OmniFocus Quick Tip: Using Start Dates

There is this little feature in OmniFocus that most of you have probably seen, but have never used. That feature is: Start Dates.

We all know that we should be assigning due dates to time sensitive tasks in OmniFocus, but you should also be assigning start dates to help you keep a clear mind. Start dates do one very important thing: keep unavailable tasks from cluttering up your views.


Most of us will set our ‘due soon’ times to 24 hours and as I have seen many people express some frustration that this is ‘24 hours’ and not just simply ‘tomorrow’. The difference is profound — if I set something to be due tomorrow at 5pm, then come today at 5pm that item will be showing up in the default ‘due’ pane of OmniFocus. It will also show as due in both iOS apps (not in the iPad Forecast view though, that shows due items by day).

This can put a lot of undue anxiety on people when they get home from work and see that there are still tasks that are ‘due soon’. The simple way around this problem is to set start dates. If you have something that is due on 1-31-11 @ 5pm and you know that you can’t, or don’t, want to work on it until that day — then setting the start date of 1-31-11 @ 12am means that it won’t appear on the ‘due’ lists until that day.

Each of us works differently, but I do know quite a few people that have lamented about this problem so I thought that it would be worth sharing. Typically I won’t set start dates for my tasks and I will just know that even though items show as ‘due’, they really aren’t due today. I do make extensive use of start dates for any actions that I am tracking, or actions that I truly cannot due until a certain date. This keeps the task from being in my thoughts and in my way. Especially if a task is location sensitive and I know I won’t be at that location until a certain day and time.

If the Due view in the Mac app is still showing these unavailable tasks then edit the perspective to show only ‘available’ tasks and you should be good to go. I typically keep my due soon view on my Mac at 2 days and use start times to hide things I don’t want to see. This helps me get a head start on the next day if I find extra time.

Originally posted for members on: January 28, 2011
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