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How do you handle task slippage? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
My task system is more or less to just use Due Dates for everything that needs to get done. I push some of those dates out for things that don't need to be done immediately. At the beginning of each day, I have a list of things that I want to work on today. If I don't get to them, I select them all, then push the due date out a day. While this sort of works, it does remove the capability to store hard due dates since I'm constantly moving them around.

I know folks would probably say this workflow may be better implemented with start dates, moving them backward if a task doesn't get done. In my old GTD app, iGTD, I could easily advance both the start and due dates by +1 day. In Omnifocus, if I have a view of all the tasks that I have set up to start today, and I want to move, say, 20 of them out a day, some of the start dates risk getting moved beyond the due date.

Are others using OmniFocus like this? I realize it's not the GTD way, but its the one that works best for me right now. How do you manage large lists of tasks in a given context and what do you do when you can't get to them? Do you just keep them at the same date and just work on the oldest start dates in order?

Maybe I'm getting around to really needing a good prioritization system to help me evaluate what tasks need work on first.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
Are others using OmniFocus like this? I realize it's not the GTD way, but its the one that works best for me right now. How do you manage large lists of tasks in a given context and what do you do when you can't get to them? Do you just keep them at the same date and just work on the oldest start dates in order?
I've tried to follow David Allen's advice and only use due dates on projects/actions that absolutely must be done on a given date or they'll fail. No pushing out dates or reworking the schedule. So far, it's worked well for me.

Of my 100+ personal and professional projects with 400+ actions, only about 10 of them have due dates in the next six months (e.g. send my mother flowers before Mother's Day, renew my car registration, pick up a birthday gift for my wife, etc.). Those are all things that can't be postponed, and if I don't complete them by the due date, I face a severe penalty. For example, there's no renegotiating the date of my wife's birthday; if I miss it, I'm in big trouble. :)

Using due dates as an elaborate reminder system that doesn't really mean actions are due, leads to perpetual postponement and dilution of the due date's power. In true GTD, if you see an orange OmniFocus bubble, you know you'd better get moving on that task RIGHT NOW.

Everything else, all actions that have some degree of flexibility and don't need to be completed on a certain date, should simply appear under their proper context. You remind yourself of them by doing weekly (or daily) reviews of your lists.

To narrow down these lists, you need to carefully define your contexts and create folders to allow you to focus on particular areas of responsibility. This task has been the single most challenging aspect of GTD/OmniFocus for me. It took several tries, but I think I've finally found the right combination for me.

You can then further cull down large lists by flagging items you'd like to work on first. I use it sort of as a "Do today or in the very near future" marker that I set while performing my reviews. Sometimes items go on and off my flagged list as my priorities and interests change. But that's OK, because anything that falls off my flagged list still gets some attention every time I do a review.

I'm not a GTD zealot, and there are many ways to manage you tasks, and you should certainly use the system that works best for you. But, simply put, OmniFocus is built around GTD principles. To get the most out of the app, you should expect to use GTD, or at least some variation of it. I think the further you get from core system, the more likely you'll struggle with the application.

I'm sorry if this doesn't help your situation, or if I'm reciting things you already know. Unfortunately, other than writing an AppleScript, I don't think OmniFocus currently has a means to do massive batch rescheduling. It's just something that's not supposed to happen in GTD-land.
 
Thanks, this helps a bit, though you're right about me knowing it, but not observing it. :-)

So, to be clear, do you use start dates at all? It sounds like you just use due dates on a small subset of your items, then leave everything else wide open without a start or due date?
 
I'm trying to implement my task list by just assigning due dates to those things that absolutely must be done on a given date. I like that style and it makes more sense, but it gets rid of some of the tickler behaviors I was using the due date to handle.

For example, if I ask someone to get back to me in a few days, but it's not imperative that they do so, I'd rather not assign a due date to that. How would I go about reminding myself to ping them about it again? I think the "review" stuff comes into play here, but I've never understood how that works.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
For example, if I ask someone to get back to me in a few days, but it's not imperative that they do so, I'd rather not assign a due date to that. How would I go about reminding myself to ping them about it again? I think the "review" stuff comes into play here, but I've never understood how that works.
I played with the Review system a bit. The problem I see there is that it's only at the Project level, not the individual task level. This doesn't work well for my idea of using this as a tickler for tasks. I also want ticklers to exist at different intervals, so the Review system ain't right.

So, I'm back where I started this morning: in the absence of setting a due date, how do you remind yourself to tickle an item?

To be more concrete, I tend to have tasks that look like this:

"Steve to review router installation parameters"

Let's say this doesn't have a definite due date, or it does have a due date, but I don't want to let the entire discussion languish until its due. Is my only course of action to set a due date, then keep pushing it back, having to remember the "hard" due date? Or can I set up intermediate checkpoints somehow?

How do others handle this?
 
I do what you describe in your original post; I just move due dates around to suit myself (assuming they're self-assigned due dates). I rarely use start dates, so resetting those is not a problem. I spend most of my time in context mode, sorted and grouped by due, so if a bunch of stuff comes due today that I want to push back, I just reset it by a few days, a week, etc. If I postpone something a few times I'll reassess and eliminate the due date all together, or put it on hold, or whatever. It works for me.

As for intermediate checkpoints and hard due dates, if I wanted to do that I would just make a final action for a project (e.g. "Finish router installation") and then use an intermediate task as in your example.

The use of flags and focusing (two features I never use right now) as described by Toadling are just too much fiddling for me.
 
I shuffle tasks' start/due dates using this Defer script... which makes it a lot easier to, say, "snooze" 5 tasks by a day, or skip weekends for recurring tasks...

http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=7057

Methodology: I use due dates for things that really are "due" on a date, or for repeating actions that need start/due dates to keep them from repeating instantly. I flag items that are important or that I *want* to work on today. Then I work on a) due items, then b) flagged items. If a flagged item is more important than a due item, of course, it takes precedence.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
So, to be clear, do you use start dates at all? It sounds like you just use due dates on a small subset of your items, then leave everything else wide open without a start or due date?
Yes, I do use start dates, but almost exclusively for repeating items. For example, I have a repeating project for doing my income taxes that has a start date in February of each year. And the project contains a "File tax return" action that's due on April 15th.

I do have a very small number of non-repeating actions with start dates as well, but I only use them as a way to clear my lists of items that can't be acted upon right now. For example, I have an action to sell some of my stock options set to start in June when the options vest. There's nothing I can do about them now, so there's no point in cluttering my view with the action until then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
For example, if I ask someone to get back to me in a few days, but it's not imperative that they do so, I'd rather not assign a due date to that. How would I go about reminding myself to ping them about it again?
I create an action like "Wait for response from John" and assign it to my @john context. If it's not a person I have regular contact with, and I don't have a custom context for them, I'll assign the action to the context they're most likely to respond in, like @phone or @email.

I then do mini-reviews every couple of days, skimming all available actions for each context (context mode, group by context, showing only available actions). When I come upon my @john, or @phone, or @email context, I'll see that I'm still expecting a response from the person and decide whether I need to do anything about it.

If I'm particularly anxious about the person's response, I might even flag the action so it appears in my "Flagged Items" perspective, but that's rare. And I never assign a due date to the action unless there's really some kind of deadline involved. I suppose I could assign a start date if I know the person is unable to respond for a while (e.g. they're on holiday until the 15th), but I probably wouldn't bother in most cases.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
I played with the Review system a bit. The problem I see there is that it's only at the Project level, not the individual task level. This doesn't work well for my idea of using this as a tickler for tasks. I also want ticklers to exist at different intervals, so the Review system ain't right.
Yea, it's only available in planning mode. But you could set the view bar to display only available actions to reduce the resulting list to only the essentials. Not sure if that would help.

Also, each project can have its own review interval, so you have some control. In your example, I might set the review interval to only a couple days so it'll keep popping back to the top of my review list. Other projects that I don't want to be bothered about, I'll set the interval to a couple weeks or even a couple months.

But if you're looking for varying review intervals on individual actions, you're right, OmniFocus doesn't currently support it.

Last edited by Toadling; 2008-05-08 at 01:38 PM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrobb View Post
"Steve to review router installation parameters"

Let's say this doesn't have a definite due date, or it does have a due date, but I don't want to let the entire discussion languish until its due. Is my only course of action to set a due date, then keep pushing it back, having to remember the "hard" due date? Or can I set up intermediate checkpoints somehow?

How do others handle this?
I'd probably make that task the parent item of an action group, with the hard due date attached. Then make items in the action group for each of the check-points you'd like, with start dates for when you want the reviews to pop onto your radar screen.

Would that work for you?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
The use of flags and focusing (two features I never use right now) as described by Toadling are just too much fiddling for me.
Heh, and I thought lots of start dates, due dates, and rescheduling was too much fiddling for me. :)

The nice thing about flags is that they only require a single click. And as long as you have a "Flagged Items" perspective, it's easy to get an arbitrary listing of your most important actions. To drop something off the list, it's just a single click again.

Really, this difference in our approaches demonstrates one of the strengths of OmniFocus: there are often several ways to go about achieving a goal. Everybody's going to have their own preference, and it's a testament to the power and flexibility of the software if it can satisfy a variety of work flows.

Of course, that flexibility and power does come at the cost of some increased complexity. It sometimes makes it harder for someone new to the application to find the method that works best for them.
 
 


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