Using the Due Date Field in Outlook Tasks

August 8, 2018

As you know I have written 7 books on task management and email management. In my task management materials, I talk a lot about how to get tasks done. One typical way older to-do list systems try to do that is to focus obsessively on setting due dates on all tasks. But anyone who has studied my materials know I don’t believe in that. That’s because doing that leads to a lot of fake deadlines, and then a Cry Wolf phenomenon takes place where you just start ignoring those fake ones, and then ignore all deadlines, and important ones get dropped.

Instead, I say set a due date only when there is a true hard deadline. That way you will honor your deadlines. Then, in my MYN system, I say set a start date on ALL tasks, that way you indicate when you want to do the task (whether due soon or not) and it gives you greater control. And in my simpler 1MTD system, we don’t use start dates, rather, we simply set the priority to indicate urgency.

How to Set a Due Date

But how do you set a due date? Usually I say simply type it into the text subject line of the task like this: “DUE: Friday, Turn in status report.” That works well.

Now, if you are using Outlook for tasks, you may know there is a Due Date field in the task form. But for MYN I recommend you avoid it. That’s because it has an unfortunate hard linkage to the start date, one that makes the Due Date field almost unusable. So just use the subject line text method as above.

But in the simpler 1MTD system, since we don’t use the start date, using Outlook’s Due Date field can make sense because there is no conflict. It gives you the advantage of turning the task red when overdue and enabling you to set pop-up reminders. The problem is it’s a bit complicated to use the Due Date field in the To-Do Bar of Outlook, even for the simple 1MTD system. It takes a bit of study.

Where to Learn How to Use the Windows Outlook Due Date Field

The good news is I give complete instructions on how to use the Outlook Due Date field in 1MTD in two places. One is video 4.7 in the full version of my Windows Outlook Inbox Ninja video course. The second is in video 7 of my new Windows Outlook One Minute To-Do List video course. So study one of those videos (they are nearly identical) and consider using the Due Date field in Windows Outlook with 1MTD.


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13 Responses to Using the Due Date Field in Outlook Tasks

  1. I think google mail´s new snooze feature does a better job than outlook tasking

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Interesting Dr. Luber, tell us more? I really think you’ll find having a separate task mgt system, and converting emails into it, is the better way to go. One reason I don’t recommend snooze features like the one on Gmail (and there are add ons to Outlook and versions of Outlook that also allow it) is that you can’t rewrite the title of the email easily. I’ve found most email titles are not clear as to what the action for you inside the email is. So you end up having to reread the email the each time it pops up to figure out why you deferred it to that day. With an Outlook task made from an email, you can (and should) when you create it retype the title of the new task to match what the action is—so at a glance when it pops up you know what you need to do and can decide if it’s time to do it. Also, you can prioritize tasks easily; I don’t think you can do that with deferred emails that pop up. That’s an issue because tons of deferred emails will start to build up and keep popping up and you just have a big mess again. To each his own, but I really think you’ll find having a separate task mgt repository, and then converting action emails into it, and then managing those tasks with a true system (like 1MTD or MYN) is the better way to go. If you are a Gmail user then I’d recommend the software Toodledo for your task repository. It’s easy to convert Gmail mails into Toodledo tasks. Hope that helps! Michael

      • Bert Webb says:

        I agree! I try to get emails out of my inbox and into my task management system ASAP. It’s demoralizing to review all my emails just in order to extract the tasks embedded within them. It’s also redundant in that you waste time reading the email in the first place and then have to read it again snooze brings it back up. If I find I don’t want to work on it then, I have to repeat the process again. Plus, your stress level goes way down when you work with an empty inbox.

        • Bob says:

          I just do not like to have too many programs working simultaneously. Snooze in gmail is so well integrated into gmail (which is my only mail program) – no need for another “due program” or “special task management system”. Btw Google Keep is also highly integrated into gmail – again no other 2nd program necessary. The less programs I have running the less irritation when working.

          • Bert Webb says:

            Bob– Actually, the new Gmail/Google Tasks/Calendar/Keep integration come close for me to use them. I’m sure you’ve seen the new sidebar in Gmail that integrates Calendar, Keep, and Tasks there, giving a similar experience to Outlook, putting all those things in one screen. Even better, you now have the same sidebar if you open Google Calendar and in any open google drive document. Everything is sooooo close for me, except for the limited value I find in their tasks app. It’s so basic that it severely limits the sorting options, there are no filters to hide future tasks, and no recurring task options. Plus, it took Google more than a decade to even create this option-barren free-standing tasks app, that I don’t ever see them creating upgrades to it. Perhaps when I retire later this year I’ll have fewer things to track. But until then, as a school administrator with hundreds of tasks in a Microsoft work environment, I’ll stick to Outlook and MYN.

        • Bob says:

          But the snoozed emails are all kept in a separate specific snoozed gmail section. So I do not see your argument that using the snoozing option generates a cluttered email system or that snoozing forces you repetetive working. But maybe I have not understand exactly what you mean.

      • Bob says:

        thank you Michael with these considerations worthwhile to reflect. Yes, changing the subject line is difficult in gmail, even impossible other than sending the email with different subject again to myself which is a nuisance. That argument is true however only for incoming emails. But in outgoing emails you are free to make the subject line as specific as you like and if you add snoozing to outgoing emails you have – to my mind – a perfect reminding system. You can even minimalize tasking in just inserting a small text referring to a task in the gmail subject line and send it to yourself and using the snooze function for that email. Very simple, very quick, totally sufficient.

        Not knowing how outlook´s prioritizing of tasks works my arguments on side of gmail´s snoozing are 1): that you can do starring each snoozed emails (better said: each email anyway) with various colors of the star (this priority option is sufficient form me) and 2): the snoozing emails are all kept in a specific “snoozed emails” section in gmail (beside that they also appear of course in the gmail sections where the snoozed email belongs (according to its content) like in specific labeled sections (there visible as in snoozed status and with snoozed time stamp). So my work routine is to check regularly my gmail starred section and my gmail snoozed section which both gives me an optimal prioritized overview which important emails and emails with tasks or deadlines included are on my current todo agenda. –

        Thanks for drawing my attention to 1MTD and MYN but having read what you said about both on your home page I must say: much too heavy for me and having had (and still have) so many years with execellent experience with using Google Keep for all my tasks management (now even supplemented with “matching” gmail snoozing) it does not motivate me to change / to add another app to my current work apps surrounding. Also Toodledo is not convincing for me = either having functions which Google Keep has already (so why changing…) or having functions overload = offering functions which I do not use in my work routine.

        But thanks again for broadening my view of possible todo/task apps and as you rightly say in your post: much is dependent on work demands and good experiences with apps. Bob

  2. Bob says:

    thanks Bert for your thougtful comment based on a job with heavy work load. For such a job the elementary-only google task app definetely is not sufficient. I agree even as person which less heavy work duties than you = I hardly use google task. The only counter consideration I may raise IMHO is, that the google mail snooze option in combination of Google Keep might sufficient (I do not however argue as for which quantitative amount of tasks these 2 apps are sufficient). Those functions you correctly find missing in the google taks option are all in Google Keep: sorting, recurring task option; included are also: filtering, labelling and tasks time stamping. Compairing what you write – certainly justified from your job perspective – and my user´s experience (heavy and for a long time) with Google Keep (now assisted by gmail snooze add on) in my job I estimate the evaluation difference narrows to personal taste and length of (positive) practical experience.

  3. which quantitative amount of tasks these 2 apps are sufficient). Those functions you correctly find missing in the google taks option are all in Google Keep: sorting, recurring task option; included are also: filtering, labelling and tasks time

  4. Your blog is realy very wonderful and very great so thanks for sharing this great information with us. and we are the best digital course institute in Delhi/

  5. jesse reyes says:

    Bottom Line: Due dates are useful in those applications outside of Outlook that truly support them so need more guidance on how to use them.

    Background: Agree that outlook tasks as currently implemented makes due dates unusable. Your workaround when you have a real hard landscape deadline is to use DUE: in the subject line but that seems a bit of contrivance to get around outlook’s limitation. However for apps like toodledo in which due date really works, it can be really useful.

    Yes if all tasks had a fake due date ,they are useless. But so few everyday tasks really have a hard landscape due date. For those of us who have problems finishing tasks, putting a target date (using due date field) on them is really, really useful. That’s where due dates functionality come in handy in an app like Toodledo. If we don’t use some sort of target date to finish we get a GTD-like limbo-land where all our obligations are lined up like airplanes on a runway but they don’t get finished but we “feel” really great about the fact we know what they are but feel awful when they don’t get done. Having a target date makes it easier to prioritize when working MTN and deciding what needs to go in each of the urgency zones. Start dates are great for knowing when to work on something, target dates are great to know which we should focus on first and put in our urgency zones.

    More guidance on how to effectively use due dates would be great.
    As always, thanks for the good advice


    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Thanks Jesse. Well, I still think the start date is a good action date method for most tasks and then use a deadline only for true hard deadlines. But if, in fact, your work world generates very few hard deadlines, then I think a compromise is in order. For example, if I have no critical now tasks for a couple days in a row, then one morning I might pick one or two tasks that have been sitting around undone for a while, and make them critical now tasks (i.e. due today) just to force me to make progress on some old tasks. You might say that it has become critical for my pride to get some old tasks done, and I stand by that commitment since nothing else urgent is pressing on my day.

      And if I have almost no tasks with real due dates lined up in the near future, I might pick my most pesky tasks (ones I’ve been avoiding) and set near term future due dates on them.

      But in both cases, I say mark only a few tasks like that. It’s when you have too many tasks that all come piling in, all with “fake” overdue deadlines, that you start ignoring them all.

      So yes, a few forced deadlines here and there won’t hurt. Sometimes we need the nudge.

      Hope that helps! Michael

      • jesse reyes says:

        Thanks, that’s a good goldilocks solution.

        i use start dates diligently on all tasks and that start-date idea you put in volume 0 of your book was a real epiphany i’ve now been using for years.

        there are a number of projects/tasks that i have that do have hard due dates so there are probably more there than your own system.
        but I understand where you are coming from.

        i have a mixture of things that have to get done by a certain date and a few that I nudge along with a target due date. has helped tremendously knocking things off

        especially that pesky over- the-horizon/@SomedayMaybe list — if i defer to review or do more than a few times — they get deleted — having a due date on them gives me a ruthless tool to use on those — otherwise i’ll just kick the can down the road and the over the horizon defer to do/defer to review list just snowplows into a big mess.

        so in defer to review — if i put a hard date on those, it’s a reminder to myself that if i get to that date and haven’t done anything it when i review it — it will never get done and will delete it or archive it. Otherwise too easy to kick it down the calendar again.

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