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.