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Is there a way to have start dates on actions automatically begin, when the sequential item above it is completed?

Here's an example. I'm completing a book study of a book that has 15 chapters. I make it a sequential project because I'm going to read the chapters in order. I give chapter 1 a start date of tomorrow. Once I complete it, I would like the action "read chapter two" to automatically enter a start date (which ideally would be the same date as the chapter 1 completion date).

Doable?
 
Not exactly. Are you willing to do something different to complete the actions in this project? One could cobble up a small Applescript to be launched from a toolbar button (or as a keyboard shortcut with Keyboard Maestro or the like) which completed the action and set the start date of the next action according to your policy. I'll point out that you might want the start date to be the following day if you're planning to use the OmniFocus for iPad/iPhone Forecast view and you are finishing the current task late in the day while there is a section for incomplete items with due dates in the past, there is not a corresponding section for start dates, so a start date 5 minutes before you knock off work for the day would be little different than no start date.

Why do you want a start date on every one of these actions? Do you have a start date on all of your actions?
 
Yes, I've been playing around with start dates trying to improve my workflow. And frankly, it hasn't worked that well. I've been using Things for quite some time, and start dates in that program are quite simple, just drag and drop. However whats killing me in Things is the inability to have nested projects.

Should I not put start dates on my "book study project" and instead make it a sequential project and use a next action perspective?
 
It does sound like you'd get approximately the behavior you want by having a sequential project with no start dates. Chapter 3 will not become Available until you mark Chapter 2 done.
 
There are a couple of general ways that you can use start dates.

One is to only use them for hiding actions and projects until a future date, with everything else active. With this approach, you're saying that you are unable or unwilling to work on this item until after the start date arrives, but there isn't necessarily any expectation that you will immediately work on it when the item becomes available.

Another approach is to use them to schedule your work. Everything (or most everything) has a start date, and when that start date arrives, you'll start working the items. I call this the prescriptive approach.

I'm personally not a big fan of the prescriptive approach; to me, it just means a lot of fooling around setting and changing start dates instead of getting work done. I have a huge backlog of tasks which are always available (subject to being in the right context, of course), so putting start dates on them doesn't make much sense unless I'm going to make a conscious choice to ignore them for now. I will occasionally use start dates as a scheduling tool akin to Things' Today list; I'll sometimes put a start date of today on items which I plan to work that aren't otherwise in my Forecast view (which shows items which are either due today or starting today or both).

If you are running in a "start dates for everything!" model, as it appears, then I agree with Lizard's suggestion of just using a sequential project without start dates. Finish a section, the next one pops up automatically. You might want a start date on each piece is to spread the work out a bit (maybe you want to read a chapter every day, but not more; there a start date on each chapter's task would be helpful), but otherwise it shouldn't be necessary.
 
 


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