How do I avoid having to change start date every day in a SAL?

In either a Single Action List or a Sequential project (I actually have the latter as a sub-project of the former) I have set both defer dates and due dates both for the project and for each action in it.

For the project as a whole the due date is (logically) the last due date of the last item.

For the project as a whole the defer date is the defer date of the first item. Usually today.

But - as I complete items - I am obliged to keep changing the project’s defer date because the task for each day gets completed.

If I don’t advance the project’s defer date by one day, it shows up in my forecast even though I’m clear for that day.

Am I structuring this wrongly, please?

What’s considered best practice?


I don’t think I have ever set a due date on a project preferring to put it on hold with an admin task to start it on a set date which I keep in a separate SAL called “activate” which shows me upcoming projects i need to start. Other than for pushing projects out in to the future I do not think using defer dates is useful… also ask yourself if each task actually NEEDS a defer and due date, if the project needs working on just activate it. Set a recurring admin task as per above to work on the project… I tend to see projects as buckets, the items inside might need due and/or defer dates the buckets often do not.

Use due dates sparingly only for tasks that must be done on that date, otherwise the anxiety of seeing too many of them can be paralyzing. Additionally setting a due date on a project means all the tasks inside it inherit that due date.

A workflow that causes less anxiety (for me anyway) is to check every morning what I “can” work on then select what I “must” do, work through those, then review what’s left, rinse and repeat.

Perhaps also move the sequential “action list” out of the SAL into its own project and group together in a folder if logical for example I have a “Portfolio” folder, a SAL within it for routine one off tasks and repeating projects for writing a blog post, sending a newsletter etc, updating the CMS’s etc.

Thank you very much, Richard, for your advice :-)

For the years (decades?!) over which I’ve been using task management software I’ve followed the debate (e.g. GTD) on whether or not to use dates.

I appreciate that (most?) conventional wisdom is that you shouldn’t attach dates - particularly not Due Dates - unless the ‘sky will fall’ if you don’t get something done by that time.

But I’m retired. I do indeed have very few deadlines.

Yet I really want to put myself on a route-march, set myself goals - they’re more of a way to distribute a chore over, say, a week, or ten days; of thus ensuring that I do really get, say one seventh of something that will take a week done each day.

So in fact I do want Dates (Due and Defer). Yet I don’t want to keep moving Defer up every time I complete a component.

Any ideas, please?

@MarkSealey - since you are wanting to “force” yourself to stick to something, a better idea may be to schedule the stuff on your calendar and treat it like a work appointment that you have to show up to.


It’s more a question of ‘apportioning out’ work in a way that gets it done - rather than constantly Deferring!

But my question remains regardless of my attitude: how do I avoid having to move the Start Date of a project forward each day, as I complete that day’s tasks in that project, please?

I hear what you’re saying here. I think this is why I use actions and perspectives to drive my doing, and project hierarchy to drive my thinking.

In other words, when I look at what I need to do, I am not looking at projects or project names, only actions, so defer and due dates there are good enough for me.

When I am thinking about planning and making sure I have all the right actions, then I am looking at project hierarchy, in which case availability matters less (my mindset is whether or not the project, as a container, contains the right things in the right states - the state of the container is important to me only in the context of how it affects what it contains).

Maybe I’m splitting hairs a bit, but wondered if that might give some comfort that perhaps this is less of a technical constraint, and more a philosophical one (philosophies can change faster than software 😂).



@MarkSealey Reading your original question, I noted this phrase: “it shows up in my forecast even though I’m clear for that day”. I assume that you have the ‘Show deferred items’ option enabled in the Forecast view, and that you are relying on the defer dates of the actions/project to show you what you should tackle today.

Another way to accomplish this is to apply your Forecast tag (eg. ‘Today’) to the actions in your project/SAL. You’ll pick some of them and complete them. The ones you don’t complete will still be there the next day under the ‘Today’ section (and you can additionally defer them until tomorrow if you don’t want them showing up because you’ve done enough for the day).

Defer dates only control the availability of an item, ie. when it’s possible to do it; they were not designed as “start dates”.

If you really do want a date-based approach to force you into a schedule, you could create a daily-repeating action called “Make progress on project X”, which represents your 1/7th of work. It can be inside the project itself or outside with a link to the project. Two ways to set it up:

  • With a defer date only and the Forecast tag
  • With both a defer date and due date for the same day (the times being the start and end of your day).

You mark this item as complete when you’ve finished your target chunk of work, it disappears for the day and pops up again the next day. If you set the repeat based on ‘Assigned dates’ and don’t cheat on marking it complete, then it will represent your workload including catching up on chunks that are overdue. With this scheduling action, your project or its actions can have true dates representing when they can/must be done.

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Thanks, @heyscottyj!

Insightful and illuminating as ever :-)

In fact, I almost always do plan, build and monitor via Projects and SALs in a meticulously worked-out set of hierarchies with accompanying tags.

I suppose I use Forecast to simplify things… the old ‘trusted system’ concept: throw (sorry, carefully input) all my tasks into their Projects with their dates (and, Yes, I have wrestled - like most of us - with the Date Debate for as many years as I have been using task management software: I just want to ‘divide’ lists up and make sure that, say, I do a tenth of a mini project each day for ten days… I have no ROI, so it’s a mathematical not a social/team construct) and see each morning what’s on the slate only for that day.

I’ve never had much success with the Today Perspective. Maybe I should revise my settings?

Your help - again - appreciated!

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Yes, I have. It’s not the items that are showing up. It’s the ‘parent’ of the SAL.

Could it be that I haven’t constructed the SAL correctly. Maybe take out the parent’s Defer date?


Yes, I see. In fact the number of mouse clicks to move the defer date up on any one day: 1!

That’s OK in terms of my effort - and probably quicker than the use of tags you kindly suggest. So I can live with it if it’s impossible to do as I hoped :-)

So, again, perhaps my Perspective (Pro 3) is incorrectly set up?

Thanks, noted. I’ll give that a try! You help and suggestions much appreciated.

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