If you have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done book, you are familiar with Areas of Focus. Every year I try to re-evaluate the “big picture”, the 50,000 feet view if you will, by looking at my old plans, what has worked and what didn’t, and then I come up with a new plan.
I’ve been trying to make a better lower level view now and want to share my experience. This is not exactly about Getting Things Done, it is more about “where is my current focus?” “am I working on my goals or did I get distracted?”.
I tried two things. An OmniFocus only approach and a more graphical, second-tool approach. I call this project “Priorities”, because this is what it ultimately is: a view of the things that I truly care about at the moment, and for the next three months or so. From other time management techniques I’m familiar with priorities (A, B, C, D, and Trash). I like this better than the feet model Allen suggests; a personal preference.
Priorities in OmniGraffle
OmniGraffle has an Org Chart or Brainstorming mode. Brainstorming and Hierarchical worked best, I found. It’s clean, non-fancy, non-distracting. Show the Outline Sidebar and start working. This is what mine look(ed) like:
Go through your OmniFocus todo list and find the projects that are important to you. If you’ve been just a little more strict about Active and On Hold, this will be very easy. If not, set projects to On Hold that are not as important right now.1
Just by sifting all projects you will soon see projects where you think: “that’s not going forward right now”, “well, this is kind of important, but I keep it off, because of reason X”, “how could I ever have committed myself to this”. This is one of the beauties of OmniFocus and GTD. It is easy to see everything that is related to your life and find stuff that keeps you off and has to go in order for you to become a better version of yourself.
You see there’s a done area as well. I didn’t just want to delete done stuff, because, you know, having a record of done stuff in OmniFocus isn’t enough. Stupid.
I like to use Emoji’s for lots of things. The small Space Invader alien is a visual indicator for me that this is a thing, that I don’t know what I want to do with yet. It is there, and at one point in my life it was important enough to be moved onto my todo list, but I haven’t figure out yet what I want from it. It is an alien.
As the week progresses, I have this document open, I look at it and see what is really really important to me. It is easy to move things somewhere else, just drag and drop. I shuffle things around, because I realize a lack of resources doesn’t move this priority forward or I really don’t care as much or some other reason. I hope you get the idea. This document is here to createfocus. To mentally move projects up and down a ladder as seen fit.
MindNode Priorities Map
Done doesn’t work so well here, it clutters up the space, which quickly brings me to: mind mapping. As mentioned in this post, mind maps are also a great tool for concepting and diagramming.
With the Folding function in MindNode, I can have a Done area, while also having a top-to-bottom list of A to D projects. This turned out to work much much better for me, since I normally have MindNode running anyway. But, I also have OmniFocus running all the time.
OmniFocus Priorities View
OmniFocus can also create this “Priorities” view by using its Perspectives feature. There’s one downside though, you have to make up your mind and decide whether something is important or not. Sorry to say that…
This is setup in Context View, because this way it is also available on iOS:2
- Context Filter: Remaining
- Grouping: Project
- Sorting: Project
- Availability Filter: Available
- Status Filter: Due Soon
The way you get tasks into this view is simple, assign a due date that is soon and it will be included here. If you spot too many tasks, compare with your Priorities mind map and check if the tasks shown are really high priorities on your list. If not, what are they doing here?
You will quickly realize that some tasks refuse to show up here, this is because the view is set up to only include tasks that are available. Go back to Project view and find projects with tasks you think should show up in the Priorities perspective. Often a wrong project setup is causing tasks not to show up. When a task is not available, then there may be tasks that need to be executed first. Congrats, you just identified the Next Step. You see how useful this setup is?
About once a month you should compare the Priorities mind map with your life goal or year goal and extract the things, or the steps, that are required for you to reach your goals. Put them in the mind map, add/delete projects and tasks in OmniFocus. Keep the ball moving.
I hope you find this approach rather helpful!
Did you make a 50,000 feet plan/map yet? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious to hear how many people actually do that. Do you want to read an article how I go about this?