For tickler tasks: Future Start Date vs. Due After?
I'm a bit new to Toodledo and the GTD methodology. I'm trying to find the best electronic implementation to the tickler file (which I have a physical version of, for hardcopy ticklers).
I see that in TD, I can create a task with either a future start date, or with a "due on/after" date. Both would mean that the task is filtered out with "hide future events" filter until a more appropriate time, which is what I want. What are the pros/cons to using either the start date or due on/after approach? They seem similar, but perhaps there are subtleties that make one or the other more appropriate in a given situation?
I'll give two examples to clarify what I'm looking for. First: I have a doctor's appointment, and have to remember to bring some paperwork to the appointment. I want to be reminded of that the day before, but not see the task until around then. Second: there's an interesting conference in Feb 2010 that I want to consider attending when I better know my schedule, say in January.
Not sure if this is the appropriate place to post this, or in Tips/Tricks or even GTD -- I'm hoping this community will let me know, in addition to your insights.
This is just my perspective.
A task with a Start Date is more of a reminder of when you need to start working on it. The same task can also have a due date.
In your example of the Doctors Appointment. You can set the Start date to remind you about the paperwork you need and it should also have a Due Date since it's an appointment you have on a particular date and time that can't be missed.
In your concert example, you will only need a Start Date to remind you about it but no Due Date is needed at that time. You have not decided it's something you can attend.
Any task that has a Due Date should be something that MUST be done on that day.
From a GTD perspective, your Calendar is sacred and you should NEVER put a due date on a task unless it MUST be done on that day. I won't go into the specifics on this way of thinking about it, but just thought I toss it in there.
Let's look at your examples, since I'm not sure they are the best for what you ultimately want.
First, the reminder to bring paperwork is a task. You should make it due one day prior to the appointment. No need to mess with anything else, although you could use some of the other fields (like "start date") for tracking purposes.
This item won't appear on your list unless you're showing tasks that are due one day prior to the appointment. I realize that some people really want it hidden, since looking at too many tasks is counter-productive. However, I counter that you shouldn't be looking at tasks due too far in the future. And, if you are looking more than a couple days ahead, the reason is to plan and knowing that you need to take 10 minutes to gather the paperwork next Tuesday is worthwhile for planning.
You have another option, of course, which is to set an alarm for 24 hours (or whatever) prior to the appointment. I do this for a few things, like this, where I just want a reminder (tickler) that something is coming up -- just in case I'm not reviewing my Toodledo tasks list. Having a tickler e-mailed to me works well as a tickler.
Keep in mind that "visit doctor" isn't likely a task, but is an event that you'd put on your calendar. So the alarm approach doesn't really apply here since the only task you have is really to gather the paperwork.
As for your record example, I'd say pretty much the same thing. Set a task for yourself that says "Decide on conference" and make it due in January. I make heavy use of this.
And, again, you need not set a start date, but you certainly can. The difference here, however, is that the doctor's appointment prep has a deadline which is the same day that you want to start the task. Checking on your schedule to decide on the conference is the sort of thing you can postpone for several days from the start, but there's a hard deadline (when conference registration closes).
In both cases, you are dealing with "tasks" that have a relatively short duration of actually doing them. However, there's a larger thing which is dealing with longer terms tasks that may take days or weeks to complete. For example, I have things like "Write proposal." This is something I don't plan to start until 2 weeks before it's due, but it'll take the 2 weeks to actually complete. Because of this, I have need for tasks that don't "appear" on my task list until 2 weeks before (just as you've requested). The thing is, I don't look 2 weeks out (usually). I only look at what's due today, tomorrow, or the next day (my "hotlist"). So, I need to set the due date to the START date and then put "...due [the due date]" in the description. The use of "start date" can help, but requires building a complex filter.
My suggestion, unless you're dedicated to a strict GTD methodology, is to consider using one of the following, and vary depending on what you're really trying to do:
(1) Set an alarm to send you an e-mail/text to remind you.
(2) Create an "advance tasks" that's due when you want to start the activity, and then another task for the activity itself.
(3) Set the task due to the first day that something is due, but indicate in the title or notes when the task is eventually due.
Hope this helps.
Thanks both! Proximo, I'm in agreement with the calendar-is-sacred aspect of GTD, which is why I was looking for an alternative solution for my ticklers. I'm still trying to figure out the best way, but for the time-being, finding that I can modify the Hotlist settings to tasks due just a couple days out (the default is a full two weeks out -- does that really help anyone??), this effectively hides most of my ticklers, save for the ones that I really do need to see.
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