Workflow – Left Out on the Ramp
Part one was not the meatiest of reads but I hope it did set the scene for this first step in my aviation workflow. Now we start to look at each step that I introduced you to in Part 1. So, get comfortable and read on about The Ramp.
The airport ramp, apron, flight line, or tarmac is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refuelled, or boarded. In terms of GTD we can view the Ramp the same as the Inbox, the place where “stuff” starts out or is on-hold.
My analogy of the Inbox being like the Ramp at an airport goes a bit further than just a holding area. If you speak to any CEO of an aviation company they would tell you that having a plane on the Ramp or Apron would mean that the company was loosing money.
- Daily charge for using the Ramp
- Plane payments/rental
- Airport costs & taxes
The way to think of this is that unless there are passengers sat on the plane or there is freight in the belly then you are leaking money.
The project/task that is sat on the Ramp (GTD Inbox) is costing us personally, professionally, and as a business. In my professional role of Project Manager I have to be able to cost each task and identify the risk and therefore the costed impact if a task is late. I also know how long each task will take and when one task is late that will impact the delivery of all the tasks that follow it, known as the critical path.
As you can see, the quicker you get that task off the Ramp the less of an impact it will have on you and your system.
Let’s Get Perspective
Time to define the first perspective for this workflow.
Before I start I need to make clear that the creation of a perspective in OmniFocus is a pro feature. If you have not paid for, or subscribe to the pro edition of OmniFocus you will not be able to create the perspective that I describe here.
Plan your day better with OmniFocus time estimates
“…good intentions need to be tempered by reasonable expectations.”
Before going any further I need to be open with you, I used to regularly fail to accomplish what I planned for each day. When the morning began, big plans were put in place but at the end of the day, a pile of undone tasks would linger in my OmniFocus “Do” perspective. These would then be passed on for the next day’s action list… and so each day would repeat what had passed previously.
It quickly became demoralising to watch the Pile of Do, Do’s grow, and I often felt out of control when looking at what seemed like a reasonable list of things to accomplish in a day’s schedule. Clearly, good intentions need to be tempered by reasonable expectations.
Enter time estimates. Over the years of being a professional Project Manager I have learned to be thorough in my work and part of that has been a fundamental use of estimates with tasks. When I started using OmniFocus, I have never really used its ability to assign a time estimate to projects and tasks. It seemed like extra effort for very little return: all OmniFocus really does with time estimates is sort/filter.
But time is a critical dimension of doing: without time, there is no action. It should follow that time estimates are just as important. An action without time is just a statement, time without action is just downright lazy.
So here is the RAMP state that I use with my OmniFocus workflow:
Tasks are collected and placed into my inbox, I don’t use the OmniFocus Inbox Perspective as I want to have the following rules on what is displayed in the perspective:
- All Available tasks
- without a Tag
- without a Project
- without an Estimate
Unfortunately the Inbox perspective does not give me the option to include the Estimate test (might be able to address this in Omnijs, but that is a project for another date).
This rule then translates into my OmniFocus perspective “The Ramp” as follows:
Still on the topic of time and entering estimates, the physical act of being able to check the total time scheduled on the day’s planned items helps to:
- Remove anxiety over giving yourself too much to achieve
- Remove lowest priority items until the list is doable. (Using the Time In-Flight Shortcut to help see the time breakdown. This will be in a future article linked to the Shortcuts used to support the workflow).
- Clarify next actions. In cases where it was difficult to assign a time estimate, I realised I hadn’t clarified the next action well enough. Poorly defined next action → inaction.
- Clarify what is feasible for the day. For example, not using the estimate you are open to crowding your plan with unrealistic goals and at the end of the day you only complete a fraction of the planned workload. If you had the estimates it would be clear that all was not feasible, instead you now sit disheartened, questioning your workflow and letting the word “TRUST” creeps into your subconscious mind.
You can start right now. No need to assign estimates to everything in your OmniFocus database; just estimate what you’re looking at for today.
Having seen how simple this process is, so many of my clients wish that they had done this years ago.