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Overdue/Due Soon and Unavailable Tasks Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
One feature about OmniFocus on the iPhone that continues to be extremely annoying for me is its insistence on showing all dependent tasks under the "Due Soon" or "Overdue" headings, regardless of whether they are available or not.

I have a number of projects that have multiple dependent tasks which all need to occur within a relatively short time frame (ie, on the same day). These are "hard landscape" projects, so I generally set a due date on the project itself. The problem is that each week when they become "Due Soon" my item count on the "Due Soon" listing and the OmniFocus icon jumps from zero to over 100 items.... Further, the "Due Soon" view becomes completely useless, as it ends up being a flat list cluttered with unrelated items that don't even appear in any meaningful order.

While I could go with a less granular approach for these projects, that kind of defeats the purpose of a proper GTD system, and particularly of using OmniFocus' excellent outlining capabilities.... If I was going to stay with a flat system where projects were represented by single tasks, I'd likely be using another task management app.

I would really like to see the Due Soon, Overdue and even Flagged categories take a very different approach from the current one. For the purposes of discussion, I can see one of several different possibilities:
  • Display (and count) only available actions on these lists. If I have a project with ten steps, there's no point in seeing that the 9 steps I can't perform yet are going to be "due soon." This could be an option to switch between "Available/Remaining" in much the same way as the Projects/Contexts views work.
  • I'd argue the same should hold true for the Due Soon/Overdue item counts shown in Context view -- the count shown beside each context should respect the context filter under the app settings. So in other words, if you're filtering by "Available" then the count should only show available items.... I don't see the point in displaying a count that does not correspond to what the user will see when they drill down into the context -- that just makes the software way more confusing than it needs to be as the user is left scratching their head as to why they're told that they have more items "Due Soon" then they can actually see.
  • Display a hierarchical project list under these categories, so at least the due-soon/overdue/flagged items are displayed in their proper organization, as opposed to a massive flat list that is generally useless.
  • Further to that approach, I'd also suggest taking the due date or flagged status from the appropriate level -- if the project is flagged or has a due date, highlight and count the project entry rather than all of the tasks within the project (since it's the entire project that's due). If specific items have a different due date, or are flagged separately, then it might make sense that they should also be displayed individually, but IMHO it doesn't make any sense when they're simply inheriting the project settings.

I'm posting this as a thread rather than submitting direct feedback (which I've also already done) in the hopes of facilitating some discussion. There may be a better way of doing this that I haven't thought of, but what I do know is that the current method makes no sense for somebody with large multi-stage projects as it dramatically inflates the due item count.... If that's the way it's going to remain, I'd rather turn off the Due Soon/Overdue categories entirely and suppress the count badge from the home screen icon.
If I have a project with 10 steps, and it's due today, I'd personally rather see the highest possible count. If I know "wow, I have 10 things to do today", I can then plan my day accordingly.

If I glance at my Due Soon list and see a "1" badge next to that project, I may work on other things, then open the project realize I'm toast; there are more actions that need to be done than I now have time for.

I also now have to look inside the project and count if I can't remember how many steps it contains.

The proposed changes would also make it more likely that folks with sequential projects wouldn't see an action show up in either of those lists until the action hit the overdue list. Step 1 - no deadline. Step 2 - due yesterday. I check off Step 1 today, and I'm very unhappy.

If you want to reduce the counts in your badges, my suggestion would be to put the due date on the final action in the project, rather than on the project itself.
Unfortunately, putting the due date on the final step is equally misleading, since then it's only that step that shows up as "Due" which is going to be completely out of order. The way I've worked around it for now is to create a separate task in a Misc-actions bucket and put the due date on that task, leaving the actual project with no due date.

Really, it's not even so much the counter that's the issue -- I'd probably have less of a problem with the due count being so high if the "Due Soon" and "Overdue" categories at least had a hierarchy to them (ie, list the projects and then the tasks within those projects). The way it is right now those categories are virtually useless, as they simply list a whole slew of unrelated tasks in no discernible order. If there was a hierarchy, then at least I could clearly see which projects were due at a high level, rather than seeing 80 individual tasks scattered about.

Personally, I'd suggest that if the project has a due date but none of the individual tasks have been assigned a due date, then the due count should reflect that single item -- the project as a whole. If the individual items have a due date, then by all means show them up individually, since each one may be different in that regard.

That approach would take care of the scenario you describe where a prerequisite task has no due date yet a dependent task does. Personally, however, I'd suggest that OmniFocus simply shouldn't allow this to happen at all.... If you have a sequential project, prerequisite tasks definitely should inherit the due dates from later dependent tasks, in much the same way a due date for an entire project is inherited by all of the tasks contained within that project. Right now there are a number of other areas within OmniFocus, both on the desktop and the iPhone, where that scenario would end up being confusing at best (a due count showing up on a context with no due tasks visible), or biting you badly at worst (the due task being missed entirely as the dependent task had not yet been completed).

IMHO, the best solution would likely just be a third configuration option in the Settings on the iPhone similar to the options for Project and Context view.... A "Main View" setting that allows the user to choose whether Due-Soon/Overdue/Flagged categories show Next Actions, Remaining or Available. Then, further to this, ensure that the counts are consistent with the option that has been selected. As I've already noted, this is a problem that is apparent in Context view... Showing a Due-Soon/Overdue count for tasks that are otherwise invisible to the user, exacerbated by the fact that there's no simple way for the user to change the filter to display these tasks, and no notification that they would even need to do this.
Originally Posted by jdh View Post
The way it is right now those categories are virtually useless, as they simply list a whole slew of unrelated tasks in no discernible order. If there was a hierarchy, then at least I could clearly see which projects were due at a high level, rather than seeing 80 individual tasks scattered about.
I think this is a very clear statement of the problem you're having, and the solution you're proposing here sounds less likely to cause ripple effects for other users.

I've got 35 overdue items (a bunch of folks are supposed to send me status reports by close of business friday; I haven't checked those off yet.) and the organization has never bugged me, but you're right; it appears pretty random.

Okay, actually, I just figured out what's going on here - the phone app shows you the most overdue stuff at the top, and the least overdue stuff at the bottom. That makes sense from a functional standpoint, but the UI doesn't communicate what it's doing. That's not good.

One solution would be to add the due date to each row in the view, so you could see what's causing the sorting without tapping to the detail screen for a bunch of actions and figuring it out for yourself. I think we've gotten requests for that, so I'm going to add a note to it.

If you'd still like a hierarchy in those views, I'd definitely send feedback to the support ninjas so they can record it; I don't think we've heard the request from anyone else.
Someone else here suggested putting in "due on <foo>" headers to those views, much like the desktop app does. Makes the sorting more obvious, but sacrifices some screen real estate to do so. It would be a flat-list-with-headers, like we use in the nearby view. Would that work better for you?

One advantage of the current setup is that Project and Context hierarchies use left and right travel, while Overdue and Due Soon are just flat lists; there's less chance of confusing one mode for the other, since they don't behave the same.

If you haven't sent an email to the support ninjas, let them know if you want project hierarchy, context hierarchy, date hierarchy, the ability to use settings to choose any of them, or some other thing I'm not thinking of. :-)

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