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Action status: "next action" and start dates Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I'm fairly new to OF. I don't understand the relationship between start dates and the "Show actions with status : Next action" selection in the view bar. If I have an item whose due date is today or in the past, and it's the next action in a project, I expected it to show up when I ask for "next actions." But if I have a due date set, actions disappear from the "next actions" view.

The workflow I'm trying to accomplish is this:
- During my daily/weekly/monthly reviews, I sort actions within parallel projects by rough priority.
- I have a "what next" view which filters actions by "next action" and groups by context. This does a great job of suggesting things to do next (and helps me avoid procrastination by hiding the tempting, less odious, roughly equal priority items until I've done the not-so-fun ones).
- I have an action, say "Call accountant" at the top of the "household" project in the "phone" context.
- I call the accountant. She's not in, so I'll want to call her again in a couple days if she hasn't called me back. (She hasn't, sigh.)
- I set the "start date" to two days hence. It disappears, and the next most important thing from that project shows up somewhere.
- Two days later, I want that "call accountant" to pop up. Instead, it never appears again -- I have to go to some other perspective (I use the "ticklers" perspective described by OF wizard curt.clifton) to track time related issues.

I'm not sure if this is a bug, a feature, or my confusion, so I'd love feedback on how or if other people have a solution that would work that doesn't require I change my basic workflow. For now I do a daily scan of the ticklers and remove the start date (ick!), but I'd sure like to be confident that when it's time to follow up on a "waiting for" item, that item would be considered something to do "next".

I know there has been a lot of demand for smart folders; this would clearly solve my problem, and I'm happy to hear that the next generation of the application will include them. But if we're talking about big modifications to OF, I'd prefer a formalization of a "defer until" separate from the "start date", and the inclusion of things deferred things which are now due in the "next actions" list. In the short term, I'd like an item in the "show actions with status" drop down which lets "next actions" include things with start dates in the past. I can't think of any vocabulary for this, since I don't understand how it is useful to have "next actions" not include things with "start dates" in the past.

For the record, I know that David Allen recommends a "waiting for" context for this, and OF has implemented an excellent implicit take on that concept. However, GTD describes a context as a combination of "physical location, tools, materials, and people" -- that is, a boundary around what you can do at a particular moment in time. GTD pretends that "waiting for" is a context, but in my mind it's obviously not; rather, it's a clever way of getting deferred activities out of your way without forgetting about them entirely. Which is to say, as I noted in another thread, "waiting for" a state. OF is much more sophisticated than paper and/or email, and allows solutions that paper and email does not. So please don't tell me about "waiting for" contexts; I've tried that and it doesn't really work for me.

Ok -- and expecting that nobody will have read this far -- does anyone have a suggestion how I can get next actions to show items with a due date (that's not in the future)?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dondo View Post
I'm fairly new to OF. I don't understand the relationship between start dates and the "Show actions with status : Next action" selection in the view bar. If I have an item whose due date is today or in the past, and it's the next action in a project, I expected it to show up when I ask for "next actions." But if I have a due date set, actions disappear from the "next actions" view.
Can you send along some screen shots illustrating this? I suspect there is some other reason why you aren't seeing the actions you expect. Due dates and next actions don't really interact... but you're also referencing both start and due dates above, and start dates certainly do interact with next actions. If the start date is in the future, that action is not eligible to be a next action. Furthermore, any actions in a sequential project or action group beyond that action whose start date has not yet arrived will not be eligible to be a next action, even if it does not have a start date or has a due date in the past for that matter. You can see those items with future start dates if you look at remaining items, but you won't see them in a next actions view, an available view, or a due soon view until the start date/time has arrived. Go have a careful look and I think you'll understand what has happened in your experiments.

Quote:
The workflow I'm trying to accomplish is this:
- During my daily/weekly/monthly reviews, I sort actions within parallel projects by rough priority.
- I have a "what next" view which filters actions by "next action" and groups by context. This does a great job of suggesting things to do next (and helps me avoid procrastination by hiding the tempting, less odious, roughly equal priority items until I've done the not-so-fun ones).
- I have an action, say "Call accountant" at the top of the "household" project in the "phone" context.
- I call the accountant. She's not in, so I'll want to call her again in a couple days if she hasn't called me back. (She hasn't, sigh.)
- I set the "start date" to two days hence. It disappears, and the next most important thing from that project shows up somewhere.
- Two days later, I want that "call accountant" to pop up. Instead, it never appears again -- I have to go to some other perspective (I use the "ticklers" perspective described by OF wizard curt.clifton) to track time related issues.
If you set the start date to +2 days, it should reappear in that Calls context as an available action when 2 days have passed. It may not show up as a next action if something else is eligible to be a next action for that project/context combination. I'd also caution that if the household project is a sequential project, setting the start date on that phone call (if it is the next action) will block everything in the household project from being a next action, so you might want to move it down the list accordingly if in a sequential project or action group.
Quote:
I'm not sure if this is a bug, a feature, or my confusion, so I'd love feedback on how or if other people have a solution that would work that doesn't require I change my basic workflow. For now I do a daily scan of the ticklers and remove the start date (ick!), but I'd sure like to be confident that when it's time to follow up on a "waiting for" item, that item would be considered something to do "next".
I don't understand why you are removing the start date. I use the very same tickler perspective, and never have had a need to remove the start date. Are you expecting that because a deferred action originally had an earlier start date, that it should automatically go to the head of the line and become a next action when the deferral is over?
Quote:
I know there has been a lot of demand for smart folders; this would clearly solve my problem, and I'm happy to hear that the next generation of the application will include them. But if we're talking about big modifications to OF, I'd prefer a formalization of a "defer until" separate from the "start date", and the inclusion of things deferred things which are now due in the "next actions" list. In the short term, I'd like an item in the "show actions with status" drop down which lets "next actions" include things with start dates in the past. I can't think of any vocabulary for this, since I don't understand how it is useful to have "next actions" not include things with "start dates" in the past.
Yeah, I think you might be a bit confused about the interaction between start dates and next action status. An item with a start date in the past can be a next action -- it's the only kind of action with a start date that can be a next action! For each sequential project, the next action is going to be the first uncompleted action with a context assigned, the context is not a blocking context, and the start date is either not assigned or is in the past.

Quote:
For the record, I know that David Allen recommends a "waiting for" context for this, and OF has implemented an excellent implicit take on that concept. However, GTD describes a context as a combination of "physical location, tools, materials, and people" -- that is, a boundary around what you can do at a particular moment in time. GTD pretends that "waiting for" is a context, but in my mind it's obviously not; rather, it's a clever way of getting deferred activities out of your way without forgetting about them entirely. Which is to say, as I noted in another thread, "waiting for" a state. OF is much more sophisticated than paper and/or email, and allows solutions that paper and email does not. So please don't tell me about "waiting for" contexts; I've tried that and it doesn't really work for me.

Ok -- and expecting that nobody will have read this far -- does anyone have a suggestion how I can get next actions to show items with a due date (that's not in the future)?
Stop confusing due dates and start dates :)

Start date is the first date you want something to be available for work. Due date is the date you want something to be completed, and highlighted in red if you haven't finished by that date. Next actions can have any start date (or none) so long as that start date has passed. Due dates have no influence on next actions.

One thought: go check your start dates very carefully. If you enter a date that is more than a few days in the past, and don't specify the year, you'll get that date next year. For example, if I type 7/15 into a date field (today being 8/6/08), I'll get 7/15/09, and that action will not appear as a next action for quite a long time!

Here is a set of examples, showing the progression through All, Remaining, Next and Available in a parallel project. After the first few shots, I set a start date on the "file electronic receipt" and capture a Next Actions view before and after that start date arrives. You'll have to go to the following message to see the last screenshot or two, thanks to the limit on attachments on the forum.
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Here you can see the "file electronic receipt" action go from being unavailable (due to a future start date) back to being the next action (once the start date arrives).
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Aha, thanks. The problem is that when I add more items to the project I have been sorting them to the top, over the existing items. Stupid, thanks.
 
 


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