How do you handle Project Planning?

Hi all,

How do you handle project planning? Do you do it within OF or elsewhere? Currently I use due dates only for hard, external deadlines. But I also find that this makes me chase deadlines and miss project timelines. My solution currently is to ‘flag’ projects during my weekly review which I know need to be progressed soon, but I’d rather have some sort of soft deadline system. I could mark timelines in my calendar but as David Allen suggests I try to use my calendar only for the ‘hard landscape’ of my days and don’t want it to become cluttered.

Any suggestions appreciated!

Hi Tim,

This could be very different for everyone due to different jobs and roles, but I’m happy to share how I avoid chasing deadlines. Apologies in advance if this is too long…

I am very careful when I am structuring my projects and next actions so that I only see specifically what is relevant at that time. I do this by:

  1. A possibly-too-complex project structure: My structure starts off with every project being put in to one of two folders - “Work” or “Personal”. These are used to focus my custom perspectives (more on this later). Then under those I have projects based on my roles and areas of responsibilities.

  2. Using sequential project types wherever it is appropriate to automatically hide next actions that absolutely cannot be started until all earlier actions are completed. When necessary (often actually), the project itself will be parallel with one or more sequential action groups inside the project. In the end, my goal is that I never see a next action that I cannot complete because of dependency on a prior action.

  3. Using a “Waiting for” on-hold context for actions when I am waiting on someone else: I review this at least first thing in the morning to flag things I need to follow up, and often again at lunch time or in the evening.

  4. Using “Defer Until” dates when appropriate: If it cannot be done until after a certain date (maybe details from a meeting or phone call are required to proceed with the action, etc.).

  5. Well planned-out custom perspectives: I have perspectives setup primarily based on where I am (office, home, flying) with some other special ones (top next, delegated, stalled) that are used occasionally throughout the day or during my morning planning time. The office and home perspectives are focused based on the folders mentioned in (1) so that I only see work-related actions when I am at work and vice versa.

As is alluded to, in the morning I do a quick (10 mins) daily planning session where I primarily check my calendar, check my “delegated” perspective and look through the perspectives that will apply for the day and, if appropriate, flag certain tasks I want to accomplish that day for one reason or another. My “Top Next” perspective is set so that it shows all flagged tasks as well as the “due soon” tasks. I have “due soon” defined as next 2 days.

I use due dates only for hard deadlines, although there have been a select few situations where the final product had a hard deadline but I set some due dates on predecessor next actions to allow for extra time to complete a later action if it would take a long time, but for me these are rare.

The combination of the above makes it so that in my case, there is a very manageable number of next actions that show up in any perspective I am using. For example, if I look at my “Office” perspective right now (which includes my Computer/Online/Email type of contexts as well as my office context and the people contexts for people who are based in my office), I only have five next actions which are visible. Of course, completing some of them will make new next actions available.

In my situation, I have not had to chase any deadlines using this system, except in those unavoidable situations where I found out about the task or action with little to no notice, but no system can help with those.

Again, apologies for the length. Hope it helps you or anyone else reading to come up with some ideas that would help improve your system. Let me know if you have any questions, as believe it or not there are a lot of lower level details I left out to avoid making this response even longer and putting anyone to sleep…


You have a few different ideas to consider in your post.

I work outside of OF to prepare and track the big picture and to plan projects. I translate mind-maps and project worksheets to Kanban boards and OF projects.

Yep. That is how they should be used in the GTD gospel. On a more serious note, I find that any other use of due dates only confuses me. It boils down to the question “Did I set this due date because it must be done by then or because I wanted it to be done by then”? After wasting too much time repeating such questions too many times in my past planning practices, I gave up. I now set due dates only for hard external deadlines.

My answer here is that you may not be doing your review process rigorously or routinely enough. Do you review daily to mark (flag) tasks that should be active for the day? Do you review weekly to prune out deadwood and re-align the projects to any changes in your work priorities? Where does the review part of GTD fit in your practices in order to avoid missing the work that you must and should be doing at any given time?

As I noted, I use tools outside of OF to plan the bigger picture. I develop mind-maps to lay out the plans to the level just below my main Areas of Responsibility (AoR). Examples would be to have a mind map laid out to levels just below such headings as Marketing, Sales, House, Family, Finances, Hobbies, Client Reports, … These are one level below the typical work + personal split of life. I also have Kanban boards that I use to keep track of the main projects that are active in different AoRs.

With this in mind, to avoid cluttering your calendar, you could consider setting up something as simple as a notepad app with a weekly “Projects ToDo” list. Put your top 2 - 5 projects on the list and note where you want them to be by the end of the coming week. Use that as a reference point to keep your daily and weekly activities focused (along with a more pro-active review process). Expand it as you need.

Hope this gives you some food for thought.



Thanks for the input above, I really appreciate it.

I think more active deferrals, and more regular reviews sound like the overall solution here. I did something similar to what DrJJWMac suggested. I have a note in my note’s app that has a TODAY and TOMORROW heading. I copy tasks over from Omnifocus to the note to tell myself I am going to work on them. I know i could use flagging to do the same thing, but for some reason the copy over just feels more like a commitment than flagging.

Beyond that though, copying info from OF to another form (e.g. mind maps, kanban) always fails for me because the two versions end up misaligning. I end up neglecting one of the two, depending on which one I am more active in, and stop using it the system.

Thanks again for your feedback. Sorry for the epic lateness!

I had this problem too. I ended up using Kanbans for the big picture with Projects and OF for the nuts and bolts with Tasks. The two frames complement each other nicely.


I’ve been using Trello with certain projects/project areas, which sort of covers that base. I really like that idea of using them in the niche of big picture overviews/status boards… I think I may have to re-evaluate how i’m using Trello!