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MyPersonalProductivity

 

Overcoming Overload?

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Posted by Franz Grieser
Mar 20, 2015 at 05:16 PM

 

Paul Korm wrote:

>I’m developing a feature
>matrix of apps that support that.  I’ll publish a link to the matrix,
>here, whenever I get it finished.  Rather, *IF* I get it finished.)

I would appreciate a “work in progress” matrix while waiting for the final version :-)

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Mar 21, 2015 at 11:51 PM

 

Sorry, Paul, just picked this up…

Paul Korm wrote:
“How do you do that, Bill”—> meaning, how do you use Ulysses for task
>management.

Well, I discovered, after blethering about with other task management programs, that I really want a couple of things:
- something flexible enough to take extensive notes for each task
- something that allows me to prioritise easily using something resembling the GTD system (but simplified, in fact).
- something that allows me to zoom in/out of my task lists so I can concentrate on more/fewer tasks really easily, rather than always having to scroll through a daunting list of hundreds of tasks (see Ken’s remarks on overload!).

So in Ulysses, I have a folder (sorry, that’s a ‘group’) called Task Management, with subgroups Work and Home. Each of those have a (few) further subgroups (no point creating too many subgroups, because Ulysses for iPad doesn’t fold, so you find yourself scrolling down an endless left-hand navigation bar - hence my irritation a few days ago).

To take an example, my Work subgroups include Projects and Admin (Admin includes a couple of others, like Quotes, Invoicing and ICT).

I then have, in a separate ‘group’, various sets of filters. One set consists of sheets (Ulysses-speak for notes) filtered by keywords ‘now’, ‘next’ and ‘pending’. Another set consists of sheets filtered by keywords for clients and status (currently I only use ‘active’ for status, so the filters effectively show me ‘projects active by client’).

I use my ‘priorities’ filters to view my work in descending order of urgency. The great thing (not unique, but still unusual) about Ulysses is the nesting capability. So for example, if I click on the folder ‘By Priority’ with my three priorities filters in it, I see ALL the tasks to which I’ve assigned priorities in the appropriate order (I organise the filters and projects manually - another of Ulysses’ great strengths).

To illustrate: part of my navigation bar looks like this:

Task Management
- Work
—Projects (folder where I organise my actual project-related tasks)
—Admin (folder where I organise my actual admin-related tasks)
—Filters
—- By Priority
——[now / based on keyword] (filter showing tasks from ‘Work’ with the keyword ‘now’)
——[next / based on keyword] (ditto with keyword ‘next’)
——[pending / based on keyword] (ditto with ‘pending’)
—- By Client
——[active projects for Dreadlock Inc / based on two keywords]
——[active projects for Lemmingsville GmbH / based on two keywords]
——[active projects for Hamfisted Global PLC / based on two keywords]
- Home

and so on: the square brackets indicate folders that are really filters based on keywords, rather than actual folders full of tasks. They are windows onto tasks from various perspectives.

I organise my projects and admin stuff in their respective folders. I assign the appropriate keywords (keeping them to a minimum: normally a client designation, plus a status designation ‘active’, plus a priority designation - either ‘now’, ‘next’ or ‘pending’.

If I click on the folder/group ‘Filters’, I see ALL of the ‘By Priority’ and ‘By Client’ filters in order (because of Ulysses’ nesting feature). If I click on the filter group ‘By Priority’, I see ALL of my tasks due ‘now’, ‘next’ or ‘pending’. If I want to zero in on my most immediate tasks, I simply click on ‘now’, and then I only see the tasks due right now.

Note that the ‘Filters’ folder is on the same level as Projects and Admin, meaning that the filters in that folder act on those two folders. But they DON’T act on my Home folder, which is another level higher. At the top level of my navigation tree, I have another set of filters called ‘All by Priority’ which list ALL tasks - in both Work and Home folders - according to their urgency. So I can choose to view urgent work-related tasks only, or ALL urgent tasks, including home-related ones.

This approach may sound complicated, but works remarkably well, because you can constantly zoom in and out of your list of stuff. If you want to concentrate on just a few things at a time, you focus on sub-sub-folders. If you want more of an overview, you pan out using higher-order folders. It’s actually very simple and compared to other much more complex systems (Watership Planner does, I’m afraid, come to mind), very easy to manage and set up. Filters are very easy to create in Ulysses, and keywords are very easy to set up. I hate systems that try and guess how I work. They invariably get it wrong! Ulysses is purely manual. But clever.

You can have as many different kinds of filters as you want. I have another one for clients due to be invoiced, for example. You might ask: why do you have folders when you could do everything with keywords. Or why do you have keywords, when you could a lot of that with folders? And the short answer is: yes!

There are any number of combinations you can use, depending entirely on your preferred way of working. Fewer folders, more keywords. No folders at all, all keywords + filters (although remember, filters are effectively also folders, as the diagram above attempts to make clear). No keywords, all folders (but that would mean I couldn’t manage my projects in their own folder, and their priorities in the separate filtered folders; I would constantly have to drag and drop tasks into different folders). It’s a hugely flexible system.

There are just three problems.
1. iCloud. It’s relatively slow, except when it’s not, and doesn’t always respond. Sometimes you can only get it to respond by quitting Ulysses and opening it again. Or even by changing the status on a project several times. That’s not good. Letterspace (for example), which also uses iCloud, has resorted to building and using its own ‘push’ system to prompt iCloud into doing things more quickly/efficiently. I’m very much hoping Ulysses will soon include support for Dropbox, which is much more reliable - or even OneDrive.

2. You can’t set reminders in Ulysses. At first, I thought this would be a problem. But you know, it really isn’t. If I can’t do without a reminder, Apple has perfectly good Calendar and Reminder apps. But I find that with a well-organised set of notes and priorities, I don’t need reminders half as much as I thought I did.

3. You can’t link to notes (sorry, that’s ‘sheets’ in Ulysses-speak) from within other notes (sheets). Still a big weakness, in my view.

But none of those problems are deal-breakers.

If the above is somewhat confusing, I apologise. It’s remarkably difficult, I think, to convey a particular working structure that has been developed over many years to people who don’t work with that structure. But I can assure you that the Ulysses combination of folders (groups), nesting (so you can see more or fewer subgroups the higher/lower up/down the hierarchy you are) and filters gives you an astonishing range of options. And I haven’t even touched on the way you can ‘glue’ sheets together so you can see the content of multiple sheets in a single window (although that doesn’t work on iPad yet; unfortunately, the sheets also have to be contiguous).

There you go, Paul! If that’s totally confused you, I can try to explain it again using screenshots or something!

 


Posted by Paul Korm
Mar 22, 2015 at 02:33 AM

 

Bill—the first thing is wow—how incredibly generous for you to take the time to write up your method.  I am very grateful.  I’m sure others will enjoy the article, too.

I’ll be spending some time good quiet qualtiy time this weekend digesting and working with this concept.

Regarding “reminders”—one possibility, if you have OmniFocus, is to activate the “Send to Inbox” service—which opens the OF quick entry panel focused on the selected text.  From there, complete the parameters for the action.

Thank you so much, Bill

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Mar 23, 2015 at 03:19 PM

 

You’re welcome, Paul!

And thanks for the tip about OmniFocus - but in fact, as I remarked to somebody else on another thread, if you right-click a day or date (or indeed any selected text) in Ulysses and then click ‘Services’, you’ll find you can forward the relevant data to any number of apps, including (in my case) OmniFocus, 2Do, The Hit List, Wunderlist, ToDoist and many others!

Currently I’m using Wunderlist, just because I quite like the latest version. But its sorting abilities are its major weakpoint (specifically, the lack of manual sorting capabilities in the various overview modes such as ‘Today’ etc.). On the other hand, it’s very easy and fast to use, and doesn’t take up large quantities of system resources (unlike e.g. OmniFocus!).

As I say, the issue of reminders has gradually faded into the background as I’ve gone on using Ulysses in this particular way (for the last week or so). That may yet change, otherwise I wouldn’t be a true CRIMPer!

Cheers!
Bill

 


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