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I've been using GTD for a year or so now, and Omnifocus for about 3 months. I love OF, but I could use some suggestions about how to schedule tasks.

Thus far I've been doing scheduling like this. During my weekly review on Sunday I schedule firm due dates during the coming week for high priority actions.

This works okay, but the problem I am encountering is this. When I schedule due dates for high priority actions, it is difficult to spread things out properly. That is, I end up schedule a ridiculously busy Tuesday, then not much on Wednesday and Thursday, an impossibly busy Friday.

I have been lurking on the forum and I know that the issue of showing actions graphically on a calendar such as iCal is a well-discussed topic, and the dev team has decided against it.

My question is, since showing the items graphically is not the OF way of doing things, what is a convenient way to schedule actions without piling them up too much? Any suggestions are welcome.

Thanks!
 
If I'm not mistaken , there's some apple scripts on the forum that can be used to create calendars from your omni focus actions , that might help ?
 
Yeah, I ran across that apple script. Still haven't installed it, but it looks promising.

I was thinking, though, that the OF team must have some compelling reason why it is not necessary to graph all actions onto a calendar. (I think a dev team member posted on this forum saying that the reason is that many/most actions do not have a firm start and end time.)

That being the case, what do you all think is the OF "best practices" way of scheduling due dates for these high priority actions?
 
I tend to pile too many events into my Fridays, as well. It's just so easy to type into those date cells. :-)

I deal with that by doing mid-week mini-reviews, using a perspective set up this way in the perspective window:
View Mode: Context
Restore: Focus, Layout, Expansion

Focus: <my work-related contexts>
Context Sidebar: Remaining
Group by: Due
Sort by: Due
Status: Remaining
Duration: Any
Flagged: Any

This gives me a window with all my due actions (available or not) visible, sorted and grouped by due date. The "due within the last" buckets are open in the outline, as are "Due yesterday/today/tomorrow" and "Due in the next week". Everything else is hidden.

I use this view as a sort of "week at a glance". I'll selectively move things up from the "Due in the next week" bucket if I'm ahead of the game, or if tomorrow looks like I'm going to be swamped, I'll see if I can push things off.

For me, a couple of mid-week corrections help smooth out the bumps in the road. I can't often predict what Friday will look like on Monday, but my guesses on Wednesday or Thursday have a much better success rate.

Works for me, but by no means perfect. I can see how my approach would bug the heck out of someone that preferred a set-it-and-forget-it approach to scheduling, for example. :-)
 
One piece of standard advice is to never use due dates for tasks that aren't really truly due on that day. If you can put it off with just a shrug and a grumble, it shouldn't have a due date. The idea is that if you have things in your due list that aren't _really really due_, you become numb to the list.

I try to follow this advice, though sometimes I slip.

So instead of using due dates to make important tasks more prominent, I use future start dates to make less important tasks less prominent.

So my usual procedure is:

- If it really has a due date, I enter it. For example, "Prepare presentation for Friday meeting" has to be done before Friday's meeting or I may as well not do it. So it gets a due date. The due date should really be _Friday_, since that's the drop dead date, but I have a bad habit of giving it a due date of, say, Wednesday, which once again results in my becoming numb to my Due list.

- Otherwise, a task gets no due date when first entered.

- This means that for every weekly review I have a bunch of tasks that would be good to do, but of course I'm not going to do them all. So I walk through the tasks and give them start dates in the future - a few days, a few weeks, a few months. The start date isn't when the task is _due_, it's when I might reasonably start working on it.

- Then, the main view that I use to scan for tasks is set to show only Available tasks, so that the ones with the future start dates are hidden.

- But if I get on a roll on a given context, or (ha!) finish all the work that I hoped to get done, I can just shift to Remaining tasks and see the ones that I've put off.

I tend to "touch up" my start dates between weekly reviews, because new tasks crowd in and make my list too long for comfort.

This does largely negate the value of using Start Dates to eliminate tasks that I truly can't work on yet - for example, I can't work on this year's taxes until this year is over. But the other method of using due dates to mark things that are only important, not due, negates the value of Due Dates, and I consider Due Dates more important.

Gardener
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gardener2 View Post
So instead of using due dates to make important tasks more prominent, I use future start dates to make less important tasks less prominent.
I hadn't thought about that approach, Gardener, but it's a neat way of addressing the problem. Thanks!
 
I have tried both approaches, using due dates and using start dates. I failed at both. In both cases you end up with an ever increasing list of actions all screaming "Do me, do me" and you feel worse and worse for not doing them.

Due dates are for do or die stuff;
If I don't send in my invoice by 10am on Tuesday I'm not going to get paid and I'll starve.
Sure I'd like to put some time aside on Wednesday so I can buy that lens from BHPhoto, but will the world end if I don't?
Due dates are bad, they taunt you with all that red.

Start dates are great though. I use them all the time to hide stuff away, but they too can be abused and rendered useless. There was a page on the web (that I can't find, I'll see if I can find it and post a link) that had a great method whereby you gave each action the start date of the day that you 'wanted' to do the task. Then it had a perspective that each day would show you your days actions. But guess what? That list grew and grew just like the due date list, except it was orange!

Just because you WANT to do an action on a particular day doesn't mean you CAN. If you MUST do a task on a particular day then you SHOULD do it.
 
If your list of tasks with start dates grows ever larger, you need to do something about it. Two good choices:

1) get more work done
2) get rid of some of the work

If you are working at capacity and can't keep up, it's time to renegotiate some of your commitments, as David Allen would say. Do a higher-level review and make sure that it makes sense to be spending time on everything that you are doing. Also have a look at those dusty, unstarted actions and make sure there isn't something else preventing you from working on them, like failure to break them down into appropriately sized and shaped chunks.
 
Or 3) Don't use start dates to give arbitrary priority to your tasks.

Each day use context and intuition to determine what you are going to do next, not some self imposed deadline that doesn't allow for the curve balls that life throws at you and ultimately will make you feel bad about the things that you didn't get done.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian View Post
I tend to pile too many events into my Fridays, as well. It's just so easy to type into those date cells. :-)

I deal with that by doing mid-week mini-reviews, using a perspective set up this way in the perspective window:
View Mode: Context
Restore: Focus, Layout, Expansion

Focus: <my work-related contexts>
Context Sidebar: Remaining
Group by: Due
Sort by: Due
Status: Remaining
Duration: Any
Flagged: Any

This gives me a window with all my due actions (available or not) visible, sorted and grouped by due date. The "due within the last" buckets are open in the outline, as are "Due yesterday/today/tomorrow" and "Due in the next week". Everything else is hidden.

I use this view as a sort of "week at a glance". I'll selectively move things up from the "Due in the next week" bucket if I'm ahead of the game, or if tomorrow looks like I'm going to be swamped, I'll see if I can push things off.

For me, a couple of mid-week corrections help smooth out the bumps in the road. I can't often predict what Friday will look like on Monday, but my guesses on Wednesday or Thursday have a much better success rate.

Works for me, but by no means perfect. I can see how my approach would bug the heck out of someone that preferred a set-it-and-forget-it approach to scheduling, for example. :-)
Thanks Brian - I just set up this perspective and it works great, never thought of doing it this way before.

As for the discussion, I very rarely use due or start dates anymore, I found that when I did set them a lot they tended not to get done anyway based on "the daily fires that need to be put out". The "fires" are not my making by the way, but from all those around me that don't use GTD or OF, but end up on my desk non-the-less. I found myself constantly changing the dates and finally gave up since it was just wasting a lot of time and causing to much stress.

Those actions that I know I am not going to start for awhile (based on resources, etc.) I will assign a start date to just so I don't have to look at them on my lists. Projects that I am not going to do right away get put on Hold and stored in a Parking Lot folder that gets reviewed every week. Things that have a "hard" due date get put on my calendar shown on the day they are due, I then also put them in OF with a due date set for the day that I need to start working on them in kind of a drop dead way. In other words, if some thing is due Friday and it will take me a full day to complete it will be on my calendar for Friday and in OF I will make it due for Thursday. I have my "due soon" set in OF for 2 days, this way that task will show up as due soon in OF on Tuesday/Wednesday giving me plenty of warning that I need to get it done.

I have very few things that have hard due dates so I'm fortunate that way.
 
 


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