Considering the Conditions
There are certain projects to which we would rather attend only when conditions are right.
Rather than simply dismissing a project by saying, “not now”, or creating an awkward context, it would be better and more useful to define the conditions under which a project could be approached.
Perhaps, we are waiting for the completion of a delegated task, for another project to be completed first, the appropriate weather, or for some other set of optimal conditions. Thinking through this process can be very useful towards actually getting the project done, especially when you notice a project just sitting there and are trying to figure out what would get it going.
In the example today, there is a book called Free Play that I would like to separate into individual tasks corresponding to each chapter for note taking. However, I am in the middle of another unrelated reading task. As reading one project at a time helps me to better immerse myself in the subject matter, I’d prefer to complete this other already-started reading task first.
The simplest way to address this in OmniFocus would be to order the projects in the preferred sequence of completion in the Project view. The tasks would then present in the same order in the context view. I could then just go down the tasks in a “Reading” context as listed without a problem.
However, making this arrangement can get awkward, especially when there are many nested folders in the Project view. In my particular setup, folders represent Areas of Responsibility and rearranging projects to suit an order of completion is not possible.
Instead, outlined below is a system designed to trigger the activation of a Project when the preferred conditions are met using a combination of OmniFocus’ parallel/serial feature and the “Waiting for …” context.
Setting the Conditions
Let’s begin by going to the project we would like to delay:
1) Select the top task (in this case the only task) and press Shift-Enter to create a task above the one selected:
2) Enter the preferred conditions to start the project with “Waiting for…” selected as the context:
3) Select both tasks and group them (alt-cmd-L):
4) Give the new parent task a title and convert from parallel to serial by left clicking the icon:
5) Lastly, enter a starting date of today for the task following the “Waiting for …” task:
It may seem complicated, but as everything is now automated, the only real thinking occurs during the daily “Waiting for …” review when the task asks me if certain conditions exist (in this case, am I done reading the analytic papers?). The project is otherwise off my mind which is the point of the GTD methodology. The R&D task will not be seen in any view with a filter set to “Available Tasks.”
In the daily review of the “Waiting for …” contexts, the conditional task now functions as a trigger to release the R&D task into the Treading Water view. (See Part I of the series for an explanation of the Treading Water concept and Part III for the system of review.)
As a bonus, dating the follow up task (step 5 above) now draws attention to the project once activated by appearing before today’s start date. This is useful if using the Treading Water concept which always has today as the only starting date. The activated project now only appears and asks for attention at the point in time when the preferred conditions are met.
I can now double click the task handle to enter the project and decide how to proceed.
In this case, the condition was only the completion of another Project. However, a “Waiting for …” task can be set to anything, of course, – waiting for a phone call, waiting for the completion of a task delegated, waiting for a blue moon, etc.
Also note that I did not set the entire project to sequential. Rather, I grouped a task within the project and set it as sequential, as noted in steps 3 and 4 above. Doing this allows future entries to this project via the Inbox to show up immediately. Otherwise, they may be unintentionally hidden at the end of the sequence.
I am certain other methods exist to start a project only after certain conditions are met and would be interested in hearing yours.