OF3 has introduced the idea of showing a selected tag in the Forecast, and some people seem to use it for a ‘Today’ tag they’ve applied to some of their tasks. I’ve been using Flagged status to do something similar, but the introduction of this new feature in OF3 makes me question whether I’m using OF in the best way.
Let me explain, and I’d love to get your feedback.
In my review session, I’ll Flag anything I intend to do in the near future. I then use defer dates to keep some Flagged tasks from cluttering up my ‘Do It Now’ perspective. My perspectives allow me to see everything I’m going to attempt in the near future (Flagged, Available) or today (Flagged, Available, Due).
Doing it this way, the ‘Today’ tag in Forecast has no value for me. Indeed, tagging a task as ‘Today’ makes no sense for me. Dates and flagging deal with the time dimension, so why would I use time in tags?
I agree with goldsbrough: the Forecast tag and Flagged option are a strange mix.
Two things to note, though. One, the Forecast tag allows you to manually rearrange tasks in Forecast. That’s impossible for Flagged tasks. Two, and this is a long-standing annoyance for me, on repeating tasks you cannot auto-unflag when the task is completed. With the Forecast tag, you can probably work around this.
I have a repeating task (defer again upon completion) to, for example, take out the trash. So I flag that task today, since I want to do it today. But as soon as I check it off, the next instance, which should not be displayed until next week/month, is immediately flagged and visible in Flagged.
But I cannot start this task before the next date. It is as such not available, yet it is shown in Flagged.
This never made sense to me, honestly. From a conceptual view, it doesn’t add up, too. A flag highlights one particular to do, above all others. For a next todo, and a repeating task really is a next, separate task, to be flagged as well is an action that does not logically flow from the system. Since OF decides for me that the next instance, too, should be Flagged.
I have just that. My ‘Take out the recycling bins’ task isn’t a flagged task. It comes into view in my perspectives when it becomes due. Given how you’re using Flagged, I now understand why it annoys you.
Well, I may be using Flagged wrong. I tend to use it to mark a few items in a list as “higher priority” items. But if a task is a repeating todo, the next iteration stays flagged. Though I do have a script to then remove that flag!
People have used custom perspectives which combine flagged and due tasks to create ‘today’ view for years already. Forecast in OF3 allowing to include a Tag and not flagged tasks was very strange decision.
I think the real opportunity for improvement here (as nice as Tags are for some people) is to add a “Do date”. This is different than a “Due date”.
What I would love to do with OmniFocus is this: while performing any periodic review of Projects, I would drag and drop various Action Items to dates on a calendar. Then those Action Items would appear in the Forecast on the date on which they were dropped, and they would appear on a “Today” perspective viewed on that date.
Those items are still (properly) available, because they have not been deferred (so they can be seen and completed in other perspectives). But a “Today” perspective gets built in advance for every day.
Our work-arounds with Flags, and scripts to turn them off, etc. are being created because OmniFocus is missing a data element. The date until something should be Deferred, when it is Due, and when it should be Done are 3 different things.
I used to operate this way (using flagged with defer dates) to indicate things I would like to do (but aren’t due) on a particular day, and was also pretty resistant to not using flags for this.
With practice and reflection, though, I’ve found I prefer the Forecast tag for this. The reason being is that it frees up flagged to mean something else (since flagged also creates a visual distinction in the UI of differentiating an action in orange), so I can use flagged in conjunction with other criteria to differentiate flagged items.
I also appreciate that I can quickly change the tag shown in Forecast. Sometimes it’s my Today tag, other times, it’s Errands (so that I can head out to accomplish things but still have an eye on my calendar commitments), and I have also been toying with the notion of a “Consider for Today” or “Consider” tag to show options that are even less committed for today, but that I’d like to think about as options.
I wrote more about how I use flags here, but wanted to add that I went through very similar thought processes around exploring, resisting, adapting where it comes to these feature.
What I like most, I think, is the opportunity and flexibility for all these things to mean different things so that users can have this work for them. I enjoy learning from other and how they use so that I can tailor and adapt my implementation, too.
Exactly what I am thinking: there might be 3 dates important:
can not be done before … (defer)
must be done strictly before … (due date)
new: Inform me when it’s not done by … / plan to do it on … / begins to get urgent on …
I was thinking this third date (let’s call it “do date”) could simply be a “turn flag on date”. But maybe it would be good to keep the “flag” independent to use for whatever people are using it already and just be able to put things with do-date <= today into a perspective (possibly in addition to flagged, due and today-tagged items) and/or sort by it.
Manually setting a “flag”, or manually setting a Today-Tag seem like workarounds that do not really fit.
@goldsbrough I think I use flags in exactly the same way. I flag anything I want to do (or see again soon), and then I defer them to tomorrow or to some later date, if I have decided I won’t get to them today. This way, I am only presented in my “Dashboard” perspective with the items I intend to complete or at least “focus on” today.
To date, I have been unable to make Forecast view work any better than my Dashboard, but I still have a lot of experimenting to do.
Besides, I find flagging my important tasks and projects more intuitive than applying the Forecast tag. Bring on the ORANGE!
The way I think of flagging is equivalent to “I commit to doing this”. I then let defer dates take care of when the tasks come into view. Manually setting and unsetting a Today flag when today becomes tomorrow or the next day seems wrong.
Although you can use tags to deal with the time dimension (I have a Someday/Maybe tag, after all) it seems better to me to deal with time using dates and flags.
I can do this by flagging. When a task comes into view because it’s flagged and either its defer date is here, or the task is due, I can decide whether to do the task or defer it further. The new custom notifications extend this by making it possible to be alerted when I arrive at the “must start this in order to finish it by due date” point.
Anything that absolutely has to be done on a particular date gets put into my calendar. I often use the estimated time in OF to help with setting the duration of the calendar event.
I follow the same process. There are 2 reasons I find this sub-optimal:
The action item in question is deferred, so it will not appear on the relevant Context/Tag perspective. Find yourself (early) in the appropriate context, looking for things that need doing, and that action item will not be presented.
More importantly (in my opinion) is that a huge opportunity for functionality is being missed. Consider an action item that has a Due date of next Friday (meaning, it really must be done by then). It requires a particular context (certain location, and/or another person’s presence, etc.). Now suppose that particular context is only available on Wednesday. Then this action item must be performed on Wednesday.
You could defer the item until Wednesday. But doing so means it will not appear on Tuesday if things change and you find that context available on Tuesday. On Wednesday you will be reminded that this action item needs doing, and perhaps find the opportunity to complete it has passed. Noticing that the change has happened (eg., a person expected in the office on Wed arrived on Tue instead) might prompt you to search for deferred agenda items with that person, but the extra step of looking for them might not happen and is not “mind like water” reliance on OF).
If, instead, each action item had a “Do Date”, a better approach becomes possible. The non-deferred item could be “scheduled” (not on a calendar, because it is not an appointment) for Wednesday. It is still ‘available’ on Tuesday.
Further, the Forecast view could be enhanced to tell us something important. It could show ‘critical’ contexts/tags in use on each day (based on the items with “Do Dates” on that day). (some tags, like “Phone” are available virtually all the time, so those are less critical, while tags indicating a visit to a particular location or use of constrained resource require planning).
In other words, when doing a weekly review, I could see that I have planned to do work on Wednesday that requires my being, say, in Boston. If a trip to Boston is impossible on Wednesday (for schedule/personal/whatever reason) then I can see that action item(s) must be moved. If “Boston” is required for items Due on Friday, then “Boston” better happen on a day before Friday. (replace “Boston” with “Special Venue” or “Vendor Rep” if such are more relevant to how you work).
I would like OmniFocus to help efficiently plan for such things during periodic review.
An enhanced Forecast view would do this and more (like show how many hours of work has been planned each day - to the extent “Duration” has been populated, warning of impossible work plans so things can be moved around).
I’ve been in the deferred+flag camp for as long as that combination was possible. I, too, had troubles incorporating the @today thing at first.
Now, I use Flagged to mark tasks for immediate action while I stumble over them during reviews or when browsing specific projects. I use @today when browsing my Available perspective for stuff to do, well, today.
The distinction is availability. The Forecast view, as well as many of my perspectives, only shows me available items (because that was the way with deferred+flag). I can mark an action I stumble upon while doing a review or viewing a project with @today as much as I want, if the task isn’t available now, it won’t show up in Forecast.
But then, I also have a OMG HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT ARRRRGH perspective which shows Due Soon as well as Flagged – set to Remaining items. It’s the first perspective I check out at the beginning of my day. Only after I’ve cleaned it out will I move on to the Forecast view.
(I use due dates sparingly I should mention. So it’s really a ALERT ALERT ALERT situation if there’s anything in this perspective to begin with.)
So basically it goes like this:
When browsing one of my Available perspectives, I mark things with @today that I want to do Today. It will show up in Forecast.
When reviewing projects, the Flag allows me to promote an unavailable action to DO IT NOW! priority. Stuff might have changed ad-hoc, outside of my (mostly sequential) planning or sphere of influence, which makes it more feasible or very important even to do such a task prior to the rest of the project. The Flag allows me to get to it without rearranging the whole project by dragging tasks around and readjusting deferr dates.
Thanks for the detailed explanation. There are some ideas there I need to experiment with.Perhaps my hangup about a @Today tag would be removed if I called it something different, like @Action, or @ASAP.