Reduce context switch in the OmniFocus Inbox using a Process perspective

GTD recommends that we process our stuff in the inbox sequentially, without grouping beforehand. The problem with this approach is that many items related to different projects are scattered in our inbox, so we’re jumping in and out of projects while processing our inbox. This constant context switching drains energy from our brain.

If we want to spare our attention, it is a good idea to group our unprocessed inbox items by project, so we can reduce the context switching when we process them. Using this approach for the GTD Process and Organize steps will ensure that we clean things related to each project in one go, not in a random order.

Hmm, I am simply choosing a project and appropriate context tags for my items when processing the Inbox.

Two simple steps, and they are no longer in the Inbox.

Then choose what Project to work on.

My use case might be less complex than yours, I’m thinking.

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Sure, if you have clearly defined next actions in the Inbox, that works fine.

But I capture everything into my OmniFocus inbox, not just next actions. Sometimes I have a file linked from Finder or a Craft note, maybe an idea I jotted down that I don’t want to forget. These things require more thinking than just assigning a tag or a project. This is when pre-organizing them by projects can help.

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This is a nice tactic to add to the swiss army knife of tools needed to break up a stagnant list. Works better if you tag every task, though–I have too many projects appearing in this list. I’ll be keeping this kind of perspective around, though.

It sounds like you’re putting a lot of things in your inbox. I have 2 questions for you

  1. Are all of those things necessary; and,
  2. Wouldn’t it be as quick to assign them to projects and tag them as you assign them, rather than use a 2 stage process to add them to the inbox and then project/tag them?

GTD has many great ideas, but the idea of adding everything to the inbox is from when we used to save things on paper. Sure some quick thoughts go in the inbox, but I bet that’s less than 5% of the things I add to Omnifocus.

I followed up on this post to answer some of your questions and clarify this workflow better. Answering follow-up questions about the Process perspective – Decoding


Actually, I would really prefer, to get a follow post within this forum, instead on someones private website!
If everybody would start to do so, we could close all forums, and post only initial posts, to follow them across the Internet!
Furthermore I don’t think it is save, to just click on every link to someones website, to catch whatever there might be “waiting” for you!

Regarding your “trick”:

If this works for you, stick with it!!

GTD is not a religion.
It is a method, that everybody has to adjust to his/her personal needs, to keep it working.
That said, with your trick, I would need about twice the time, to empty my inbox compared with the already by @geoffaire mentioned way to complete the setting for each item, and then go on to the next one.
Furthermore, while GTD is a very personal thing, and everybody should do it the way it works best for them, but also don’t expect everybody else jump happily onto their “tricks”, the GTD Concept, how it is teached, states pretty clear, that no item should be put “back” into the inbox.
If you pick something from the inbox to process it, put it into the next place, and NEVER back into the inbox.
The concept teached is named “Inbox Zero”, and that for good reasons.
The Inbox is, acc. the teached methodology, not a place to process items within.
You grab an item, process it, and put it where it belongs.
Your system is not working accordingly, as you process everything within your inbox at least twice!

As said, if your “trick” is working for you, stay with it.
But it seems that you are surprised that not everyone reacts “happy” about it, and that might be the reason, because it works for you, but is somewhat “outside” the teached GTD-Method, and not everybody wants to do the extra work, or could spent the extra time, needed for your “trick” to process the inbox.

So, if you have a workflow you want to share, or a trick that might be relevant to others, just share it!
But you shouldn’t be angry, if it is not working, or appreciated, for/by everybody else.

People posting on their own websites was the way the web used to work in the good old days! And I miss having all those great websites.

So, thanks, @zsbenke, for posting on your very own website!


Nope, in “the good old days” we used the Usenet with Newsgroups where the people placed their posts.
And from that time we had also the Netiquette, where Crosspostings where scorned, and Multipostings not allowed!

Everybody can post whatever he/she wants on his/her own websites, but doing so as a follow-up on a forum post, is destroying the forum!

So, if you have a workflow you want to share, or a trick that might be relevant to others, just share it!
But you shouldn’t be angry, if it is not working, or appreciated, for/by everybody else.

I’m far from being angry. :slight_smile:

The GTD/OmniFocus community usually welcomes contributions that can help tune their systems. I was just surprised that I received a couple of angry feedback from some orthodox GTDers over email and comments on Reddit about this small trick.

This is why I wrote a follow-up post, which hopefully shows the reasons behind it a bit clearer.

Actually, I would really prefer, to get a follow post within this forum, instead on someones private website!

I posted this on my website for two reasons:

  1. I posted the original idea there, so it is logical to add a follow-up there.
  2. I prefer to own and control the appearance of my content on the web, but that’s a completely different topic.

That’s not what Inbox Zero means. What you’re describing is the “Touch it once” method

Inbox Zero is about getting your inbox to empty on a regular basis (whether that’s daily, weekly…) so you know that everything is in a state where it needs to be, whether that’s completed (takes less than 2 minutes), filed, deleted, or in your system waiting to be done at the appropriate time

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David Allen - “The Art of getting Things done”:

Empty the Buckets Regularly

The final success factor for collecting should be obvious: if you
don’t empty and process the "stuff you’ve collected, your buckets
aren’t serving any function other than the storage of amorphous
material. Emptying the bucket does not mean that you have to
finish what’s in your voice-mail, e-mail, or in-basket; it just means
you have to take it out of the container, decide what it is and what
should be done with it, and, if it’s still unfinished, organize it into
your system. You don’t put it back into “in” ! Not emptying your
in-basket is like having garbage cans that nobody ever dumps —
you just have to keep buying new ones to hold all your trash.

In order for you to get “in” to empty, your total action-
management system must be in place. Too much "stuff is left
piled in in-baskets because of a lack of effective systems “down-
stream” from there. It often seems easier to leave things in “in”
when you know you have to do something about them but can’t
do it right then. The in-basket, especially for paper and e-mail, is
the best that many people can do in terms of organization — at
least they know that somewhere in there is a reminder of some-
thing they still have to do. Unfortunately, that safety net is lost
when the piles get out of control or the inventory of e-mails gets
too extensive to be viewed on one screen.

When you master the next phase and know how to process
your incompletes easily and rapidly, “in” can return to its original
function. Let’s move on to how to get those in-baskets and e-mail
systems empty without necessarily having to do the work now.

I’m not sure what point you’re making @Ulli

This doesn’t mention Inbox Zero, which isn’t surprising as the phrase doesn’t come from GTD, it come from Merlin Mann

Merlin Mann just put a Name on, what David Allen already described in his book some years ago.