Why Don’t Some Task Managers Have a Start Date?

I’m curious if there is a “philosophical” or other reason why some task management apps, e.g., OF and Reminders, don’t have a start date similar to what Things 3 and other task managers have.

I’m NOT interested in Apps that do—I know some do.

I’m interested in why some apps don’t adopt a start date. It seems to me there is value in having a start date—a span of time—for beginning and working on a task until its completion, e.g., a writing project due in two weeks that may take a week to complete. I may want to start the article next Monday and have it appear in my Today view each day until it is due or is completed.

Is there some reason why the Omnigroup and Apple, for example, exclude this feature? This can’t be an arbitrary decision, nor is it a technical problem.


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OF has a kind of a start date, as I could simply hide a task until a certain date and/or time.

On the other hand, it might be not that useful for everyone to have this option, as it could be useful to see all your outstanding tasks, in case you have some sparetime.

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I’m not familiar with Things and how they suggest a start date might be used but OF has defer dates for both projects or individual tasks (if the latter aren’t explicitly set they inherited them from the project or parent tasks. Tasks don’t show as “available” until after this defer date if set which can be useful and I imagine I’d providing a similar functionality to start date in Things?

As for philosophy, if you consider that a task manager would be trying to implement a methodology like GTD, and the task manager is “the lists”, then logically tasks not to be started now don’t go on the lists. They go in the “tickler”, or on the calendar, depending.

Effectively an app with start/defer dates is “the lists” + a limited tickler file.

Doesn’t mean that it’s not a great feature - but I could see why a simple app might omit it.

That said, OF uses “defer” dates, as mentioned above. Apparently back in OF 1 “defer” was called “start”, so that’s in the scope of intended use of the feature.

But “defer” is more broad. Consider:

  • You need to buy tickets to a movie. You can’t buy the tickets until 11/1, and you have to buy them before 11/7. “Defer” to 11/1 and “due” of 11/7 expresses that use case.
  • You need to buy tickets to a play. It’s a one-day-only sale, and you have to buy it on 11/1. So “Defer” to 11/1, and “due” of 11/1 expresses that use case.
  • You want to repair the fence in the yard. You can’t do that until spring (say 5/1), but you can do it just about any time after that. “Defer” to 5/1, and leave “due” blank.

There’s no commitment to “start” a deferred task in GTD - only to defer adding it to the menu of available tasks.

That might explain the phrasing.


Completely agree @Bmosbacker . It’s as if app designers don’t have tasks that take days, weeks, months.

Could be a side effect of software engineers using scrum and sprints to develop software, which biases their view of “work.”

Could also be that they expect if you need timespans, you would probably use a project manager (OmniPlan, Microsoft Project, etc.).

There seems to be a sizable gap between “plan a birthday party” apps, and “manage mission to the moon” apps.

I would prefer more granularity in task manager apps (a step above “plan a birthday party”).

Something like:

  • start - when I want to start working on it (the word defer is fine too)
  • due - when I want to finish it
  • deadline - when it’s actually due

Due and deadline are kind of ambiguous, so the vocabulary would need to be defined. Having both due and deadline gives one the ability to set their own personal deadline ahead of the official deadline to allow for things going sideways.

There are workarounds, of course, but would be nice if more apps took this into consideration.


But the problem is that in OF, unless one uses something like the Next tag, the task does not stay in the Today view after the initial defer date. In Things, the tasks are persistent in the Today view once the “when” (start) date is reached until it is completed. In OF and Reminders, if I have five or more writing assignments due, say in the next month, I need to start working on them now and continue doing so until they are complete and or the due date is reached. In OF, as I recall, after the deferred date has passed, the task is no longer available. I find this odd. I want to “see” tasks that I need to be working on now. I’ve “solved” this problem in Reminders by taking such tasks, and I created a Smart Folder for them, but I’m baffled as to the reasoning behind not having a start date as I’ve described as Things has.


By start dates, you’re asking about work scheduling. Once you start offering work scheduling features, you’re on your way to building project management software and struggling to build and integrate the requisite UI and data model without losing why people originally liked your app.

That’s not to say the design challenge is insurmountable. As an example, there are plenty of OmniFocus plugins that bolt on some of this planning functionality without making the rest of the app harder to use. And as you say, there are apps that have pulled it off, though most either lean towards Gantt etc. or take a kitchen-sink approach to features.

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With respect, I don’t think that is accurate. Things 3 has implemented this simply and elegantly. Why not OF and Reminders?

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This seems to make the point that Omni could do so without making it a project manager.

That’s textbook GTD, if I’m understanding you correctly. It’s not a “today” task unless it must be done today. “Defer” puts it on the menu on a given day - it just resurfaces it on that day for further evaluation.


OF tends to, as far as I understand, to follow the GTD idea as close as possible.
And within GTD you should, acc. to the “Standardidea” have only Next Items on your list. If you put a Task “Write the new Book” onto your list, that actually is rather a project, and contains a lot of Tasks. If you do it this way (single Tasks instead of the whole project as a Task), you would not be in need, to have a Task like “Writing this long text” on your Tasklist, and therefore it is not necessary to show it under “Today”.
If you want to do it in your way, and that is totally fine, you can add a Tag to the Task like “Next” to keep it within the “Today” list until it is done.

I understand and I don’t disagree with this approach but one must keep deferring it to the next day to keep it visible. I’d like a start to due date to span the time required to start–work on–and finish a task. Though I’m committed to continuing using Apple default apps like Reminders, the “when” (start) date in Things is a feature I miss. I also miss the Review feature in OF. Oh for a task manager to rule them all! :slightly_smiling_face:

Things was able to implement when/deadline as well as they did because they worked carefully on the design and forwent other features to have the time for polish and to reduce the complexity of the UI. Their situation is the inverse of the apps that have features Things lacks, and don’t have the same style of start dates or any start dates at all.

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Yes, it seems to. Two things to keep in mind:

  • The opportunity cost to scratch a personal itch is much lower than the cost to design a feature for the whole user base.
  • New features inadvertently nudge users into working a different way, and attract users that want to use the app very differently and push for features that conflict with existing features more than the initial minimal implementation did. Some app designers don’t care about this kind of drift, but the ones we’re discussing think about it a lot.
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It’s an interesting question. As others have remarked here, I think it’s a downside of too many task managers implementing GTD rather than reflecting the reality of modern work. I suspect many modern workers have tasks that they know are “in the pipeline” and need to be able to see (so they know the time needs to be left available) but can’t action right now.

I’m in NotePlan now (big thumbs up from me!), and am trying to get into the habit of writing the tasks on the day or week view that I want to start them unless I have no date in mind. Then I see it at the relevant time. Tasks with no date in mind just go in a set of lists I’m maintaining (this is swiftly becoming my new “Todoist - where tasks go to die” :joy:).

The ability to defer a task to the next day seems to me a feature; unless the UI makes it difficult or awkward in some way to do.

I set reminders for my tasks in the Due app, whose strong points include ease of pushing a reminder into the future.

Things gives you both options. It stays in your Today view by default, but you can also push it to the next day (at which point it would also stay on the Today view until addressed again).

This is why I keep ending up back on Things, even though other apps have other features I’d love to have.


I consider it an essential feature. I need to renew my car registration 4 years after I bought it. It has a start date in 2026. There is no reason to see that task or think about it until 2026 rolls around. What would you do with such a task that doesn’t have a start date?

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In GTD parlance, you’d toss it in your tickler file. I agree that it’s much easier for it to exist in a “defer” state in a task manager app, of course.

In Things you give it a date in 2026 that you want to do the renewal. on that date it shows up in the Today View. if you do not mark it done on that date it will show up on each succeeding Today View. i find that useful.

You can also set a Deadlne date.

You can also mark it done before the set start date by easily finding the item in the Upcoming View.