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Hi everyone! I'm new to OmniFocus (been using it for three days) and new to GTD (been implementing it into my life for the past month).

I created a Next Actions perspective and have it turned on for my iPhone. The items listed in the perspective are really confusing me though. It is showing tasks with due dates in the future that I don't need to see right now. For example, "generate report" (due on 9/19, two months away!). Additionally, it doesn’t show items with start dates and no due dates.

So right now it's showing me 12 items I can't do anything about; 0 items that have a start date of today or tomorrow (though there should be several); 1 overdue item (that's fine); a whole bunch without a due date (that's fine).

Could someone please list the settings to create a Next Actions perspective that answers the question: For each active project, what is the next action, when the start date or due date is two or less days from now or the action has no due date?

I hope that makes sense!
Welcome to the community.

In OF, an action is not considered available to work on until after its start date. The meaning of start date is the first possible date (and time) that you could work on the project. For example, my Pay Income Taxes project has a start date of Feb. 1, since I can't expect to have forms from my employer and bank until then.

The due date is the date the item must be completed by. I have plenty of projects due in early September (for the start of the school year) that I am actively working on now. They wouldn't get done if I didn't start them until the due date arrived.

Regarding your specific request, I don't think that perspective in particular is possible. You're confounding start and due dates (in OF's parlance anyway). Many of us use a "tickler perspective" (search the forums) to review tasks that are starting soon, and an "urgent perspective" to douse any fires that are about to come due.

Besides start and due dates, the other key thing to grok is the distinction between Next Actions and Available Actions. A Next Action is the first unblocked action in a project, or any action in a Single Action List. An Available Action is the first unblocked action in a sequential project, or any unblocked action in a parallel project. (Sorry, that's a bit dense, I know, but it makes sense if you experiment a bit.)

OF is extremely powerful, but has a bit of a learning curve. You can generally make it do what you want it do, but you do have to respect its definitions of start date, due date, next action, and available actions. Check out the posted videos, and ask questions on the forums. They're a great resource.

Happy to help! OmniFocus 1.8 (not out yet, but available in pre-release form) is going to rearrange the view filters to make it possible to have the "Next Action" and "Due Soon" filters active at the same time. In previous versions of the app, you could have one or the other, but not both.

If you're comfortable running a pre-release build of the app, you can grab v1.8 from this page on our website.

(Please read the info in Ken's post on that page, and be aware that sneakypeek builds are generally updated every day. Because we're working on the software, it will nag you to update.)

Okay, if I'm understanding your request correctly, I think you want a perspective along these lines:

View -> Context Mode
View -> Sidebar Filter -> Active
View -> Grouping -> <your preference>
View -> Sorting -> <your preference>
View -> Availibility Filter -> Next Action
View -> Status Filter -> Due Soon (optionally, "Due or Flagged")
View -> Estimated Time Filter -> Any

Does that help?
Thanks for catching the Start Date part, Curt - I missed that.
Thanks for the suggestions! I realized that my problem was that most of my items didn't have a start date. Previously I used Appigo's ToDo, and it doesn't show start dates, so I've been setting the due date for the day I want to start. Nice that I won't have to develop bad habits like that with OmniFocus. :)
Now that I've entered start dates for every task that I can, and modified my Next Actions perspective accordingly, it works smoothly.
Excellent, and thanks for reporting back!


I have just gone through my outstanding actions, changing the Due Date to Start Date (deleting the Due Date) - as I had also been using only Due Date up to now. But using the filters you suggested, the only items appearing on my list are those with Due Dates. Not a single item with a today or overdue Start Date appears unless I change the View -> Status Filter to "Any Status". But this unfortunately shows all the future actions as well, something I don't want.

Now officially confused.

Steve J

PS: using the latest sneaky peek.

Last edited by stevej; 2010-07-15 at 03:11 PM..
Sorry - I should have clarified my post after reading Curt's. The settings I posted only concern themselves with actions whose due dates fall in the Due Soon window. It doesn't attempt to do any filtering on the basis of start dates.

The specific filter request that the original poster asked for - "stuff that's due or starting soon" - isn't something we've gotten a lot of requests for until now, but folks can email our support ninjas and vote for that feature so we can consider adding it in the future.

In the meantime, you could make a "Stuff that Starts Soon" perspective with these settings:

View -> Context Mode
View -> Sidebar Filter -> Active
View -> Grouping -> Start
View -> Sorting -> Project (or another, if you like)
View -> Availibility Filter -> Remaining (or Available, though it hides more)
View -> Status Filter -> Any
View -> Estimated Time Filter -> Any

Items in this window are now grouped by their start dates, from past to future. Use the disclosure triangle at the left of each category to collapse the ones you're not interested in. Start dates in the future are at the bottom - leave them expanded.

Next, select
Perspectives -> Save Window As -> New Perspective
from the menu bar.

Name the perspective, and make sure the "Restore: Expansion" box is checked in the Perspectives window. (If it isn't, check the box, then re-save the perspective from the menu.)

Does that help?

Thanks. Now far more digestible.

Steve J
Seems to me that people are trying to use an available-action and a next-action filter at the same time.

By going to context view, you can use the context filter to set available and the availability filter to set next-action and achieve this. But this doesn't seem to work in project view.

Are the context filter and project filter different in how they treat "active"? It seems like they are since in project view, with project filter set to active, I get unavailable actions. But in context view, with context filter set to "active", I do not get any unavailable actions.

From a GTD perspective, this makes sense to me as it is from the context perspective that one should be considering what next action to perform.

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