Distinguishing between hard and soft due dates

Apologies if this is a repeat, I’m not sure how to search the forums for this.

So I’ve got a bazillion items in my “Active Projects” folder in the category, “I’ve decided to definitely do this, but it doesn’t matter when.” The problem is that my day-to-day to-do list is always crowded with due tasks, so if I keep these as “whenever” tasks, I’ll never get to them.

So when I do a review, I scan through these lists and see if there are any I need to “promote” by assigning a due date. It’s not actually due by then, it’s just a way of saying, “it would be nice to get to this by then.” And the obvious problem is that they then get mixed with all off the actually-due tasks.

The result: when I’m triaging my due list and I don’t have time to tackle everything, I zip through the list and assign new due dates. But this is a bit time-consuming, and it’s contributing to my general aversion to, “don’t spend more time fiddling with your system than actually doing work.”

Best alternative I’ve found so far: if something is on my to-do list with a hard deadline, I also flag it as a visual reminder. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet shelled out for Pro yet, so I can’t make custom perspectives (and I’m frequently on a third-party app on my Android that doesn’t have them, anyway).

Ideas? One thought I had: very few of my tasks or projects make use of contexts, because nearly 90% of the time when I’m working, I’ve got all of my gadgets and can pretty much do anything on the list. So maybe there’s a clever trick here that I’m missing?

I do the opposite.

Things I want to do, but that don’t have a hard due date are flagged. I try (but don’t always succeed) to make sure due dates in my lists are all hard due dates.


Huh. That’s an interesting approach.

Avoid due dates for anything that are not real hard due dates. Not only will you get the time-consuming problem you have described, you will also lose respect for hard due dates, as they are hidden among other tasks, or risk to miss them.

My solution, which works well for me, is to use these techniques:

  1. Keep everything as structured as you can in different categories, even if it’s only single tasks not belonging to any project. I have found it much easier to prioritize among tasks or projects in the same category or of the same kind. Then you can manually prioritize the tasks in each project by manually sort them within the project and much faster use the review process, knowing that the tasks already are prioritized.

  2. To prioritize further, among different categories of tasks, you could use contexts. I use the contexts Today, Daily (for tasks I need to work on repeatedly), This week, This month, and For rescheduling (to avoid being overwhelmed by too many tasks in the other contexts).

  3. You could then use flags if needed to prioritize within the contexts. I have a custom perspective showing the contexts in the order above and sorted by flags, but I think the technique could make things more clear even without perspectives requiring the Pro version.

What I like with my solution is that I never have to set any new dates. If I have finished the tasks that have (hard) due dates, my priorities for all other tasks that I haven’t manage to finish is as valid next week, and next month, and so on.


Sounds interesting, how do you set categories?

In my case, I have a lot of personal things I would like to achieve in my spare time, things that aren’t related to any projects. Some examples: letters I would like to write, applications I would like to learn or adjust for my needs, things I would like to read/watch/explore, things I should fix at home and so on. Instead of having everything in an overwhelming mess, I have found that separating the tasks makes prioritizing much easier. Even if there are ten letters I really would like to write, it’s much easier to choose which one to start with if I only have to compare different letters with each other, not totally different kinds of tasks. Then it’s also easier to accept that I have to wait with the other nine letters, as I could only write one letter at a time.

Thank you, that is helpful but I still cannot find the category option for tasks. Are you using context for categories?

I wish that I could set alerts independent of due dates. All due dates would automatically create an alert. But, creating an alert would not set a due date.

Sorry, @RickP, I misunderstood you. I thought I had made it clear that I use Contexts for setting my categories. This may not work for you. If you use Contexts for other purposes, you will have to wait for multiple tags in Omnifocus later this year, then you could use those for all purposes.

Jan, thank you for the clarification. I can see some benefits of doing it that way but if tags are coming then I’ll wait for the new stuff rather than change my system twice.