Follow up after a phone call ( or email )

I have a context called “Get In Touch” - which captures all phone calls I need to make. I am confused as to what happens to the action item if I want to create a followup call later? Do I create another action item to follow up? Is there a better way to do this which allows me to see the entire history of contacts with a particular person ?

I know of three approaches. You might switch the context to a “waiting for reply” context. You can also keep the context but set a defer date so that it will pop up again in a few days if you haven’t heard back. Curt Clifton also wrote an excellent script that completes the current action and sets up a new action in a follow up context.


I like option 1 and 2. For #2, do you have only a defer date ( without any due date?) The due date on the original item will be earlier than the new defer date, no?

If I have to be in touch with them by a certain date, then I would set a due date. If not, then not. It depends completely on what the task is for.

I drag the action to one of my Waiting contexts (Home, Work, etc.).

One other thing I do is enter (using a Keyboard Maestro macro) the date I called (or emailed) at the end of the line in parens, so I can easily see how long I’ve been waiting a response.


Tacking on to this topic: I often have conversations that drive towards a goal (e.g. get a meeting) but involve an unforeseeable number of back-and-forths. I may start with an action:

  • Email Ms. X
    once I got around to do that, the next step is:
  • Check for response from Ms. X
    Since she may not respond right away, it could also be “Follow up with Ms. X to get response.” Once I got a response, it may contain questions or points that I need to address first, so now we are back to:
  • Email Ms. X

This loop may repeat a few times until the final goal (get a meeting) is accomplished or abandoned. I often have multiple such loops going. I started out having just one action “Set up meeting with Ms. X” but this doesn’t really let me manage the back and forth very well. But if I turn “Set up meeting with Ms. X” into a project, it will at any given time only have one action under it, either “send response” or “wait for response”. It seems unwieldy to have lots of “projects” with just one action.

I saw the suggestions to switch context to “Waiting” but I’d prefer to keep these chains within the original context. What about that script lucasburke mentioned, how does it work and where can I find it?

What’s the best way to handle such “ball in my court / ball in their court” scenarios?

Maybe I’m hung up on the terminology, but “waiting for reply” sounds like I can ignore a thing indefinitely
as I’ve kicked the ball over the line.

Adding that defer date is a good tip, though.
It will become my problem even if the other person fails to do their part.

Curt’s script is great for this, but just going over your Waiting For list during the weekly review is often sufficient.

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OK so maybe the better title is “Check for response”, which, if you’re a stickler for terminology, isn’t great either because there isn’t really much to check. The response either pops up in your inbox or it doesn’t.

But you’re right, this is for cases where it will become my problem if the other person doesn’t respond. So I need to stay on top of who owes me a reply and send a follow-up reminder after a few days.

Usually these are simple single actions (in my mind at least, like the “Set up meeting” example) that I want to toggle somehow b/w “ball in my court / ball in their court”. I’ll try the script. Thanks!

That’s the gist of my comment: "waiting for reply” isn’t about being a stickler,
its about using the terminology to keep postponing checking in on a task & serves as an observation. I think we agree.

It depends on the type of use:
If its an office task that relies on another department’s response, it takes on a different importance than personal business.

At some point, the other person’s oversight or procrastination is owned by you.
It might be my personal peccadillo, but “Waiting for Reply” even if explicitly accurate - feels like I can skip over the item a time or two. The hangup is my reaction.

That doesn’t change the needs, that is an observation.
If an alarm pops up - to remind one to followup, then its possibly a moot point. I just think a flag change would be nice if a response is not made in x timeframe.

I see passive-aggressives copping an attitude & allowing a task to sit,
because they did not get a response in due order to something they’ve flagged. Which only extends the delay.
It becomes everyone’s problem because it was passed over so long as they can think its out of their court.

I downloaded the script too. He has his own webpage.
The script is a good start, but I think it could be tuned a little to suit my needs.

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Talking about @curt’s script, @timstringer has a great video about it on his new website Learn Omnifocus. Worth checking.

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your answer is good for me!