Due Dates and Todo.txt

Use the due: tag sparingly in todo.txt. Let due dates go, or move them to your calendar.

Why does the Todo.txt spec not contain due dates?

The Todo.txt format does not include any provision for due dates. This causes a lot of people consternation, but is easily worked around. You can add a tag for the due date to your task, using the format "due:YYYY-MM-DD" (the date format is important). I do this for the few tasks that I have that have hard due dates. Todotxt.net specifically supports due dates in this way, and even highlights in red tasks that are due today or are overdue.

The lack of due dates in the Todo.txt spec seems to be a philosophical choice. In my opinion, Todo.txt emphasizes priorities over due dates. When a task is due matters, but when you are going to do it matters a lot more.

Don't cram the whole future into your task list

Things that are due more than a couple days out are often too far in the future to worry about today—or are projects, not tasks—and should probably be written down in calendar entries, notes, or lists and project plans outside of Todo.txt. If you cram the whole known future into your Todo.txt file, all those future items will just get in your way when trying to figure out your next action. (This is the reasoning behind my Todo.txt Rule 0.)

If you think about your Todo.txt file as a list of things you should be working on now or in the immediate future, due dates become a lot less significant: Everything on your to-do list should be done as soon as possible. How simple is that? You can use priorities to manage which of those immediate tasks should be done right now, later today, or later this week. You can depriortize items that you can put off till later. The key to operating like this is to use your Todo.txt system throughout the day to figure out your next action, and keep it up to date.

Lots of overdue tasks are demotivating

Ever had a to-do list in which nearly everything is overdue because the due dates you entered were too aggressive? Or have certain tasks that you just keep pushing off for some reason, perhaps you have to keep putting out fires rather than concentrating on new work. Looking at all the dead wood on your task list is exhausting and highly demotivating. These situations make me not want to even look at the task list, and, over time, not to trust it.

These situations are even worse when the due dates that slip are dates that you just made up to try to schedule your work or to fill in a field in your task management system! This happens all to often, and the damage is self-imposed. For this reason, I bucked the habit of using due dates to plan my work, and found that Todo.txt's deprecation of, or overall lack of, due date features was liberating. I think it actually led to higher positivity and productivity at work for me.