Existential Task Management Crisis

Existential Task Management Crisis
(Justin DiRose) #1

Yesterday, I realized I was having an existential crisis regarding task management.

I’ve been talking a lot lately how I’ve scaled back my usage of OmniFocus to try to be less stressed out by managing tasks. It was a great experiment to start, but as time has gone on, I frankly just haven’t been using the tool. Like, at all.

I’ve been running my life out of my brain and notebook for the most part. I’m still capturing certain things, but I’m not fully investing in a particular task management system. I’m dropping the ball on certain small items, but I’m keeping the big picture in focus still and handling the important projects and tasks (my brain apparently is surprisingly good at this when I know what’s important to me).

This all being said, I have a lot of big projects coming up, and I have no solid system to handle them all. They’re all important and all need to be done. As of right now, I’m mapping them all out in MindNode, but I’m not sure where to put them. Sometimes I feel like the limitation of making everything a checkbox in OmniFocus is difficult. I have thoughts, ideas, and questions that often go along with big projects, but I work better when they’re all together with the tasks.

At ProCourse, we like the idea of managing projects, not tasks, when it comes to collaboration. I’m almost wondering if taking this approach would be better on a personal level as well – managing the big picture instead of the little details. Of course, I’ll still need a list of actions that aren’t tied to projects, so I’ll probably have some kind of app around for that (and due dates, etc).

The other idea I’ve been looking at is some kind of a Personal Kanban system. I do not like Trello, but the concept of having a Kanban-like system for upcoming, active, and completed projects (or major project pieces) is appealing. It’s similar to what I’ve been trying to do with the channels of work philosophy from @Kourosh.

I’m really at a loss to some degree how to approach this, so I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have!


012: Project Management vs. Task Management
(Rosemary Orchard) #2

Have you looked at AirTable? It’s not a task management system, but it can do Kanban, calendar, and a grid view which might work well for you.


(Justin DiRose) #3

I use it for some other things in my business, but I didn’t consider using for a project management type tool. I’ll consider it. The other ones that come to mind are Notion, Discourse (:nerd_face:), and Bear. While not all of those have traditional Kanban views, you can create a Kanban-like flow.

1 Like

(Eurobubba) #4

There are a couple of desktop kanban applications on the Mac app store. Kanbanier, the one I’ve actually tried, was underpowered for my needs but might work for others if simplicity is what you’re after. I won’t link to the others because their ratings are pretty bad, but you can always search for ‘kanban’ if you’re curious.

1 Like

(Wilson Ng) #5

I have been contemplating using a mind map app to do the big projects and overall goals while leaving repeating tasks and single one-off actions to OmniFocus.

I have iThoughtsX as my mind mapper and have been using the Focus feature to hide everything except the project I want to work on. It has a checkbox for tasks, notes, and a few other things that can take care of my Big Rock project needs. I don’t have MindNode so I’m not quite sure what it looks like in that app. Here’s a sample screenshot:

This is a sneak peek at another Guild post that will come sometime in the future. Yet another experiment in task management. :nerd_face:


(adamashlock) #6

I export the MindNode map to Evernote and drop in a screen shot giving me a visual of the project as well as the outline provided.

Within Evernote you can create a project table of contents, break out different pages for different areas, have all of the reference material linked to make jumping b/f between notes a breeze.


(John Johnson) #7

Okay good. Looks like you have a working system :slight_smile:.
How about expanding on that and using the Bullet Journal Method?
I’ve recently bailed on OmniFocus and the Bullet Journal seems to be working well. I have a much better view of what is coming up, where I am, status of projects, etc. I would recommend reading Ryder Carroll’s book, as the system is more rich and grounded in theory and mindfulness than one would initially think. On the other hand, one can start slowly and add modules (in their notebook) as required.


(John Johnson) #8

Also, I’ve just begun using TheBrain to store thoughts, ideas, artifacts, projects, generally things I want to think about and keep up with. I think TheBrain and the Bullet Journal will make a nice combination.


(Justin DiRose) #9

You all make things difficult in the best way. :laughing:

Thanks for the idea here. I’ll take stock of simple Kanban apps. I’m ultimately looking for something where I can see the high level then drill into the specifics of that thing (i.e. Trello cards with tasks, comments, and such in them).

This is similar to the approach I’m considering. Ever since last summer when I quit my job, my first tool I go to is a mind mapper to plan big projects where there are lots of things to consider and it’s going to take time to get right (and needs to be done right). I haven’t decided if I’m going to leave these things in MindNode or migrate them to another system once the “plan” is more fleshed out.

This is a really good idea. I realized I could pull off almost the exact same thing in Bear if I wanted to.

Haha. Yup. Not the most effective at reducing stress, but it works for now!

Why do you have to go and do this to me @JohnAtl :laughing:

Honestly, the Bullet Journal is an idea I’ve been drawn to for a number of years, but hadn’t been able to get myself to fully commit when I tried it. My main question is: how do I handle projects in it? And how do I see the big picture? I know it’s paper, so anything is possible, but I have to spend more time figuring it out.

TheBrain is intriguing to me, but I’m not sure if I could get into it to the depth I need for it to be worth the investment. Though the mindmapping-like flow is highly attractive to the way I think.

You all have given me a lot to think about. Keep the ideas coming!


(matthewk) #10

I’m new to this forum and haven’t seen much mention of Org mode (just a few of posts). I’ve been using it for about 18 months now, having come from Omnifocus, and it ticks a number of boxes for me:

  • Able to define a Kanban-like workflow using custom task states. For example I use the task states TODO, IN-PROGRESS, WAITING, DONE and CANCELLED to give me something similar to Kanban columns.
  • Not everything has to be a task. Org mode files are basically outlines and you can decide whether or not a tree, subtree or leaf node represents a task or just a heading under which you store related notes and pieces of information. Checklists can be used as well separately from tasks.
  • Org mode files are plain text so I’m no longer without everything when using Linux or Android (which I do dip into sometimes).

Another post Emacs (more specifically spacemacs) goes into more detail about what works for him in Org mode. If you don’t mind a bit more of a learning curve that you get with some tools its definitely worth a look. Unlike commercial products its not going anywhere and I wouldn’t be surprised if still using Org mode in 10 years time (famous last words!)


(Justin DiRose) #11

Hey welcome @matthewk!

It’s true, there hasn’t been much mention of Org-mode here, but there are lots of nerdy folks here who would probably try it. I’ve become a heavy Vim user in the last few months, and I just made mention yesterday that I could see myself trying emacs. I may just have to now. My only reservation is iOS access. Any suggestions on that?


(matthewk) #12

There is a great ViM mode in Emacs. The first thing I look for in any text editor is ViM keyboard shortcuts - I don’t think I would survive in Emacs with the default shortcuts!

I’m the developer of an Org mode iOS app called beorg. It only supports a subset of what Org mode can do but gives you enough for managing tasks when not at your computer. A number of other iOS apps are starting to support Org files, although mainly for syntax highlighting rather than providing task management - Working Copy and Textastic are the two I’ve used most recently.


(emilio_n) #13

I am starting to use ClickUp now and looks something could work for you too. For me looks very flexible and visual and more appealing (and stress free)to use than OmniFocus. Have Kanban view.

1 Like

(John Johnson) #14

There is the concept of Collections. Collections can be just two facing pages in the notebook. There you can keep up with notes, tasks, sketches, whatever is applicable to that project.
Collections are one of the Modules that can be used.

This has changed the way I think about notebooks in general – previously I just saw them as a linear sequence of pages, almost one-dimensional. Now I can envision the framework of BuJo Modules (or other structure) overlaid onto that sequence of pages.

Paradigm shift and all those clichéd buzzwords, but that’s really what it was.


(Justin DiRose) #15

Thanks for the tips here! And checked out beorg – looks like a nice app. If I go the org-mode route, I’ll for sure give it a go.

Ah yes – this is what I was gravitating toward doing. I think I’m overcomplicating it in my mind.

Short term, I think I’m going with the Bullet Journal solution (combined with MindNode and a task app for reminders/checklists to avoid manual copying).

I’ll update with more as I go!


(Wilson Ng) #16

Are you getting your stress from not having your task manager updated? Have you been doing your daily and/or weekly review? I have different review cycles for different projects and checklists. Some projects and single action lists (checklists) that have a lot of daily changes needs more frequent review (every day, every two days, or every three days). Other projects that don’t change often can be checked once a week. On hold projects are checked once every two weeks or four weeks.

Breaking up my weekly review into a 15 minute daily review at the end of each day makes it more palatable for me.

My personal stress comes from me not remembering what’s happening and letting things slip through the cracks. I have the Due App set to start nagging me at 4:30 pm every day to remind me to do a daily review. If it’s 9 pm and I still haven’t done the daily review, I’ll finally get around to it. I feel much better because I offload everything I don’t want to remember to OmniFocus. The 15 minute daily review at the end of the day keeps OmniFocus updated. I double check to make sure I checked off something. I check all of my currently active projects (Big Rocks) and update them (check off completed, delete any tasks that I no longer need, defer or delegate tasks to others).

Keeping my task manager updated gives me assurance that I have everything captured. I don’t know if that helps you but my stress levels are lower because I can trust OF and not worry about missing something.

1 Like

(Justin DiRose) #17

Nailed it!

That’s part of the issue. The other part is I was beginning to feel so constrained by checkboxes.

I’ve officially been Bullet Journaling since 4/9, and :heart_eyes_cat: :heart_eyes_cat: :heart_eyes_cat:

Never thought I’d say that.

It is a bit more work to manage and figure out, but I don’t find it difficult to sit with my notebook open and brain dump or map out a project where I felt a lot more friction using OmniFocus. Of course, this is the “new shiny” phase of using it, but I’m definitely liking it for now! I need to hone my process in managing it, but I’m trying to stick to the Ryder Carroll method as close as I can to get a good feel for it.