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Welcome to an episode of Zen and the Art of Work.
My name is Kourosh.
I wanted to show you one way that I've been able to
handle a large number of projects recently.
Some of them had deadlines, some of them didn't, and
there's no really right way to do this sort of thing, but
this particular approach has worked for me.
And I wanted to at least present a principle that could go behind
working on multiple projects.
The thing is,
juggling multiple deadlines, knowing what to start and when,
knowing what you'll be able to take on a few months from now
these are not simple matters.
Each project you take on will likely last
an unclear amount of time, and
you probably have other responsibilities to take care of in the meantime.
To find some degree of calm, we need to
feel that we can work from let's say a simple
set of decisions, like a short list.
And then feel that that list and our system in general are supportive.
We need to feel that the things we see
on our list, the decisions we can make from them,
that these items are useful
for now, for the present, for where we are.
And that other work will stay out of our way until they're needed.
One of the things we can do to help us on the way there
is to plan the beginning of our projects.
This is the central idea of today's video.
plan the beginning of your projects.
When you do this, you can create a buffer.
It gives you confidence that you'll get to something when needed,
that you'll have time to be creative with it,
and you'll have a relaxed pace to do your work.
You can be more focused with where you decide
you want your attention to be.
So again, while I consider this tip itself simple,
there is a certain advanced quality to it in that
it rests on you having some time and task management skills.
Now, specifically, these
are at least that you have some trusted system,
something that you can regularly review to
put what you want in front of you when you want it to be there.
That you can have certain projects active and set other ones aside.
You can be using pen and paper.
You can be using any particular system that you find to be useful for you.
And of course, good systems always are developing, so
I'm not saying you need something to be perfect. You just need something you're working on.
It could be a daily list.
You also need some way of outlining or brainstorming.
That could be pen and paper if you'd like.
Finally, you'll need to have some practice with what I call "Workflow Fundamentals".
These are things you may already be doing, but
I'm adding a label to them here, and I'll describe them briefly in a moment.
For this particular video, though, I'll be using a couple of tools.
One is MindNode for outlining,
and the other is OmniFocus for task management.
The Workflow Fundamentals that I just mentioned
are specifically, being able to
decide on a piece of work,
being with that work, and then
doing that regularly.
These sound simple, and again
we often already do this. But as anyone who has ever
procrastinated can attest to, these are not so simple.
I'd say they are more practiced than they are fully mastered.
Rather than be all talk, I wanted to show off a sampling of my own projects.
This is roughly, quarter 4, 2016
extending into the beginning of 2017.
Some projects - I've removed,
some smaller ones, some things, I just don't think should be public, ...
some parts I've anonymized a bit, but for the most part
this represents what I've been able to do.
Some of these had deadlines, some of them didn't.
Some of them are about me working on the same project, actually,
during two different time spans.
The thing is, if I actually looked at this timeline,
I don't think I would have done the work.
I'd probably have been more overwhelmed than anything else.
While I was doing all of this, I wasn't overwhelmed.
I was able to focus, calmly.
I still saw my clients,
I spent time with family, I did the dishes...
practiced piano, enjoyed video games ...
do things that are generally good to do.
Certainly there were days of stress, too, but that's more about
life throwing things at me because that's what life likes to do.
It wasn't though about a sense of inability or some dread of doing work.
And it might sound like or look like that I'm showing off a bit, and
possibly I am. I do look at this with
some excitement and say hey look at all the stuff I managed to do.
Go me. But, I also wanted to
present that the ideas are not
far-fetched and that you can do it, too.
So, how did I get there from a simple list?
I'll show an example of how I did this recently.
So, I've been in the middle of a bunch of
public talks that I've needed to prepare.
The presentations are each meant to be about 1-3 hours.
And, they are effectively performances.
I need to put some ideas together,
some ideas I've already written, some things I haven't.
And then I need to practice them, too. Have, like an ongoing flow to the presentation ...
And then I need to practice them again, right before the presentation,
so that I have the ideas fresh in mind when I'm presenting.
So, my general approach to working on a project is to
start it early, preferably as soon as it's assigned,
and then sit with it regularly.
Usually I do that daily until it's done.
I have a task in my system that
repeats daily so that when I mark it complete,
it disappears today and then appears again the next day.
Smaller, non-repeating tasks, more routine
clearing type things,... they'll sit there, too.
At any one time, I tend to have about 1-3 of these projects going.
These basically become my "big rocks" of the day.
So, more likely, I have multiple repeating tasks that I touch on every day.
Here's an example of how my daily list actually looks.
You can see the top three as my ongoing projects,
and I also work on music every morning, regardless of what's going on.
And on the day I took this screenshot, it was the weekend.
So, you can see my weekend task of updating
and filing things on my computer, too.
Other projects are effectively on hold.
I have a way to maybe do the, let's say those
tiny 2-minute or less tasks for side projects, but
for the most part these projects are set aside.
The problem was that I had about 8 of these presentations
to put together over the course of several months, and
I also had other obligations to take care of,
and I don't particularly like working
on multiple presentations at once. I just feel that
creatively I get my wires crossed.
So maybe I'd want one of these to be
the project I was working on while the others could be about
say, family or my psychiatric practice.
So I had to figure out, how do I make sure I have enough time to do each project?
I never know quite how long a project will take,
and, I don't know what the work landscape's going to look like
on the day that I want to start either.
So a few months ago, I started sketching an outline of
the talks that were on my mind.
This is MindNode. You can see
these were just the initial talks that I was needing to prepare.
I added some dates of presentations that I
remembered, other ones I didn't. I just had a general idea...
I still needed to talk to some people about things...
And I kept fleshing out the plan.
I added some titles, some dates,
and eventually, I had a list of all of the presentations.
I just needed to start adding dates as to when
to begin preparations for each one.
I eventually came up with a series of potential start dates,
aiming for at least a few weeks or a month beforehand.
I just wanted to make sure that I was able to start something by a particular date.
Again, this wasn't a due date. It was a "try to start by" date.
So now I had to add those lists of dates to when I would start the projects.
And, maybe the simplest way to do this could be a calendar, so
if you want to do that, go for it. That could work fine.
Personally, I wanted to integrate it as part of OmniFocus.
So I created a group of tasks under the heading "Navigation".
And, I added defer dates to
the tasks that represent each project
that I needed to start by a certain time.
You can see that these tasks are grayed out, which means that they're not
active. I wouldn't see them in my daily list.
And, this particular image was taken before February 6th.
When that day comes,
then it becomes active, and I would see it on my daily list.
I could then decide what I want to place on hold
or make inactive so I could maintain
the roughly 3 maximum projects.
Keeping that number steady helps me not get overwhelmed.
And it's a nice solid structure that allows me to keep on course.
For those of you using OmniFocus, I can briefly show you the inner workings of this.
The project is "Land & Sea".
And I've blogged about it separately, and I'll add maybe a link
somewhere about how I use this.
The new addition in this particular video
is this top section called "Navigation" which I just described.
But if you have everything grouped together into a single project,
you can select the project, here "Land & Sea" Project,
then focus it using Shift-Command-f,
and then use Command-4 to enter Forecast mode.
What that does,
if you have your deferred items shown,
is that you can now see your upcoming month without
interference from the rest of your project library.
All the while, you actually still maintain this simple list
from which you can work.
You can do all the planning around this but when
you want to work, you just have an easy way to do so.
Certainly there are other ways to plan ahead, but this has been nice for me.
Once I had it set up, I really could just run on autopilot,
sitting with the work in my daily list.
The idea is the same: Plan the beginning of your projects.
Interestingly on several occasions,
I hadn't even run into those dates I'd set.
Instead, I would often finish something else first, and then
I could make a presentation project active
before that defer date.
Right now is February, and I'm done through July.
Now that might seem that the whole exercise is
fruitless, but that's not the case at all.
Doing this work crucially helped me focus.
Because I knew that if I didn't do things at a certain pace,
I would have the alerts that I needed
to return to the pace that I needed.
And that peace of mind made a huge difference.
And I also did run into those dates on occasion, too.
If you're interested in further study, I can recommend
Zen & The Art of Work, Creating Flow with OmniFocus, or
Workflow Mastery.
Zen & The Art of Work is a video course about building
a simple system - it could be pen and paper if you want -
starting with a single project that you choose.
Something fun, something difficult, whatever you want.
You then go through a series of single exercises at your own pace
to eventually build an overarching working system for all of your projects.
Then, Creating Flow with OmniFocus is about
using the program OmniFocus and helps you
learn task management in detail.
There you can start with as many projects as you like and orchestrate
things from there.
Workflow Mastery is an application independent
ebook that studies productivity and
meaningful work in academic depth.
It's likely most useful if you
already have a working system that you are looking to polish to a shine.
Any of these are available at ZenandtheArtofWork.com or UsingOmniFocus.com
Thank you for watching, and I hope you enjoyed this.
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Handling Deadlines and Multiple Projects with OmniFocus and MindNode

257 Folder Collection
jqlts1 published on August 23, 2018
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