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If you've not used the start/due/estimate fields before now, I'd suggest using them sparingly at first to see how it works for you. I tend to use start dates more than due dates, and I only use due dates when something must be completed-not when I hope to have it completed. Sometimes I use both start and due dates on a task, depending on the nature of the task. Using your examples, I might set 'water cactus' to start on 7/15 (doesn't need watering before then) and a due date of 8/1 (cactus will die if not watered by then). For cleaning the house, I may use only a start date (last clean date + x days) with no due date, unless I am expecting company on a specific date. Then I would set a due date as well.

For time estimates, the way I use these is in conjunction with a context to ensure I have the time, and energy level, available to complete the task in the time estimated. I might have 'water cactus' at 5 min, clean bathroom at 30 min, and do laundry at 2 hours. Then if I am in my 'Home' context with 30 min available, I can easily filter so that I don't even consider doing the laundry, and I can make a choice between watering the cactus and cleaning the bathroom depending on my energy level. Or, I can filter on duration and due soon (bathroom must be completed soon-company coming tomorrow, water cactus not due for 5 days) to direct my focus on the more urgent task of cleaning the bathroom.