Benefits of the Outline Mode

I think the outline approach is brilliant. It is not really the case that I would ever want to look at the whole outline as such, but there are several important indirect benefits of the outline approach:

  • It gives me a mechanism for organizing my stuff in as many levels as I want, which makes it easier to review my stuff and to find specific things I may be looking for
  • For example, it allows me to break down some things in minute detail without drowning in it (because related details can be contained within a sub-sub-project etc)
  • And for example, it also allows me to group my projects by higher-level Areas or Goals etc and review these top-level entities one at a time, rather than project by project
  • The “scope” feature (ctrl-click a project in the outline or click a project in the left menu) makes it possible for me to review (or reorganize) my stuff in exactly the size chunks that I am comfortable with, without any risk of scrolling too far or without having to click into the various smaller parts one by one and risk forgetting what I saw in the previous part

However, I think it is important to be clear about the fact that the main and most frequently used access routes to my tasks are the “regular” GTD lists, especially Next and Waiting that I look at several times a day (any of those could happen any second if I or someone chooses to deal with it), and in particular the Focus list (DA’s “white index card”) which contains my most up-to-date “shortlist” of likely actions (of any type) to be dealt with.

Much more infrequent is my inspection of Scheduled and Someday, and least of all (actually never) of the entire outline as a whole. To me the outline feature is an important “under-the-hood feature” that has enabled GTDNext to offer some really great “user capabilities” in the areas of organization and review, such as those mentioned above.


I’ve been thinking about making this post - so thanks @Folke for doing this. Outlining is huge for me for the reasons mentioned. The outline features (hoist, etc) are very nice.

One of the things I need to get handy with is setting items to ‘Info’ mode because I do end up expanding a lot of details that are not really action items. It may not be very GTD, but it helps me brainstorm by throwing notes and details in that can be contracted or expanded with ease.