Committing to tasks without dates

Some time ago I wrote that Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake and promptly failed to take my own advice!

Earlier this week I completed all the tasks on my GTD next actions list for that day, apart from three. I realised a couple of things.

  1. Once I’ve done the tasks for the day, I tend to consider myself done and forget I have another list of 50+ next actions I can work on.
  2. I’d finished but there were still 3 tasks there.

My due dates were “want to do” tasks, not “must do tasks”. I can be sure of that because I added the 🏆 task indicator beside the date for the tasks that were “must do tasks” on the day. Without realising it I had the tasks I had to do and the tasks I had to do.

So, as part of my weekly GTD Review on Friday I removed all dates from my next actions list apart from those very few that absolutely had to happen on a specific date. I’m quite comfortable with that. Will see how it goes across the week. I expect I’ll get more done.

Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake


The Getting Things Done methodology would have us not date tasks at all and instead work through contexts that help us make decisions on what do to based on the resources available to us. If something must happen on a day, use a calendar instead.

My dated tasks had become a calendar in another form.

Typically I will add dates when when:

  • The task is tracking something I’m waiting for. There will be a date for when the request is made and a date for when I require a response. Having said that, fewer waiting for tasks are getting a response date. I’ll catch that in my weekly review.
  • In my role I have quite a number of task that recur weekly, fortnighly or monthly. As my calendar is for blocked time I don’t want to store these tasks there. Instead I have them as tasks with dates and I roll the dates over each time. These include reports I have to run, bank transfers I need to make, backups that have to occur etc. In total these tasks wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes in a day and it doesn’t matter when on that day they get done. This approach gets them out of my mind and into my trusted system.

I still find myself falling into the habit of adding due dates. It’s easier than remembering to look at the task list eah morning and trust myself.

That’s not a project

It only takes a single sentence to peturb. Last night, while listening to Episode 70: Anatomy of a Project List (, one of those sentences came out of the blue and has had me thinking every since.

Rosemary Orchard at one point said something like, "That’s not a project. That’s a goal." Immediately gears started turning in my head and I realised that many of my projects are in fact goals. It explains a lot why nothing ever happens on them. My focus and attention is wrong. I’m trying to go from goal to next action (task) and it’s too big a leap.

Here’s an example project title. "Update photo library". Granted, it is one of those on-going "projects" that never ends. Under it I know I need to:

  • curate the photos of the last 6-9 months
  • add the most recent photos taken by family members
  • add metadata to those photos
  • review all existing photos not yet marked "Final" for metadata, events and people
  • scan the remaining photo albums

It all boils down to "work on some of that stuff when I have the inclination to"

Now I’m thinking a little differently. My role is Curator of family memories with the goal to Add metadata to all family photos. Why that goal is important to me, I’ve not yet parsed.

From there, and as I review my role and goal, I’ll come up with projects. They will be something like:

  • Scan album 15
  • Review metadata on photos from 1985
  • Import January 2022’s photos from Dropbox

Smaller, more focussed, and more likely to provide a sense of achievement.

I’m looking forward to seeing where I end up.