Getting Things Done with OmniFocus is great for managing your own personal workflow, but can you use the GTD system and OmniFocus to manage other people? It seems most of the productivity advice is geared towards lone workers managing some tech project such as a web site build, but what if you manage people instead?
Just like managing your own productivity, managing other people’s productivity can greatly benefit from establishing a system to track all of the various balls that might be in the air at any given time. More so, establishing a system that allows you as a manager to interact calmly and in an organized manner will not only make your meeting more efficient, it might just help you avoid being hated by those you manage!
We have probably all had the boss who micro-manages driven by their own anxiety. That is, the boss that wants to make sure he told you to do X (even if he has told you 10 times), or peppers you throughout the day with random thoughts as they spring into her head, or fails to follow-up on projects that were proclaimed to be mission critical because his attention drifted elsewhere.
To avoid being this kind of boss, it is critical to have a system in place that allows you to focus on the big picture of running an organization while resting sure that the details are not going to be dropped. After implementing GTD and OmniFocus for myself, I have found it works great for managing others by implementing the following processes.
Contexts and Start Dates
The key to keeping track of projects assigned to those you manage is the use of contexts associated with specific people. Essentially, any project, action item or follow-up you file into OmniFocus dealing with a person you manage will receive the context of that person name.
In this case, I have created a follow-up item to discuss check printing software with Laura. You will notice I used a Context of Laura with a Start Date equal to the date of our next scheduled Weekly Review (more on that below). I use the start date so that when sorting tasks by availability, I can “hide” those actions that don’t require my thinking about yet or don’t need to be brought up yet (if, for instance, I want to set something out a month, I don’t want to see it at each weekly review until then). Further, I don’t give it a due date unless there is a hard and fast due date.
Another simple thing you can do is enter emails sent to people you manage to OmniFocus so as to track the follow-up on the item. OmniFocus is implementing a new feature called “OmniFocus Mail Drop” that will allow you to send emails directly to OmniFocus, but until this feature comes out of beta, you can add the email manually or by using the steps described here.
The weekly review has been called the “critical success factor” of the Getting Things Done system by no other than David Allen, and it is the very same weekly review that can supercharge your management of other people. For a quick refresher, here is Allen on the importance of the weekly review:
I am a strong believer in the power of the weekly review for both your own personal work and those whom you manage. If used effectively, the weekly review can be a time to track progress on assigned projects, answer questions or brainstorm solutions, identify new projects, and prioritize work for the coming week. Most importantly, a weekly review gives the manager a great opportunity to provide one-on-one feedback and coaching.
OmniFocus allows you to easily review all of the projects or follow-ups assigned to someone you manage. In this situation, I have three projects pending with a context of “Laura”. Using the Contexts view, you can select the appropriate context to see all items associated with that context. You can then use the View fields to select Grouping (in this case by project) and Availability (in this case by all remaining items):
This perspective gives me easy access to all pending items that should be discussed in our weekly review. More importantly, it allows me, as a manager, to drive an efficient and productive one on one meeting. Finally, any follow-up items that arise from this weekly review can be easily added by following the same steps again.
I have often struggled with much of the GTD writing and advice out there as it seems to be geared to the freelancer, independent dev, or solo-practioner, but after implementing the system for myself, I have discovered that the same techniques that work for driving individual productivity can certainly apply to managing others. The key remains capturing, organizing and reviewing your tasks with special emphasis on the weekly review.