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Hard Landscape, GTD & OmniFocus Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi there

One area of GTD that I seem to get a little hooked up on is the whole area of what goes on the calendar and what goes on your N/A lists.

I understand that only events that are 'hard landscape' go on your calendar, such as 'Meeting with John at 10am Friday', 'Return DVD's on Thursday' etc.

But it seems to me that many of these 'harder' events could also live in OmniFocus I'm curious how many people put hard landscape in OF?

I typically add hard events to iCal with one or more alarms attached often an email reminder the day before plus a popup message 15 minutes before, depending on the event.

So I have events in there ranging from the fortnightly 'put out recycle bins' to the expiry of client's hosting plans etc.

But it seems that these could just as well live in OmniFocus - so that it becomes a one-stop shop for all my commitments, soft and hard.

How do other OF'ers work with OF and iCal (or gCal etc)?
I am not a hard-core GTD-ist, so take this with a grain of salt. :)

I don't have a lot of appointments in the first place, and anything work-related is on my work PC in Outlook. What I put in iCal is appointments with a specific time. I also put them in OF as single actions, with a start date of the day before and a due date of the actual appointment date. This give me a bit of advanced warning.

Reminders such as your recycle bin example are in OF in the same manner, repeating.

I like having all of it in OF because I tend not to look at iCal often. Maybe I need an OF reminder to do so! :)
I use iCal for most items tied to a specific date -- appointments, meetings, birthdays, anniversaries, library books due dates, classes, etc. Items not tied to a specific date go in OF.

Repeating household chores, even ones that are tied to a specific date, go in OF on a checklist. I do that to keep from cluttering up the calendar.

The only exception is the exceptions in the routine. For example, trash pickup at my house occurs twice a week. I don't put that on my calendar. However, *no* trash pickup occurs on some, but not all holidays. I put those exceptions on the calendar.
I'm currently struggling with hard landscape issues, and though I think my solution is maturing I'm still figuring it out. I started creating my GTD system while listening to "Getting Things Done FAST," which is a recording of David Allen's seminar. He says something like, "You already have a calendar . . ." and breezes past the concept way too fast for someone who really had NO organizational system to speak of. Unless a GTD app of the future contains a "hard landscape" (fun to imagine what such an app would look like!) I do way better when some categories of items live outside of my GTD app:
-- If it's a daily or weekly routine, I make an Omni Outliner checklist which I print out and review with my physical inbox.
-- Any routine items with a longer frequency (monthly or annually) are on my calendar.
-- If it's a timed event it goes on my calendar.
-- Things that must get done TODAY (which I believe GTD recommends go in your calendar), I transfer to my ubiquitous capture device (I put them in my pocket). This gives me a constant tickler without messing up my calendar.

I came to the conclusion of putting all of the above in a system external to my to-do list after putting daily checklists in iGTD. I literally put every daily task I could think of, up to my exercise and food journals inside iGTD. After my 60th day in a row of retyping the notes fields to update my progress on a variety of mundane daily tasks, I had a "BFO" realized I could scratch a couple numbers of a piece of paper stuck to the refrigerator much easier with an equal reminder.

Lately, the trend I'm seeing is that the cleaner and "emptier" I keep OF stuff I've already planned and thought about, the better I feel and the better I "work." Who knows if this is the most efficient way to organize, but it's way better than where I was 2 years ago!
The only thing I put in my calendar are events that have a specific time and duration (possibly estimated). That's because I use my calendar to manage time conflicts. Anything that needs to be done on a specific date but doesn't need to be done at a certain time goes into OmniFocus, with both the beginning and due dates being the same. If I try to put these latter events in my calendar, it makes it difficult for me to use the calendar to identify true time conflicts.

So for today, for example, my calendar has two meetings plus an hour blocked off for my weekly review, while OF has one event due today (which is actually to prepare for one of the meetings).
I've been thinking about this for a while, and have decided that it is a mistake to treat some activities as "To Do" items and some as separate "calendar" events. Why complicate life by running two parallel systems? "Hard Landscape" (calendar) events are just "To Do" items with added time/date data, e.g. occurance, repeating, ability to set a reminder x hours/days before, etc.

It seems to me that these items should ALL be kept within the GTD system rather than separately. To make scheduling easier, the software should provide calendar views and printouts of your data that show only those items marked as "hard landscape".

In fact, it would be great to be able to plan my day by starting with a list of items, some already scheduled as "hard landscape", and then to schedule the other activities around them.
If that works for you Steve, great! But GTD was devised because that system doesn't work well for a lot of us.

I have very, very few appointments, but tons of To Do items. Back in the pre-TD day, I would keep a calendar, with a long string of To-Do items on each day. Before computers, I would give up on the system because transferring the list to the next calendar page was too much work; on the Mac, I would look at the calendar, see the long list, and MEGO (my eyes glaze over).

By separating the hard landscape from the time-independent actions, GTD lets me focus on each action. Adding Context to the action further refines my list, so I only see the actions I can work on where I am now. I have set my computer up so my calendar opens every morning, which is often enough for me to plan my day.

Steve, it sounds like new versions of the classic "Day Timer" system are working for you. If so, don't try to force yourself into the GTD system. Stick with what works for you -- I'm sure Ken and the OmniFolk wont mind if you ignore OmniFocus.

I haven't actually successfully used GTD yet (all of the GTD apps I've found have been a little too rigid for me -- although I love Midnight Inbox's feature of autocollecting Desktop files into Inbox, which makes excellent sense), but I agree that in general, treating to-do items as hard landscape items is bad.

I have to do an estimate on a coding project this week. If I put it in my "hard calendar", on any given occasion, it may clash with ACTUAL hard calendar events -- for instance, I might fail to notice them because they're buried under twenty or thirty other items, and then not do them at all.

I think part of this is that I can be much better at the calendar if it's legitimate -- if items only show up in it because they really do have an objective and external timeline. Then I am less stressy and will do better at my todo items that can be done Whenever.
I think, in theory, a GTD app could do hard landscape, it's just that none of them (that I know of) do. Of course, it would have to have a calendar, wouldn't it be nice to have a single app that you dump all of your inboxes into? Identify the stuff, and then drop it into the few places we need that stuff to go, all within a single interface: projects, single actions, routines and/or calendar. I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it, but I bet it could be great.
I think there is a philosophy behind not putting every single feature into your GTD app, and it's a philosophy of software design that is rooted in OS X's UNIX origins.

Most "GTD" apps end up being just "next action list" apps or "next action and other lists" apps, and that's fine with me. I don't want an Outlook clone with GTD specific features. The goal with apps like OF is to make your application really really good at one specific thing (next actions) and then make it really really interoperable with other applications that take care of the other tasks (like iCal).

By doing this, I can choose the tools for each task that best suit me.

An analogous situation occurs with PIM apps. If I chose to use a monolithic PIM application suite like Entourage or Outlook, I'd be stuck with all of the pieces they gave me, even if some of those pieces were poorly suited to my needs. If, for instance, I really liked Entourage's calendar features, but I absolutely despised its embarrassingly primitive address book features, I'd be stuck with the crappy address book because that's what works with the calendar. But when I use OS X's address book, iCal and Mail apps, I can easily replace any one of those single apps with another application and still integrate it with the other applications I'm using (made easier by things like Quicksilver, applescript and OS X's system-wide databases for calendars and addresses).

Now let's say OF had a calendar built in. What if it didn't suit my needs? What if the OF calendar lacked the one critical calendaring feature that I need most? Well, it works with the next action list, which I love, but other than that, it's not what I need. Sure, Omni could still sync up to iCal or Google calendar or whatever, but you know that the built-in calendar is going to support the best next action-related features.

It's better for Omni to make OF the best next action list app it possibly can and leave the other components to someone else. Make OF very interoperable. Make it very applescriptable and maybe even work in some sync-specific features or allow plugins. Then we can each choose the calendar app that best suits our individual needs instead of being roped into the one that works best with OF.

Last edited by MEP; 2007-09-17 at 02:57 PM..

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