Due Dates vs Start Dates

Original post by Heath on May 5th

Will you implement due dates for tasks? If so, will if the task becomes due, will that automatically put the task on the Focus list?

Comment by James

Yes, that is the plan. Tasks that are due will automatically go to the focus list.

May I add a few thoughts, checks and tips regarding “scheduled” and other “dated” tasks here, just in case.

I assume there will also be a “start date” aka “scheduled date”,
which can be used as the task’s “tickler date” or “earliest possible
date”? And that tasks will go into focus (or the inbox?) on that day,


When it comes to this “scheduled date” I have discovered on many
forums that lots of people (not me, though) also use the “scheduled
date” in a non-GTD time management sense - they actually schedule their
tasks to certain dates “for no reason at all” (from a DA-GTD
perspective). And they want to see these tasks on a calendar, just as if
they were valid GTD calendar actions, such as appointments.

As long as a given user only uses the “scheduling” feature for
ticklers (and deadlines aka due dates for “last possible date”), or only
uses it for calendar actions, there is no problem. But when users start
to use the feature for both purposes it becomes difficult for them to
see the difference. A firm calendar action obviously must be visible as
such on the calendar, whereas a tickler action normally should not.

The solution, I believe, is very simple: In the task entry/edit pane,
have a checkbox called “Calendar” (default=off=tickler). This little
“flag” can control a number of different things:

  • different icon or color in the Scheduled list and elsewhere (to make it easy to tell the difference)

  • possibly a filter for the Scheduled list

  • whether or not the task will be exported in a future calendar feed
    or calendar integration (if ever introduced, not essential to me). For
    example, it is a PITA to see a whole calendar filled with trivial
    ticklers and due dates, so you probably turn that calendar off, but then
    if you do have some “real” calendar actions or super-important
    deadlines that you want to see illustrated on you calendar, then the
    “Calendar” checkbox could let you have that.

  • to which list the task will be delivered on its scheduled date.
    Ticklers should probably be delivered to inbox/focus (or next/focus),
    whereas calendar actions (that MUST be done on this day) probably should
    be delivered as scheduled/focus - they are still a scheduled TYPE of
    task (not a Next/asap type of task) even if their day has come. There
    could also be user preference settings for these delivery options. (Some
    rare people even want ticklers to sneak totally quietly into the Next
    list without any focusing or attention. I prefer to see them focused, so
    that I notice their “arrival”, and then immediately unFocus them.)


James, are you planning to use the “mother-clone” approach that
Nirvana and Doit both use, or the “recycled single task” approach that
Toodledo uses? I personally prefer the clone approach, because it lets
me add special comments or change whatever I like for this particular
next instance of the task without affecting future instances. But I
would like to warn you. Both Nirvana and Doit seem to have problems with
it. It seems to be much more difficult for them to show clearly the
next start date and end date (scheduled vs due date) for the next
instance of the task. It also seems to be more difficult for them to
implement “repeat x days after completion”. Hopefully GTDNext can be the
first app to get all of this done right, but if this is difficult
programming, then I might perhaps be inclined to choose the Toodledo
approach. (Though I’m not sure, yet. If I had a choice between EITHER
editability as in Nirvana OR clearly visible sched/due dates plus repeat
after completion as in Toodledo, it would be a hard decision for me.).
Worth thinking about.

Some thoughts on Scheduled, due and repeating…

Yes, there will be a scheduled date. The current plan is for those tasks to turn active in your project (green color). If they are also due that date, they will go into the focus list as well.

I’m more on the DA-GTD band wagon on this one. Scheduled should really just be for when you want to start working on something. It should not also be used for due date. We will have a separate feature for that. I’m not sure I want to design a feature for people who don’t use the feature as intended… :smile: Especially when another feature exists that does exactly what they really need.

Currently, the way we envision this is more on the “mother-clone” method as you call it. Since we have unlimited depth of tasks, we are thinking about having each repeating task automatically become a new node under the original “control” action where the repeating info is kept. That way, as each new action is created it would be beneath it. As shown here:

However, a strong caution here… Anytime I talk about what we are “thinking” or “envisioning”, it’s important to note that what actually happens may end up looking or acting different. Sometimes as you get into designing a feature you make choices that may take you away from the original design (for better or worse!)

Repeat X days after completion is a favorite feature of mine in some other GTD apps - so its high on my priority list to do with repeating tasks.

We will work on it 'till we get it right. Thanks for the feedback!

So, if I understand you correctly, you will not focus tasks on their scheduled date? Only on their deadline date (due date)?

I have actually heard some people ask for precisely that on the Doit forum. They prefer these “ticklers” to sneak in unnoticed on their Next list on the “tickle” date. But I have the impression that most people, including myself, prefer to see some appropriate notification that there is a new task available on the Next list. Nirvana (and Doit) gives this notification in the form of focusing it - and you can then unfocus it if you like. Another alternative (Getitdoneapp) is to deliver them to the Inbox. I am fine with either of these alternatives - Inbox would be more core GTD, but Next/Focus probably saves a few clicks.

I think I must have expressed myself poorly. I too use “scheduled” (despite its dubious name) exclusively as a GTD tickler file; in other words the “scheduled” date is the day on which I should reevaluate this task and perhaps start doing something about it. It has nothing to do with due date (deadline). I believe we are on the same page here.

What I was referring to was the alternative use of “scheduled” for GTD calendar actions, e.g. appointments. I agree that these should be kept on the calendar. That’s what I do. But I know that many people keep some of them in their app.

All this does not matter too much to me personally, because I use my GTD app’s “scheduled” only as a GTD Tickler file. I am only trying to save you - and us - some grievance later on, that’s all, if later on you get customers who are not as pure-hearted GTDers as we are.

Wow! That would allow for adapting the content of several instances long in advance. Beautiful! It is probably more than I will often need, but it is certainly cool!

Yes, it is a nice feature. And very often requested, both at Nirvana and Doit. People will love it (and I, too).

Correct, the current plan is to allow those actions to “sneak” in. However, I think it should be possible to just click the “force next” button when you create the schedule task so that when it does come into view it will come in as a next action.

I think that if they want it to appear on their calendar they could just set a due date for action. Once we get an iCal feed, this would allow it to show on the Calendar. I can see that some people would maybe want it to appear on the calendar on a certain date, but be due on a different date. But that seems to be a bit of an edge case. (imho)

Perhaps I didn’t say this very well. It would look something like the picture below. Again, the design isn’t done, so it could end up way different, but this is the current thinking. You can see that the Repeating Task that looks like a project is just the “controlling” task. The actual task would get “spawned” underneath it. This has the advantage of keeping all your past, completed tasks right there without clogging up the rest of your project. But it wouldn’t allow you to change the context of several instances way in advanced. Sorry to get you excited about that possibility for nothing…

So newbie questions here regarding “due dates” and “start dates”:

  • If I have an appointment I want to keep track of would I put the date of the appointment as a “due date” or a “start date”? Currently I have both showing the date of the appointment.
  • If I have a bill would I use the “start date” as the date I want to pay the bill on and the “due date” as the date the bill is actually due?
  • I have a job application I need to check the status of on a certain date. Currently I have the “due date” and “start date” showing the date I need to check the status of this application on. Should I just be using one of them?

Thanks in advance for any help you are able to provide! :slight_smile:

Normally, I’d keep appointments outside the app, in my calendar, but if I kept it in the app I would do it exactly the way you do it. For example, this is what I often do with little things that need to be done exactly on a certain day but at no specific time.
EDIT: And I forgot to mention that I always carry across my appointments from my calendar to my app on the day. From GCal this can be automated using its reminder email function in conjunction with the app’s in-mail function.

No, I would only enter the due date (i.e. the “last possible date”). I could pay it any day. I do not necessarily need to wait until that last day.

But if for some reason I want to hold on to my money, or batch up a number of payments, I would set a start date (i.e. a “first possible date”) which will keep the task “hidden” until then.

They should be getting back to you, right? So, in that case this is a Waiting For action (the ball is in their court), and I’d put a due date (deadline) to remind me of it if I haven’t heard from them by the time they should.

If they did explicitly say: “You call us during the first week of October”, then I’d probably put that down with a start date of Oct1 and a due date of Oct 3 (Friday)

Thanks @Folke for the help! I was just playing around with having appointments in the app, but I will most likely take them out and just have them in the calendar on my phone which I can set to beep at me a certain amount of time before an appointment. This has seemed to work for me so far.
As for the job application it is a Fed. Gov’t job so on Oct. 22nd results become available on your online account letting you know if your application is moving forward or not, so I just wanted to make a note to remember to do that.

OK, so that would then be the start date, i.e. the “earliest possible date”.

Will they remove the notice from your online account after a week, month, year etc? In that case, that date would be the due date, i.e. the “latest possible date”. Otherwise there would be no due date.

Please note that these comments on due dates are my own interpretations. GTD actually does not have due dates at all, only dates for “ticklers” and “calendar actions”. DA’s description of tickler dates corresponds to what I have said above for “start dates”. It is essentially the beginning of a time window during which the action could be done. Due dates (deadlines) in my mind are the opposite of a start date. They specify the end of a time window. Many actions have no such time boundary at all, or have only one, either at the beginning or at the end.

The way I see it, a due date feature is not really necessary in an app, but it is neat. If some percentage of your actions actually do have true hard due dates (stipulated or agreed) then it is much neater to see these in a fixed position on your task line rather than, say, manually typed within parenthesis in the task title. For my important actions the due date auto-focusing seldom comes into play, though, because I typically notice and finish important stuff with a safe time margin, but for not-so-important actions the auto-focus is handy as a “last chance” warning - “do it or trash it”. (I even use it with Someday actions :wink: - things that I don’t think I want to do, say, register for some conference that is of only marginal interest to me, but just in case I change my mind later I may put it down as a Someday with a due date; that keeps it out of the way and still offers me a last chance to rethink and register)

Thanks @Folke for the great replies. You’ve hit the nail on the head here…