Defer dates, and general organisation

Hi, I’m pretty new to OF2. I have many projects, and many tasks within each project. About 95% of my tasks have a defer date.

My problem is that I’m not getting through all my tasks in a day, and I have 20-30 tasks each day that don’t get done, so I have to keep pushing them out to the future. To the point now where its just like pushing this big pile of tasks out into the future by a couple of days. Its difficult to know what’s important and what’s not so important.

Any thoughts?

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It sounds like you are using defer dates for all tasks that you don’t manage to accomplish today. Try to use defer dates only for tasks that you for specific reasons can’t start working on before given dates. Then use due dates for tasks that have real deadlines - with consequences if they aren’t accomplished. For other tasks, you could simply continue working on them tomorrow if you don’t manage to finish them today. For prioritizing, you could for example use flags. And for not getting lost among lots of tasks, use the review feature regularly for choosing which tasks to start working on.


Have you tried using flags? Here’s a suggested workflow:

Make a Perspective that shows you Available actions that are Not Flagged. Use that every morning to choose the 5 things you want to get done. Make sure to flag the overdue items first. Choose 5 things.

Make A Perspective that shows Available actions that are Flagged. It should show the 5 things you chose to do. Do those five things, and mark them done. If you get through all 5, go back to the unflagged Perspective and choose five more. If you come to the end of the day and there are things left on your Flagged list, unflag them instead of deferring them. Keep defer dates for actions that cannot be started until after their defer dates.

Next morning, look at the unflagged list, and choose your five actions. Continue the process.

You can group the Unflagged Perspective by project if you want to prioritize by outcome, or by context if you want to focus on the shape of the day. (Know you’re going to be at the desk all day? Choose the phone calls first.)

Hope that helps.


Wow, lots of great suggestions!!

Thanks guys

I’ve decided on a different tactic. I’ll hold have two single action lists. The first one is called Office Actions. The second one is called Office Someday/Maybe.

Set the status of the Office Someday/Maybe to “on hold.” The Office Actions single action list keeps its default status of Active.

Put all of your one-off tasks into the Office Someday/Maybe, These actions will not show up in any perspective that shows available actions. In the morning, go to the Office Someday/Maybe list and review it. Look for three to five things you’d like to do today. In the inspector, you can change the project from Office Someday/Maybe to Office Actions. Or drag and drop the actions from the Office Someday/Maybe to Office Actions.

Then work on any task that is in Office Action. You will be able to see the tasks from the Office Actions single action list in any perspective that shows all available actions.

If you really do have a defer date on an action, go ahead and put it in Office Actions and set the defer date. Those tasks will show up in any perspective that shows all available actions on the deferred date.

I didn’t have to put defer dates on all the Office Someday/Maybe because all of these actions are on hold. I am not going to even work on these tasks. Just the tasks in Office Actions.

I also have a similar setup for my Personal folder (Personal Actions, Personal Someday/Maybe) or whatever Area of Responsibility that I may have (Church folder, Family folder, etc.).


Wow. Like that idea @wilsonng! Been using OF for years and never thought about splitting my single action list into 2 separate groups. Thanks! I get to the end of the day and push my someday maybe to next day.

thanks. If I put all of my tasks on hold, I’ll never have to defer it. When I start my day, I’ll select 3-5 tasks and move it to the Office Actions and make it active. I am intentionally going to focus on this group of tasks. Everything else can be saved for later. If I happen to finish my current batch of tasks, I’ll move another handful of tasks to Office Actions.

I will put defer dates only on tasks that definitely have a defer date. For example, I will start actively looking for a barbecue grill at the end of this month when my local hardware store will have them on sale.

Having an active single action list (Office Actions) and an on hold action list saves me the headache of constantly deferring tasks on a daily basis.

I also set the review cycle of these two lists to every 3 days. Some will even be set to once a week. When I visit my review perspective during my review time, I’ll definitely see these lists.

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One mistake that I have been making is; not being generous enough with projects and having too many Single Action (SA) items.
Having many large SA lists is not so easy to review. There will be tasks that you would want to review frequently and infrequently on the same list. Also, you cannot put an individual task to on-hold so you have to hack that and create an on-hold context - or use wilsonng’s approach to move between lists.

Another issue with being lazy just throwing everything into a SAL is that often, when you really think about it, it’s not a SA item. There will be multiple steps needed around the same topic. Maybe not multiple steps just to complete that task but other tasks connected to that topic. I found that I often had incoming tasks that were related and I knew they were but I didn’t clarify enough and I didn’t bother to make a project. Eventually I was just throwing everything into the same SAL’s and when I realized this I started just leaving stuff in the inbox - cause it was pretty much just as effective. Then I had an impossible situation with huge SAL’s and a huge inbox also.

So I changed strategy. Now most things are projects. Everything I don’t want to work on in the next couple of days is set to on-hold. If I want to work on it later I set the review date accordingly.
Every morning I do a daily review and I activate those projects that contain tasks I want to work on.
As the day goes by some reactive things pop up and I try to knock off some of the activated tasks but as I realize that a few tasks won’t actually get done soon I may put them on hold again.
In order to not just madly push review dates around I have the following strategy.
• Active stuff that I NEED to do are kept active.
• Stuff that I want to see if I can slide on until I no longer need to do them are put on hold with later review date of 1 month or more. These are then dropped or re-activated during reviews.
• Stuff that I have previously activated but could’t get done are kept active
• Really urgent things are flagged, I do these first. I sometimes also flag quick/easy items to better progress my entire situation.
• Defer is used for things I can’t/shouldn’t really do right now.
E.g. Let’s say I gave my colleague Joe the task to fix a software bug for a client. The client is really stressed about this so I need to make sure Joe communicates the progress before he leaves today. I then create a flagged, follow up task and defer it to 16.00. Sometimes I also make it due to create a reminder on the iPhone.
• For stuff that I know I won’t do for a considerable amount of time, or ever but I know there is a chance I may want to, I move these projects into s special someday/maybe folder to get it out of the way of my backlog/working folders.

The idea is to have Omnifocus look clean all the time so I know what to focus on.
This is accomplished by being generous with projects, putting those on-hold and using frequent reviews.
Defer is like a cherry on the top.


HI Wilsonng - you mention ‘on hold’ status. But there is no such thing for tasks.

Sorry. I will clarify.

I have two single action lists. The first one is called Office Actions. The status is set to active. the second single actions list is called Office Someday/Maybe. The status is set to On Hold.

In the beginning, I will put all of my new tasks in Office Someday/Maybe. All tasks are on hold because the Office Someday/Maybe container’s status is set to On Hold.

Every morning, I will visit Office Someday/Maybe and look for a handful of tasks that I want to work on today. I select a task and change the Project from Office Someday/Maybe to Office Actions. Now the task is active and available for me. I will see these tasks in any custom perspective that is set to show all available tasks. If I change the task’s project from Office Action to Office Someday/Maybe, the task becomes unavailable because Office Someday/Maybe is set to On Hold.

I have two separate lists for every area of my life.

Home Actions and Home Someday/Maybe
Office Actions and Office Someday/Maybe
Family Actions and Family Someday/Maybe

Some folks may not need so many. One Actions list and one Someday/Maybe list will be sufficient.

Does this help?

The above post is the same answer

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would you mind post a screenshot of your list and custom perspective settings, thank you.

I have a Single Actions List (SAL) for each area of my life: Office, House, Duplex, Personal, Family, etc

These hold all of my one-off tasks that don’t belong in big projects.

This is the setting for the active SAL. Project status is “active.”

I set the review cycle to every 3 days. This is a personal choice. I don’t want to have to review it every day. But I do want to remind myself to review every once in a while. Three days seems to be enough to not be annoying for me. You might choose another review frequency.

Then I create another group of SALs. I call these my Someday/Maybe SALs.

They are the same as the “active” but their project status is set to “on hold.”

I like to put any new single tasks into the Someday/maybe SALs. My workload is already full of single tasks and I don’t need to put every brand new idea into the active SAL. I will put them in the Someday/Maybe SAL. These tasks are placed on hold and is unavailable. They will not be shown in any custom perspective that shows all available actions.

These single tasks in the Someday/Maybe don’t need to be deferred to a new future date. They are still on hold.

The single tasks that are in the “active” SALs will be available in any perspective that shows all available actions. I already have a bunch of single tasks that I am working on for today and the next few days. Here is a sample of my active SAL:

These are all the active tasks that I want to work on. I might put a defer date on a handful of single tasks if I know when they will actually start.

Single tasks that I don’t want to work on in the next 7 days goes into Someday/maybe SALs. I don’t need to defer any tasks in this SAL. Everything in here stays on holdmindefi itself. If I want to make a task active, I can select the task and change the project from Office Someday/Maybe to Office Actions. There is no need to defer a task to tomorrow or some other future date.

If you have a task in Office Actions that you decide to not want to work on, just change the project from Office Actions to Office Someday/Maybe.

I’ve always hated deferring tasks to tomorrow or a couple of days into the future. I know I’m not gonna do it i the next 7 days. I just safely store it in the Office
Someday/Maybe SAL.

Hope this helps.

thank you for a detailed explanation. it seems you dont use a custom perspectives a lot? or do you have any custom perspectives (again if you dont mind share those custom perspective settings), thank you.

First, I have a custom perspective called “context (planning).”

This shows all available tasks from my projects and SALs. This is a “planning” perspective. At the end of the day, I will look over all the available tasks. Then I will flag or unflag tasks that I want to work on in the next few days

I do not “do” from this planning perspective. The list is too long and I’ll be trying to do a bunch of too many things. Instead, I create a “doing” perspective called “Today” that shows due or flagged tasks.

Any tasks with a due soon, due today, or overdue are automatically shown here. Tasks that don’t need to be done by a certain date can appear here if I flag those tasks in the “context planning” perspective.

My Today tends to be shorter. A shorter list is easier to work from.

If you want to work on onlly tasks that are from the SALs, go to the perspective editor and change the focus.

If I click on the popup menu, I can select just the active SALs.

My focus list will now show this:

I often work in two modes. First I will work on completing single actions in a particular context. I might want to work on computer tasks. I’ll select my @Mac perspective. Or I might want to work on admin tasks. I’ll go to the @Admin perspective that is focused on an Admin SAL.

When I’ve done enough single actions in a context, I switch to the Projects perspective and focus on one Big Rock project. Then I batch work on tasks that belong to the one project.

So I mix single actions and Big Rock projects throughout the week.

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thank very much, yours workflow seems fit with my needs, I’ll try for the next few weeks.

Hi, i’m curious why in your context planning perspective the filter status was any status instead unflagged since you have a today perspective that used flagged. as a result, your context planning perspectives populated also with flagged task, and also how you manage if in someday/maybe SAL you set a defer or due dates that show up in forecast perspective. Thank you

The context planning perspective is my “menu.” It will show every available task -unflagged, flagged, due, no due date, etc.

I have it sorted by due so that all due tasks are higher up in the list. Then I check the flag color. I might have some flagged tasks that I want to un-flag. Then I can flag other tasks.

The number of tasks in the context planning is quite large. It is not a good idea to be working from this list. There are too many tasks to choose from. That’s why I consider this a planning perspective.

When I want to go into “doing” mode, I visit the Today perspective. This perspective will show only due and flagged tasks.

If an available task has a due date, it will automatically show up in this perspective without my intervention. In the preferences screen, I set due soon to 1 week. That will give me a heads up for next week’s tasks. I can see how I might set it to about 1-3 days ahead of time if I don’t need that much lead time.

Flagged tasks will also show up in the Today perspective because I had flagged and un-flagged them in the context planning perspective.

My priorities are to work on due tasks (overdue, due today, due soon) first. This is HIGH priority.

My second priorities are to work on flagged tasks - anything that does not have a due date but I do want to work on it today. These tasks are MEDIUM priority and will be completed throughout the day in the holes of my schedule between all the due tasks.

All of the other tasks that don’t have a due date or are not flagged are considered LOW priority. I am not even going to consider doing them today. They are hidden away in the context planning perspective (showing any status - flagged, unflagged, due, no due date).

These low priority tasks will not be shown in the Today perspective (showing only due or flagged).

If your task list is light then you might be able to get away with working in my context planning perspective. But if your workload includes a variety of tasks (due, flagged, un-flagged) then it might be better to work on a smaller set of tasks.

The context planning perspective is my restaurant menu. I look at all the available choices and start loading up my plate. When my plate is sufficiently loaded, I will put away the restaurant menu and work on my plate (Today perspective).

Imagine yourself at an all you can eat buffet. There are so many dishes to get. But your stomach can only hold so much food. You fill up your plate and go back to your table. You focus on the food on your plate. If you finish your plate and you still feel hungry, you can always go back to buffet line and get second helpings.

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