Deadlines and Expected DatesAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
Before introducing a novelty that you can use in FacileThings from today on—the ability to assign expected dates to actions—, let me clarify some basic GTD concepts so you can make the best use of this new functionality.
One of the most perplexing issues for beginners in GTD is that there is no specific place to express subjective dates.
“How do I indicate that I want to complete a task on a certain date?” Well, if you follow GTD to the letter, you can’t… and you shouldn’t. The traditional hobby that we all have of assigning a date to each task unnecessarily raises our stress levels and reduces our effectiveness.
According to David Allen, the Calendar should be used to put events or actions that have to be made in a specific date. The words “have to” mean that it is an objective date (objective, in the opposite sense to subjective.)
A meeting scheduled for Friday at 10am is an objective date, and the deadline for submitting the tax return is also an objective date. However, the date in which you want to do something is a totally subjective date. Using the GTD Calendar for such reminders is like using a calendar for tasks management, and that is something that has many drawbacks, as I explain here.
Well, so it is pretty clear that an event that occurs on a given day/time is something you would put in your Calendar.
“But how do I indicate a real deadline (an objective date) for a simple task?” Another recurring problem when we start practicing GTD is that we try to use the own action to indicate its deadline. That is, if we have an action such as “Write an article” and we have to deliver it on Sunday, we simply add the date to the action and leave it on the Calendar:
This type of workaround creates confusion and reduces the reliability of the system. As it is not necessary to write the article on the same Sunday—you can do it before—, the reminder of the deadline must be a different element to the action. The reminder must be on the Calendar so that you don’t overlook it in your weekly reviews, while the action must be on the Next Actions list so that you can run it when the appropriate circumstances exist.
A reminder or event is something totally different from an action. First, because it takes a different language to express them properly. Second, because the action will most likely need to be broken down into several actions (in this case, it would be a project), something you cannot do if it’s on the Calendar, as a reminder.
Therefore, a more effective approach would be to (1) have a specific reminder on the Calendar:
(2) The action, properly described, in your Next Actions list:
(3) Optionally, it is very likely that you need a project to string together all the necessary actions to achieve the result:
Having said this, there are times when it may be convenient to assign an expected date (desired) to an action.
If you have a project that you need to finish in 18 months and requires an enormous amount of work, you will need some references closer in time to keep developing the project and guarantee success in reaching the deadline. These references, although subjective dates, will prevent you from reaching the last week with half the project undone.
Important note: “Expected dates” can be a useful tool occasionally, but if you abuse them you can lose the benefits of stress-free productivity that GTD generates. Use them wisely.
To assign an expected date to an item in the Next Actions list, click the date picker on the left, select the date and uncheck the “It is a deadline!” checkbox.
When you assign an expected date to an action—unlike a deadline—, it will not be moved to the Calendar but rather, it will remain in Next Actions. Actions with an expected date will be displayed before the others and ordered within their group (focused/unfocused):
You can also use the
:expected inline command to set an expected date in the action text. It is used exactly like the
Launch mobile app version 2.0.10 :expected June 10
Finally, if you want a routine to generate actions whose date is treated as expected, you just need to put the “Deadline?” field to “no”:
Other minor changes
Recently, we have made other small changes:
- When the time filter is used in the Next Actions list, the actions will be sorted by time planned. A “No time” option has been added to this filter, so you can get the actions that have no time defined.
- To avoid confusion in the integration with Evernote, it is not allowed to associate the same Evernote notebook to more than one project.
- Also to avoid confusion, it is not allowed to use the
:startcommand outside the lists involving your own tasks (Calendar and Next Actions).