Struggling with "Priorities" / GTD workflow

Hi guys,

I’m sort of struggling with managing my tasks in regards to priorities and wonder how you’re doing that.

Before I used another tool where I had multiple contexts and I simply had a “Next Actions” and a “Someday/Maybe” context. So if I had a task I wanted to work on ASAP I put it in “Next Actions”…then I worked on those and when it was blank I went to Someday/Maybe and moved tasks into “Next Actions” etc.

I tried doing this by using defer-dates and then having them in the forecast…but I don’t see them anymore in the forecast when the defer date was yesterday and I couldn’t come up with a perspective that showed me what I wanted.

Also I don’t want to add a defer date to every task. Most of my tasks I just need to do “next” you know…not on December 3rd etc. Also it’s a bit messy to always set a new defer date especially if you get the flu like I got a few weeks ago…and then everything is a mess.

So I wonder how you handle this? Do you flag everything? Put things on hold? To me it feels like I’m missing something, like there’s a very simple solution and I just don’t get it yet because I’m still looking to replace my old workflow with the Priority-Lists + Contexts…


Most of my projects are on hold. If I am not going to work on them in the next 10 days, they are all on hold. The only active projects I have are anything that I am going to work on in the next 10 days. Then I set review intervals for all of the projects. Some projects that need more attention gets a shorter review cycle (once every day, every 2 days, every 4 days). Projects that I won’t get around to or doesn’t require much attention will get a longer review cycle (once a month, once every 3 months, once a year). I can confidently know that the projects will show up when it’s up for review. You can also manually set the next review date in the inspector panel.

As WilsonNg, I put projects on hold until they are ready for consideration (when I believe I can do them – i.e. based on my desire to do them) and use defer dates based on when a project or task cannot be done according to outside constraints (i.e. independent of my desire). So, one level of priority screening is based on desire and/or foreseeable ability to handle something and uses the hold or active status for a project. Changing project status is mostly made as a start-of-the-week decision, may be made as a start-of-the-day decision, and is certainly not made as a spur-of-the-moment hourly decision.

I have a Someday/Maybe context that holds tasks that mean nothing important or urgent in my workflow. I do not use this context to hold tasks as a priority screen for active workflows. IOW, when I would never do anything in my Someday/Maybe context list, I will still be happy and productive. When I would pick and do something there, well … life just got a bit rosier for me. So someday/maybe is a different priority screening method.

For what remains, I have two “priority” levels. The first is the Due level. These are tasks that must be done at a given date or something falls apart. When a task is due and is not done, you have a penalty not of your own making. Perhaps the simplest example is a tax payment that will incur interest and penalties when not paid by the due date. Due dates are not “when I want to do it”, they are “when it has to be done or else!” This priority is set when the task is created and is essentially immutable thereafter.

The final “priority” setting is to flag a next action. This is my choice to handle something as important. I set this on a daily basis.

So, from this, you would have a Forecast view with Due items as your Important + Urgent list. You have no ongoing control to change this list because it is defined by when tasks are created. Then you have your flagged “active” list as the Important tasks. This is set at the start of the day based on what you need and want to accomplish. Finally, you have your next action list that says, here is what remains to choose. Your next-action list is down-selected in range by putting projects selectively on hold until you recognize that you have a clear frame (3-5 days) to handle them.

The last part of the above is akin to using a Kanban or JIT approach BTW. You put all projects on hold (i.e. put them in an inventory box) and then “pull” certain ones in to active status (i.e. pull them to an assembly line belt) when a slot is available. You don’t have all projects active (running around on an assembly line belt) and then “push” certain ones in to other active states (switch them to other assembly line belts).



1 Like

Thanks for your answers, this really helps me!

It look like I’ve been missing out on the on-hold feature, which lead to many tasks with no defer-date showing up in my perspectives all the time. If I put those on-hold and have them reviewed once a week I should be fine I guess!

I’m also going to use flags more often…

Too bad you can’t put single tasks on hold…only projects. But I can work around that by creating Someday/Maybe single-action lists that I can put on hold. Or is there a better approach?


That’s what I do: I have two separate projects/lists (one for work, one for private) on hold which contain someday/maybe items.

I only flag what I know I should / can do for the day. Otherwise, I end in confusion with too many flags on my plate.


I don’t put loads of things on hold, but instead check my next actions perspective each morning and flag things I want to work on that day. Due dates pick up anything that’s got a date attached.

Then I work from a perspective that shows due or flagged items only - so everything I’m not doing is hidden completely.


Another way of doing things is to go first to the built-in due perspective and work on all of your due things first. In preferences, I set the due soon to 1 week. I’m more concerned about things that are overdue, due today, and due in the next 7 days. I focus first on all the due things.

Then I go to the built-in flagged perspective and work on things that I want to focus on but aren’t due.

Or you could also just create a perspective that shows due and flagged as mentioned above.

I subscribe to the Urgent vs Important debate, where things that are Flagged are important, and things that are Due are urgent.

By that rationale I should always do Flagged + Due things first, followed by Flagged, followed by Due. Hence the grouping. I use this perspective from SimplicityBliss to do that.

Right now I only use due-dates for tasks that really have one, not to prioritize my tasks.

But I just figured out you can create a context “on hold” for example and set that context “on hold”. Now when I add a single task there, it doesn’t show up in the available list. Which further improves things for me…I guess ;)