I've read the various manual pages about DEADLINE and SCHEDULED, and have used them both.

I understand that DEADLINE is used in the Agenda to alert in advance about an upcoming deadline, and to continue to alert after the deadline if the item is not marked DONE.

However, I am not sure that I completely understand how to use SCHEDULED. My understanding is that if I have a task, which is larger than just a once-off action, I can use SCHEDULED so that the item keeps appearing daily on my Agenda, until I mark it as DONE. Therefore, each day on my Agenda, I will see the same SCHEDULED task, reminding me to continue working on it. Is this correct? I know SCHEDULED is not intended to simply "schedule" a meeting.

  • SCHEDULED is for scheduling a meeting (if you want). – mankoff Apr 4 '15 at 12:19
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    Yes, but I'm indicating that I have read the manual page, which states "Important: Scheduling an item in Org mode should not be understood in the same way that we understand scheduling a meeting." :) – SabreWolfy Apr 4 '15 at 12:22
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    This is wrong. The idea behind SCHEDULED is to define when you intend to start working on a TODO item, compare to the manual orgmode.org/org.html#Deadlines-and-scheduling – JohnDoe Nov 9 '17 at 18:51
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    @JohnDoe: That's the exact page from which I quoted in my comment. – SabreWolfy Nov 9 '17 at 21:57

Building on @kaushalmodi's answer a bit futher, there are three ways to attach a date to an Org entry:

  • A plain timestamp, C-c .: This is used for things like appointments where the entry occurs at a specific date/time. Such an entry will show up in the agenda on the specified day, and will not show up after that day has passed. Note that an appointment in the past won't keep showing up on your agenda regardless of whether you mark it DONE: if you didn't go to your doctor's appointment yesterday, that doesn't mean you still have one today!

  • A SCHEDULED timestamp, C-c C-s: This is used to indicate when you intend to do the task. It will show up on the agenda on the scheduled day. If you don't complete the task at that time, it will continue to show up on the agenda on the following days to show you that you have not completed something that you planned to do.

  • A DEADLINE timestamp, C-c C-d: This is used to indicate when something must be completed. Typically you want to see deadlines ahead of time, so that you can do whatever it is that must be done to meet them. Like a scheduled entry, if you miss a deadline it will continue to appear on the agenda as past due.

(Strictly speaking there is a fourth option: an inactive timestamp, C-c !. This is when you want to attach a date to an entry but do not want it to show up in the agenda at all. Inactive timestamps have no special behavior.)

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    +1 for discussing the difference between active timestamps and scheduled timestamps. Now I realize the former is for something that happens at a specific time, rather than something you want to plan to do at a specific time. – Nick McCurdy Jun 16 '17 at 13:09

Scheduled time is when you want to start working on the task. So a task scheduled to start on a particular day will not show up in agenda before that day. It's a way to show only relevant to do items in the agenda.

An example would be that you would want to schedule your car inspection only 2-3 months before the inspection is due. There is no point cluttering the agenda with that task a year in advance.

Deadline is obviously the date by which you need the task to be done.

To put it an other way, you would want to or have to or would have time to work on a particular task only between the Scheduled and Deadline time, not before that.

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  • How is that different to just creating the task without the SCHEDULED? – SabreWolfy Apr 4 '15 at 12:23
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    'Scheduled' means that you intend to do the task at the scheduled time, and that: 1) You don't need to see the task before the scheduled time, and 2) You want to be reminded that you have not completed the scheduled task after the scheduled time. – glucas Apr 4 '15 at 13:53
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    @SabreWolfy When you "create an entry to 'wash the car' on a date", that date has to be either the deadline or scheduled. If it is deadline and if you haven't set a scheduled date, it means that you NEED to wash the car between now and the deadline. If it's a scheduled date and you haven't set a deadline (which you shouldn't do if you really cared to add that task), it means that you need to wash the car after the scheduled date but you don't care when you wash it. An ideal case would be to set schedule and deadline dates (deadline >= scheduled) and you wash the car between those dates. – Kaushal Modi Apr 4 '15 at 14:01
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    @kaushalmodi No, that's not entirely correct. In org you can add an active timestamp to any org entry without marking it as either a deadline or a scheduled date. Typically that is what you would do for things like appointments: this task occurs at this time. DEADLINE and SCHEDULED add additional semantics to a timestamp. Generally: a deadline will show up ahead of time so that you know it is coming; and for a scheduled task you will be reminded every day after the scheduled date to remind you that you didn't complete it when you planned to. – glucas Apr 4 '15 at 14:05
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    @SabreWolfy To see the difference, create two tasks with yesterday's date. Make one of them a plain timestamp, and one scheduled. Now look at the day agenda for today. The scheduled task will still show up, because it is past scheduled; the other one will not show up, because whether you completed it or now the timestamp is in the past. Does that help? – glucas Apr 4 '15 at 14:09

By scheduling a meeting, we are making an "appointment", which 1. Regardless its priority, it must be done at the scheduled date (and time) if it ever has to be done. In this sense, it kind of shapes the "hard landscape" of that day. 2. Usually, it is pointless to display the entry in agenda after the scheduled date no matter if you attend that meeting or not.

In contrast, the SCHEDULED in org-mode means that you plan to get started with that task on that day. It does not say if you must finish (or even start) it on that day or not. In fact, by default, org mode will show it in you agenda until you mark it done. This way, you not only know you've started a task but also is reminded how many days you spend on it (if you spend to many days, you may need reconsider about the task or split it into smaller ones).

As for deadline, when you set a deadline for a task but don't schedule it, you probably want it done by that day but haven't made up your mind about when to do it. Maybe you want to do it whenever you got a chance, maybe you'll schedule it later. But anyway, you'll do it and complete before the deadline.

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Just to add, SCHEDULED is especially useful to implement the concept of tickler of GTD. If you have a task that cannot be completed today, but you know that you can get started next week, you can mark it to sometime next week and not worry about it since you already have marked in the system. For example, if you have a school assignment that will be released in two days, you can SCHEDULE it to two days later so that it will show up on your agenda on time.

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