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Help with use of start dates Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
New to OF, I am tantalizingly close to a setup that makes sense to me but frustrated at my inability to overcome one last hurdle. Any help would be appreciated.

I want to reserve due dates for rare items where my failure to accomplish a task by the due date really does have important consequences. It is useful for something to show up in my "today" perspective in red, and days before its due date, but only in these rare (for me) circumstances.

Therefore, I'm using start dates for the more ordinary case of wanting/intending to do something on a day, but recognizing that it is not really a problem if I don't. Many of my actions have start dates; few have due dates. So far, so good.

Now to my problem: When I get through all items due and starting today, I'd like to look ahead at upcoming items and possibly get a head start on them. In order to do this, I must consider "remaining" rather than "available" items since actions with future start dates are unavailable. But when I move to "remaining", I also get all the impossible-to-accomplish actions from sequential projects that are behind uncompleted items. Sequential projects being a big reason I'm moving from Things to OF, I hate to lose this feature in what is already the most cluttered of my often viewed perspectives.

Any ideas on how I can have the advantages of my current setup without the problem I've created? I want two levels of urgency, with only the more urgent receiving bold color and reminders days ahead of due date. But I also want to look ahead at items slated for future dates without having to look at actions unavailable by virtue of sitting behind uncompleted actions in sequential projects.

Complicated question, I know. If you read this far, thank you. If you have a suggestion, thank you even more!

Last edited by dal71; 2011-03-10 at 09:03 PM..
 
Make yourself a context mode perspective that groups by start date, sorts by due, and shows remaining actions. Close the group for "Start any time". Now you'll just see the items that have an actual start date assigned, and actions that are blocked by earlier actions in a sequence but don't have start dates of their own will be in the "Start any time" group. It isn't perfect, but it works pretty well.
 
How do you "close the group for start any time"?

Thank you,
Scott
 
Click on the black disclosure triangle next to the group title. When you save the perspective, there's a checkbox for the Restore: options which will save that state.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
Make yourself a context mode perspective that groups by start date, sorts by due, and shows remaining actions. Close the group for "Start any time". Now you'll just see the items that have an actual start date assigned, and actions that are blocked by earlier actions in a sequence but don't have start dates of their own will be in the "Start any time" group. It isn't perfect, but it works pretty well.
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I'm doing. But since I tend to populate lots of start times in projects that I'm doing over the next few days, it doesn't accomplish so much. I suppose you do make a good point though-- if I try not to assign start times to any but the next action in a group, I can get much of what I want.

I'm new to OF and the forum, but I know I saw at least one online blog that suggests using start dates the way I do. Are many people doing this? If so, a sensible future feature might be "intended date" that captures this idea in the right way instead of forcing an imperfect abuse of "start date." Is this already a feature others are requesting?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dal71 View Post
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I'm doing. But since I tend to populate lots of start times in projects that I'm doing over the next few days, it doesn't accomplish so much. I suppose you do make a good point though-- if I try not to assign start times to any but the next action in a group, I can get much of what I want.
Well, where it breaks down for me is when I have a sequential project with a bunch of start dates sprinkled through the sequence that represent actual constraints on when I can start the action, but otherwise I'm relying on OmniFocus just supplying me with the next action when I complete one. In that case, looking ahead at the actions scheduled to start is potentially misleading, because there may be quite a few other actions I should do first that I didn't assign a start date. The remedy for this is to look at the action you're thinking about doing in its project setting, which can be done quickly by double-clicking on the row handle (the dot at the left), though this will change to be option-double-clicking in the upcoming 1.8.3 release of OmniFocus. Doing that gives you a new window (in addition to your old window(s)) showing the project containing the action you clicked on so you can quickly decide if working on it is appropriate, or if there is something else in that project you should do first.
Quote:
I'm new to OF and the forum, but I know I saw at least one online blog that suggests using start dates the way I do. Are many people doing this? If so, a sensible future feature might be "intended date" that captures this idea in the right way instead of forcing an imperfect abuse of "start date." Is this already a feature others are requesting?
I'm not sure that I agree this is an abuse of the start date. After all, a start date is just a way of signifying that you don't wish to be shown this action or project until some point in the future. Is that not what you are doing?

Another tactic that may be useful to keep your view uncluttered is to simply keep entire projects that you don't intend to work on in the next few days on hold or pending, rather than trying to manage at the action level.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
I'm not sure that I agree this is an abuse of the start date. After all, a start date is just a way of signifying that you don't wish to be shown this action or project until some point in the future. Is that not what you are doing?
I call it an abuse only because the software seems to want it to mean that you *can't* start it until some date in the future; presumably that is why the designers consider such things "unavailable", and treat them identically with actions that really can't be started because they sit behind incomplete actions in sequential projects.

But, yes, my use is similar to what you say. Only for me it is more like I sometimes/usually don't want to see these things until a few days from now. But I might want to, and I want to do that without seeing things truly unavailable because they depend upon another action that hasn't yet taken place...

Thanks for your thoughts!

Last edited by dal71; 2011-03-11 at 11:20 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dal71 View Post
I call it an abuse only because the software seems to want it to mean that you *can't* start it until some date in the future; presumably that is why the designers consider such things "unavailable", and treat them identically with actions that really can't be started because they sit behind incomplete actions in sequential projects.
It's just a convention that the software follows so that you can use it that way, if you like. You can always see the actions if you show remaining or all actions, so it isn't very insistent that you not look at them; it just won't offer them to you as available.

http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost...45&postcount=5
Quote:
But, yes, my use is similar to what you say. Only for me it is more like I sometimes/usually don't want to see these things until a few days from now. But I might want to, and I want to do that without seeing things truly unavailable because they depend upon another action that hasn't yet taken place...

Thanks for your thoughts!
Don't be in too big of a hurry to assign start dates when using them to sketch out a plan of when you are going to work on individual actions. Maybe only assign them to tasks you are confident you'll start working in the next few days (and of course tasks that you cannot work until the start date arrives). If nothing else, it cuts down on the amount of time you spend fiddling around with start dates instead of actually starting actions :-)
 
 


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