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My impression of GTD is that it's pretty strict about your calendar - it should only contain the necessary things (meetings, time-specific tasks), so you can get a picture of the landscape of your day.

But what about "maybe"-type things, like reminders that the local farmer's market is from 2-7 every Thursday? These are things I like to remember, but it's not something I need to do (or even interested in doing) most times, and together they lead to a pretty cluttered calendar.

What do you guys do about this?

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What calendar do you use? Physical or digital? Do you use categories? Can you have it show only certain categories or certain kinds of events? We'll need more information to properly help you. –  Raystafarian Jul 11 at 12:18

7 Answers 7

You are spot on in your assessment. Maybe things are ok for the calendar.

A calendar is for things that occur as hard and fast events but that does not mean that the events must be specific to tasks you need to accomplish. They can be nice to knows and are there to present opportunities for you.

What you describe is similar to a someday maybe list but they happen to occur on a specific date. Anything that does not have a hard and fast date/time belongs in a next actions list preferably organized by context.

It is up to you to manage how many things you can actually handle on your calendar. Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. If you have a lot of events scheduled you need a bigger higher quality calendar, whether digital or paper based. If you prefer to trim down events you keep track of, you can get by with a smaller calendar with less features.

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Look at it this way:

  • Either you have a cluttered calendar...
  • Or you have yet another list of date-linked "maybes" that you need to track. And you will probably need to track this on a daily basis. Just looking at this additional list during your Weekly Review won't help, since you'll need to remember your "maybes" for a full week - but GTD is all about you not needing to keep stuff like this in your mind, but to put it somewhere you know you will be reminded in time.

I personally actually do a mixture of the two:

  • Recurring stuff (kids' sports that my wife usually takes them to, but that I like to go to once in a while) goes into the calendar. One could work with color coding to visually declutter Outlook, but I've never bothered.
  • Other date-linked stuff, both "musts" and "maybes", goes into my 43 folders, where I am reminded each day and then can decide which of that day's "maybes" I'll do.

As manuelhe notes, clutter is in the eye of the beholder. It makes sense to take a step back once every few months and declutter. If I find that I haven't been doing a particular "maybe" for a long, long time (e.g., going to the farmer's market), I'll purge it.

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Practically every calendar has a possibility to mark events as 'optional' or 'tentative', usually with a distinguishing color. So obviously people find this very effective.

I would not stick too much to formalitities of what you're 'supposed' to do, just pick a method that works for you.

Your main objective seems to be a visually cluttered calendar, so find a calendar that lets you color those 'optional'/'tentative' events in a light color.

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If you are using Google Calendar, I would store the Maybe things in Google tasks.

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I have used two different techniques for handling "maybe" events on my calendar. They both work reasonably well, I switch between them periodically to see if I can determine a preference. So far, either one works well enough.

Before details, I'll comment that my use of a calendar is not quite as strict as David Allen would have you believe he is about what goes on it. I do use it to block time for activities, and to flag deadlines, for example. Read Peter Drucker's "Effective Executive" on calendar usage, and you'll see how strict GTD limits the use of the calendar as an overall productivity tool. You should, for example, be able to look at your calendar for the past N weeks and identify what your priorities were during that time period. Strict GTD calendar usage prevents that technique.

Calendar "Maybe" technique 1

I enter tentative activities on my calendar with text beginning "Tentative:", e.g. "Tentative: attend concert". When I make a decision one way or the other about it, I either update or delete the entry. This works on all electronic calendars, easily and simply.

Calendar "Maybe" technique 2

Specifically in Google Calendar, I have a secondary calendar named "Tentative". I make tentative entries on that calendar, and include the "Tentative" calendar on my main calendar display in a different color. When I make a decision one way or the other, I either delete or move the entry to my primary calendar.

The second technique has the advantage of making it very easy to declutter my primary calendar by not displaying "Tentative". It has the disadvantage, perhaps, of being dependent on a particular software implementation.

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What I do with http://GTDNext.com is schedule things like "Consider going to farmers market Thursday" as both DUE on the day I want to check it out and scheduled to START on the day i want to check it out. That way I'm not bothered by seeing it all the time in my next action list. But on the day it is DUE it shows up.

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I don't think that kind of things are even "maybes". I sometimes need to get a train, but the train timetable is nothing in my GTD system (at best, it could be Reference Material).

You should forget about that stuff and only keep it in mind when you're really committed to do something.

That is, if you want to go to the market next thursday, put it in your Calendar with a note about the timetable. Otherwise, do nothing. Don't worry about things that are not going to happen.

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