Due dates are a powerful tool. They can remind us to do tasks on time so we avoid embarrassing situations and other negative consequences.

But it's easy to over-do due dates. You don't want this:



Here's why you should use them sparingly and how to tell whether your task really needs a due date.

After watching the video, add due dates to any tasks in your OmniFocus that will have serious consequences if you don't complete them by a certain time.

Lesson transcript:
[00:00:00] In the previous lesson, I explained why it is important to liberally use defer dates. The more tasks (and later on, projects) that you defer, the fewer tasks and projects you'll see as being available, which is helpful. It makes it easier to choose what to work on next. 

[00:00:16] But it's an entirely different story for due dates. Use due dates sparingly. Use them with caution. Use due dates only when there will be a major consequence to you not doing a certain task by that date. 

[00:00:30] Here, let me show you. Moving back into the inbox. All these five tasks—I would ideally like to do them today. So one thing I could do is go ahead and click each task, click due date and type today. Or I could type a particular time by which I want to do it today. It doesn't really matter. I could go ahead and do this for all of these tasks. Actually, here's a tip. I could click one task, hold shift and then click on the bottom-most task and it will select all of them. And then it'll say multiple values up here, which means I'm editing multiple tasks. I could go ahead and type today in here and that would set the due date for all of these tasks. I don't want to do that, though. I just want you to know that this is an option. So I could go and do that. But then what would happen? Oh, let me just add a due date of today to two tasks. Right. Actually, I'll add a due date of today to all of these today and today. Thank you for the reminder. 

[00:01:29] So first of all, this is quite aggressive looking, in my opinion. And also the OmniFocus badge on your dock and [on] your Mac now says that there are eight tasks due today. I have three other tasks that are actually due today, but it went up from three to eight. And the more you do this—let's say you intend to do twenty two things today. Your OmniFocus will constantly be getting your attention saying, hey, work on these twenty two tasks today. And it can be quite distracting Also, it kind of reduces the power of these badges for you. Right. These badges also show up on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, by the way. So. You want to make sure that these sort of badges convey urgency. And what happens when you use due dates too frequently is that they stop alerting you and that you stop thinking, oh, wow, I really need to do this today. So you're kind of diluting the reminder effect. Right. And that makes it much more likely that you'll actually forget about or not get to those things that truly need to get done today. 

[00:02:35] So another way to say this is: use due dates only when there are serious consequences. Do not use due dates to set intentions. Like if I intend to buy some groceries today, I should not use a due date of buying the grocery store. Nothing bad is going to happen if I don't buy groceries until tomorrow. Right. Whereas with the Fusion Toastmasters membership fee, if I pay that too late, that might actually have some serious consequences. I don't know. They might kick me out of the club. Probably not. There will probably be a reminder. But it's a more serious thing. Plus, I take great pride in always paying things on time. All right. So that's the reason. 

[00:03:09] But let me show you some other unintended consequences. Notice how I had actually set another actual due date for paying my fusion Toastmasters membership fee. Right. When I set—if I use the due date to say that I intend to do this today, I lose the actual time when it is really due. Remember, if I go and undo this. We'll see. That actually was due on the twenty seventh of March and today's the 11th of March. So if I don't get to this task today, I might be like, oh I'll set a due date for tomorrow because I intend to do it tomorrow. But I can keep doing that indefinitely. And there will be no reminder of—wait a second, no, this is actually actually actually due today. There'll be consequences if you don't do this day. So do not use due dates for intentions. Only use them when the consequences are serious. I'm going to go ahead and undo more of this. Well, I guess it's too late for that. All right. I'll leave these over here. 

[00:04:03] I'll be talking in a later lesson about how you can use a different feature in OmniFocus to show that you intend to work on something today because it is important to plan your day. Remember, we have the two parts: knowing what to work on next and then focusing on that task. Right. So we do want some way to sort of tag that we're planning to work on something next and perhaps next means today. But we'll get to that in a future lesson. For now, please be very careful. Only use due dates for legitimate due dates when there'll be some consequence and particularly when there'll be consequences towards other people if you don't complete a task by a certain time.

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