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Feedback on New UX

Elbert McLaughlin's Avatar

Elbert McLaughlin

30 Jun, 2010 03:38 PM

Hi All - Thought I'd create a new thread for discussion/feedback re: the new Nirvana upgrades (rather than chatting off-topic in other threads). Please let us know what we got right and what we got wrong. There are bound to be a few kinks to work out, and some adjusting for folks who were used to the old version. Fire away... !

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  1. 151 Posted by martin.tyler on 09 Jul, 2010 06:25 PM

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    I find it totally backwards and against GTD to happily scroll through non actionable tasks to find ones you can do

    And yet you don't want to see actionable tasks you have arbritarily decided are for next week???

    Completely backwards. Unbelievable

  2. 152 Posted by dwj on 09 Jul, 2010 06:52 PM

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    Take a breath, there can be trade offs in everything, including the decision that it is easier to scroll through a list some of which may not be immediately actionable, rather than micro managing the exact sequence of every item. There are varying degrees of purity and people need to find the degree which works for them

  3. 153 Posted by martin.tyler on 09 Jul, 2010 07:45 PM

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    Trade offs yes, I dont mind other features being there, if other people need other stuff thats fine with me... but without the ability to do fundamental GTD, and comments from Elbert that seem completely contradictory to GTD (only think about something once) i really wonder if i have wasted my time here.

    I honestly thought everyone got this and it was on its way - but it seems i may have been mistaken

  4. 154 Posted by MardiGrasStephe... on 09 Jul, 2010 08:29 PM

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    Keep thinking out loud. It really does work as long as people understand it is thinking and not a/the plan.

    Ok, I HATE tags. When anyone suggests it, I cringe and have flash backs of TD and having 5 tags per item and a bunch of different searches to give me the report I am looking for BUT there needs to be an easy way to filter through next actions.

    When I look at what needs to be done today, I want to see only those items. When I want to see what needs to be done this week (but does not have a due date) so I can decide on what to add to today's list, I only want to see those to do items. I have over 400+ actions and going through those weekly is difficult but manageable. Daily, I'd go nuts. I take my list, add a tag called week to that action so I can do a daily review on just those items to plan my day.

    Personally, I'd suggest a simple, everything is one list. If it needs to be done today, it gets a star, check, something. If it is high on the list of things to get done this week give it a different designation. There does need to be a view that only shows those items else it is mental overload if everything is seen

    Again, just thinking out loud.

    Oh. One suggestion though. Web 2.0 is great and all and drag and drop is cool but for working with lots of next actions, we need to be able to do just about everything from the keyboard as well.

  5. 155 Posted by peter.nistelber... on 09 Jul, 2010 09:14 PM

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    I think your Idea of an "upcoming" List is not so bad and could also work with gtd. because originally Next actions where defined as the next physical Action of a project.
    But I also have to disagree with some of your other Statements.

    I've got the feeling you try to implement some kind of "planning" feature. But GTD is not about planning when to do an Action. The weekly Review is about capturing, processing and reviewing. And when you use a GTD System the way Allen defined it there is absolutely no need to plan your Week. The Power of gtd lies in dealing with an ever changing World. One Call from your Boss, a Key Customer or a project Team member and everything could be different. Otherwise you would permanently postpone tasks from one day to the next. thats Not GTD. thats what my colleague is doing by writing all her tasks in her Outlook calendar.

    I understand that everyone has his own Way of productivity but when you Write GTD on the cover, there should also be GTD in the book.

    I also don't understand the confusion about projects. Allen speaks of project Plans and Next Actions lists that are divided by categories (@work, @Calls, ...). A project Plan consists of actionable and non-actionable tasks. but you only put the actinable tasks on the Next actions List. but GtD is not a Project Management Tool. Mostly its enough to Plan a few steps in your gtd projects because the World and especially projects are changing so fast.

    please excuse the typos. I wrote this post on my smart phone.

  6. 156 Posted by Proximo on 09 Jul, 2010 10:48 PM

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    I agree. If something is not a Next Action, it either goes in Someday, Waiting for, reference or trash can.

    Everything on the Next list is an Actionable task but you can't do them all at once. You choose what you will do by context, time, energy and priority and start doing it.

    All the NA's left in the Next list by default need to wait Later while you tackle the task that where the most important at the time. This is why I say that the Next list is also a Later list.

  7. 157 Posted by zen on 10 Jul, 2010 06:07 AM

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    Today, I watched the Someday/Maybe videos in GTD connect. Now, Proximo’s earlier long posts make a lot more sense. In one of the discussions DA discouraged people from creating intermediary lists between Next Actions and Someday/Maybe. Alternatively, they suggested subdividing a list to make it manageable to scan, e.g., Someday-Travel, Someday-books, etc.

    DA describes next actions as changes that you want to make on the world, or, “the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion.”

    Either you need new tires or you don’t. At some point, the tire thing crosses a very distinct line. Before then, not needed. After then, needed. Once they’re needed, there are no ABC categories for tires. They also don’t quite fit into the “quadrant” matrix. Either they are a project to be done as soon as we can or they are not. Period.

    TODAY and UPCOMING lists are GTD if they are subcategories of ACTION list. As suggested by Elbert this approach will give everyone flexibility to customize their own GTD system. GTD is all about flexibility so that one can trust their system to capture 100% of commitments and be available in an easily reviewable format.

    At some point, we need functional smart lists to effectively manage the various lists.

  8. 158 Posted by martin.tyler on 10 Jul, 2010 07:38 AM

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    "I agree. If something is not a Next Action, it either goes in Someday, Waiting for, reference or trash can."

    Are you saying a project task that is dependent on an earlier task is a someday task? I am sure you have previously described looking at a project and moving tasks up to a next section so they appear in the unified next list. So are the ones you dont move up in Someday??

  9. 159 Posted by Lasse on 10 Jul, 2010 08:49 AM

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    I'm pretty sure Proximo was talking about single action tasks (after all, the comments were made in the context of Later/Next Up, which is intended to sort single actions in Next).


    can the screenshot you mentioned still be seen somewhere? I'd like to see what an implementation of the calendar would look like.
    I'm not sure I got the whole idea behind "Next Up". Would that be a replacement for Later? Or would it be an addition? And would it be an additional list? Maybe a screenshot of this could help us answer your question. From the reaction to Later, however, I would guess that your suggestions wouldn't sit well with the same group of users.
    Here are my thoughts on your suggestions, though:
    I like the Later concept but am not completely satisfied with its implementation because using Later for tasks means I don't have all my next actions in the Next Actions list. As for "Next Up", as far as I understand it, I really like it, because (if it is a filtered list within Next) I can keep all my next actions in one place but have a view that helps me focus on certain tasks. And I like that everyone can define what „Next Up“ means for them (tomorrow, this week, etc.). So I'm definitely for a Next Up filter. As for the calendar feature, I'll address that a little later. But let me say at this point that I like it, simply because it reflects my reality at work.

  10. 160 Posted by Lasse on 10 Jul, 2010 09:28 AM

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    @all: Just a gentle reminder to always stay polite and courteous. One thing I really appreciate in this forum is that people here are very civil, even kind. Let's keep it that way.

    And let me just mention a few aspects I try to keep in mind when I'm posting here:

    • Nirvana is still in beta and it's for free
    • Elbert and others seem to work around the clock. I see them posting replies on the week-end, during holidays, in the middle of the night, even during their well-deserved vacation!
    • Compared to other apps (even ones I'm paying for), Nirvana is progressing super fast and has taken great leaps forward since I started using it a few months ago.
    • The devs are not only communicating with us, they're willing to discuss their ideas for features with us! I've posted in other forums where you hardly ever heard from the devs and got no comment about anything concerning upcoming features (not even which features they were planning to implement). So I'm really glad Elbert & co are so open about everything and that they listen to us (which doesn't necessarily mean that they'll do things the way we want them to be done). So, Elbert, Christiane, and the rest of you: Thanks a lot for what you do!
  11. 161 Posted by Marcus on 10 Jul, 2010 10:11 AM

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    Now I'm worried, too. You seem to have a completely different understanding of GTD than me and Martin Tyler. I don't want this to sound like a thread or something but when sequential projects are not coming to Nirvana, soon, I might have to look for another GTD app. Not because I'm not getting my demands fulfilled, but because Nirvana is of no use to me, then. And probably never will.

    Up until now I was willing to wait because sequential projects might be just around the corner. But now, your latest comments show that you don't think of them of being crucial to GTD. Well, I do!

    Ciao, Marcus

  12. 162 Posted by Marcus on 10 Jul, 2010 10:17 AM

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    I completely agree with you. I'm kind of shocked by some of the comments here, especially from people who are supposed to be GTD gurus. I thought, too, that everybody who had dealt with GTD for more than fifteen minutes must have understood the thing about projects, next steps and the next list.

  13. 163 Posted by Lasse on 10 Jul, 2010 12:05 PM

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    Even though this may seem like splitting hairs, let me make an important distinction. Creating sequential projects in Nirvana is possible. You only have to drag and drop subtasks within a project to create the desired order and, voilà, you've got a sequential project. What you can't do is create automated sequential projects. But that is not a feature of GTD. After all, the GTD methodology was originally developed as a paper based system where automatically moving a project's next action into Next isn't even possible, so how could this be a crucial feature? That automatic sequential projects can be very practical and that they may be crucial to the way you work is a different matter. I would like to see this implemented as well, even though I could also live without it.
    As to this feature being around the corner, it's not mentioned in "What's next?" and in a thread where this was discussed some time ago, Elbert expressed scepticism concerning the necessity of automatically moving tasks into Next. So I wouldn't wait for it, if this is something that is absolutely necessary for you.

  14. 164 Posted by Marcus on 10 Jul, 2010 01:00 PM

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    It's really simple.

    I want my Next List to consist only of those actions that I really can do next. This is the list I want to filter by tags, time, criteria, context etc., to decide which task I start working on. I don't want Step 5 of a project to appear there when Steps 1-4 are not done yet, because that makes no sense at all.

    Without any hard feelings: As long as Nirvana can't do that, it's of no use to me. And regarding Elbert's latest comments, he does not really plan on implementing this feature. Which means, I wasted my time here.

    Ciao, Marcus

  15. 165 Posted by martin.tyler on 10 Jul, 2010 01:03 PM

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    @Lasse - I disagree - within a project you may be able to do sequential just by ordering - but GTD is about your whole life, and there is no way in Nirvana to order all your tasks across all projects - so using order is only useful within a project itself.

    We don't NEED automatic sequential, but we definitely need actionable/non-actionable so you can see all your actionable tasks (yes across all projects, they are all tasks, why the distinction always in Nirvana??)

    I currently do this by manually tagging with an 'actionable' tag, so every time i go to 'next' i click on that tag - but with the various bugs with tag filters getting unselected on certain actions it gets annoying.

    As people keep saying, make it like Today works, that's all we NEED, the automation and fancy sequential/parallel etc can come later.

    GTD may have started on paper, but you would have a list for a project, and then create a next actions list from all your project lists - picking off all the actionable tasks.

  16. 166 Posted by zen on 10 Jul, 2010 02:08 PM

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    +1 for Lasse’s comments on staying civil

    GTD is simple and outlined in DA’s book and his website (GTD Connect). The challenge is implementation in our diverse work styles. It seems that a lot of people have preconceived notions about GTD rules. I’d recommend watching GTD tutorial videos at DA’s website.

    I think Proximo is a GTD blackbelt. He is super efficient with weekly review and Processing, i.e., defining project/task/outcome/na and tagging with appropriate contexts. A lot of people (including me) are GTD students that have ended up with 100+ tasks in the NA and Someday lists. It’s a common problem talked in detail by DA and his coaches. One quick solution is to subdivide your list (e.g., next action):
    TODAY: Focus today or this week
    NEXT ACTION: Focus this month
    UPCOMING (or NEXT UP OR LATER): Focus next month

    Note, today and upcoming are sub-buckets to make reviewing your na list easier. All are actionable now.

    The current LATER implementation in Nirvana violates the widely accepted GTD methodology. We either remove the new bucket (LATER) or make it a sub-bucket of Action (UPCOMING?), similar to TODAY. Either implementation works for me because Nirvana should be a ‘tool of choice’ for all (novice or black belt) users.

  17. 167 Posted by Marcus on 11 Jul, 2010 12:21 PM

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    I just want to clarify that I don't have any hard feelings. Nirvana's development just takes a direction that I personally don't like. To me it seems to emulate task management like you would do it on paper - manually dragging little tasks between lists, with a little searching and filtering added, though. But that's not what I bought a computer for.

    As I said before, I manage my tasks during my reviews. That's the time to define projects, task dependencies, tags, energy and time criteria, deadlines, due dates etc. During the day, I do. And I want Nirvana to show me what I can do. I don't want to have to remember what tasks depend on each other when I go over my list of next steps. Currently, Nirvana provides no way to define such dependencies and that's why it's of no use to me.

  18. 168 Posted by rfo on 11 Jul, 2010 01:42 PM

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    @martin -- it feels like you are jumping to conclusions as to what may or may not get implemented. @elbert's statements have all referenced "thinking out loud", "want to hear what others think"... he has distinguished that some of his comments are about what he does personally and may or may not influence the product.

    I would recommend you stay engaged and continue to make your points made, you help add to the overall direction of a great product.

  19. 169 Posted by Lasse on 11 Jul, 2010 02:25 PM

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    if that's how you define sequential, then I agree. When I started using Nirvana (having come from Things) I was excited to see that I could just drag a project's subtask into Next and have it appear in a single list with all my other NAs - or so I thought! :) It wasn't until my next weekly review that I noticed that they had simply become disassociated from their respective projects.

    I also agree that, while there were some great ideas in the various Unified Next List threads, I think even the simplest solution - being able to drag subtasks into Next without having them lose the association to the project, just as is the case with Today - would be a huge improvement. That's one small step for the devs, one giant leap for the "unified next listers". :)

  20. 170 Posted by Lasse on 11 Jul, 2010 02:26 PM

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    WARNING: Non-GTD content ahead! :)

    Now to the suggested calendar feature and why I like it. Before I started following the GTD method, I used to plan the upcoming week on Sunday and set due dates for everything I planned to accomplish that week. The problem was that I ended up constantly having to set new due dates as it turned out that I didn't get things done the way I had planned. One reason why GTD has made my planning and organizing simpler is because I don't have to set due dates anymore (unless a task is really due) which saves me time during my weekly and daily reviews (and therefore makes it more likely that I'll acutally do them). And I can skip the daily review for a few days and still not end up with a huge Today list. That's why a Calendar feature that allows me to do this type of planning sounds counterproductive at first.
    However, I think there are good reasons for including this feature, some of which Elbert has already mentioned.

    • I'd have a way to view all tasks with a due or scheduled date in one place, nicely organized by weekday. Just last week someone asked me if I could do a presentation on a certain day, I looked in my calendar, saw that I had no appointments and said yes. A day later I realized that, while I didn't have an appointment, there was a project that was due the day after the presentation. I just hadn't remembered to check for tasks with due dates. So I agree, having a place where I can look at my commitments (in the sense that I've committed to finish or start a task on a certain day) helps me know if I can commit to new tasks/projects. Of course I could just go through my Next and my Scheduled list but this would be easier.

    • I also like the idea of being able to associate a task with a certain day without having to set a due or a scheduled date. For one, as I've mentioned in another thread, I like to sit down after work and plan my evening and my next day. With this feature I could just drag a few tasks on Monday evening on to Tuesday and I'd have Tuesday's Today list ready without having the tasks show up in Monday's Today list. While one could argue that I could just put next day's tasks at the bottom of today's Today list, there are three simple reasons why I prefer the „Calendar feature“-way. I don't like having the next day's tasks clutter my view of the things that remain to do for today (even if they're seperated by order or even a „separator“-task), I like seeing my list getting smaller (gives me such a sense of accomplishment :)) and if I want to set the yet-to-be-released-iPhone app's badge to display the number of tasks in my Today list, the number would be misleading once I've done my daily review.

    • And last but not least, the Calendar feature would be very conventient at work. I'm part of a team whose members have never heard of GTD (and don't care to) and who use a simple weekly paper calendar for planning. Every Friday we sit down together to plan the next week, which means that we go through every day of the week and decide what needs to be done on a specific day and what team members think should be done on a specific day. At the end of the meeting I have a list sorted by days with tasks that are planned for certain days of the week. This is obviously not according to the GTD workflow but I can't change it. After the meeting I then type in all the tasks into Nirvana. I assign due dates to the "must do" tasks. But what should I do with the "should" do tasks? I don't want to assign due dates to those as well, because they're not due, they're just planned for a specific day. I also don't want to use Scheduled for these tasks because they'll disappear from Next and I could start them earlier if things move along faster (so they don't really belong into Scheduled). I guess I could tag them with "monday", "tuesday" and so forth. But then I'd have to tag the due tasks with the same tags to get a good view of what there is to do on a given day and I'd have to change the tag if I don't do it on the day it was planned. Suddenly I'm doing the same thing again that I was glad to leave behind thanks to GTD. So because I want to avoid this, I just keep two lists, the one which tells me what my colleagues would like me to do on a certain day and my Next list in Nirvana. But that's not the ideal solution either. So, to make a long story short, the Calendar feature would make my life easier.

    One last thought: Maybe a feature like „Nirvana Labs“ (like Google Labs) would be a good idea. That way users could just acitvate or deactivate features that they don't want to use.

  21. 171 Posted by JamesT on 13 Jul, 2010 01:06 AM

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    @All - Wow this is incredibly good dialog and I’m glad Nirvana is letting us voice our opinions and seems to be taking our feedback into account.

    @Elbert It would be great to have you paraphrase the new direction you are going to take based on all this great feedback as you (re)design the follow-up to this release.

    For the record, my preference is as follows. One Next Action list. Actions within projects should have the ability to be marked as “actionable”. Nirvana should default to marking the top action in a project as “actionable”. (Which could be turned off in preferences)

    The next action list should then have all the existing methods of filtering. Plus it should add the ability to easily filter out project tasks that are not currently actionable.

    That’s my .02

    Thanks again to the Nirvana team for working so hard on this release.


  22. 172 Posted by Proximo on 13 Jul, 2010 03:08 AM

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    Great feedback from everyone.

    I have been staying quiet just to read others thoughts. I want to thank everyone for the feedback and opinions shared here. No matter how you look at it, it's beneficial in many ways.

    I want to thank Elbert and the Nirvana development team for their continued interest in the user base.

    I can't really say much more from my perspective. I don't know why GTD is so simple for me to understand and successfully implement. This does not mean I can't learn new things or improve in different areas, but I just have a hard time figuring out why something so simple can cause so much confusion between different people. I believe GTD can work for just about any profession while maintaining it's simplicity.

    I am not sure what direction Nirvana will take moving forward, but it's obvious from this post that the direction it takes will not please everyone. There are several schools of thought or at least two major rules of thought.

    I am sure most people on here know that I like to keep things simple and GTD just happens to be very simple to understand and implement, at least for me.

    Now it's time to sit back and see what happens. I have high hopes for a GTD app. that keeps the core of GTD simple and functional. Regardless of the direction taken, GTD will continue to be simple in my mind and I will always gravitate to the app. that does it right.

  23. 173 Posted by Proximo on 13 Jul, 2010 03:42 AM

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    Next Actions are like Football

    When you are in a huddle, you call the play that makes sense at that time. You don't plan for what may happen next or decide what you will do on the 3rd down.

    You look at your field position, try to anticipate the move of the defense and you make the appropriate call for that given situation. You need to be ready for changes that may take place at any time but you are ready with your audibles (context, time & energy).

    OK, so maybe it's not the best analogy in the world, but my point is that I make the right plays for the given moment. Just like GTD. :-)

    This is why the Later, Next Week, Upcoming concept just makes no sense to me. I am not saying it makes no sense to everyone, but just speaking for myself. :-)

  24. 174 Posted by zen on 13 Jul, 2010 01:03 PM

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    Glad that Next Actions are settled. :-) Please find idea for the LATER list in the GTD construct, i.e. split the Someday/Maybe into two buckets:

    1) current “LATER” = new “SOMEDAY”: actions that you have no energy or time to do in the near future

    2) current “SOMEDAY” = new “MAYBE”: actions that may or may not get done

  25. Support Staff 175 Posted by Elbert McLaughl... on 13 Jul, 2010 02:09 PM

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    @zen - this is where i think we're going. probably a preference for Someday, with the option to split it into Someday-Later and Someday-Maybe, or just a single Someday as many prefer. There are enough people who have voiced a strong desire to keep some form of Later, and I think this is the best compromise. We will set it up so that all new accounts will default to the single Someday preference to keep in line with the GTD purists.

  26. David McLaughlin closed this discussion on 24 Jan, 2011 05:38 AM.

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