I’ve always defined “urgent” items as anything that has a real hard due date (not a fake due date). If I look at the forecast perspective, I can see all my past due tasks, my due today tasks, and due soon tasks. Anything that is due must be done on or before the actual due date. Otherwise serious repercussions will occur (an angry wife if I forget to buy a birthday or anniversary present) or a penalty (I didn’t file my taxes by April 15th and will have to pay the late filing fee).
I used to use the “High” priority, “Medium” priority, and “Low” priority labels before I used GTD. That worked in my previous life when my workload was small and easily manageable. It didn’t work when I graduated from college and I had something called “real life” hit me in the head and laughed at me.
In OmniFocus, I defined “High” priority or urgent as any project or task that has a real hard due date. If I don’t complete a project on or before the due date, serious consequences happen. An example would be forgetting to buy my wife an anniversary gift or birthday present. Another would be “I will pay a penalty if I turned in a project or case late.”
For the High priority perspective, I can create a custom perspective that shows all due projects or tasks. Or I can just look at the Forecast perspective. In the Forecast perspective, I have to work on any tasks in the “past due” grouping. Then I’ll work on “due today” tasks. If I want to get ahead of myself, I’ll try to work on some due soon tasks (due in the next 5-7 days). These are what I would consider “high” priority or urgent.
I defined “Medium” priority or “important” as anything with a flag. I don’t have a hard deadline but it would be something that would be important enough to complete. Something like “redesign the inventory management database” or “paint the house because my wife would like to make it green” would be something important that will hopefully improve my life. Once a week, I’ll look at my custom perspective that shows all available tasks. I flag and unflag tasks that become important or not important.
When I want to work on important stuff, I’ll go to the flagged perspective. But I will work on flagged items only if I can finish as many past due/due today/due soon tasks first.
My “Available” custom perspective shows all tasks that are available to me. These are low priority items. I can do them but I don’t need to do them. I want to complete the high priority tasks (due) first and then the important tasks (flagged) second.
I might want to elevate some low priority task to medium priority. I’ll go to my available perspective and flag some available tasks. They become important to me and I want to work on them in the next few days. I only flag a small handful (three to five) because I already have more than enough due tasks to work on first. When I complete the first group of flagged tasks (three to five), I’ll go back to the available perspective and flag another three to five tasks.
I had to break my old habits of high priority, medium priority, and low priority and view things in a different light:
- Overdue / Due Today / Due soon -> High Priority -> Forecast perspective
- Important -> Medium priority -> Flagged perspective
- Low priority - Low priority -> Custom perspective: “Available” showing all available tasks
If I had several flags that have different meaning, I would probably dilute the importance of the flags. Too many flags with too many meaning would just make life confusing. It’s either urgent (gotta get this done now!), important (I really want to work on this but there’s no real due date), or it’s just not important right now (it’s not due yet or it’s not important enough right now). Those are the only three values that I need. Perhaps you can expand more on what kind of flags you would find important?
The “Pro” upgrade has been a great purchase because I gain the ability to create saved perspectives that I frequently use.
Some of my favorite perspectives:
Today - a custom perspective shows all due and flagged tasks in one place.
Available - shows all available tasks so that I can flag new tasks to appear in the today perspective or the built-in flagged perspective
Flagged - built-in perspective that lets me look at important/flagged tasks
Forecast - built-in perspective that shows all due tasks.
Review - Used as a tickler file. I set review dates for different projects. When I wake up in the morning, I check the review perspective to remind myself of the status of various projects. Projects that have frequent changes get a shorter review cycle (1 - 3 days). Most other projects get a 1 week review. All on hold projects are set to 2 weeks or 1 month review cycle. Using OmniFocus’ review perspective has been the game changer. It’s hard to find this in other task managements. David Allen even mentioned in a recent podcast that the review workflow is the glue that keeps everything together. That’s something that you may want to look further into.