Using Defer Dates in OmniFocus

OmniFocus continues to be one of my must have apps. If I find out someone else uses OmniFocus, I'm more than happy to stop and compare notes on how they've setup their system. But when I speak to other OmniFocus users, or hear how others use OmniFocus, more and more are saying they love OmniFocus but don't use dates. I can understand that a lot of personal tasks may not be time sensitive - I mean if I don't pick up the dog poop this Saturday is not the end of the world. But I have hard time believing someone who uses OmniFocus for both home and work doesn't have a time sensitive.

Defer Dates in OmniFocus used to be labeled Start Date. The original idea was to have a date on when you would think of starting a task. OmniFocus now uses Defer Dates is a lot more subtle ways.

Start dates are now defer dates. This is to more accurately capture the intent that an item shouldn't be considered until a later time—it’s been deferred. 1

Here's a sample of project with two tasks, one with a Defer Date and one without.

Now if I use a Perspective (you do use Perspectives, right?) to show only Available tasks

So when I look at the tasks I am able to work on, the task that was deffered is hidden.

Looking at different ways to use Defer Dates, I have different meanings on the actual date based on how the context is applied to a task.

  • Deferred Tasks: This is the best example of what the Defer Date is for. When a task or a project has gotten pushed off or delayed, but I know it will still need to get done, I can set a Defer Date and let the item sit parked in OmniFocus until I'm ready to pick it back up.
  • Waiting For: When I have a task that is waiting on someone, I'll use the Defer Date as the date that initiated the task.
  • Assigned Tasks: When a task has been assigned, whether it was to me by my boss or by me to someone else, I use the Defer Date as the date it was assigned.
  • Tickler Tasks: One of GTD's key components is a Tickler File. I use the Defer Date as a way to keep track of tasks I need to do, but know I can't do them now.

In all cases I can use OmniFocus to quickly give feedback on task because I can see critical date information as part of the task.

  1. Excerpt from “OmniFocus 2 for iPad User Manual”, The Omni Group