Using iThoughts for the high-altitude view

Interesting, helpful post from Gabe Weatherhead (MacDrifter) on using iThoughts for the high-altitude view of complex projects. (1)

My experience is similar – also, as Gabe, overseeing complex multi-year programs with what at times feels like an “uncountable” number of moving parts, resources, and dark corners. I’ve always found it useful to regularly step back, draw a picture of the program, and then explain it to someone outside the program team envelope. This alway spurs insights and a good idea of where blockers can happen and how they can be removed.

(1) It doesn’t have to be iThoughts – could be any concept map or just a piece of paper and some colored pens.


The place where the current systems break down was really obvious and jumped out at me:

Let’s take this to the next level by linking from a map item into an OmniFocus perspective or tag.

Thereafter was pandemonium. There was a definite switch from I use this tool for high-level views, and this tool for managing tasks to explaining the clunky gyrations needed to link the apps. When it comes to forming some symbiosis between the tools, it’s all on the user to figure out workarounds.

This is where I hope Hook, or something like it, will help.

It might have to be at the OS level though. E.g. click the branch in iThoughts, hold command and click the related five tasks in OmniFocus, then press ‘L’ to link. Now an adornment appears on both ends of the link, on the iThoughts branch, and the five OF tasks. Click the adornment to navigate between. Open AppleLinkViewerExtraordinaire to see a map of links.

On the one hand I can see the desire to link views – link from a map to OF or whatever – and on the other hand I can see that curating that mesh of links can be a drag on time without a lot of benefit.

Hook is an interesting possibility, and is headed down the path of providing links to data bits internal to apps: hooks into actions in OF, or documents in Outlinely or DEVONthink, etc.

I think beyond Hook though is the is the need to have tools that discover connections on the fly. Most of the tools on our machines are still document-oriented and discovering links between the inside of this document and the inside of that document is still manual. We can hope that the next generations of Spotlight and its cousins would incorporate AI tech that learns what’s important to the user and figures out where that stuff is inside our documents.

I’ve done similar things which Gabe has outlined with MindNode in the past. It’s great for generating the ideas at the start. Developing task lists when you don’t have your hands around a project can be extremely difficult. Love using this as the starting point. Great stuff from Gabe, as always!

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That’s a niche filled by DEVONthink at the moment. Some sort of nice visual, clickable display built from its results would be nice.

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