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Ed P 2012-03-14 12:57 AM

Advice on due dates versus start dates
I recognise that this topic has been covered to death, however I'm still having trouble.

All the advice that I've read on here and in many, many blog posts is to only use due dates sparingly, in a kind of "world's going to end if it's not done by then" kind of way. Instead, far better to use start dates to say "I want this task to come available to me from this point on". Makes sense.

I also watched a really good Macsparky OF Ninja set of screencasts which said the same thing, and made the point that if you get a lot of due dates turning orange and red, the volume of them will reduce the urgency and you'll just end up postponing things anway. This also makes sense to me.

So as a relatively new user I've been trying to just use start dates, but I'm finding a similar problem - as more and more tasks come available, I'm starting to drown in the volume of available tasks, and because the majority don't have due dates it's becoming tricky to determine which need the most urgent attention. As a result I'm starting to feel I'm trying to track these tasks more and more in my head rather than OF doing that work for me.

Does anybody know what I mean, and have any tips how to handle this better?

psidnell 2012-03-14 02:44 AM

I tend to live in an "Available & Flagged or Due" perspective. That way I'm not pestered by a mass of items becoming available, I have to go looking for them - which I do as part of my quick morning review.

However, If I want an item to become visible immediately on becoming available, I'll give it a start date AND flag it. I try to use as sparingly as as due dates.

Doing this and having a due "due soon" of 24hrs keeps the noise down nicely. If I need more than 24hrs notice on a task with a due I simply flag it and give it the start date I want.

Ed P 2012-03-14 03:28 AM

Nice use of flags there, I hadn't really found a constructive way to use them so far, but I like that approach.

Lizard 2012-03-14 05:49 PM

In my own use, sometimes I'll focus on a project or folder of projects (View > Focus on [selected item) that I think needs some good attention. Then filter by flagged/available as mentioned above. Now I've got a some things to work on that will help me move towards a particular goal or set of goals.

They may not be the MOST important tasks in my queue, but often, getting something sorta important done is going to be more productive than fretting over the absolute best use of my time.

As a bonus, a bunch of tasks from the same project are likely to be related in some way, so there's likely to be less mental overhead as I transition from one task to the next.

JorBru 2012-03-18 08:58 AM

[QUOTE=psidnell;108306]I tend to live in an "Available & Flagged or Due" perspective . . . .

However, If I want an item to become visible immediately on becoming available, I'll give it a start date AND flag it. I try to use as sparingly as as due dates.[/QUOTE]

This is my practice also. The down side is that Actions you have set a "future flag" for are not available whenever you filter for for Available Actions.

The biggest improvement I can conceive of to OF would be adding a date field to the Flag, such that the user could indicate on what date an Action should become flagged. In this way, Actions that are available remain available - and still get their Flag on the date you planned for them (alternatively, the Flag could be left as-is and a new date indicator added which would hold the date you plan to complete that Action, as determined during weekly review and/or updated as things change).

This has implications for the Forecast view. It could, optionally, display a Forecast of actions whose Flag will be lit on the future days shown rather than when the Action will come Due.

Personally, I don't want to be reminded that something is nearing its Due date nearly so much as I want to be reminded that I had a plan to work on such-and-such today. If I get close to a Due date without completing an Action, that is a minor Fail. (_Passing_ a Due date without completing the Action is a train wreck.)

This would extract greater value from the Weekly/Daily review process. In addition, it makes for an obvious calendar sync or integration feature: Provide a calendar view (or sync to iCal) such that one screen shows hard landscape calendar entries along with Due actions and actions that are planned for the date(s) displayed (most useful for day-at-a-glance and week-at-a-glance sorts of views). This would facilitate working as planned, while preserving all that is great about OF (including the ability to find a next action relevant to the current context even when the "plan" has been disrupted).

Such an arrangement:
in no way violates GTD,
prevents our "work-around" from "breaking" OF functionality
(by hiding Actions that really are available), and
facilitates Mind Like Water mode of being.

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