Do the Discardia

by Kris on March 28, 2012

Welcome to another edition of our Use Case profiles, this time featuring Dinah Sanders, a writer and productivity coach from San Francisco. Dinah recently published her book Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff, which advocates for a new way of addressing over-accumulation. “Make room for more awesomeness” is the primary tenet of her guide to helping you toss out extraneous objects, bad habits, or emotional baggage in order to uncover the stuff that brings you more joy.

Some of our more diehard archivers, defer-ers, and On Hold enthusiasts might appreciate some of her advice in this area. OmniFocus folks that frequently find themselves full of dread at the prospect of delving into their ever-expanding list of projects, though, might consider moving her book to the top of their Amazon Wishlist.

Or heck, secede from the procrastination and grab an iBooks copy now, and consider another step in your “Self Improvement” project done!

Sure, it could be argued that adding another book to your library might be an ironic next action for those who wish to free themselves from feeling burdened by too much stuff, but what Discardia celebrates isn’t minimalism for mere minimalism’s sake, it’s about maximizing what adds value to your life by removing what isn’t helpful.

We recently spoke with Dinah about how she uses OmniFocus and she put it to us this way:

Overwhelm can be a big problem with any task management software, but it is especially a risk when following the GTD approach of getting everything out of your head and into a trusted system. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing—even a somewhat chaotic version of that is going to be better than keeping it all in your brain—but it does expose to us just how many expectations on ourselves we actually carry around.

My belief is that it’s okay to have hundreds of things you’d like to do; what will screw you up (and keep you from achieving many of them) is consciously or unconsciously living as though you must do them all. Limiting your canvas can boost your creativity and increase the chance of completion. The two features which make OmniFocus an intensely valuable tool in helping hold back a sense of overload are the review infrastructure and the ability to distinguish between active and on hold projects. You can dump everything in there, yet still keep most stuff out of your face on your day-to-day action lists while trusting that it will remind you to think about it again at appropriate, adjustable intervals.

And whether it’s today or the next time you sit down for a Review, taking the time to trim your database can have an equal effect to actually checking things off - clearing your plate is clearing your plate!

Remember that there’s a difference between finishing your fair share and biting off more than you can chew. As Dinah puts it in her book: “We all have pet projects, social commitments, goals for personal and professional growth, and hobbies to which we devote our time. We stroll past the buffet of life and load our plates. Unfortunately, we make a lot of trips back to that smorgasbord of options and, pretty soon, we are groaning under the load. Do you really like everything you picked up thinking it would be tasty? Can you really finish all that? Would doing so leave you feeling painfully over-stuffed?”

One way Dinah suggests kicking off un-cluttering a living space could easily be leveraged in OmniFocus as well: “Get yourself two boxes. Label the first box ‘Better Place’. Put in any items currently in your chosen space that belong somewhere else. Label the second box ‘Keep?’ and place into this box anything you’re not sure you want anymore.”

Go ahead, try it! Click the action button at the bottom of the OmniFocus for Mac sidebar, select “New Single Action List” twice, and label them accordingly. Now peruse your projects and drag anything into those two bins that isn’t making you feel empowered to accomplish more awesome actions. Then, redistribute the contents of ‘Better Place’ to more advantageous projects, and carefully consider what’s in ‘Keep?’ before placing them On Hold or putting the final nail in their respective coffins by marking them Dropped, and sending them to your Archive to rest in peace.

Sidebar screenshot

That’s one way to lighten up OmniFocus to support a more meaningful, less maniacal to do list. As an avid OmniFocus user—since the days it was Kinkless—Dinah definitely knows a thing or two about optimization. Discardia is (adequately) full of practical tips and encouraging guidance, concentrated into three core principles: Decide and Do, Quality over Quantity, and Perpetual Upgrade.

In the spirit of that last principle, consider adding the Discardia iCal calendar to help remind you when it’s a good time to ceremoniously cast off any excess baggage and enjoy more awesomeness.