Balancing the use of defer, review, and hold?

I am curious how folks handle this situation.

Consider a Project that cannot be done until a certain date, should not be put off at the time it can start, but is not tied to an external due date. An example is a specific yard work project at a second home that you visit sporadically, say every other month. The yard work can be postponed, though you would prefer not to do so. We have three options to affect various levels of putting aside the Project until it can start.

  • Set the defer date
  • Set the (next) review date
  • Set the Project on hold

Each option alone or in combination has its own pros and cons. While my brain tells me that I should be able to decide an effective way to use these three options to do what I want, I subsequently get lost in deciding what that should mean for the case at hand.

The balance I seek is between keeping the Project entirely out of my sight until it can start and not loosing track of the desire to start the Project when it can start.

What do others do here?


For me, I would defer the project, since indeed it can be put off, but would have the first task flagged or due (or tagged with my Forecast tag in OF3) so that once the project becomes available, that task gets my attention.

In some cases, I have used tasks like:

Start project by preparing X
Decide how to start this project because it is available now

So the tasks can be kind of meta, easily checked off, but have the effect of drawing my attention to the overall project at a particular time.

I save On Hold status for when Availability is either unknown or to be decided upon at a later date. And Reviews keep me on top of my game on a weekly basis, but if I want to be drawn to something at a specific time, I can’t lean on my reviews for that (also, I keep my review time for planning, not for doing).

Just an idea!


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Interesting thoughts. Thank you.

I’ve used flagged tasks at the start of a Project to initiate the Project. The approach is not new to me.

You’ve added an insight I had not considered: saving the On Hold status for a specific situation. I’ll think about this case further.

Otherwise, I may still move the next Review to correspond to the defer date. I have no need at all to be reminded that I have this Project until the time that it can truly be activated.


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I’ve always put every project that I am not going to be doing to “on hold” and then set the review cycle to every 2 weeks or 4 weeks. When it shows up in my review perspective, I am reminded about it.Then I can choose to set it to active when I feel I have enough capacity to take on a new project in addition to current ongoing projects.

when my projects turn active, i set the review cycle to once every 3-7 days. When the active projects show up in the review perspective, my attention is drawn to the project and I can evaluate what needs to be done. If it’s stuck, perhaps re-arranging the tasks or adding a new task at the top will kickstart it for me. Or I might decide to put it back on the back burner and change status to on hold with review cycle back to 2 weeks or 4 weeks.

The review dates are staggered for each project. So I might have zero to eight projects to review on a daily basis. I’ll spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes on my review.

I will defer an active project if I know i going to start on a particular day. Then I change the review date to the defer date. I will see the deferred project show up in my review perspective. OmniFOcus also notifies me via Notification Center that a deferred project has started.

My review time is when I am made aware of project status. I work on the review first thing in the morning to remind myself of what needs my attention. If it doesn’t go in the review, I might forget about it because it is lost in my Projects perspective which has a large number of projects (active and on hold).

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You present an alternative for the On Hold status – anything that is not active. I tend to like this approach if for no other reason than that it is simply a binary yes/no decision. I realize a few other insights are helpful.

  • Putting a Project to On Hold only removes it from Perspective views per filter settings. It will still show in Review.
  • Deferring a Project does not guarantee that it shows up again on the defer date. It only guarantees that it remains out of sight until its defer date is reached, and then only in Perspectives that are limited to available views.
  • Deferring a Project does not remove it from a Review cycle.

My overriding interest is to remove the Project from all views as much as possible until the defer date is reached. In this case, the best choice is to defer it, put it on hold, and move the next review date to the defer date. This is also a case where the Project is something I desire to do, not a demand that I must do. In the latter case, I would apply a flagged task at the start as a reminder to initiate the Project. In the former, I will be inclined to leave the Project at On Hold and allow that it goes active when I choose to start it.

@wilsonng – As to review cycles, I use a rubric akin to this:

  • 1 day – active and in need of ongoing attention
  • 3 days – active, and I need to remind myself
  • 5 days – active, external input is pending
  • 1 week/Fridays – single action administrative Projects
  • 1 wk – on hold, and I need to remind myself
  • 3 wks – on hold in general


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yes, i also rarely look at my Projects perspective except during creation of new projects or to see the overall landscape of my folders and projects.

I have my Big Rocks perspective which shows only Active projects. I figured that I would go here to look at any projects I want to work on in the next 7 days. Anything that is not being worked on will be set to on hold and will be hidden from this view.

Then I have the On Hold perspective which shows all projects that are not available (deferred or on hold). I don’t really look at this unless I complete a current project and want to look for the next on hold project to activate.

I agree with your review cycles. Any active project that has a lot of daily changes will get a 1 day review. Most of my projects can go on the 3 to 5 day reviews.

Some of my single action lists gets changed a lot (my wife’s Honey-Do list, for example) and I’ll need to review it every day. My Office Single Actions can change daily and will need to reviewed daily. But my other single action lists can get the 1 week review cycle.

I had put my ramblings about active/on hold projects in writing a while ago here…

Use location based reminders as well.

For places I visit sporadically I‘ve got a whole sub-group of contexts: @Munich, @Cottage and so on.
They’re filtered out of my usual perspectives, but when I get there, a popup reminds me to ‚try this restaurant in Munich‘ or ‚to fix the chair at the cottage‘.

Of course, other tasks in that project ‚fix the cairr at the cottage‘ might have other contexts, e.g. ‚get glue for the chair‘ with a context of ‚errands‘.

Real world application: I‘ve got a sturdy plastic box in the cellar that only contains the stuff I want to take to/from the cottage. In case anything is too big for it, I stick a PostIt to it. Makes no sense in stuffing OF with a list of „pack this and that“. In case anything takes less than two minutes, do it immediately.