’s partially painted… that’s a start.
  • I’m also going to work on managing my time better. – This was something I struggled with. I spent the majority of my time reading rather than doing what I was supposed to. Blog posts, workouts, and school, all somehow took a backseat.
  • I’m also working on something I’ve sort of informally dubbed “Project Andrea.” – This is sort of an ongoing thing. I can say it’s taking shape though.
  • Also, this month’s photo challenge is Filofax themed so I’m excited. – I’ve officially decided I’m done with photo challenges. Oddly enough, that decision made me snap more random photos here and there.

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April 2013 Goals

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I absolutely love April. It means gorgeous weather is ahead. That means I can start having lunch by the pond again and not have to worry about freezing my butt off as I walk to work.

A recap on March’s projects and goals:

My focus in March was on my budget. I have to say I was a bit optimistic with my savings goals, but I didn’t do so bad overall. I’m really happy with how things turned out.

  • I’ve used Smartypig as my main savings account for a while now. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. It automatically takes money out of my paycheck and deposits it into various savings goals I have. It’s got a fantastic interest rate as well. You can redeem your savings goals as gift cards and they will actually give you a bonus percentage for certain retailers or you can have it put back in your regular bank.The downside is that it does take a little bit of time to get your money. In some ways this is great, because I really do have to evaluate my purchases, but should an emergency come up, I’d likely need to put the expense on my credit card temporarily and pay for it once the money gets back to my checking account a week later.
  • At the beginning of March, I was planning to save around $315 from every pay check just to save it, around $60 dollars for things on my wishlist, and another $25 for my Christmas fund. I managed to keep to my wishlist and Christmas goals, but I did have to reduce the amount of money I was setting aside to around $200. I give nearly half of my income to my mom every month so that she can pay bills, so usually one paycheck a month just goes straight to her so I had to rethink my spending habits and decided it makes more sense to save less right now than putting things all on my credit card because I was saving too much.
  • March means time to submit taxes and I managed to get mine submitted. I even used a promo code and saved on filing them. I used my refund to pay back the majority of my one remaining balance on my credit cards, and now I’m using a total of 11% of my credit which feels fantastic. I’m really trying to cut back on my use of my credit cards so that I can be able to pay them off completely at the end of the month, so I took my credit cards out of my main wallet and out of my password manager. No easy access to auto-fill the info means I have to think before I buy.
  • Reading – I’m working on reading both Blogging for Dummies and Blog. – Since graduating from college, reading has become an unexpected hobby of mine, so much so I actually went and purchased a Kindle Paperwhite on March 22. I not only read the two books I planned to read, but I read a total of 4 others. The number would have probably been higher but I lent my Kindle to my mom to read a book I had checked out. In any event, 6 books in one month is just beyond ridiculous for me, and seeing that, I upped my reading challenge from 20 books to 30 for the year.
  • Making progress on my room renovations – This is such a big project, and I’m so overwhelmed with it. I managed to get almost through patching with a few spots I need to go over once more. The next step is to start painting which I’m really dreading, BUT before pictures have been taken so I can start letting you all see the progress which is exciting.
  • Completing FMS’s March Photo Challenge. – I really need to find a fun and exciting photo challenge because these FMS photo challenges are just not working for me. I managed to get 16 photos done, but I played catch up for most of the month snapping pictures in bursts rather than daily.

At the beginning of the year, I typed up a document with what I would focus on each month, but stupidly I saved it as “Untitled” in a rush and deleted it. I didn’t realize it until it was removed off my backup drive, so now I’m making this up as I go along, and I’m declaring April’s focus:

Work

Nice weather means I’m going to wish I could still lounge around outside after class or take the dogs out to the local Starbucks for an adventure, so it’s a bit depressing knowing that I’m a grown up now and I can’t because I have to sit behind a desk. Focusing on work will make sure I have a few things to stay focused on:

  • Compiling a list of Skillsoft Courses – My job provides me with courses for various things from computer certifications to stress relief, and I have been meaning to compile a list of them that I think I’d be interested in or would be of use to myself or the students in the office. They may not be able to take the courses, but I can certainly pass on some knowledge to them.
  • The semester ends in May, and I’d like to provide our student employees with performance evaluations and maybe raises before they leave, so I need to figure out the budget which I’ve never had to do, iron out the processes I want to use, and schedule to meet with all of them before they get all stressed out with Finals.
  • Lastly, our department is trying to focus on an online support knowledge base of sorts to help continue to provide answers to our customers while also being able to focus on improving things for the future. Tidying up this space has been on my radar for a while, and I hope that with the help of my colleagues we can get some Spring cleaning done.

Other April projects include:

  • Evaluating my current wardrobe to see what I need to add or replace for warmer weather. I know for a fact I need to replace the basic tanks I wear under some of my more transparent shirts, but I also want to get some new things in bright spring colors. I’m quite tired of my go to winter look of skinny pants, boots, a shirt and sweater over top.
  • I’d like to tackle painting at least my ceiling in my bedroom. Once that’s done, the painting will go quickly because I can do smaller bits at a time.
  • I’m also going to work on managing my time better. That means sticking to my usual routine to get things done, workouts, blog posts, and school work included.
  • I’m also working on something I’ve sort of informally dubbed “Project Andrea.” It’s my fairly extensive plan to revamp my life, and I’m pretty excited to start. I’ll post more about what my goals for this project are in a later post.
  • Also, this month’s photo challenge is Filofax themed so I’m excited. I’ve been revamping my Filofax here and there so I’m excited to share the little updates I’m making.

I’m really thrilled that it’s April. I’m already excited, and we’re only 6 days in!

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March 2013 Goals

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Can you believe it’s March already?! I know I can’t. February flew by. So how did I do on my goals and what are my goals for March? Keep reading to find out.

A recap on February’s projects and goals:

  • I want to finish reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Finished. Great book. I highly recommend it to anyone feeling bit lost in an extroverted world. If you don’t feel like reading the book, Susan Cain sums up the book quite well in her Ted Talk.
  • Another goal is to finish patching the walls in my bedroom and bathroom – I didn’t do so well on this one. Most of the holes are patched in my bedroom, but I still have sanding to do. I also have to take a few things (light fixtures, shelves, etc.) and patch those holes.
  • I’m participating in FMS’s February photo challenge as part of my resolution to take more picture -This was a total bust, but you can see my February recap here.
  • I’m going to work on remembering how grateful I am to have such an incredible boyfriend. – This was also a total bust given that we broke up 4 days into the month. In the past month, I’ve learned a lot though. Mainly that our relationship was not at all as strong as I thought it was.
  • I’m going to work on hopefully repairing some friendships that I royally messed up. – I tried, I really did, but some people are unwilling to forgive people. I went out and bought cute little gifts and included apology letters, but when I went to deliver them, the response was a wonderful, “You really thought that was a good idea?”
  • and I have some cute little projects for Valentine’s Day that I’d like to complete. – Another bust, Valentine’s day just wasn’t my day this year.

So 1/6… Ouch. Let’s hope March is better.

Now for March’s goals and projects.

My focus this month will be paying attention to my budgetI’m blessed to not have any sort of college debt thanks to my mother working for the University I attended for my undergraduate degree. Now that I work there, they’re paying for my graduate degree as well.  I have a well-paying job with awesome perks (like the brand new MacBook Pro they gave me to replace my old dying one.) It’s really allowed me to do some great things like help out my mother financially. However, I’m not immune to unnecessary purchases, and I always feel like I could do better even if I’m not doing badly.

  • I already save $315 dollars from every pay check. I also have around $60 dollars that I put aside every paycheck for a few things on my wish list.
  • New this month is that I’m also setting aside $25 dollars from every paycheck so that I have Christmas money. I worked it out and it should add up to about $500 dollars by November plus interest. {Thank you Smartypig. You have been amazing in terms of helping me save.}
  • I have a few credit cards for various stores that I pay off immediately after buying something. I also have a main card that usually carries a balance, so this month is dedicated to paying that off and keeping it paid off like the other cards.
  • I’m actively trying to ask myself, “Is this something I really need?” Sometimes it works. Other times, like when I decide to get a few items from Sephora that turns into “Well let’s try this just once, and maybe this too,” and before I know it I have a $160 dollar order. I’ve been tracking my spending more closely with Mint so hopefully I’m on to the right track with that.

Other projects for March

  • Reading – I’m working on reading both Blogging for Dummies and Blog Inc.
  • Making progress on my room renovations – I really need to get the painting tackled in my room. March 9th is a Bring your Friends and Family event at IKEA so hopefully I can pick up a few things to get the ball rolling and get my inspiration sparked again.
  • Completing FMS’s March Photo Challenge.

What are your plans for March? Did you set goals for February? Hopefully you did better than my 1 for 6 tally. Here’s to a great month!

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February Goals

February 2013 Goals

I wanted to take the time to make a quick post on my goals and projects for February. {Quick confession: I’ve never actually sat down and written out goals until this year, so this is a bit new for me. So far it’s working out well.} I will probably do a more detailed post of my overall “resolutions” at a later point. This is just what I plan to accomplish in February and what I’m going to focus on.

In terms of random projects I’m working on:

  • I want to finish reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – So far I’m really enjoying this book. As an introvert, I can relate to at times feeling out of place in environments where extroversion is seen as the ideal. It has been extremely relevant and helpful considering one of my current responsibilities has become leading training seminars on a recent online service my university is providing to students, faculty, and staff.
  • Another goal is to finish patching the walls in my bedroom and bathroom – I’m going to post a bit more about my bedroom/bathroom remodel in a later post. I’ve been planning this project for a while now, but I’ve been dragging my feet on it. I’m a bit tired of the bubble gum pink and lime green walls from my high school years and am looking forward to a new look.
  • I’m participating in FMS’s February photo challenge as part of my resolution to take more picture – I’d really love to complete it on time (without catching up as much as I did with the Filofax challenge, but I’ve already gotten off to a bad start, mainly because I didn’t realize the one I was doing was from LAST YEAR! {Major fail on my part.} I’ll be posting the pictures to both Instagram and Flickr.

Along with my overall resolutions and goals for the year, I also decided to come up with a focus for each month. Last month, I focused on just writing out my goals and resolutions because it was such a busy month getting ready for the new semester to start. This month, I’m focusing on relationships, so I’m going to be doing a few things with that:

  • I’m going to work on remembering how grateful I am to have such an incredible boyfriend. – That means appreciating him more, and learning to let little things go. I have to keep reminding myself that the little things he does that may frustrate me in the moment are usually the things I look back on and think of how glad I am that he keeps me on my toes and doing things I would normally be too scared to do.
  • I’m going to work on hopefully repairing some friendships that I royally messed up. – This is going to involve some incredibly crafted gift bags, and some explanations I should have given people a long time ago.
  • and I have some cute little projects for Valentine’s Day that I’d like to complete. – I gave my one idea away already so now I have to come up with something else. I’m looking to be a bit more creative and crafty though so this is a good way to do it.

Well that’s it for my goals this month. Back to reading for my class.

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