An action due today at 7:00 PM can be deferred to 7:00 PM today. Then when the action’s due date is changed to a future date, the action remains on the Forecast as deferred to today. Neither makes sense. Deferral to the due time has no meaning, nor does deferral to a time before the due date.)
I can understand your confusion. “Defer” as a term is a bit ambiguous as it appears in OmniFocus. If you understand it as “putting something off” from its original due date, then being able to have a deferral date prior to your due date seems like nonsense.
However, I think deferring to a time before the due date makes perfect sense if “deferring” is understood as delaying the availability of that action to you. Defer dates used to be called “Start” dates in OF. The idea is NOT that you are delaying the due date, but rather delaying when you should start that action.
Lets say, for example, that you have to get a reference letter for an application due on September 30. The referee, however, is away and unavailable until August 4. You might create the action “Ask John Johnson for Reference letter” with the due date of September 30th and a defer date of August 4. This way, for the next month where you couldn’t even act on that action if you wanted, it doesn’t clutter up your perspective. On august 4, however, it suddenly becomes available and will appear in your forecast and your project and so on.
David Sparks has a workflow that involves Start Dates/Defer dates. He talks about it on Inside Omnifocus:
as well as on his own blog:
and Shawn Blanc on “A better mess”:
The plain English meaning of defer is to put off until a later time. I think the sense you suggest is perhaps too clever for most of us. I realize OF is not a project management tool, so folks can make up their own meanings and use cases. I don’t really care if Omni changes the behavior - but it is odd and inconsistent with the ordinary sense of sequence.
I was confused to, honestly. The only way I came to understand it was because of its former name as “Start date” which hinted at the intended meaning. Without that knowledge, I’d still be rather confused about it.
Can’t defend Omni’s choice, I think “Start date” makes more sense, frankly, nevertheless it’s what we’ve got!