2022.09.03.

2022.07.04.

Answering follow-up questions about the Process perspective

I linked yesterday’s post on the Process perspectives in a bunch of places and generated a bit more negative feedback than I expected. I was confused because I still think this is a cool trick to have in your toolbox. As “cornchip” said it on the MPU forums:

This is a nice tactic to add to the swiss army knife of tools needed to break up a stagnant list.

I see great questions emerging in the discussion around this trick, which I wanted to answer here to provide a bit more logic.

Should I replace this with the GTD Clarify and Organize step?

Don’t use a remixed version until you are confident that all the habits around GTD are wired into your brain. Afterward, you can use this perspective to enhance your existing inbox emptying habit progressively.

Do I have to tag everything that goes into OmniFocus?

No, but you can. There is a setting in OmniFocus called “Clean up inbox items which have” which controls when OmniFocus should remove items from your inbox on clean-up. Mine is set to projects; otherwise, the Process perspective won’t show actions grouped by project.

Kourosh mentioned that this could lead to untagged/unprocessed items leaking into the system from the inbox, which is technically accurate, but don’t forget if you use this trick:

  • a: the Process perspective always shows unprocessed items which you can clean up,
  • b: if you do Weekly Reviews properly, you should trust your system, but more importantly, you’ll review everything again and catch these items.

Do you still use the OmniFocus Inbox?

Yes. As I mentioned, this perspective is great for breaking down a long list of unknown stuff, but sometimes I straight use the Inbox because it’s easier.

Isn’t it an unnecessary step?

It depends. I wouldn’t call it “productivity p0rn” because it genuinely helps to clarify the unknown.

Imagine you have to clean up a messy kitchen. First, you start to pre-organize: collect the dishes, throw away junk into a trash bag, etc. Then, you wash the dishes, clean the kitchen table’s surface, and get the trash out; sooner than later, you end up with a clean kitchen.

We do the same thing here: we’re pre-organizing a long list of stuff, so we can make sense of how much cleaning we have to do, then we clean each item in context with their related entities. This way, we keep our attention a bit more focused and keep support material easily reachable (especially if you link associated things in the notes field of your projects).

The point is to reduce the unknown and add structure to the inbox processing habit. You don’t need to do this all the time, but after, let’s say, 20 unprocessed items, this can be a beneficial step.

Don’t you keep too much stuff in your OmniFocus Inbox?

As David Allen says, I keep everything in the inbox which is “potentially meaningful” to me. Maybe, in the end, I only save 10% and throw away 90%, but the point of using an inbox (and GTD, for the matter) is to empty our head, and keep it that way.

There is an excellent video about this topic from the Next Action Associates called “What’s The Difference Between An Input And An Inbox?“.

Why do you need access to projects when you process your inbox?

It’s simple. Because I have support materials linked to projects in their notes field. I need to access them via links (and Hook) to store future actions, notes, etc. Having a list of items grouped by projects lets me easily select the project in the list, invoke Hook, or click on the links in the notes.


I hope this post answers your questions about the Process perspective and makes you reconsider adding it to your OmniFocus toolbox.

2022.07.02.

Reduce context switches in the OmniFocus Inbox using a Process perspective

I watched a video from Cal Newport on how he uses a simple text file for the sense-making of a bunch of new information. He mentioned that instead of processing his emails one by one, he captures the essence of every email into his text file, then starts to categorize it, organize it by projects, etc. This gave me an idea about solving a similar problem I had with my GTD inbox for a while now.

GTD recommends that we process our stuff in the inbox sequentially, without grouping beforehand. The problem with this approach is that many items related to different projects are scattered in our inbox, so we’re jumping in and out of projects while processing our inbox. This constant context switching drains energy from our brain.

If we want to spare our attention, it is a good idea to group our unprocessed inbox items by project, so we can reduce the context switching when we process them. Using this approach for the GTD Process and Organize steps will ensure that we clean things related to each project in one go, not randomly.

I will show you how to do this inside OmniFocus, but you can also steal this approach for Things using a similar “Process” tag.

Why is this a problem?

The point is to add a temporary structure to information in the inbox. I usually do some form of project planning and next action creation when I’m emptying my inbox. The problem is that I constantly switch thoughts about many different things as I go through each item. It would be nice to have them batched and grouped by their project. This can reduce the attention switching to different topics/projects.

Let’s say we have an inbox like this:

  • Item 1 (could be about Project X)
  • Item 2 (could be about Project Y)
  • Item 3 (could be about Project Z)
  • Item 4 (could be about Project X) ← This is where I will have to return to “Project X” again. This item can even be connected to “Item 1” somehow.

I hate when I have to switch my current context (not my GTD context, but the current mindset that I’m in) and go back to a project I already thought about and assigned a next action to; possibly, I even closed its support material since then.

Having new information pre-organized by projects (or topics) can reduce the load of thinking about a project twice or more in an inbox processing session.

Using the Process workflow

  1. The first step is to create a new perspective in OmniFocus called Process with the rules shown on the screenshot above. You’ll use this perspective to process things instead of the standard OmniFocus Inbox.
  2. It’s essential to have everything corralled into the OmniFocus Inbox, so you can stop jumping around different inboxes, but more importantly, have everything pre-organized by the project. Go through your inboxes (email, Slack, DEVONthink, etc.) and link a new action to all unprocessed items in OmniFocus. The Hook app can help a lot with this step.
  3. Open the Process perspective, where you’ll see your unorganized stuff sitting in the Inbox waiting to be pre-organized. You must quickly go through each item and assign it to an existing or new project (don’t assign tags). You don’t have to come up with the final name for a new project. Set whatever comes to your mind; the important thing is to pre-organize unprocessed items in this step. If you don’t know where to assign it, just skip it, or move it into a singular action list related to an area.
  4. When you have pre-organized everything, you can click the clean-up button (or press Command-K) to see all of your unprocessed items grouped by project. Now you can go through each item and deal with them in the context of its project instead of having them all over the place.

Why having a pre-organized inbox is better than a flat list of unknown stuff

I always get annoyed when I deal with something related to a big project in my inbox, and then 5 minutes later, another thing pops into my view about the same subject. I have to open the project and its support material again, get into the same mindset, and maybe even reconsider everything I figured out 5 minutes ago. It is a dumb way to plan things.

I’ve been pre-organizing inbox actions by the project for about a month now, and I can assure you that having unprocessed stuff grouped by the project can make a big difference. I can process my OmniFocus Inbox about 15-20% faster than before, but more importantly, I don’t feel tired after doing it. I stopped switching contexts for every item; instead, I’m spending more time at the project level and dealing with new things from this perspective.


I wrote a follow-up post to this one answering reader questions about this workflow.

2022.06.24.

2022.01.16.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 5: the Mobile inbox

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but I want to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


Paper is still with us, and we have to be prepared to keep it somewhere temporarily until we process it. GTD says that we have to keep a physical inbox at home and the office, but what about those times when I’m on the road?

The best way to manage incoming, paper-based material when away from my inbox is to keep a folder in my bag: it is my mobile inbox where I can collect stuff when I’m out for multiple days or going to a meeting where I expect to receive papers. I can park notes from my Capture Wallet, contracts, quotes, reference documents, invoices, contact cards, etc.

Following David Allen’s advice, my mobile inbox is a plastic manila folder. I use a plastic one because it’s more durable—a paper folder would quickly fall apart in my bag. I like the manila style because it’s easy to throw stuff into it, which is one of its disadvantages too: I have to be a bit more careful when I lift it because things can slip out.

For some reason, manila folders are not very popular in Europe. I couldn’t find plastic ones in A4 size, so I had to order a couple of them from Amazon. Smead is a US-based company that makes excellent quality manila folders, although these are letter-sized ones. In my opinion, the difference between letter size and A4 is negligible for a folder that I use to hold papers temporarily.

It is vital to treat the mobile inbox the same way as I do my other inboxes. When I arrive back at my desk, I unload the contents of my mobile inbox into my physical one for later processing. When I’m on the road, the folder is my physical inbox, so I process stuff directly from it.

2021.12.21.

Reply to hheJhsbjkJb8hhsj:

I’ve never understood why people use high/low energy contexts. For myself, what constitutes a high energy task can change from day to day. Some days I’m in the mood for creative work like mindmapping and brainstorming, and digging into financial spreadsheets can seem like heavy work. Other days Im in the mood for procedural work and creative thinking requires more brain power.

Me neither.

I don’t even understand how you can get an objective filter on being in a “high level” or “low level” state. It’s too black and white, I usually somewhere in the middle.

When I feel tired, I don’t even remember that I use GTD and have a menu of options to pick something from. Even when I do remember to review appropriate context lists, I don’t start to think about energy levels. I’m tired, I just naturally pick something easy from my Computer or my Home list, or just don’t give a damn and watch something from my Read/Watch list (or start scrolling RSS/Twitter/Reddit)

I’ve collected my GTD contexts for Reddit:

I mostly use the default contexts list. It’s not a coincidence that David Allen still recommends these. Sure, you have to remix them to your liking, but you also have to define clear edges for each of them so you’ll know which one to use at which time.

Here are mine:

  • Nearcut: my day job, which is mainly development. These tasks require a different mindset, so it makes sense to group them.
  • Freelance: yet another computer context. I have a bunch of freelance projects that I do as a side job.
  • Decoding: I write a blog, record podcasts, and such. Next actions that require a deep work mindset, but not related to work, go here.
  • Computer: I can do general things (admin, web browsing etc.) at my MacBook Pro or my iPad Pro. Sometimes I have specific next actions for a specific device, but it’s rare.
  • Crafting: next actions related to keeping a Zettelkasten system maintained (kinda like my Budget context). These actions usually link to notes (and sometimes project plans, mindmaps) that I want to develop further and add it to my slipbox which I keep in Craft.
  • Budget: a helpful one when I’m doing YNAB, or I have to do something on my bank’s web app.
  • Calls: calls (and sometimes messages).
  • Home: to have something to do when I’m not at any of my computers.
  • Errands: well, errands to run.
  • Groceries: a shared groceries list with my wife.
  • Agendas: I keep people and meeting related agendas here.
  • Waiting for: Stuff I’m waiting on from people. I add the date as well to each of these reminders and review them every other day.

I also keep a list of lists that collects all of my next actions list, my Read/Review lists, my video, and audio-related lists as well (Apple TV, Netflix, Prime Video, Podcasts). Why do I have this? Because I want to keep track of which list is for what, so I keep clean edges in my system (and easily create posts like this).

2021.08.06.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 4: using Apple Watch as a safety net for capturing

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I already talked about the various capture tools I use in my GTD practice. I wanted to expand upon my Apple Watch usage a little bit more.

Since I have my Apple Watch with me (almost) all the time, it makes sense to use it as a secondary capture tool. I have two watch faces set up so that when my primary capture tools are not with me, I can still easily have a mechanism for capturing.

It’s best to use the Apple Watch for dictation or writing with its Scribble feature, but these methods are not made for lengthy talking/writing—although I never had a problem with that. I usually jot down or dictate a couple of quick thoughts here and there.

I use Drafts at night by capturing my notes with Scribble and Voice Memos for dictation when driving or walking. Each of these contexts has a corresponding watch face set up: a red Modular face with a Drafts complication used during the night, and an X-Large watch face which has a big, easy-to-tap Voice Memos icon in the middle for driving and walking.

I try to automate when these watch faces should show up. When my Apple Watch switches into sleep mode, Shortcuts changes my active watch face to the red Modular one. I also get a notification to change my watch face to the Voice Memos button when I leave home.

When I don’t have my phone or my notepad with me, the Apple Watch still can be used as a safety net for capturing. Like the old saying of “the best camera is the one that’s with you,” I can also say that the best capture tool is the one that’s with you.

2021.07.18.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 3: keeping capture tools everywhere

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I have to prepare because I’ll run into things through the day which has a potential meaning to capture either via writing or dictation. Therefore, I have to keep capture tools in those places where I frequently show up.

By default, my preferred ubiquitous capture tool is the Capture Wallet, but there are contexts where I can use tools that are more appropriate and convenient.

At my desk

I can take notes slower and easier at my desk, so I use a Baron Fig Confidant notebook. I use a journal format: each day gets a header, I keep everything in a list annotated via Patrick Rhone’s Dash Plus method. I can capture ideas, track my time using timestamps, write down what I did; sometimes, I even use it as a regular journal.

My Baron Fig Confidant is a versatile tool. Since it has pages with a dotted grid, I can use it for mind-mapping, diagramming, and wire-framing. I can keep the digital noise away by using an analog tool for thinking.

In the car

It’s essential to use a capture tool that is quick and doesn’t need much attention while I’m driving. I found that the easiest to use capture tool is my Apple Watch and the Voice Memos app.

I also keep a notepad here to capture ideas (sometimes even groceries lists). When I’m driving, I’m asking the person sitting next to me (usually my wife) to write stuff down for me. The notepad is shared, so my wife can capture her stuff as well. Since we’re frequently discussing agenda items in the car together—which always triggers new stuff to capture—it’s convenient to keep a shared notepad at hand.

In the bed at night

I can have ideas in the bed in three contexts:

  1. Before sleep, when the lights are still on, and we’re talking about something with my wife (or I’m reading).
  2. In the dark when I wake up in the middle of the night.
  3. In the morning when I’m reading.

I keep a small notepad next to the bed, which I use when the light is still on or in the morning. I wear my Apple Watch during sleep for sleep tracking, so it’s natural to take notes using Drafts digitally. I use the Scribble feature to write in the dark: usually, I capture no more than just a couple of words to remember the idea next time.

On rare occasions when something still bugs me, and I wake up because of it in the middle of the night, I have to grab my iPad to write down longer forms of thinking. Usually, I can sleep well after I captured what was on my mind, but it’s more important to capture these things during the day, so I can go to bed with a clear mind and sleep well.

Keeping a checklist of capture tools

I have a pretty extensive set of capture tools, and it can be dangerous if I forget to dump stuff I collected into my inbox. Before I start to process my inboxes, I go through a checklist of these tools to make sure I gathered everything into one place to continue to process them.

Habits are also essential to form: I do drop things into my inbox on my own from my more frequently used capture tools like my wallet or Drafts. But I still use a safety net in the form of a checklist, so nothing lays around unprocessed at the end.

2021.05.09.

Drafts is a digital Hipster PDA

  1. Drafts is an app optimized for taking quick notes and sending them to other places instead of storing them in the long term.
  2. Each Drafts note has a unique ID which can be understood as a digital index card linkable from anywhere.
  3. These notes are temporary, so I’m not keeping them in the system. After I processed one, it can be thrown away.
  4. Notes in Drafts don’t need much organization; everything is on a simple list. When I’m done with a note, it can be trashed or archived.

2021.05.04.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 2: the Capture Wallet

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


I like to use my iPhone as a capture device, but the elegance and simplicity of the David Allen Notetaker Wallet is something I wanted to explore for a while now. I prefer paper for capture and general note taking because:

  1. it doesn’t notify me about anything,
  2. it doesn’t have a battery,
  3. there is no way to multitask on paper,
  4. and it’s the classic example of tools that do one thing well.

You can’t buy the David Allen Notetaker Wallet anymore, but I found a good alternative called Capture Wallet which copied it almost as-is, but it’s a good thing. There are two versions: “Artisan” and “Business.” I use the latter one because it’s more minimal and also cheaper.


It is way more convenient to use perforated notepads for the GTD capture process because I can tear pages off. Each page contains one (maybe two) notes, which makes processing stuff easier—I can deal with one thing at a time, then throw it away. Because I regularly tear-off notes and drop them into my inbox, my notepads are always fresh and clean; I don’t carry around old stuff as I do with notebooks.

I still use my iPhone as a secondary capture device. I have Drafts installed (which I consider as the digital version of the Hipster PDA), so I can write things down when I don’t have my Capture Wallet around, although I prefer it over my phone.

2021.05.02.

Refactoring my GTD system – part 1: list managers are overcomplicating our systems

I’m using GTD for almost ten years now. I consider myself an advanced user, but last December, I wanted to simplify my system, my tools and return to the basics to get better at the end. I started refactoring every aspect of my GTD system—digital and analog as well. This is a series about how I did it and why.


The initial version of GTD is based on more straightforward tools than most digital list managers. It is essential to learn how to do GTD in the default way because each step and tool has a purpose; there are no unnecessary things. We’re doing something wrong if we can’t keep our GTD system up and running with just the tools and ideas mentioned in the book.

Avoid having a connection between projects and next actions

Many list managers connect projects with the next actions, but in the original GTD approach, there are no connections between them. Everything is on a different list. We’re the ones who connect everything when we do the Weekly Review.

Digital list managers connect only subsequent actions to projects; they skip calendar events, project plans, etc. We have to find these on our own, but doing it can be confusing. When we do the Weekly Review, we can be under the impression that all we have about a project is the next actions connected to it, forgetting other activities like events on our calendar. We have to get the pieces together of all the remaining stuff for ourselves. It is way easier if the software can connect everything to us, but there is no technology capable of doing this, so we have to find the logical connection between things. Having seen the entire picture is the only way we can relax our minds.

Connecting subsequent actions to projects can result in unnecessary steps when adding a new to-do. Using simple lists is straightforward: we add a new item, and we are done; on the other hand, having a connection between projects and next actions is meta-information, usually yet another field to fill, which makes adding things slower.

If we don’t expect to see the title of related projects in our next actions lists, we will be more considered about how to phrase our actions. It results in a more precise next action which we can imagine easier, thus doing it without much thinking later.

Having many features is distracting

Professional task managers have many features which have to be set up and maintained, which takes a lot of time. These features can be helpful, but GTD doesn’t need more than having simple lists. We can even do the right thing at the right time with GTD on paper where advanced features are absent.

Before we try to solve a problem with advanced tools, we have to consider using something simpler which can yield the same result. For example, we can use paper to think, but store the result of that thinking in digital tools. Having many features can distract us from work by fiddling with the tool. The importance of a project is not defined by the tool we’re using to administer it.

2021.03.16.

Sequential projects

Here’s a couple of things regarding sequential projects:

  • Keep future actions in your project support. You don’t want to keep them in your head. It feels nice when you can open an outline or a mindmap (or whatever), and you can effortlessly add the next action on the project.
  • Get into the habit of capturing. When you complete one next action, you should grab the next one into your inbox since some part of your world changed. You have new information that you should pay attention to.
  • Weekly reviews are the safety net for still need to capture things.

I know some apps like OmniFocus let you add future actions that magically pop up in your next actions lists when you complete a previous one, but they do more harm than help. Almost every time, the next step needs processing anyway, so these subsequent half-baked actions that you add in advance are going to create less trust in your next actions lists.

2020.09.17.

OmniFocus quick-entry iOS 14-ben

Tegnap megjelent az iOS 14, amiben van egy Back Tap nevű funkció. Ezzel a telefonunk hátulját kétszer vagy háromszor megtappolva lefuttathatunk különböző actionöket. Az Apple leírásából:

Back Tap lets you double-tap or triple-tap the back of your iOS device to automatically perform a range of custom tasks — from opening your favorite app to taking a screenshot. Choose from 24 different actions or create your own automated shortcuts to simplify your everyday tasks.

Mivel shortcutok is beállíthatók, így létrehoztam egy, a desktop todo menedzser alkalmazásokban látott quick-entry funkcióhoz hasonló shortcutot, ami bekér egy szöveget, majd azonnal elmenti azt az OmniFocus inboxszomba. Az egészben az a legjobb, hogy ehhez nem kell kilépnem az adott alkalmazásból sem, helyben lerendez mindent. Nagyon hasznos például telefonálás közben.

Az alábbi videóban megnézhető az egész működés közben és a használt shortcut felépítése is.

2020.02.07.

The natural progress of Zettelkasten

GTD and the Zettelkasten methods are bottom-up processes, which means we don’t start with setting a goal that we want to reach, but instead we work with the things that we have at the current moment. The Zettelkasten – similarly to the Natural Planning Model of GTD – naturally let your notes to form into a concrete thing. It is the complete opposite of the traditional view of research which starts by setting the final goal or state that we have to reach.

Related

Source

2020.02.06.

The physical process of Zettelkasten

The Zettelkasten method breaks down the thinking process into physical steps which can be acquired as habits.

Thinking – the ability to connect and understand things – becomes a physical routine.

These Here are the steps:

  1. Collecting and writing down ideas while I’m watching or reading something.
  2. Processing information by phrasing it in my own words, then adding the note to my Zettelkasten (one though thought is one card).
  3. Optional linking and connecting with existing notes in the Zettelkasten to create a network of information.

This routine is very similar to GTD, which is also the thinking process broken down to physical steps and habits.

Related

Source

The Weekly Review is the hardest to implement from GTD, but it’s the most important routine to get myself familiar with. Here’s why:

  • I have a basic anchor once a week, when I became mindful with my commitments and that gives me a relief so I can trust in my system. Nothing slips.
  • Reviewing my waiting fors then pinging people keeps that loop alive. People start to feel I demand stuff from them and they can’t escape from their responsibilities. At least from those that involve me.
  • Reviewing my stuff feels like mindfulness meditation. I pay attention what’s on my mind, then I make proactive decisions about them. This way I can relax.