Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

Managing GTD projects with a Google calendar

The GTD book says to use your calendar only for things you have to get done at a specific time. But modern calendaring tools manage several calendars. I have one or two Google calendars that I use for real appointments, but after trying lots of alternatives, I ended up using another Google calendar as my projects list.

My calendar has been electronic at least as far back as the mid '90s when I started using a psion. As much as I like managing data electronically, for reliability and availability, I find that paper is better than softcopy—better than one softcopy, that is. Once you get to two softcopies on different machines, it's better than paper. Moving to a sidekick in 2003 met that bar with continuous sync with the cloud.

So that rules out the various todo list apps that don't sync between the cloud and mobile&emdash;including the tasks in Google calendar!

I tried a desktop wiki, sync'd to mobile manually each week. The manual work didn't get done. I tried a Google docs spreadsheet but somehow that didn't stick either.

But then the agenda view in Google calendar got me thinking: that's not bad for keeping a list. So I made a new calendar with an all-day event some time next week for each project. When a new project comes up, I quickly add an all day event today; in my weekly review, I figure out next actions and put them after this week (or the week after), out of mind, spreading them out Mon-Fri to give a rough sense of priority. The month view is hand for this: I can just slide each one down a week or two, changing day of week as priorities change.

If the projects start showing up my agenda widget or weekly view, I know I'm behind on my weekly review.

One of the best features of this system is that I can include my projects list—or not—in calendar searches.

My biggest struggle with GTD is my tendency to go depth-first: I struggle to review something without actually getting down into it. I haven't found anything that works well for processing my inbox; but when it comes to reviewing projects, I'm mostly winning the struggle since I started using a calendar for my projects list.