Defer/Start destination

Yes, I know this is a perennial question. But I am curious what you all think. I used OF from 2014, shortly after I bought my first Mac, until last February when I switched to Things 3. I don’t change systems really, but have always liked the theory behind OF.

The reason I have been running with Things is that the system has an obvious, logical approach to dates. It works well for me, especially when deadlines are involved. When do you need to deliver a piece of work = deadline, therefore when do you need to start that piece of work in order to get it done in time = when date. This works because Things doesn’t wag it’s finger at you if you don’t complete a piece of work on the day you allocate it. (As I think about it, isn’t that how Outlook tasks worked about 20 years ago?)

I have never really got my head around defer dates. It’s not a distinction in name, it’s the way defer dates behave in OF, and especially in the forecast view.

I’d be interested to know how people manage the destination between “when I want to do a piece of work” and “when it has to be done by.”

For me it depends on the length of the task. Anything of any real length or dept I break down into a project with steps. (In GTD anything with more than 1 step is a project rather than an action or task) e.g. if I have to create a report, I need to gather information (sometimes including meetings), interpret that information, create a first draft of the report, a second Draft and then share it for comment with key stakeholders before releasing the live version.

It sounds like you’re trying to do the whole thing as one task, but my mind doesn’t work that way.

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Aren’t they the same, apart from the fact that you have to create a separate Deferred perspective in Omnifocus to prevent the tasks from disappearing from the forecast view after the deadline? But as long as the deadline is today or in the future, you could have the deferred tasks shown in the forecast view.

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I’m definitely breaking projects into tasks, but there comes a point where the detail becomes too granular to add any value. it’s really the way OF deals with defer dates.

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Yes, that’s exactly what I was doing a couple of years ago, but it feels like a workaround. I appreciate that’s the difference between a piece of software that allows you to build your own solution, vs one that provides you with a limited solution.

I’m just curious as to whether anyone works with defer dates to good effect, and really uses them to plan their daily work.

The efficiency and effectiveness of deferring tasks in OmniFocus is likely the single most useful feature in the software.

Using natural language, I can quickly hide items from my attention and have them perfectly arise at a future date.

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To me, defer dates are not “when I want to do a piece of work”, but instead “when I could start a piece of work”. That means that at any given time, I can look at my OF database and know that anything that is available I could do now and, vice versa, everything I could do now is in that list. What I will do now is chosen from a variety of perspectives which surface some (mostly repeating) things automatically, while others I intentionally surface by applying specific tags which “float them up” to those perspectives.

As for “when I want to do a piece of work”, I use a “today” tag to schedule this for bigger tasks, typically. I’ve found that trying to plan individual actions more than a week ahead is pretty much useless for me, so I have settled on a series of tags for each day of the week, which are brought forward to “today” and “tomorrow” automatically using an Omni Automation run daily from Keyboard Maestro, and hence pop into my “Today” perspective on the relevant day.

As for the forecast view, I essentially don’t use it to be honest!


I also use tags (today, monday, tuesday …
next week …, june, jule, august … next year quater 1, quater 2 … and so on). This system was published by Colter Reed on its website
The defer-date is also used for tasks that have to be started on a certain date in the future so that the work can be completed by a due date. For tasks with a due date there is a perspective, “DEADLINE”, for defer-dates “START DATE”. In addition, I use a perspective “CALENDER”, which lists all tasks with date tags in chronological order. Another perspective is “TODAY” for defer and due dates and the tag “today”. Here I flag the tasks that I absolutely want to do. They then appear in the “DO IT NOW” perspective.
I am very satisfied with it and everything works smoothly. With this system, I practically do a daily review in the morning. I don’t need tags like “phone”; “desktop”, “computer” … cause I’m 39 hours a week at my desk in the office.


Yes, I do.

The way I don’t “lose” tasks is Weekly and Daily reviews.


Like @kaitlin, I use defer dates to specify when I could start working on something or when I wish to be reminded of it. They act like an old-fashioned 43 folder tickler file. For instance, I can’t start working on my income taxes until I get at least a few of the forms I need, so my income tax project has a defer date of January 20. There’s no point in getting my car inspected until the month its sticker expires, so I have that recurring action deferred to Nov. 1.

If, in my weekly review, I notice that I’ll be really busy, I will sometimes use the defer date to get actions or projects off my desk while I concentrate on more urgent things.

I have deferred items set to appear in the Forecast perspective, so when they arrive, they tickle my brain. For things that are not due soon (in OF terms) but that I want to prioritize, I use a “soon” tag that appears in the Forecast. I use regular reviews to help decide what to work on at any given time, though I’ve gotten a bit lax with those recently.

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I view defer dates as the date an action becomes possible to do, then I have an “On Deck” tag for actions I actually intend to do soon. So the list of available actions are just available, but not committed to any timeframe.

Update: Should have read through the thread before replying, I see @kaitlin gave a similar answer with more helpful details.

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I use defer dates for nearly everything, and most without any due dates unless strictly needed. My “today” perspective shows me an Eisenhower Matrix of tasks plus communications. However most tasks in projects are tagged differently.

Example: if I have a project to redesign a site I may have tags like coding, research, etc. These never show in my day list and have no dates of any kind attached. I then have a task to “work on site XYZ redesign” which repeats weekdays and is tagged “important & not urgent” part of the Eisenhower matrix. This shows up in my today list, I can add a due date if I really need to but tend to keep this info in the task or project notes.

I keep a “parked list”, an" activations" list and an “engaged” list, These hold the tasks to remind me to start, or work on a project. “Parked” (status on hold) hold tasks to work on for each project I need to work on soon. “Activations” (active) hold the same info but for projects with definite dates with dates deferred and due set so they appear on my Today list when I need them to. “Engaged” (active, flagged) hold the reminder tasks to work on the 2-4 projects I am working on.

To activate a project I simply drag it to the engaged list, if something urgent comes up I can easily move the “engaged” projects to “parked” effectively clearing the decks.

Apart from the introduction of the Eisenhower Matrix into the equation this is pretty much the system @Kourosh recommends in his excellent book “Creating Flow with Omnifocus”. It took a couple of readings but once it stuck it just made sense for me.

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