How do you organize your task manager project structures?

How do you organize your task manager project structures?
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(Wilson Ng) #1

I’ve change my project structure many times over the years to fit my needs. It evolves over the years to meet current demands. But sometimes I wonder if there is some area that I am not covering. Now I have to ask “how do you organize your task manager’s project structures?

There has to be a method to the madness in how we set up our project structures. Everything has its place in your life (or not). We capture random items on a daily basis into an inbox and eventually ends up somewhere in our productivity ststem. It could be an FYI that needs to be saved for future reference. I might get a call from my wife to pick up some groceries on the way home. I can get inspired by blog post to try out a new workflow. But I don’t want these items ending up in a big catch-all inbox.

I’m curious about some users who like to use the task manager’s inbox as a catch-all place and work from their inbox. Many productivity systems tell us to go through our inboxes and move everything out into its final destination. I make a new folder, project, or single action list to hold new inbox items as needed.

My Project Structure

After many permutations, I’ve settled on a basic structure that fits my workflow.

Admin Actions

Admin%20Actions

The Admin Actions folder contains a group of Single Action Lists (SALs). A single action is a one-off action that occurs in my daily life. I get many requests throughout the day and will file single one-off actions here.

It can also be called the Maintenance folder because most of the actions placed here are geared towards maintaining my life. These actions keep my overall life running. Items such as Fix leaky bathroom faucet, Buy light bulbs are used to make sure my house life is in working order.

Admin Routines

The Admin Routines folder is the place I use to hold all of my routine maintenance tasks. I keep repeating items separate from the Admin Actions one-off group. I can go to the Admin Routines folder to find repeating tasks such as Submit weekly sales report or Buy 2 bags of dog food. I didn’t want to mix my single one-off tasks with repeating maintenance tasks.

I discussed working on administrative tasks here:

Big Rock Projects

Big%20Rock%20Projects

The Big Rocks contained within these folders hold projects that have a specific goal. They are not maintenance in nature. Here is a sample screenshot of some Big Rock projects:

Sample%20Big%20Rocks

I have three to five projects active that I am currently working on. All of the other projects are either deferred to a future date or the project status is set to On Hold. The only projects I want to work on are active projects. My Big Rocks strategy was discussed here:

I have a folder for each Area of Responsibility: Home, Personal, Side Business, Office, etc. All of my Big Rock projects go here. Big Rock projects have a goal and a measurable result that will hopefully improve my life.

Lab Experiments

image

My Lab Experiments folder used to be called Someday/Maybe. This folder contains half-baked projects that still need some fine-tuning. I keep my projects in this incubator as I am still working on it during the early stages. If I think a project is starting to gain form, I’ll move it into one of my Special Projects folders.

I also have a single action list called Someday/Maybe (for example, Office Someday/Maybe or House Someday/Maybe. These lists contain a single entry for a possible idea. I move a lot of inbox items to one of the Someday/Maybe lists to explore later. When I review the Lab Experiments once a month, I look at some of the Someday/Maybe lists and see if I can actually create a project out of one of the items.

I also keep a **Project Templates **list here. It contains action groups that I can copy and paste as a new project. In the future, I’d like to explore using OmniJS, Drafts, and Workflow as a way to create project templates. That’s in my Someday/Maybe list!

Re-organizing my folders

I slowly evolved my project structures over time. When a folder contains too many projects or lists, I try to find new ways to organize them and break groups of projects into other folders. I have started to take a larger role in the marketing department at my work. I had to move several marketing projects out of my Office folder and into an Advertising folder.

I believe in putting projects and tasks into its own storage bin. I try to keep it one level deep. I don’t like to have multiple sub-folders and drill down just to get to a project.

Action Plan

I am curious to see what you have done with your project structures. It’s an interesting journey to see how we break our lives down into different folders/categories. Let’s share our project structures and gather up ideas that can help us re-organize our lives. I look forward to seeing what you can show!


#2

Hello Wilsonng. I feel like I owe you an answer, as I have adopted some of the methods and workflows you shared with us with little changes. So I ** will comment on 'my** experience with your methods to give you some feedback.

I buy the 'planning 'vs ‘doing’ concept as a primary separation of my activities, so having different perspectives located in different parts of the omnifocus screen is a good help to focus. (I tend to dwell on planning and devising concepts rather than getting the job done)

I also like the important vs urgent matrix (tags vs due dates in my use of omnifocus 2) and the Maintenance (run you life) vs Projects (change your life) classification. Also I find natural to group activities in areas of responsibility (health, friends, family, finance and so on).

All the above (concepts and resulting folder structure) belong to the ‘planning’ phase: It should match my way of thinking so it is intuitive to me when I plan / review / prioritize my actions / projects.

In the ‘doing’ phase, on the contrary, I don’t want to know to which category an action belongs to, I just need to get it done. A single list, one level, is all I need: @work @on the go or wherever. So far so good.

Coming back to the folders, Maintenance sub category does not look so natural to me:

You mention 'I didn’t want to mix my single one-off tasks with repeating maintenance tasks

Why?

¿Is replacing a light bulb in my house a one-off or a recurring action? and ¿Why should I care? Does this separation help my planning or my workflow? I use the repeat attributes to set in each case without need to having them in separate folders. And conceptually, it does not come natural to me (I mean, maintenance is routine by nature, only that you cannot predict when the next thing will need repair).

Nothing else I don’t find natural in your folder structures and workflows.

Span of control (not having too many actions in the same folder) I’m still fighting with it. I find myself using the defer attribute getting them off my sight rather than creating a new folder I need to care for.

Absolutely agree with not nesting and drilling down in projects if at all possible. Action groups are not my thing, either, at least with the present functionality ( I never know in which view they will or won’t show up)

That’s all for now. Happy to read you,


(Wilson Ng) #3

I like to see my list of one-off actions at the office separated from my list of repeating office work. One-off actions might be a single customer request that can be easily completed in the day. My list of repeating tasks in the Office Routine list is large. If I mix up the one-off actions with the repeating actions, I can get confused with what are one-off actions and what are repeating actions that should not be deleted accidentally.

I think if I can reduce the number of repeating actions, I might be able to mix it into one list. Looking at my current Office single actions, I have 23 tasks. In my Office Routine (repeating tasks), I have 25 actions. That becomes a very large and scary list. If I can try to short the lists, I feel more comfortable trying to work on these tasks.

If I can delegate some of these actions, I think I can start creating a list mixing repeating tasks and single one-off tasks.

Yes, that was my mistake for a long time. Planning, revising, and need getting something done. I had to separate time spent planning/review and time spent doing work. I try to make sure I’m spending more time doing and completing.

Yes, good point. This might help me flatten my list. I will have to redo my groupings and sorts for my OmniFocus custom perspectives. The single list works best when the list is shorter. But my struggle continues. I used to have one single action list called “Office Work” and mixed both one-off tasks and repeating tasks. But it grew too large and I sometimes accidentally deleted a repeating task.

I just have too many lists in the Admin/Maintenance folder because I need to visually see the different lists for different areas of responsibilities. I look forward to delegating some of these lists to others.

Thanks for the reply. I’m still struggling with my project structures and looking to simplify whenever I can.


(Jonathan Davis) #4

This post is getting me to think even more and more. Currently, my folders are as follows:

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I honestly am not quite sure how I feel about this. For one, my research stuff is going to start going more into DevonThink Pro. I think I need to look into my “7) Reference to Put Somewhere” and evaluate what truly needs to go into Devonthink vs what should be recategorized. I used contexts a little but honestly haven’t benefited from it. Maybe tags will be more useful though I think I’ll keep them minimal and similar to how @Anikulapo is doing it over in the following link in the OmniFocus forums https://discourse.omnigroup.com/t/how-are-you-organizing-1-areas-of-focus-tags-vs-folders-2-someday-maybe-lists-in-of3-ios/38599/7
This summer and in the coming weeks I hope to overhaul my system. Part of me is debating whether to start more from scratch in a sense by having main folders based on my job/role so those being Health, Teacher, etc. I think right now I have a catchall but it can be better. Sure planning is great but at the same point, my main goal is to get stuff done.