125: Professional Nerd, with Rosemary Orchard


Crossing the streams!! Crossing the streams!!


Thanks for the discussion on juggling projects, especially the problem of “overviews.” David’s idea about putting a large kanban on his wall is something I can relate to because I did just that a year ago as an experiment. I made one wall a traditional kanban with columns (using painters tape and sticky notes), and another wall was a hybrid mind map/ kanban/ timeline dedicated to one particularly challenging project. Putting that project on the wall was satisfying, helped me work through its numerous puzzles, and ultimately kept me on track. Needless to say, there are downsides to putting a complicated mindmap on an entire wall of one’s home office (especially when that office is also partially open to the front door entryway).

That project did convince me that I need flexible, visual representations for project overviews and other high level perspectives and so I discovered Curio for the Mac. I have a main page with a list of all my projects with hyperlinks. Each hyperlink brings me to a board. Curio is like a super whiteboard. For my workflow, I combine Curio with Obsidian and Devonthink.

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Hi Natsdv, is it possible to post a screen shot of your Curio workflow - without compromising your data ?

I do have confidential information on my boards; but maybe I can find a way to do a few shareable screenshots that would give you enough of a picture. My Curio workflow is still a “work in progress” and is also very personalized for this season of my work life… So the concepts are transferable and might work for you but probably not so much the particulars… The Curio users forum https://forums.zengobi.com is a good place to explore workflows and where I got the ideas for my own.


This first screenshot is an example of what my Master Overview Board looks like. It’s a Table of Contents that links to various overview boards that track projects. For example the first board is for all the projects I do in the commercial market. But I also do projects in the non-profit market so have a separate category group for those.
This board is where I can see every project in my Commercial category. The line represents the journey my projects make from start to finish (and also where they stall or get lost). Projects are simply names that I move around. It is a simple board. The “look” or aesthetics probably wouldn’t work for many people, but I designed it for me.
Every project has one or more overview boards and this is one example. I develop renewable energy projects for clients so I need to design systems, run them in simulators and then model the economics. While some of the “tasks” listed here are one-off to-dos, many of them are sub-projects in their own right. I like that I can see in one picture the major sub-projects. Individual tasks go into my separate task manager. The hyperlink on the left side links back to the Master Board.
This is a different kind of board, a hybrid, that I use for work involving three committees or teams that I’m a part of. There is an Eisenhower matrix in the middle. Again, this board helps me decide what individual tasks to enter into my task manager.


Thank you for taking the time to make this post.

I tend to use my task manager as catch all…but it feels too nebulous and without intention. Your top down overview approach is interesting.

Very nice examples for using Curio – thank you.

So David has mentioned a few times in his podcasts recently, the personas that he’s set up when it comes measuring his performance (lawyer, father, friend etc)

This has got me intrigued. Is this a recognized system? Is there somewhere I can read more about it? Or a podcast of his that dives into these personas in more detail?

You may have already heard this, but in the “Roles and Goals” Focus podcast, #117, David gets into his process of identifying and defining ideal roles for the different areas in his life, and how he develops action items for each. His Personal Retreat video and retreat guide get into the details of how to replicate his process. https://www.macsparky.com/blog/2021/1/the-essential-weekly-review

The article in his blog, “The Essential Weekly Review”, shows how he uses the role definitions in his weekly review.

I don’t know that this is a “recognized system,” but I have personally found it to be the most practical and functional method for me to identify my values, what is important to me, and what I should be working on. In my weekly reviews, I steal David’s questions and apply them to the role definitions I crafted during my own personal retreat.

I have never encountered a system quite like David’s. While there are approaches that do retreats/reviews on the basis of various aspects of a person’s life, David’s approach is, in my experience, completely unique to him.


This was my favorite episode yet. Thanks to all three of you!

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Thanks for taking the time to write that up @Jeagar52

This was a fantastic episode, thank you very much. I may be a month behind on my episodes but I never miss a show.

This one got me to re-thinking the Kanban plugin in Obsidian. I figured that since I could start the Kanban as a markdown, it might be as easy as copying and pasting my OmniFocus projects directly into Obsidian, which is what I have done in the past with iThoughts… It was!

Here’s what I did:
In OmniFocus -

  • Click on the projects tab
  • Select All Projects in the Sidebar
  • Collapse All Projects in the Outline Pane
  • Select All Projects in the Outline Pane
  • Copy All Projects

In Obsdian (assuming that Kanban plugin is installed and working correctly) -

  • Paste the Projects into the Markdown view of a new Kanban file in Obsidian
  • At this point you should see a list of all of your projects, each on a separate line, with each containing a markdown link back to their respective project in OmniFocus
  • Now have fun; you can set up Headings that correspond to different Kanban columns and start to move your projects around. In my case, I set up a “Today” column, then 4 columns relating to each of the Omnifocus project status names (Active, On Hold, Completed, Dropped). Initially, I assigned all of the projects to “On Hold” then started to drag them to the appropriate place. I noticed within a couple of minutes that I had 3 projects that were completed and 2 that should be dropped. That allowed me to clean up OmniFocus.
  • I also created an “Exit Review” column to allow for a review of a project prior to closing

There’s a great David Allen-ism on the topic of saying no to things. I couldn’t find the exact quote (it’s referenced here, but requires GTD membership to access), but it goes something like this:

The problem is that you have integrity, but you aren’t clear about your commitments. Because you’re not sure what you’ve said yes to, you’re not sure if you can’t do whatever you’re being asked to do. Because you have integrity, you can’t say for sure that you can’t do what you’re being asked to do, so you have to say yes.

But if you were clear about what your commitments are, you would know that you don’t actually have the capacity to do what you’re being asked to do. So, because you have integrity, you know that you have to actually say no.

(I’m not doing it justice—if anyone knows where he said it, I’d love to capture it exactly!)

That struck a chord with me. The very same integrity that would lead you to say “no” to requests is the thing that causes you to say “yes” to everything if you aren’t clear on your current commitments. It is so important to understand your current responsibilities and capacities because otherwise, you are compelled to say “yes” to everything, even if you know you can’t deliver on it.

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I’m not sure this is what you’re looking for but I searched David Allen‘s book on my Kindle app with the word integrity. Here is the closest thing I have found.

Don’t Make the Agreement

It probably felt pretty good to take a bunch of your old stuff, decide that you weren’t going to do anything with it, and just toss it into the trash. One way to handle an incompletion in your world is to just say no! You’d lighten up if you would just lower your standards. If you didn’t care so much about things being up to a certain level—your parenting, your school system, your team’s morale, the software code—you’d have fewer things to do. 14

I doubt you’re going to lower your standards. But once you really understand what it means, you’ll probably make fewer agreements. I know I did. I used to make a lot of them, just to win people’s approval. When I realized the price I was paying on the back end for not keeping those agreements, I became a lot more conscious about the ones I made. One insurance executive I worked with described the major benefit he derived from implementing this system: “Previously I would just tell everyone, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,’ because I didn’t know how much I really had to do. Now that I’ve got the inventory clear and complete, just to maintain my integrity I have had to say, ‘No, I can’t do that, I’m sorry.’ The amazing thing is that instead of being upset with my refusal, everyone was impressed by my discipline!” Maintaining an objective inventory of your work makes it much easier to say no with integrity.

Thanks! He’s definitely said similar things in many places. The moment I’m thinking of was in a podcast and it was particularly quotable—but I may just be imagining things…

Either way—it’s a powerful insight!