OmniFocus—When to start a project/task spanning days/weeks?

Now that I have moved back to OmniFocus I have run into a quandary that I’m not sure how best to address. I have a lot of articles to write and presentations to prepare. I know when these are due so using the due date judiciously is easy. What I’m uncertain about is the best way to identify when I need to start working on a presentation. For example, I may have a presentation to give on Sept. 30. If it is a large and important presentation I may want 6 weeks to work on it which means I need to start on it by August 15. How do I set the “start date” (which OF does not have) so the project shows up beginning on August 15? Is that how one uses the defer date? Does a project/task with a specific defer date show up in Today in the Forecast perspective so I know to start work on it, or is there a “best practices” for creating a perspective that will help with this?

Sorry for asking such a basic question but I’m trying to catch back up on using OF effectively after spending several years in Asana, which has a start date.

Yes, the “defer date” in OmniFocus is the start date for a task/project.

Thanks. I know this is probably a silly follow-up question, but where does a deferred tasks show up once it hits that date? In Today? Some other perspective? I do a weekly review but I want the task to show up and catch my immediate attention when I need to start it.

They show up in the “Today” view if you have that setting enabled, but be careful that they will not stay there the following days.

This is typically an area where you would need to design custom perspectives tailored to your workflow. In my case, I use a Navigation project (as recommended by @Kourosh 's Creating Flow with OmniFocus) where the big rocks are listed with the defer and due dates, that serve as launchpads for custom perspectives and projects. I review that list daily.

You could also simply design a perspective with tasks sorted by defer date to make sure you are not missing any project that “activates”.

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I have several custom perspectives but can you provide me a link to “Navigation project (as recommended by @Kourosh 's Creating Flow”? That sounds helpful. Thanks for your response.

It’s in his book. I heavily recommend it to anyone really wanting to make OF sing - it covers everything in the software and the 3rd édition especially provides propositions for building a whole system, including the Navigation view.

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Yes, the thing about OF is ultimately it expects you to look at your available tasks after they start (come out of deferment), and proactively work on them. It doesn’t have any ability to nag about availability. If you don’t have a view to show something you want to be progressing on, then the due date will sneak up on you.

One simple workaround I like is to give yourself a mid-point due date to accomplish some subset of the work. E.g., if I’m writing an article I’ll assign a top level outline (3-5 bullets) a few days in because I know that will generate enough momentum to finish the rest of it before it’s entirely due. Some people add many of these steps but I think that’s too much clutter unless the project is really big.

I second the recommendation of Dini’s book; I read it about ten years ago and it has stayed with me.

Thanks, it may be worth the purchase. I’ve got a lot of books on my reading list but perhaps this one should move toward the top. :slight_smile:

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That sounds like a possible option. Thanks for suggesting it. By the way, I love your handle, probably because corn chips are the Achilles’ heel of my diet especially during a good football or baseball game. :laughing:

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You could make the first task in the project “Start working on this project” and give it a deadline of the day you want to start working on the project. Then it’ll appear in the Forecast view, and you’ll get a badge on the app, until you check it off. It’s a bit of a hack, but if you want it to get your attention that’ll work.

Another simple way (which does not involve deadlines) is simply to have a « today tag » (tag that appears in the forecast view, see in settings). That makes sure the task will remain there once available.

I have a custom perspective that is simply the next available action on every active project. OF is pretty much always in that perspective when I’m using it. I don’t have the challenge you have — of needing to be notified when a deferred task or project has reached its start date. Maybe that’s because my number of active projects is small enough, or maybe it’s just because I’m obsessive enough that I scan that full list of next-available tasks a few times day.

But if I did have that challenge, I would try flagging the first task of the deferred project.

Or I’d set the due date of the deferred project, or of that first, deferred task of that project, to the same date as the defer date, so that it basically comes due the day it shows up on my list.

In either case, the project would come to my attention on its defer date and then I could turn off the flag or delete that phony due date.

Those are both a little fiddly, I’ll admit, but I think they’d get the job done for me if I were in your shoes.

I’ve tried several task management apps that pop up notifications, including apps like GoodTask that nag until the task is done. I find I just get notification fatigue rapidly from these things, and click “done” to make things go away.

If I need a reminder, I write the task on a Post-It and stick it on my laptop next to the trackpad.

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I didn’t realize that tasks with the “Today Tag” appear for the current day in the forecast view and stay there until completed. I like that a lot, maybe I’ll have to start using it, thanks!

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Well, I just purchased it. Some light reading for tomorrow. :slight_smile:


Thanks everyone for the excellent suggestions. I’m going to try a number of these to figure out what works best. This is a great community, thanks again for the help.


It’s a heavy book but rich in screenshots :sweat_smile: It takes you from the very basics to the most advanced of uses and automations. Even if you’re an OF veteran, I would recommend reading through the basics because there’s interesting nuggets here and there. Hope you like it !

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Will do! 20 characters

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Yes Defer means you won’t see it until then, you’ve deferred until that date. Different syntax but same meaning as start when.

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Apparently, because it will leave the Today view after It hits the deferred date I’m going to need to keep it in my Today view so I stay focused on getting it done. I’ll experiment with the today tag and see if that works.