Juggling multiple deadlines, knowing what to start and when, and knowing what you will be able to take on a few months from now is not a simple matter. Each project you take on will likely last an unclear amount of time, and you’ll have other responsibilities to take care of in the meantime.
In this post, I’ll describe how I’ve been planning and setting up several long term projects using a combination of MindNode and OmniFocus.
A Large Set of Projects
Recently, I’ve been in the midst of preparing several public talks. The presentations themselves are meant to be anywhere from 1-3 hours each. Essentially, each talk is a performance. I need to put together a set of ideas, some of which I’ve formed in advance, many of which I haven’t. Then I need to practice them, so I can simultaneously stand in front of a bunch of people, say something that is hopefully meaningful to them, and not fall on my face. And, since they are performances, I can’t just have them ready months in advance. I also need to practice them in the days leading up to the presentation.
My general system of work is to start a project early, preferably as soon as its assigned, and then sit with it daily. (The process is described in detail in Zen & The Art of Work). However, this is not possible for 6-8 projects simultaneously. Using a Land & Sea perspective (described in this post and in more detail in Creating Flow with OmniFocus), I limit myself to doing about 3 projects simultaneously. Meanwhile, the odds and ends of other projects find their way into my File & Flow perspective or in Communications. The 3 Land & Sea projects also needs to include work that is not about speaking gigs. Besides, I don’t really want to work on several talks simultaneously, so I can better concentrate on them individually.
Planning in MindNode
Starting a few months ago, I began a sketch of the talks that were on my mind:
As I planned, I used MindNode’s ability to create tasks (Shift-Command-t) to list the things I wanted to do in terms of planning. I added the tasks at the top to keep them separate from the rest of the tasks.Capto_Capture-2016-12-01_06-35-33_AMUsing MindNode’s task system, as opposed to that in OmniFocus, allows me to stay within MindNode itself. However, I still use OmniFocus as my central hub of task management. Therefore, I added the task to continue planning in MindNode to OmniFocus, like so:
That way, I could spend a session planning, then mark the task complete, and it would show up again the next day. I planned to delete the task when I was done with the work of planning.
As I continued planning, some tasks would easily be completed and never find their way into OmniFocus. These would mainly be about planning, like those listed above.
Other tasks, though, would be better suited to my overall system, like communication tasks or really anything that needed to be called out outside of the planning process (circled below):
These tasks that do not refer to planning, are better suited to OmniFocus. While there is an export option in MindNode to send tasks to OmniFocus, I prefer to make the transfers manually. That way, I can distinguish between those that are embedded in MindNode and those that I want in OmniFocus.
Instead of marking transferred tasks as completed, I instead use the strikethrough option (Option-Command-u):
to indicate that they’d been transferred.
I eventually came up with a series of potential start dates for preparations, usually at least a few weeks or a month beforehand:
Transfer to OmniFocus
When done, I then transferred dates of when I wanted to start each preparation to the Land & Sea project. Here is a screenshot of a more recent Land & Sea project:
Plan in Action
In the end, I maintain a simple presentation of tasks in my day to day:
When the date for starting preparations shows up, that particular task shows up in the daily view. I can then make arrangements, removing something else from being active in Land & Sea and replacing it with what I want to begin.
Meanwhile, if I finish preparations for something early, I can always move something from inactive to active earlier.
I can also leverage the Forecast Perspective to keep my eye on the horizon. I can:
- Select the Land & Sea project
- Focus with Shift-Command-F, and
- Open the Forecast Perspective (Command-4), with deferred items shown
to present the upcoming month without interference from the rest of my project library:
Certainly there are other ways to plan ahead. But this has been nice. Once I had it set up, I really could just run on autopilot, sitting with the work listed in my daily list of tasks. In general, using the start-early/sit-daily method of work I described above, I tend to be done with projects well in advance of any due dates. I can always re-add a project in the days approaching the talk to get the material fresh in mind for the talk itself.
Appreciate the clip.
Any upcoming audiobooks on any of your material?
Glad you liked it. I’m not currently setting up any audiobooks, though I’ll add your vote. Do you have a preference for either one?
I’ve been doing something similar, though with iThoughts, and the thing I struggle with is the problem of having duplicate systems. How do you keep these two systems of planning separate? After all, OmniFocus is also used for planning. Is the idea to do the planning only of projects this way? Or is mind mapping intended as a temporary part of the process, which is “burned on the beach” once you’ve figured out what to put into OmniFocus?
You’re right that two systems can create problems.
The MindNode document is a temporary “burned on the beach” sort of thing, though I may refer back to it if I want to make changes. Once I’ve transferred a task or other component out of MindNode, I will then select it and strike it through to denote the transfer. I find that that allows me to effectively maintain one copy of any task or concept.
Seems like Mindnode already featured in integration with Apple’s Tasks
might be worthwhile to check in whether integration with OF is on their roadmap?
There is an export function for MindNode to OmniFocus in the MindNode share menu. However, I don’t believe it syncs as you describe in a way like Reminders.
I’ll have to try the Reminders sync (I didn’t know it was there), but since I use OmniFocus as my central task hub, I’m not sure I’d make a habit of it.
Thank you for a very pleasant video.
Your paste is so calm and relaxing, taking away the edge of the actual complexity of the subject. Great job!
I loved the Timeline 3D slideshow in the beginning.
I assume you’ve done it while working – or after you’ve executed the presentations and finished the projects, as I don’t see any natural integration between Timeline 3D and Omni Focus. Or, is there some way of importing a calendar data into it?
It wasn’t a simple export. I had to open the OmniFocus archived data, export to CSV, then manually set the sorting in Numbers to view the dates. Finally, I entered the information by hand into Timeline. It would be neat if there were a smooth integration. Maybe I’ll do a separate post on setting up the 3d timeline.
Hi Kourosh, great video and post! I also loved the timeline at the beginning, and it raised a question I wanted to ask you in a while: are your 3 Land & Sea projects always related to professional (income-earning) projects? Do you try to keep fixed time schedules for professional and personal projects (e.g. exercise, family events etc)?
Glad you liked them. The 3 projects are just whatever is outside of my routine. The main projects do not have to be about income or professional projects, though I did highlight mainly those for this video. So, for example, I have things I discuss with my family daily, as well as lists to clear at the office, neither of which show up in the post. I’ve removed some others, too, that were that were about personal development. That said, these last months have been fairly heavy towards the professional development side.
Thanks Kourosh – I’ve struggled for years now with the “level up” from Omnifocus – keeping track of the big deadlines and the big tasks. And a simple solution like Mindnode just seems to do the trick. For today. Let’s see about what works tomorrow .
Sounds good. Just watch out for the caution Joel describes above. It is useful to have a single place for any task. If you have a task in MindNode that you prefer in OmniFocus, be sure to cross it off in MindNode upon transfer. Duplicate tasks get messy fast.
Thank you very much Kourosh! I’ve been struggling with the same problem of planning different projects. Your post came at the right moment. I’m trying your method and it works for me. I’ll adopt it. Thanks!
Thank you for the comment, and I’m glad it’s working out for you!