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"Next Action Starts Today" Issue Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I have been using OF since it came out and have been reading a lot about using Start Dates to help organize action items. But one thing drives me nuts - if I set a Start Date for today, the action does not appear in my Next Action list even if it is before the start time assigned to the action.

That is, it's 8:15am on 2/2 here right now, and if I have an action with a start date of 2/2 at 5:00pm, it is not considered a Next Action and disappears from my list, even though it is actually several hours before it is supposed to start!

This inconsistency has made me have to set invalid start dates (one day later than it really should start) or not use start dates at all, or be forced to use Remaining instead of Next Action.

Is there a reason why OF handles actions in this manner? (Even if there is, it would be great to have a Preference that lets the user say whether to respect the start time or not related to Next Actions.)

Thanks for your response,

Ken
 
I find OmniFocus to be very consistent in the tasks that are displayed, based on the various availability filters. The various settings follow a pattern of no restriction to very restricted as to what the user sees.

Ignoring the subtle differences in sequential projects and single-actions lists, here is what you will see using the filters.

Any Status: Self-explanatory, all tasks will be shown regardless of completed, next action, availability, etc.

Remaining: All tasks but for the completed tasks.

Available: All remaining tasks that are not blocked by a start date and/or another task in a sequential project.

Next Action: Only the next in list, remaining task in each project that is not blocked by a start date. This is the most restrictive filter of all, as it treats parallel projects as if they are sequential.

Given the above, your example task is considered to be a next action task, but it is not displayed because it is blocked by the start time. However, I don't understand how your results can change by bumping the start time out one day later. A task with a start date/time in the future will always be blocked in the next action view, regardless if it is set to start 1 minute from now or 1 month from now.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kray View Post
I have been using OF since it came out and have been reading a lot about using Start Dates to help organize action items. But one thing drives me nuts - if I set a Start Date for today, the action does not appear in my Next Action list even if it is before the start time assigned to the action.
An action with a start date in the future is not available, by definition. The Next Actions view shows only available actions which are the next action(s) for the selected project(s) or context(s).

If I have a project to paint the ceiling, and the very first thing I can do to move the project forward is to buy the paint, buying the paint is my next action. However, if that action has a start date/time of today at 9 AM, when the paint store opens, it is not an available action until 9 AM. The Next Action view is designed to give you a short list of available actions to choose from to do, and so showing you next actions which are not yet available would be counter-productive.
Quote:

That is, it's 8:15am on 2/2 here right now, and if I have an action with a start date of 2/2 at 5:00pm, it is not considered a Next Action and disappears from my list, even though it is actually several hours before it is supposed to start!
That is exactly correct—an action with a future start date/time is not available and thus will not be shown as a next action.
Quote:
This inconsistency has made me have to set invalid start dates (one day later than it really should start) or not use start dates at all, or be forced to use Remaining instead of Next Action.
This part I don't understand. I would be interested to see a screenshot showing an action with a future start date as available, as your statement implies you see.
Quote:
Is there a reason why OF handles actions in this manner? (Even if there is, it would be great to have a Preference that lets the user say whether to respect the start time or not related to Next Actions.)
Why are you interested in polluting the Next Action view with unavailable actions?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post

Next Action: Only the next in list, remaining task in each project that is not blocked by a start date. This is the most restrictive filter of all, as it treats parallel projects as if they are sequential.
Not quite correct. The next action shown for a parallel project is the first available action scanning down from the top. If you make a parallel project with two actions, set a future start date on the first action but not the second, and view next actions, you'll see the second action (but not the first). If both are available, you'll see the first action (but not the second).

With a single action list, all available actions are shown as next actions, not just the first one encountered reading down the list. If you converted that parallel project to a single action list, the case with one available and one with a future start date would show the available action only in a Next Action view, and when both were available, would show both in a Next Action view. By default, single action list actions get different styling, in part so that you can recognize them in a Next Action view.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
Not quite correct.
That's why I wrote the disclaimer to ignore the subtle differences. Sometimes the technical details here go into every possible minutia to the point where the mind becomes numb.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post
That's why I wrote the disclaimer to ignore the subtle differences. Sometimes the technical details here go into every possible minutia to the point where the mind becomes numb.
Have to confess I didn't notice the disclaimer up top!

The "not quite correct" comment applied only to the description of the interaction between parallel projects and the next action filter, which is what caught my eye as I read your post. After I wrote that, your disclaimer was no longer in sight, and reviewing before clicking Submit, I thought it worth mentioning the difference between || and SAL. I still think it is relevant, but can agree to disagree about that. Personally, I find often it is helpful when answers include a bit more of the "margins" as it allows me to get a better overall grasp of where the new knowledge fits in.

I will happily go on record as saying I believe there was nothing incorrect about your statement except the point previously made about the interaction of blocked actions in parallel projects and the next action filter. I find your posts to be generally excellent, so it surprised me to see a mistake!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
This part I don't understand. I would be interested to see a screenshot showing an action with a future start date as available, as your statement implies you see.
My mistake - I forgot to "clean up" and saw the action still there even though I'd assigned a future date.

Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
An action with a start date in the future is not available, by definition. The Next Actions view shows only available actions which are the next action(s) for the selected project(s) or context(s).

If I have a project to paint the ceiling, and the very first thing I can do to move the project forward is to buy the paint, buying the paint is my next action. However, if that action has a start date/time of today at 9 AM, when the paint store opens, it is not an available action until 9 AM. The Next Action view is designed to give you a short list of available actions to choose from to do, and so showing you next actions which are not yet available would be counter-productive.

That is exactly correct—an action with a future start date/time is not available and thus will not be shown as a next action.
Perhaps that's what I don't understand. It sounds like the "Start Date" is supposed to mean "I *cannot* do this action until this date/time has arrived" as opposed to meaning "this is the date/time I am planning on starting this action" (regardless of the reason why).

So using your "paint the house" example, if Start Date is interpreted so strictly (first example above) then I understand why "buy paint" wouldn't show up in my Next Action list until 9AM. But if Start Date is interpreted intentionally (second example above), then I should be able to see "buy paint" any time prior to the identified start date.

See the problem is that most of my projects are parallel, but I've ordered the actions in the order I would like to perform them. I didn't make the project sequential because technically it isn't - there are no dependencies between actions for these projects. But at the same time, I'd like to see only the first action for each project so I don't have to contend with the visual clutter of all the other actions.

So it sounds like I'm left with these choices (please correct me if I'm wrong):

1) Use Next Action filter, but don't use Start Date as when I *intend* to start on the task - only use it when it is impossible to start the task before that given date/time (without changing or removing the start date/time of course).

2) Use Start Date as my intentional start time, but use the Available filter instead of Next Action, and live with the fact that it shows me everything that's available instead of just the next one I'd like to accomplish on on my project.

Does this sound right? Or is there some other way to accomplish what I'm trying to see?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
I will happily go on record as saying I believe there was nothing incorrect about your statement except the point previously made about the interaction of blocked actions in parallel projects and the next action filter. I find your posts to be generally excellent, so it surprised me to see a mistake!
Bill, I still see nothing incorrect in what I wrote. What is the difference between what I said:
Only the next in list, remaining task in each project that is not blocked by a start date.

And what you said:
The next action shown for a parallel project is the first available action scanning down from the top.

The next in list task that is not blocked by a start date is the first available action, when scanned from the top.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kray View Post
Does this sound right? Or is there some other way to accomplish what I'm trying to see?
I don't know if this helps at all, but for the most part I use start dates (and I use them a lot-much more than due dates) as the day and time that I want the task/project to get my attention. That's not always, not even usually, the same as when I want to begin the task or when I can begin the task. Using the example of buy paint at 9:00 am today when the store opens, I would probably have set the start date and time to yesterday at 6:00 pm when I am planning my routine for the following day. The important criteria for me is when do I need for this to come into my radar? Once I answer that question, I have my start date and time.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Jones View Post
I don't know if this helps at all, but for the most part I use start dates (and I use them a lot-much more than due dates) as the day and time that I want the task/project to get my attention. That's not always, not even usually, the same as when I want to begin the task or when I can begin the task. Using the example of buy paint at 9:00 am today when the store opens, I would probably have set the start date and time to yesterday at 6:00 pm when I am planning my routine for the following day. The important criteria for me is when do I need for this to come into my radar? Once I answer that question, I have my start date and time.
I understand what you're saying... so "Start Date" ends up meaning "the date I want to take notice of this action"... maybe I can make that work; the downside is that if, say, I have one action that I think will take my whole day (start date today 9am) and another action set with a start date of tomorrow at 9 am and I get done early with my first action, the second action won't automatically show up and I'll have to go and "fudge" the start date (or remove it) in order to get it to show up...

Maybe I'll just use the notes of the task (or something) to hold my intended start date, don't actually put anything *in* the Start Date field, and then use Next Actions... (unless there's a better suggestion, of course)
 
 


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