Bad Multitasking, Gallup Talents and Productivity Sofware — An Open Letter to Creators of OmniFocus
Marek Kowalczyk
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More Musings About Limiting WIP in OmniFocus

Speaking from personal experience, for some users, using otherwise excellent GTD framework & OmniFocus app can further exacerbate their predicament.

The reason is that there’s no easy mechanism for WIP control in OF. On the contrary, the excellent capabilities of OF in capturing and storing 100s of items can make it a generator of bad multitasking for users like myself.

(Further to https://twitter.com/marekkowalczyk/status/615508917603409920)

It’s all very well that I — per the processes of Getting Things Done — have all those next actions, sorted by context, available to me for execution. I may have even flagged some of them to provide extra focus. But I tend to generate so many options that I easily become overwhelmed by their sheer number, looking at a context or a perspective list. It’s the Paradox of Choice kind of situation — too many possible next actions, even when sorted by context, are not conducive to productivity but actually distracting.

So, continuing in the spirit of https://medium.com/p/57382c5a8c20 I think it behooves OmniGroup to implement all the principles of Kanban in OF.

Briefly, they are:

1. Visualize the workflow

2. Limit WIP

3. Manage Flow

4. Make Process Policies Explicit

5. Improve Collaboratively (using models & the scientific method)

Source: http://www.djaa.com/principles-kanban-method-0

Of them, OF currently implements 1. Visualize Workflow. But once that is done, the key to productivity is really 2. Limit Work in Progress (WIP). And there’s very little if any support for that in the app.

In fact, an avid OF user blessed with the Gallup Activator (or similar) theme in their Top 5, with OF so beautifully doing the job of Visualizing (in Kanban-speak) or Capturing and Clarifying (in GTD-speak) can easily slide into the highly unproductive zone of Bad Multitasking. A similar case in point: http://coaching.gallup.com/2013/03/ready-fire-aim-reformation-of-activator.html?m=1

Gallup suggests the following strategies to deal with your weaknesses:

1. Make them irrelevant by choosing a job that doesn’t require them.

2. Find a partner or swap responsibilities with someone who has complementary strengths/weaknesses.

3. Create a support system to compensate for your weaknesses (much like glasses compensate for poor eyesight).

See more at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/832/managing-your-weaknesses.aspx

So I would really like to see OF an a support system not only for those who struggle with Visualizing Workflow but also for those of us for whom the challenge lies in limiting WIP in their lives. Some possible mechanisms are:

  • allow a user to set a soft or hard limit on a number of projects/tasks that are active/available,
  • display in the dashboard in a prominent way the overall number of active/available tasks,
  • create a functionality to limit the number of visible tasks in a perspective or a context to X recent/oldest/random tasks.

Or maybe the existing features of OF are already sufficient to effectively limit WIP and all that is requires is a tutorial on the Using OmniFocus mini-site?

Either way, addressing the issue would certainly broaden the appeal of this excellent product.

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