Workflowy Organization v2

A few months ago I wrote How Workflowy Has Changed the Way I Work detailing how I use the Workflowy web and iPhone app to stay organized and get things done. I continue to use Workflowy more than any other app and have made a few changes to how I use it since I wrote the original post. A few of you mentioned that you found the original write-up helpful so I thought I’d share a list (naturally) of what’s changed since then.

If you’re new to Workflowy or haven’t read my original post on it, I encourage you to check it out for context about these changes.

The template

As with the template in the original write-up, black items are fixed and gray items are placeholders for content that you create. The blue circles correspond to the changes in the list below.

workflowy_v2_v2

What’s new in this version

1. Appointments now go in Workflowy and only Workflowy

In the past, I kept appointments in both the iPhone Calendar app and in Workflowy because I liked having appointments in the calendar for quick reference, but also liked having them in Workflowy so that I could plan tasks around them.

As time went by, I found myself only referencing the Workflowy iPhone app while I was out because it represented my true schedule (appointments, deadlines, and tasks) much better than the calendar app alone did. These days I don’t even bother adding appointments to the calendar app; they go straight into Workflowy and that’s all that I reference.

Also, and this is a very minor change, I’ve grown fond of using the em dash (—) instead of a colon to separate the time of an appointment from its description.

2. Short term tasks now include the date

Because I now solely use Workflowy for appointments, having the day of the week and its corresponding date is much more important than before. For example, instead of a Short Term list item being just “Monday” it’s now “Monday, 21 Oct”.

3. Task list timeframes are more flexible

Previously I just included the upcoming seven days or so in the Short Term list and anything farther out than that went into the Medium Term or Long Term lists. These days I’m a bit more flexible with what goes where. Short term tasks, for example, are typically up to two weeks out and things taking place beyond that usually still go in the Medium Term or Long Term lists, but the boundaries are not set in stone.

4. No more focus areas

In the last version, I kept focus areas — things that weren’t tasks but that I wanted to pay attention to during the current week — as list items in the Overall list. I no longer include a focus area; everything in the Short Term, Medium Term, and Long Term lists are tasks that can be completed.

5. Month lists to group long term appointments

I found that as I had more and more upcoming deadlines and appointments several weeks or months out, the Medium Term and Long Term lists would get cluttered with lists of dates. To remedy this, I started creating groups based on the month the appointment or deadline is slated to take place (November, December, etc) and then I collapse it so that there is only one visible list item. As the month approaches, I ungroup the dates and move them into the Short Term list.

6. Projects are no longer divided into groups

This past summer I had an unusually large number of ongoing projects which is why I organized them into groups. I’ve scaled back since then and now only have a few ongoing projects and a few more in my “Potential Projects” list making it unnecessary to organize them into groups.

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It’s worth noting that this may be the second Workflowy system that I’ve written about, but this has evolved from a much simpler system that I started with in early 2012. If you’re just getting started with Workflowy, start small and improve it over time to see what works for you. Good luck and let me know how I can help.

6 thoughts on “Workflowy Organization v2

  1. How Workflowy Has Changed the Way I Work – Matt Mazur

  2. Thanks for sharing, Matt. After years of using over-complicated task managers I too am looking to simplify my approach by using Workflowy. I haven’t quite figured out what works best for me but your tips are a great starting point. How do you manage not to use a calendar at all? Do people not send you meeting invites?

    • Hey Kai,

      I am fortunate not to have many recurring meetings or deadlines. I can count them all on one hand so it’s fairly easy for me to remember them and add them to my Workflowy todo list each week.

      If you find that you need a calendar, I used to keep all of my appointments and deadlines in my iPhone’s calendar and also kept them in Workflowy so that I could plan around them. It takes a little bit more work, but I like being able to see them and my todo list items all together so it’s worth it to me.

      I’d encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you. I’d love to hear what you settle on.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Matt,

    I also enjoyed reading your posts and I also love Workflowy. As to Kai’s question about a calendar: I can’t imagine working without a calendar-based task system. I have many long-term tasks. So I feel much more relaxed when those long-term tasks aren’t just ‘out there somewhere ‘ – but instead I’ve assigned them generally to a certain range of dates. For example, I want to know in my mind that the tasks related to next year’s income tax return are properly scheduled to start (generally ) around January next year.

    So I’m ‘addicted’ to a calendar. I’m self-employed and don’t share many projects in a team, so the best software for me is Anytime Organizer. But to me the key is it’s easy for me to combine Anytime Organizer and Workflowy. If I have a task scheduled next month for which I’ve added a link in Workflowy, then I just note the task on the proper date in Anytime Organizer, with a (W) at the end of that task. That (W) indicates to me that I have a Workflowy outline with it. I just click on my Workflowy and search for that task. It’s an easy 2 steps.

    Or,if I have an calendar appointment scheduled with someone in Anytime Organizer and I have notes about that person in Workflowy, I then just note (W) at the end of that appointment on my calendar, and search that person’s name in Workflowy.

    Another (to me ingenious) use of Workflowy: I love the way it stores websites. So whenever I find a website with music I like, I copy that link into Workflowy. I have a Workflowy topic called “Music” with many sub-topics that are websites of different kinds of music. And when I’m in the mood for a certain type of music, I just click on that particular link in my Workflowy outline. And since I also have the iPhone Workflowy app, I can also have that music when I’m out and about, and driving my car. To me, it’s just like Pandora, but totally free.

    Generally, Workflowy is so simple and flexible that it has a great variety of uses.

    • What a great comment :)

      When I had a lot of hard deadlines in my life, I used a calendar-based task list very heavily. I love the idea of merging the two so that the deadlines are in your task list, but you have an indication (W) that there are more details in Workflowy. Especially when you have access to both on your smart phone, it seems like a great way to do things.

      Thank you for the insightful comment. Keep in touch!

  4. I really love workflowy – and it seems to me like you have designed a really great productivity system using it.

    I tried to do this at one point and found that it didn’t’ work out for me. There were too many short comings of a general purpose app like workflowy that outweighed the advantageous of using workflowy. This was before I helped design GTDNext (http://GTDNext.com)

    Having had that experience with WF, I knew that I wanted my GTD system to also use an outline. So we designed GTDNext from the ground up to use an outline interface. This gives us all the advantageous of an outline, like having unlimited sub-projects and all our reference material for each task or project right in the same app.

    However, by adding in the GTD features right into the outliner we are able to do many things that aren’t really possible with an outline.

    For example, we have repeating tasks, start dates for tasks, due dates. Automatic promotion of next actions from each project to the next action list.

    So, as much as I love workflowy, I can’t say I use it for my GTD system. There are just too many things that I need to manually to make it work, and I end up forgetting to do those things.

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