OmniFocus Tip #2: What’s on the top of your mind? — In- box Strategy

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The Problem

I’m not sure if it’s because of my diagnose or if it’s just how I am, but I tend to jump (like a frog!) between the things on my mind(mostly in the morning). It’s almost like I never get in time to the dentist appointment because there is so much interruption on the way that makes me change the route.

Do you recognize your self in this metaphor?

The things I refer to are the ones that are not yet in OmniFocus. Things that I should catch while doing a brain dump.

My worries, in this case, is not reactive thinking, it’s the data loss along the way that worries me. When jumping from tree to tree, you will soon forget what trees you were exploring earlier, and it will get blurry.

The morning is the perfect time for me to do a brain dump(sort of) because in the morning, my brain is full of ideas and I do suck on doing my brain dump on my weekly review—I can’t reach the part of my mind where those things are stored. I’ve found out that a quick brain dump(while jumping trees) each morning helps a lot.

The result of doing this is a list of things I can take decisions on later — if they should end up in the Inbox or not.

Solution

Instead of ignoring this behavior of mine, I decided to follow along. It has given me a lot of ideas — some are good, and some are bad, but that’s ok!

My Inbox Strategy

Create a “Top of my Mind” action group in your Inbox where you print down everything that’s in your head right now.

Don’t put any weight on what you write or how you write it at this point. It’s just a simple note to prevent you from forgetting things. If adding too much effort at this point, you may lose track. A simple “Mail to Kate” will do.

If you are unfamiliar with action groups, see How to set up the Top of my Mind Action Group.

The Morning Struggle

I’ve tried to start the morning like everyone else seems to do it.

  1. Daily morning review
  2. Pick the tasks that I should do today
  3. Start working on that list from the first task going down

Is anyone doing this, or is it just sound/look good in writing? Because every morning I fail doing this. It only takes too much of my most valuable time. And—if doing it “right”, I would miss listening to my brain.

Instead, I get things out of my head when they come to the surface to breathe. While at the surface, it is the right time to grab them by the neck and put them where they belong; in a temporary container to see if they are worthy of keeping.

Why not add those directly to the Inbox?

The Top of my Mind -items are more like notes. If an item is a task that you know you want to do, it should be in the Inbox for review later. If I put all of my ideas/notes in the Inbox, it would be cluttered.

Benefits using this strategy

I struggle to have my daily review take as little time as possible. One thing that I tend to do is to clutter my Inbox, which will add time and frustration to my daily review.

I always aim to write my inbox items in such a way that the only thing needed to add them to the system should be to decide if it’s a Single Action or a Project and to set a Context.

Using this strategy will filter out those unspecified items and will save time each morning.

How to set up the Top of my Mind Action Group

In OmniFocus, there is an option to group the actions/tasks.

An action group is similar to a project, but rather see it as a group of actions within a project. It does not have all the options projects have.

Grouping of tasks is also possible in the Inbox, and that is precisely how you should use this Top of my Mind strategy.

Alternative 1

  1. Add the tasks that are on your mind, to the Inbox.
  2. Group them by selecting them and press ⌘G, name the new Action Group “Top of my mind” or similar.

Alternative 2

  1. Add a “Top of my Mind” task to the Inbox.
  2. Add first thing on your mind; Ctrl + ⌘ + right-arrow click, to indent them underneath the action-group task and repeat this step until your head is empty like a Swedish small town square, the day after midsummer.

Conclusion

The success of this strategy depends on how you are as a person. For me, it helps a lot.

Let me know what you think about this. I understand it may be hard to grasp.

About the author

Johan Abelson

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