- A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. George Moore
It is in the hope that you will find what you are looking for before searching the world over, at least as far as your GTD is concerned, that installment #7 of An Advanced GTD User’s Paradise is presented.
One of the deficiencies of my early forays into GTD applications was the ability to locate information once it had sunk into the depths of my trusted system. This was especially true when I was looking for information contained in a completed project. Consider OmniFocus the “home” in the above quote. Unlike some other implementations of GTD, you really don’t have to leave home to find what you seek.
I sense the need to take on the expected objections at the start, so let me first say that I understand that the GTD paradigm is not meant to be a storage medium for the completed. Its clear goal subsists in the here and now – or pending task, hence its moniker, Getting Things Done, and not Things I’ve Done.
With that being said, and with an understanding that much of what I am about to describe may not follow the letter of classic GTD, lets look at a variety of techniques that can be used to plumb the OmniFocus depths.
Why the Need to Search
There are a variety of reasons that search capability should be included in any complete GTD application – here are but a few.
- Your boss or project manager asks you when a particular task was completed.
- You need to locate some reference information that you previously stored in your GTD – the topic of last week’s post entitled, What To Do With All That Information.
- You need to repeat a project similar to a project completed at some time in the past, and want to see the task list and timeline for planning another project.
- You need documentation and details about a completed task or project.
- You need to provide a list of tasks or projects completed during a specific range of dates.
Search and Destroy
For many years before GTD, I was a Franklin Covey planner user. Not the electronic version mind you, but the “two page per day” paper planner that was in vogue during the last few decades. This provided me an area for my daily task lists and a journal, and worked, but when I needed to find something I had done in the past, it was a painfully arduous task. In fact, at one point I began keeping a worksheet in Excel with all the tasks that I thought I might need to find later. Talk about destroying time with your planner. I think that is much of the reason I love GTD, its always there, and given the right application, it is searchable.
So how do I search with OmniFocus. For Mac users, we expect to be able to search via a search box located in the upper-right corner of the main window in just about any application, e.g. mail, calendar, address book, browser, etc., so it isn’t surprising that OmniFocus provides the same functionality, and in the same place.
Searching for Projects
The first step, before beginning to type in the search box is to set the context for the search in the main outline window. Do you want to search “active” projects within your “work” area for both incomplete and complete tasks? Follow these steps.
- Select Active from the Project Filter at the top of the sidebar.
- Click on your Work Project folder in the sidebar.
- Change the Status Filter in the view bar to “Any Status”.
Now you should be looking at both completed and uncompleted tasks for the active projects in your Work Project folder in the main outline window. Just start typing search text into the Search box, and a few seconds later, only projects containing the search text will be displayed. Be careful to understand that all tasks for a project containing the search text will be displayed, not just tasks containing the text.
Find and Seek
So how do you quickly locate the search text among all of those projects, notes and tasks. Use another feature that should come as no surprise, though you may not have used it in OmniFocus. Pressing the key combination, CMD+F will bring up the Find and Replace box. Enter the same text into the box and click the Next and Previous buttons to navigate to the search text. The text will be located in complete or incomplete tasks, and when used in project titles and any project or task notes. Here is an example.
Weh, that was a lot of steps. But of course there is a quicker way. Can you think of it? Yes, that’s right, the perspective feature of OmniFocus comes to the rescue once again. I have created a perspective called “Search All” and assigned it to a toolbar button. So all I have to do to search is click the button and enter text into the search box. If there are a number of projects displayed, I just press CMD+F and start navigating through the hits.
Search All Perspective
Here are the settings for the “Search All” perspective so you can build one of your own.
- Project Filter (sidebar) = All Projects
- “Library” folder selected in sidebar
- Status Filter (viewbar) = Any Status
This perspective will search all projects, including completed projects, so it may take a few seconds to load. This perspective has helped me find information that would have otherwise been impossible to locate, or not worth the hours of effort demanded by my earlier planning systems. Thanks OmniFocus for giving us the ability to locate all of the information we have entered into our trusted system, even though it may not be perfect GTD technique.
Next post, I will be identifying all those customized toolbar buttons you’ve seen throughout earlier posts. Thanks for reading – John.