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Separating Task Management and Project Managament

I watched this video and it gave me the exact insight to move a step further in my approach:

I am currently using Things 3, but occasionally and begrudgingly flirt with OmniFocus. The reason is that my project are quite complex. (My TaskPaper project file for my book on habits has 447 lines and 7300 words) Things can't meet the complexity I need. My project management is a mix of information, task, sub project, dependencies and stuff. So, I thought that I am just too unskilled using OmniFocus.

But I think just mix two concerns that should be separated.

What do you think?

I am a Zettler

Comments

  • This YouTube video is a perfect example of why I avoid YouTube: it is a wordy, repetitive talking head communicating information in 5 minutes (at 2× speed) that could have been communicated in 1 minute in a 1-paragraph blog post.

    He's correct, but he's not succinct.

  • The subject of project management is closely connected to your previous discussion topic, "Finding Graphic Software". Various kinds of graphics are very helpful in project management: Gantt/schedule chart, work breakdown structure diagram, etc. I think there are many helpful graphics in the book: Kevin Forsberg, Hal Mooz, & Howard Cotterman (2005), Visualizing Project Management: Models and Frameworks for Mastering Complex Systems (3rd edition, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley). I have seen some critical book reviews online that say that the book is too simple, but it is good enough for me. For example, the book's Figure 12.4 "The planning process: from problem solving to commitment" is a meta-graphic that shows the various kinds of graphics that are used in project management.

  • edited August 2023

    Funnily enough, I've just started dabbling with Apple Numbers for some of my work. I have a DEVONthink folder (group in their terminology) for each thing that is something like a project or area of interest and collect material that might be relevant in those. The problem for me has always been the big picture. I need something visual to give context, but I've never really found anything that did it for me. I often wish that DEVONthink had some sort of visual front end, and I know that some people have used Curio for that, but it seems a bit clunky to me.

    There is a gap in the market, I think.

    I've also just begun to dabble with Heptabase. Don't know if it will be useful yet.

  • @MartinBB said:

    There is a gap in the market, I think.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but I don't think there is a gap in the market: PM software such as Merlin (for macOS: another German company, by the way) has for many years provided a variety of visual front ends for organizing and managing information about projects.

  • edited August 2023

    I'd say things can handle all the complexity up to the point where it crashes, in which case you'd simply buy more RAM and CPU cores.

    It makes sense to use a single tool for both task management and project management due to its interactive nature but it could be standalone tools as well.

    The first step in project planning is always to choose the right planning method. You are probably already familiar with some. Which one is best for your needs? Is it collaborative work? For personal projects you could use the natural planning model or anything you like.

    Then find the tools to implement it.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @zk_1000 said:

    The first step in project planning is always to choose the right planning method. You are probably already familiar with some. Which one is best for your needs? Is it collaborative work? For personal projects you could use the natural planning model or anything you like.

    Then find the tools to implement it.

    This is well said. This is essentially why, in my second comment above, I pointed to a book of "models and frameworks" for project management and not to a particular software app.

    When I said in my first comment that the YouTuber is "correct", I meant: I agree with him that a to-do list management app is not a project management app, or that keeping a to-do list is not the same as managing a project. This is clear in Figure 12.4 "The planning process: from problem solving to commitment" that I mentioned above, where the task/responsibility matrix is only one part of the overall planning process.

  • @Andy said:
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you

    I wasn't clear. I meant a visual front end for a data repository like DEVONthink. I know of Merlin and various others, but I don't have projects of the kind for which they might be useful. My "projects" are more along the lines of trying to help clients feel happier. And given my advancing age I am beginning to think more in terms of gravestones than milestones -- and I don't need Gantt charts for that ...

  • @MartinBB said:

    I wasn't clear. I meant a visual front end for a data repository like DEVONthink. I know of Merlin and various others, but I don't have projects of the kind for which they might be useful. My "projects" are more along the lines of trying to help clients feel happier.

    We may be going off topic, but I use DEVONthink as well, but (ironically in this context in which you complain about it not being a good front end!) I use it mostly as an alternative front end to my note system. If you want more of a "big picture" of whatever you are collecting in those project folders, you may need some kind of "structure note" (or multiple structure notes) that contains that big picture. You mentioned Apple Numbers, so perhaps you are using a Numbers document as a kind of structure note? Spreadsheets are versatile tools.

  • This reminds me of https://blog.sanctum.geek.nz/series/unix-as-ide/

    An overly technical example but the idea is that you maybe shouldn't search for any one specific program to do everything.

    Tools should "do one thing and do it well"

    The tools you would need for project management differ depending on the specific project. Not everything needs a gantt chart. The most important part though is a way to connect everything

    Maybe a structure note that links out to relevant notes, tasks, file folders, specific files?

    Or simply a stable project ID you can use across everything?

  • @Andy said:
    We may be going off topic

    Indeed, but my mind tends to make links, and something in the video reminded me of this post: https://hookproductivity.com/blog/2020/05/how-to-turn-a-taskpaper-file-into-a-project-information-hub/ which then reminded me of DEVONthink, as I use a similar approach of creating folders for projects (or "projects") inside databases. I often include a file which I think of as an "index" or "contents page", which corresponds to your structure note.

    The problem for me is that once I exceed about six or seven bullet points on an index note, I can no longer see the wood for the trees, hence my desire for a visual representation which uses spatial arrangements and colours to make it easier to see the big picture. To some extent I can fill this niche by making a mind map as an index note using MindNode, but it is extra work. One of the reasons why I find Heptabase so interesting is that the visual/spatial aspect is kind of baked in from the outset, and is an intrinsic part of working with the program.

    I guess you could claim that DEVONthink is a useful tool for project management, but what I hanker after is a front end for it that could do something like this: https://visualizingsep.com/#/entries/aristotle/.

    An impossible dream, of course!

  • @zk_1000 said:
    I'd say things can handle all the complexity up to the point where it crashes, in which case you'd simply buy more RAM and CPU cores.

    It is not about the limitations of the hardware but for example about the levels of depth. Things has areas, projects, tasks and checklists. That's it. I don't use checklists because they are hidden and I'd have to click on the task to see what's in there.

    It doesn't offer nimble features to quickly zoom in an action item and flesh it out.

    It makes sense to use a single tool for both task management and project management due to its interactive nature but it could be standalone tools as well.

    This was my intuition, before I watched the video. It makes perfect sense to me (though, I agree with @Andy that it is not that concise. However, I watch YouTube on 1,5-2x speed anyhow and use YouTube as a backup solution to work when my brain is no longer willing to focus on other mediums).

    The appeal of Things is that it is very simple and elegant.

    This is for example my project on improving my toolkit to create visuals:

    and this is my current List for the rest of today:

    When I prepare my day, I just want to have a list of what to do next. Clean, simple, elegant.

    These are the first lines of my habit book project:

    It will become much more complex until it will collapse (which then marks the change from research to writing). Complexity is the very feature I hate for task management. For a project, I want access to complexity.

    The first step in project planning is always to choose the right planning method. You are probably already familiar with some. Which one is best for your needs? Is it collaborative work? For personal projects you could use the natural planning model or anything you like.

    I haven't made up my mind. :D Right now, I got my task management to a sufficient level. Project management works, but I feel I leave a lot on the table until I reach the point of gold plating. :)


    @Andy said:
    Various kinds of graphics are very helpful in project management: Gantt/schedule chart, work breakdown structure diagram, etc. I think there are many helpful graphics in the book: Kevin Forsberg, Hal Mooz, & Howard Cotterman (2005), Visualizing Project Management: Models and Frameworks for Mastering Complex Systems (3rd edition, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley).

    Many thanks for that recommendation. It added it by the way to the "model" section of one of the upcoming longer writing projects "Building Blocks of Knowledge" (basically, an extended version of the article) :)


    This looks awesome! Thanks!

    An overly technical example but the idea is that you maybe shouldn't search for any one specific program to do everything.

    Tools should "do one thing and do it well"

    I agree. Hence, my separation of task and project management.

    The tools you would need for project management differ depending on the specific project. Not everything needs a gantt chart. The most important part though is a way to connect everything

    Maybe a structure note that links out to relevant notes, tasks, file folders, specific files?

    Or simply a stable project ID you can use across everything?

    Again, I agree. When I get to it, I will most likely follow how I did it with the ZKM: I start with a solution just for myself, building a generalized theory in the meantime. Then I do another iteration.

    My special interest is in forms to generalize. For example, the time-line is such a form that I like to use. Or Stock-Flow (based on Thinking in Systems).


    @MartinBB It sounds to me that you are trying to solve the same riddle: Having access to complexity. :D

    I am a Zettler

  • @Sascha said:
    @MartinBB It sounds to me that you are trying to solve the same riddle: Having access to complexity. :D

    All my life ...

  • edited August 2023

    I use Things for task management AND small project management (lets say <10 tasks/project). I believe there are so many use/methodologies you can use in Things, not only the "official" one. E.g. for smaller projects, I am using mostly "pigpog" GTD notation, like [Trip to Italy] Research tickets / Decide on date / Call Steve - project name in square brackets and 1-3 most imminent or important tasks (or next actions) after it. The rest is in task note section - the whole project plan, many tasks separated by headings etc. And - as notes are nicely markdown-formatted - I believe that using note section extensively for project tasks and project info and brainstorming etc. is the way how to declutter Things.

    Before, I used real "Things project" for each project, thus having 10s of them in the app. I was paralysed. Now, I have often just 1 task (= 1 pigpog project) per project. That is much more manageable. And I can use e.g. "Traveling" as a Things project where I can put all my travel projects/microprojects. And of course, when I want to work on the specifc project task in some exceptional context and I need to create specific separated task (and schedule it for specific day or move to other Things area), I feel free to create it. But generally I work on my project in one time block, so just open this one "pigpog project task" (and viewing all the notes) is ok. At the end of project block, I just edit the project/task title (add new 1-3 tasks there or edit/remove old ones), e.g. now it becomes: [Trip to Italy] Research tickets / buy present for Ann / Check maps in iPhone And if I want to continue tomorrow (or first task is imminent tomorrow), I will schedule (using Things Upcoming) for tomorrow or whichever day I need.

    For bigger projects, I am using either Trello or OneNote (depending on type of project - OneNote for rather creative big projects, Trello for projects where I need good structure) and copy to Things on the go - the portion of project which is currently actual.

    Sometimes i create several subprojects in Things in this way: E.g. [Italy-Accomodation] Task 1 and [Italy-Packing] Task 1 / Task 2 etc., it depends on how I feel - the goal is having everything from my mind, but not clutter tasks too much = the level of granularity (in Task title = what is visible for me in first sight) changes, it is psychological function (with time, stress, priority etc - the more important project is or more imminent deadline - the more granular it needs to be and vice versa)

  • Wow. You are going in the exact opposite of what I am doing. :) I avoid task notes at all costs.

    Thanks for "PigPog". Never heard of this.

    I am a Zettler

  • @Hooffina said:
    Dealing with intricate projects like your book on habits can be quite a challenge, especially when juggling various elements like information, tasks, sub-projects, and dependencies. It's understandable that you're exploring different tools like Things 3 and OmniFocus to find the right fit.

    To be honest, right now, I don't find it challenging any longer. The only difficulty is the scope of my project. (800 lines in my TaskPaper files)

    I am a Zettler

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