Using GTD and OmniFocus requires us to look at lists all day long. In the 1950s, psychologists discovered chunking, the mental process of dividing items into groups small enough to be comprehended and remembered.
The landmark work on this subject is an article called The Magic Number Seven Plus Or Minus Two. In it, they explain that most people can deal with a list of 5-9 items (= 7 ± 2) before their brains refuse to cope. Everyone has their own “chunk-size.”
If you’ve ever looked at a context list in OmniFocus, and it’s just appeared like a block of letters, you’ve exceeded your chunk-size. The solution is to break the list down into smaller chunks, and your brain will process them better.
I’m bringing this up because I learned about this many years ago, and decided to test my chunk-size this week. My context lists are sliding off my brain like it was Teflon® coated, so I wondered if I could fix it with smaller chunks.
I tested my chunk size by making lists in OmniOutliner starting with nine items, then chunking them down into seven, then five items. I did this with three sets of different data, including actions, things and ideas. I determined my upper bound in chunk size in about five minutes. Let’s call that TheNumber.
Now I’m making a rule that no context list will exceed TheNumber, and I can’t view more than TheNumber of contexts at once. If I do, I use flags, focus and filters to reduce the data below TheNumber.
So far, this is making GTD much more pleasant and less overwhelming.
I hope it helps some of you, too.