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  • picking a calendar format (newbie)

    I'm new to GTD, and am really noticing a lot of changes so far. Very excited.
    Unfortunately, the problem I have, the continuously plaguing and frustrating trouble of the past 10 years is my inability to decide on and stick to any particular type of calendar.

    I've tried:
    Palm PDA
    iPod
    iCal
    Daily Planners
    Desk-blotters
    Printed calendars from a software

    They all "kind of" work. but now that I'm streamlining my workflow, I need to reevaluate what type of calendar will work best for me.
    My weakness is gadgets, but I get the sense that these are distracting more than efficient.

    Bottom line: what factors should I consider when choosing an effective calendar system? This requires more of an answer than "Pick what works for you" because I'm not sure what works, and trial and error in this matter is costly in time and resources.

    Thanks for any help that can be tossed my way! I'm looking forward to being a productivity ninja like all of you!

  • #2
    When do you need access to your calendar? At your desk only? All over the place? Paper is platform independent, but can be bulky. Electronics can be portable, but that may mean you need to keep the same data in several different formats.

    How complex is your calendar? Do you have dozens of appointments every week, or only a handful every month? Complex calendars with many changes are easier to maintain electronically, though you still might want to work from a paper printout.

    Do other people need to see your calendar? What tools do they use?

    Do you use your calendar primarily for day-to-day scheduling, or more for big picture planning? Do you need to see a big expanse of time, like a week or a month, or just one day?

    My own answer is a weekly paper calendar for planning, a daily paper calendar for recordkeeping and minimal appointments, and a gCal/iCal/iPod combination for periods of scheduling chaos (like conferences).

    Good luck!

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Things to consider:
      How many and how long are the appointments that you need to track on your calendar. I would pick the format that gives you the longest view of your schedule while still allowing you to mark appointments clearly. If you are booking long meetings, it is good to be able to see a week or a month at a time so you can space the meeting time out. If you book a lot of meetings, it's good to have more space per day so you can fit the start time, end time, and contents in the space.

      How much time you spend out and about (including in meetings) also helps determine whether you need something portable that you're highly likely to carry with you, versus something larger that tends to stay put and be easier to find.

      I personally use Outlook at work (and include personal appoinments on it so I avoid conflicts) because that's how meetings are booked in my company. And also because that schedule is changing constantly.

      At home we have a paper monthly calendar that hangs by the phone. It has all the family's non-work appointments on it.

      Comment


      • #4
        I personally use the calendar in my Palm PDA, but I would have to agree with you that electronic solutions in general can be more time-consuming than time-saving, especially when getting started or switching between options. For that reason, I would not recommend an electronic calendar unless you are pretty certain that you know what you want and will stick with it long term. However, since you already have a Palm PDA and experience using its calendar, there is very little barrier for you to use that. The standard Palm calendar is pretty effective in my opinion, with the major weaknesses being that you cannot see your whole month at a glance with any useful detail and data entry is slower than pen on paper. On the plus side, it beeps for appointments, remembers repeating events for you, is portable, backs up to your PC and the pages never run out. Plus you say that you like gadgets and it is packaged along with an effective phone directory and other useful things.

        In general, try to eliminate the use of multiple calendars. It is easier to keep up with things when everything is on a single calendar. I also think it is important to have a portable calendar so you can feel on top of your schedule even when you are away from your desk.

        If you have already dismissed your Palm calendar as an option, I would advise using the most simple, clean, efficient and generally-useful option. In my opinion, that would be a paper calendar with one month per page, bound into a portable book. This can be as small as a checkbook to easily go with you in your pocket, or larger depending on your needs for writing space. Get the smallest calendar you think you can live with so that it will be easier to keep with you. These monthly calendars give you only one small square of writing space per day, but with small writing I can get several appointments and reminders in there per day and that is all I personally need. This can be augmented with post-it notes when necessary. If you have more appointments than that, the weekly format would be the next step up to more detail with a trade-off of losing some of the "big picture" view of the monthly layout. These kinds of calendars are widely available at office supply stores in a variety of sizes and layouts.

        After using that, you will either find that it meets your needs and there is no reason to change, or you will have identified one or more glaring weaknesses and the correct format for you will become apparent based on those weaknesses.

        Comment


        • #5
          thanks

          Thanks for all the ideas!

          I've read many comments on this, so I guess this adds fuel to the fire.

          It seems that a common problem for me is spending so much time on implementing the plan, that by the time I get to "Execute" I'm confused, bored, burned out, or it turns out that actually implementing the plan is more work than I thought. Messy.

          As I'm sure many of the readers of this forum have experienced, I found it quite difficult to maintain an appropriate schedule as my lifestyle changed drastically from living at home with parents, to college, to job to living with a spouse, all in 5 years. Many people must get far into this crisis-level mess before realizing the need for a system (any system) of organizing tasks, budget, schedule, files. Worse, there was no foundation for a system as belongings, files, agendas, contact lists, addresses changed rapidly and with little warning.

          GTD, and the help of those who replied here, is a good way to build a foundation, but it's like building a house under a pile of rubble. I'm wondering if there has been any work done to help young people build a GTD system from the time when the need for one forms, rather than the current, fire-extinguisher method we all got stuck with.

          What do you think about this?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by juliannaheiby View Post

            GTD, and the help of those who replied here, is a good way to build a foundation, but it's like building a house under a pile of rubble. I'm wondering if there has been any work done to help young people build a GTD system from the time when the need for one forms, rather than the current, fire-extinguisher method we all got stuck with.

            What do you think about this?

            There is a section on the Forum called GTD & Education and there are threads there about teaching GTD to children http://www.davidco.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=14

            I wish that it was part of the curriculum in school.

            Pixlz

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by juliannaheiby View Post
              GTD, and the help of those who replied here, is a good way to build a foundation, but it's like building a house under a pile of rubble.
              Perhaps. I've discovered that it's possible to build the foundation while slowly clearing the rubble away. I've been doing it for almost two years, and while there's still rubble around the building site, the foundation is pretty strong, as recent personal events have proven. The family health issue, snow, Palm died, then computer two days later. I found that in spite of these things falling apart, I could still tap into the system, and rebuilding has thus been incredibly easier than I could have ever imagined. (Oh, and one word: backup.)

              Personally, I use my Outlook calendar, which is then synced with my Palm (already replaced the old one). It's more than just the calendar, as the task list helps me work on personal projects during lunch (if I want, which I often don't). I rarely use my Palm as a capture tool, as I find that a small notebook, regularly processed through my inbox, serves my purposes more easily.

              At work, I use Outlook as well, but not synced with my Palm. In my life, work stays at work.

              As I've practiced GTD, I've learned that using the Someday/Maybe list is a great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed. You'll know when you're able to do those things. Until then, you can choose to concentrate on a streamlined list of what really needs your attention.

              Comment


              • #8
                see week at at time?

                If you like to see a whole week at a time, begin the week on Sunday, and want hours from 7 to 9 pre-printed, you might look at Day-Timers for one that they label as for Real Estate Agents. This can be put in a binder and you can add paper, graph paper and diveders either from Day-Timers or an office supply. If you do not see exactly what yu want in Day Timers, if you call and ask for a superivisor or e-mail them, they can take sections that are usually packaged only with other items and sell to you.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by juliannaheiby View Post
                  I'm new to GTD, and am really noticing a lot of changes so far. Very excited.
                  Unfortunately, the problem I have, the continuously plaguing and frustrating trouble of the past 10 years is my inability to decide on and stick to any particular type of calendar.

                  I've tried:
                  Palm PDA
                  iPod
                  iCal
                  Daily Planners
                  Desk-blotters
                  Printed calendars from a software
                  I take it that the problem may not be just the calendar part of the calendar, but also the lists that GTD says you need. Most people find that the calendar part of a "calendar system" works pretty well if used. There are some tricks to setting up your system to see what you want to see when you want to see it in the format that helps you get things done. What works for one person may not feel right to someone else. Right now I am using iCal synced to a palm. Now that I know a way to present my projects and next actions in a way that biases me towards action, I think I could probably implement in any of several systems. However, I arrived at this set-up by trying lots of things that didn't work. I am now closer than ever to a vanilla, just-like-David-does implementation, with a few tricks to make iCal organize my next actions a little better. Let me know if you are interested in how I do that.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I Am Interested In How You Do That

                    Hi there,
                    The one thing I find myself ironclad about is my iCal and my Treo. Everything else is very much in process with wild swings and changes constantly. But everything--I mean reminders, all dates, an enormous amount of information--like memo's on how to get somewhere, what my cholesterol was the other day at the doctors--all of it is on Treo and iCal. I make all my appointments from my desk on iCal because it is sooo clean and clear about what time is actually available.

                    But what I can't get myself to do or feel right about is keeping my lists--I keep them but use paper for reliability, or it feels reliable anyway. I would rather keep it all--other than PLANNING, which has to be on paper--I would rather keep lists, na's, etc on Treo and iCal for portability and incredible speed. Capture is in a little notebook (paper). I wish I had a Jott program on Treo but I don't. Can you really manage your system w NA's and Projects on your Treo/Palm and iCal??

                    Wow. That would really blow my mind if I could. I could work anywhere and the speed of adding a NA would be incredible. And I could do an amazing review while waiting for the movies to start at the movies. I can't get my brain to accept it, or something is wrong.

                    Tell me how this works?

                    Trish

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm using more of my iCal lately

                      Originally posted by Trish View Post
                      But what I can't get myself to do or feel right about is keeping my lists--I keep them but use paper for reliability, or it feels reliable anyway. I would rather keep it all--other than PLANNING, which has to be on paper--I would rather keep lists, na's, etc on Treo and iCal for portability and incredible speed. Capture is in a little notebook (paper). I wish I had a Jott program on Treo but I don't. Can you really manage your system w NA's and Projects on your Treo/Palm and iCal??
                      Hi Trish,

                      Okay, I can't comment on the Treo (being as how I'm Treo freo ). But I've recently been getting a little more mileage out of my iCal, with a bit of shareware that you may or may not know about.

                      I've started using Mail Act-On and Mail Tags with Mail.app. This lets me defer responding to emails when necessary while keeping all the shiny clean attributes of GTD. Here's how this bit works:

                      1) I allocate the email to one of my Project categories, which are Calendars in iCal. I've got things like Personal, Marketing, Radio, Clients, etc. You can have as many Calendars as you have projects: I've just lumped them together like that because I started using this just for email (I'm still using paper for the rest of my system).

                      2) I give it an iCal ToDo and due date (if necessary), and write a comment, which I set as the title. This means that the title of the email is my NA.

                      3) I've got a bunch of Smart Folders (which sometimes don't behave all that smartly), so when I use the Act-On key I've set up for Archive, it selects which project mailbox to file these things in, and adds it to the appropriate Smart Mailbox as well. These are This Week, Sometime, Whenever, and Waiting (waiting has to be a keyword tag, not a Project).

                      4) Then the list of ToDos appears in my ToDo list in iCal, and when I've done whatever research I need to do and am ready to answer the email, there's a link in the ToDo that takes me back to Mail.

                      There's lots of other clever things you can do with both apps, but this is enough of a starter that I think it's worth contributing to their support fund for starving software geeks.

                      In general, I think, you could use a Calendar per project, and you'd be pretty well set. My only major complaint is that it's clunky to add notes to the calendar: you have to type under the title of the calendar in the info drawer, and hitting the return key kicks you out. Plus the notes look stupid. And there's all that empty space below them. Other than that, though, it's pretty neat. And simple.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Long description of orthodox gtd using ical

                        Originally posted by Trish View Post
                        [W]hat I can't get myself to do or feel right about is keeping my lists--I keep them but use paper for reliability, or it feels reliable anyway. I would rather keep it all--other than PLANNING, which has to be on paper--I would rather keep lists, na's, etc on Treo and iCal for portability and incredible speed. Capture is in a little notebook (paper). I wish I had a Jott program on Treo but I don't. Can you really manage your system w NA's and Projects on your Treo/Palm and iCal??
                        Because Trish asked, I will explain how my "system" works using iCal, a Palm T/X and the Missing Sync, which syncs all my calendar and todo list categories. Warning: this is very close to the DA-baseline "How I use my Palm" with some tweaks to make everything go smoothly. This is long, but I hope some may find some of the ideas helpful, even if they don't use iCal or a Palm.

                        For those of you in the PC world, iCal is the Apple calendar program. It can have a large number of calendars, and each item is associated with one and only one calendar. Calendars are listed on the LHS of the iCal application, and can be ordered as you like, with one level of calendar grouping. Here are my calendars, in the order they appear in iCal

                        Review 30K-50K
                        Focus Areas
                        Home Projects
                        Work Projects
                        Unfiled
                        Next Actions (group calendar)
                        @Anywhere
                        @Computer
                        @Calls
                        @Home
                        @Mac (shorthand for home office; I have a mac at work too now)
                        @Out
                        @People
                        @Work
                        @Waiting
                        Someday/Maybe
                        Calendar (another group calendar)
                        HOME
                        OUT
                        WORK
                        INFO
                        TENTATIVE

                        (Argh- leading spaces are removed, but I think it is pretty obvious which items are on group calendars. Someday/Maybe is NOT in the Next Actions group.)

                        The Calendar categories are only used for dated items, and are always checked in iCal, so I always see all calendar items. INFO covers Birthdays, Notices of upcoming deadlines, et cetera. TENTATIVE means I would like to do this. I use this for things like meetings with a graduate student in our group (" I think the meeting will be over by 2 PM, and then we can work together until the 3 PM seminar") and for things that I might like to do, such as going to a talk on campus or even a sports event on TV.

                        The other categories are for Next Actions, Projects, and higher altitudes. Notice that they are ordered by "altitude." iCal lets you order your Todo's by due date, priority, title, or calendar, plus a manual sort. During weekly reviews, I can sort by calendar, and look at my Focus Areas (roles, 20K altitude) and compare that with my project lists by checking those 3 boxes. I can also check projects against next actions during a weekly review by checking, say Work Projects and (usually one at a time) @Anywhere, @Computer, @Mac, and @Work.

                        I use the Unfiled category in 2 ways. I have one Todo item permanently in Unfiled, and it reads "-------------------------". Its sole function is to put a line between my next actions and higher altitudes when I sort by calendar. I also use the Unfiled category for the collect and process phases. I may dump something into that category on my palm or at my desk and keep going. I may do a brain dump into that category directly, or go from paper to Unfiled. After items are collected, I process them when I have time but always at the weekly review.

                        iCal has drag and drop between calendar and to do lists, as well as drag and drop to change calendars, and I use this during the process phase to get items where they need to be. I also use this very moderately to move next actions onto the calendar when needed (the calendar entry duplicates the original). Of course, you can also use drag and drop to move items between projects and someday/maybe, et cetera. Most of these actions have equivalents on the palm. The one exception is moving between the Tasks and Calendars apps on the palm, which has to be done with cut and paste (unless you use some 3rd party apps). I do use a 3rd-party todo app on the palm, called Can Do. This gives me a little extra flexibility, because it has a lot of display and sorting actions, but in fact I don't use those features very much.

                        My projects generally have the form "Noun- Verb" as in "Summer Travel- PLAN." The capitals on the noun help when a project has multiple phases. For example, a technical manuscript may go from "XXX- R&D" to "XXX MS- WRITE" to "XXX MS- FORMAT" to "XXX MS- SUBMIT". My next actions, on the other hand, all are in the form "Verb Noun" as in "REVISE XXX Recommendation Letter." I am not (yet) always using caps on verbs but I think it is useful. When I am working in a given context, I check the calendars that apply. In my home office, those are usually @Anywhere, @Computer, and @Mac. Weekends I turn off and on @Home and @Out as desirable. Work is generally @Anywhere, @Computer, and @Work. When I have windows of time at work, I will look at just @Work for those brief next actions that can only be done at work, such as "get expense forms for XXX trip" I will sometimes re-sort the next actions in play by priority or calendar to get a different perspective, but I don't make a big deal over it. I sometimes have priority next actions that are painful or tedious, and I often just need to block out time for them, which is easy with drag and drop.

                        That's about it. As you can see, it's pretty much what DA says to do, with some tweaks. It really does work for me.
                        Last edited by mcogilvie; 02-10-2007, 11:12 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks McOgilvie!

                          Thank you so much. I am going to print out your reply and start tweaking my iCal system---which is working pretty well actually. You may have explained this, but there was a lot to take in and I just did a rather speedy read and will give it a lot more time later, but to what extent do you use paper? For project planning? I would think capture too.

                          Anyway thank you for taking all that time! I am sure a lot of people are really interested. I will keep you posted on how I do. Trish

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Trish View Post
                            You may have explained this, but there was a lot to take in and I just did a rather speedy read and will give it a lot more time later, but to what extent do you use paper? For project planning? I would think capture too.
                            For capture, I use the notetaker wallet, ordinary notepads, and a Moleskine notebook. Planning is sometimes paper, but I also use a Mac mindmapping program called Incubator. It is not as pricey as Mind Manager or as full-featured, but it is very easy, fast and flexible. It does export to a standard outline format, so it can be used with other programs; the mac version of Mind Manager does not do this.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              At-A-Glance

                              After a dozen different calendars I have settled on At-A-Glance. More specifically this is my favorite one:
                              http://www.ataglance.com/webapp/wcs/..._false_10052##

                              It is the sacred and separate book from my 3 ring (which is now tabbed with graph paper for everything.) This calendar is the most appropriate for me because I can open it in seconds (even at a stoplight) and can be laid out or folded back seeing the entire week "At a Glance". It does not need buttons that I must scroll in search of an empty hour...I see it all at once.

                              Comment

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