The Blog.

Do Dates vs Due Dates

20 Jun 2016 | Tips, tools, tricks

One of the benefits of being Human, not Superhero (one of the nine characteristics of a Productivity Ninja) is that when you make a mistake, or as I put it, have a ‘doh’ moment, you can chalk it up as a point of learning, rather than a point of failure to beat yourself up with.

It happened to me this week with Father’s Day. This year I had bought my card well in advance, at the end of May. I remember feeling rather smug, and even thought of leaving it with my dad when I visited that weekend. But as it happened, we were busy enjoying ourselves, and when the time came to leave, the card was still in the wrapper, in my bag, and I thought to myself – it’s ok, I can post it, there’s plenty of time. Next thing I knew, it was Friday evening before Father’s Day, and I had missed the last post.

The problem with deadlines is they can have a tendency to creep up on us.

One minute they’re miles away, the next minute they’ve arrived. The time between well in advance and last minute panic doesn’t pass steadily – because let’s face it, there’s so much else going on.

It’s a classic case where a Do Date would be far more useful than a Due Date.

The idea was first introduced to me by fellow Ninja Dawn O’Connor, director of Think Productive Canada, who favours using the ‘Due Date’ field in Outlook Tasks as a ‘Do Date’ – the date you want to actually do the task rather than the date it needs to be done by.

Had I been looking for a Do Date to send my Father’s Day card, I would have picked a date much earlier in June to do this tiny task – given that I’ve been on the road all last week since Sunday. But because I was looking at the due date, I kept telling myself I still had time – until I didn’t.

The same applies for habits like getting to bed earlier, or leaving work on time. We can give ourselves deadlines for lights out or leaving the building, and overlook the fact that it takes time between deciding to stop what we’re doing, and actually making it out the door or into bed.

Think about it: what do you actually do on the way to bed, or out of the office? How much time does that actually take?

Granted, I don’t have the elaborate bed and bath time routines that my kids used to have, but I do at least have to get changed, go to the bathroom, clean my contact lenses, brush my teeth and set the alarm, and that always takes more than the minute I give myself when I decide it’s time for bed. And most nights I find myself picking stuff up on the way to bed – toys left on the floor, food left out in the kitchen, decisions to make for the next day like what to wear, conversations started with my husband that weren’t quite finished, and the book that I would love to be reading – had I gone to bed a little earlier.

The truth is, we’d probably have a much better chance of hitting that deadline if we give ourselves a defined time to start doing ‘bedtime’ or ‘work exit’, rather than just the time we hope to be done by.

What deadlines have a habit of creeping up and surprising you?

Whether it’s that big project with a deceptively distant deadline, a tiny task that theoretically could be done at any time, but in reality keeps falling through the gaps, or something you habitually find yourself running late on – what could you do with a ‘Do Date’ rather than a ‘Due Date’ for?

Let me know…


  1. Sian Kilgour

    Love this Grace – I am definitely guilty of the last minute bedtime routine, or “immediate sleep” as I call it, only to find when I get upstairs that all the clean washing is still sat on the bed and there are bath toys everywhere! In the office, I have to work backwards from my exit ‘due date’ so that I can make sure I’ve got everything done before I need to down tools and pick up my kids. I will definitely keep the concept of ‘do dates’ front of mind! Thanks for sharing

    • Grace Marshall

      “Immediate sleep” sums it up perfectly Sian – and yes the washing on the bed appears in our house too!

  2. Sue Steel

    Yes I agree – and bedtime and leaving work are the main issues in my life. Also things like decorating and taking up trousers. They never actually get done because I don’t schedule them, and then it’s too late.

    • Grace Marshall

      Yes, make someday a real day in the calendar – and make sure you have that first baby step well defined. Sometimes things like decorating and taking up trousers don’t happen because when you get round to it you realise you need to find the sewing kit, or buy new thread, or choose paint first – and either the shops are closed or the person you need to agree with is in bed, etc.

  3. Richard Tubb

    Love the idea of a do date rather than a due date! As for bedtime routines, I set my FitBit to buzz with a silent alarm to remind me to prepare for bed. It’s also useful as a reminder to start wrapping up conversations when at networking dinners and other events!

    • Grace Marshall

      That’s a great example of a do date in action Richard. Also love the idea of a reminder to start wrapping up conversations – much better than constantly glancing at the clock…

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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