Food for thought: Extreme calendar planning

This is nothing I would recommend the GTDNext developers to blindly copy, but perhaps to derive some indirect inspiration from. - an app that starts from the most non-GTD perspective imaginable and arrives at something that in many ways is more “GTD” than most GTD apps.

This is an app that is totally based on putting dates on absolutely everything (which I am firmly opposed to), but in contrast to other date planning apps (and GTD apps) it does so with a clear distinction of all the different types of things that a date can represent:

Glass Planner distinguishes clearly between all of these kinds of dates:

  • deadlines (last possible day)
  • tickler dates (first possible day)
  • same-day tickler-deadline actions (date specific actions without an exact time)
  • calendar actions with date and time (e.g. appointments)
  • date-specific information (not actionable)
  • next actions (these are given a soft deadline that is used only for automatic default ordering of the next actions)

In other words, dates do not get confused. You get a very solid, and visual, differentiation of all the above.

I do not particularly care for the approach to order my next actions by using a soft date, though, even if it is just a default and they have drag-and-drop reordering, too. I prefer other features for keeping my next actions list manageable (a few grouping options + three attention levels in color + drag-and-drop adjustment). Also, Glass Planner has little new to offer as far as projects and contexts are concerned, and (just like Omnifocus and others) it forces you to treat Waiting as a context, which I do not like. So I would not actually consider using this app myself, but I think its thorough differentiation of different kinds of dates is highly commendable and much worth emulating.




My ongoing battle with GTD as a process versus the constant draw to see my actions in a calendar view continues. I’ve posted separately on this, What drives this is something I’m trying to define, it’s probably a combination of the following;

Needing to commit to actions where I’m interacting with others so has to be at a specific time and scheduled in advance. These are appointments but are driven by actions derived by planning things out in GTDNEXT. I have a lot of these as part of my job is a support function.

Getting a visual representation of my day, I really (really) don’t want to schedule everything, been there with Achieve Planner and also Taskline, Initially i liked the structure but found it impossible to stick to and it soon went pear shaped.Neither were particularly good at the planning as they didn’t have effective outliners

How much work have i got on in terms of time needed to complete, when I’m i clear?

I think i’m looking for something that doesn’t exist in a balance of GTD and scheduling and probably just need to get on with it



Yes, very interesting. Even though I’m mostly a GTD purist, I have been interested in what they call target dates for quite some time. I think they have the power to bring an extra layer of planning to task management systems. I’ve been playing with glass for the past few days and while the app really isn’t for me, I do like how they handle target dates. Especially the ability to give a date range for the target.

When combined with a a scheduled start date (Scheduled in GTDNext) and a Due Date you have some very interesting possibilities. For GTD purists it might not be all that interesting, but for those that like plan out there days a bit before hand it could be helpful.

For example, let’s say I know I have a report due at the end of the month, 20 days from now. I really don’t want to see this on my schedule for until the week before it is due. So I could add a schedule date to it for 15 days from now. Using target dates I could also specify working on it on Wednesday and Thursday, my less busy days, before it is finally due on Friday. For many tasks (and users) this would be too much planning, but having the option might be nice at times.

Something to think about. Thanks for the post!

HI Rob - thanks for the comments. One question about the above. if you are committing to an action - aren’t you just giving the action a deadline? e.g. “I’ll get this to you by Friday”. Is the issue that you then want to plug some of these actions that are due into the future into a certain day or time period ahead of time? Or am I missing what you are saying?


To some extent yes its a deadline but its usually myself remote controlling to their machine and or speaking to them while I troubleshoot or do some configuration and testing on their pc / laptop . Nature of our staff means these need to be agreed in advance but it can be short notice.

As an example I have four of these I need to do today so will agree time slots with contacts as part of my day plan. This means planning them around the longer term appointments in my diary for meetings. i then work on my non time defined stuff around these fixed time events.

As such yes I want to plug these actions into a timeslot and I use outlook as its our corporate calendar as my view of time, the ability to tie an action in GTDNEXT to a timeslot and have it appear in a Calendar somewhere with my Outlook stuff is perhaps what i think i want.

Do appreciate my situation is perhaps unusual though.


I think there are at least a couple of entirely different aspects to all of this. One is to do with visibility, or feeling comfortable with being able to see and trust what you need to see. The other aspect is a desire for tentative pre-planning of what you will do in the near future.


Among the six types of dates mentioned earlier, I think the one that perhaps stands out the most is appointments. If we compare with, say, a tickler (first possible date) or a deadline (last possible date) an appointment has the very salient characteristic that you are busy during that particular time, more or less unavailable for other actions. You therefore must avoid double-booking that time slot. It is also usually characterized by one or other form of real-time “togetherness” with another person (phone, restaurant …).

A tickler or deadline normally can be without any or both of these characteristics. I just becomes “possible” (or ceases to be possible) on that day, but other than that the day has no special significance at all. You will not necessarily be busy with the action on that particular day; you can usually book appointments that day, and you do not want these dates to clutter your view when you want to schedule an appointment…

Most of us deal with this by keeping our appointments in a calendar, not in the list app. What Glass Planner does it allows you to also see the appointments in the project where they belong, and still see that these are appointments, not regular actions. I find this very inspiring and worth taking after. Some list managers allow you to export a calendar feed of your “dated” actions, but unfortunately they then dump all “dated” actions in that feed, which means you cannot see in the calendar which of these are appointments. And you cannot see any difference in the list either. It would be necessary to differentiate the appointments (calendar actions) from other forms of dated actions.

Tentative pre-planning

I think most of those of us who like GTD share the desire to avoid date planning. We probably avoid it for similar reasons. We know that things can change suddenly; we simply cannot trust such dates, and we do not have the time and energy to constantly reschedule everything. So many of us totally reject date planning. I do. But many of us, even I, still would not mind to be able to see some form of tentative “structure” (in some form) of our nearest future. Always having to look at a long list of possible next actions simply does not seem optimal.

GTD “micro-picking” of actions (by primarily looking at the context and intuitively also considering energy, time and priority) is definitely the way to go when we are in a given situation and want to make the most of it. For example, if we are at the hardware store, we will obviously do all the actions that can be done there, regardless of what energy we have, or the importance of each item. But when we look ahead a few days we often have much more choice. We may even decide in advance whether we will aim to go on an errand run soon, what shops to visit, and what things to buy. We just have not decided exactly what day, and we may still change our minds, but it is a reasonably firm tentative intention. The same kind of “reasonably firm intention” we can have for many other things, e.g. decide on certain contexts, projects, areas or specific actions that we will push ahead with very soon, and we may even have an idea of when or in what order.

In addition to the “situational micro-picking” GTD only only offers, at the weekly review level, the option to totally hide (inactivate) entire projects for the coming week. This is quite a brutal form of prioritization. It is either entirely “on” or “off”. GTD does not offer any guidance for how to pick certain selected actions or types of actions or contexts etc. No wonder that “preselection” or planning in the form of target dates, priorities etc etc still linger in people’s minds.

Yes, stringing things up on a timeline would be a way to tentatively get some form of structure - provided that it is possible to see which dates are just “soft” (tentative) and which ones are “hard”, and provided that the dates are easy enough to change, perhaps by changing the tentative date for a whole batch of actions in one operation.

In fact, I believe that “batching” would be a powerful feature, both with and without dates. By simply being able to see that a certain group of preselected actions (possibly from different projects and/or different contexts) will be done “together” in some sense we could reduce the number of main elements on our list. For example, we could pick a number of different bookkeeping and other actions that require similar energy and physical context and aim to get those done “together” in a few hours in one of the next few days or next week. A single soft target date or time slot for the batch as a whole could be optional, and would be easy to manage. And/or for some batches you would simply turn the “focus” on or off for the whole batch.

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Thanks again Folke,

Your points my describe my environment very well, you are absolutely right that effectively a lot of my actions need appointments creating to actual work on them with the characteristics of blocked time and togetherness you mention.

Some of these are driven by my planning and next actions in GTDnext and as such i do make appointments for these in Outlook as they are not “panics”. Others are assigned to me as an escalation point and are panics, usually quite short notice and certainly need some action in the next day or two as it’s is likely work has stopped if it’s got to me.

A calendar view where I can see and identify separately committed time for appointments as in both the traditional and those arranged to complete actions I’m sure would help

As for where that Calendar view is I’m not sure, perhaps for me feeding into Outlook as it’s our corporate tool would work, that would also assist if others saw my time as occupied as it’s open season on your time here if your Lync light is green :smile:



Folke, what are you upto these days. what app are you using.
I stopped using Nirvana a year ago. Moved to I used your method of review which is a life saver. But this every task parallel is a big annoyance for me. gtdnext looks promising but they need to have a good android app for me to convert.
what are your thoughts.

PS: sorry to highjack your thread.


I agree that GTDNext is promising. They have made an effort to build in from the very outset both unlimited hierarchies and more flexible parallel/sequential task flows (i.e. “active straight away” vs “active later”). Highly commendable. I was delighted when I saw their first announcement.

With other apps, like Nirvana and Doit, I have managed this whole “active straight away” vs “active only later” by manually reclassifying tasks from “Later” to “Next” (in Nirvana) or from No Priority Someday to Low/Med/Hi Priority Next (in Doit). No big problem, but of course it is much better if it can be “pre-programmed” in advance. As you kniow, Nirvana also has the “sequential” mode which I found useless - as only one task could be “active now”. It needs to be more flexible, which is what GTDNext have taken steps to implement.

When you say “method of review”, are you referring to my use of Doit’s priority feature as a convenient optical guide for whether I will review/reconsider a Next or Waiting action a) every single time I look at the list, or b) at least once per day in my daily mini-review, or c) once per week? Yes, I really love that approach. That was the only real reason I left Nirvana almost two years ago, and it is still as valuable as it was initially. I have not found any better way to deal with that problem. It is perhaps particularly useful in apps like Doit that have grouping options for the Next list (group by context, or by project, or by deadline etc); the colored priority is then still always clearly visible, no matter how you have grouped or sorted the list, such that it is easy to spot the “high attention” tasks wherever they are, and also easy to totally ignore the “low attention” tasks (unless you really want to look at them because you are doing a weekly review or are looking at some particular project or context etc.; but they never get in the way or cause other things to “drown”).

I was referring to the weekly review using goals as area of responsibility.
I hope gtdnext publishes iphone/android apps very soon.

Yeah, it is great to review by area. In GTDNext you can use either the area tag or the hierarchy (or both) to implement areas (or entire groups of areas such as Work and Private).