On Reminders vs GTD systems

I have a note reminding myself why I do various things. For example, I wear glasses instead of contacts because while glasses are always about a two out of ten annoyance, I always forget that contacts start off at a one but go up to six over time. So I’d buy contacts, love them at first, get increasingly frustrated, go back to glasses and repeat. My wife suggested I write that down so I don’t do it again.

In this note, I wrote:

I use 2Do (and formerly, OmniFocus) instead of Reminders because I really need hierarchical projects and defer dates.

Only, do I? Really? 2Do is rapidly becoming as much of a undoable minefield as OmniFocus, and I have to think the reason has a lot more to do with me than the tools. I have a lot of things cluttering up the place — do I really need a recurring reminder to trim my mustache and nostril hair, like I won’t notice that on my own and deal with it as appropriate? — that probably don’t need to be written down.

The problem, as I see it, at least right now, is that GTD’s insistence that I capture everything, that the difference between even 99% and 100% is the whole game, means that my actions list has too many things on it. It’s a mess. And rather than sift through that mess, I just ignore it. Only I know I’m ignoring it, and I feel guilty.

So I want to have less to do. I want to write down fewer things. I can do this in 2Do, but I feel overwhelmed and desperately want to simplify things wherever possible. I feel like dropping back to Fantastical 2, or just the stock Calendar and Reminders apps.

What does 2Do offer that I still want to use and wouldn’t have in Reminders/Fantastical?

  • Hierarchical projects, so I can see what tasks are associated with what projects and whether I’m missing a next action for a project on review
  • Defer dates, so I don’t see stuff until I can actually act on it
  • Action types, like being able to link a mailto: or http: or message: link directly to a task and jump from the task straight to what I should be doing

How important are these, really? I can put URLs in the note field of a reminder, so the third point is nifty, but not necessary. Deferred items can and should be in a Waiting list instead of my Actions (or very limited contexts) lists. (Though I think I learned last time I did this that I should just leave repeating items in the actions list, because I’m not going to move them back and forth realistically.)

That leaves project hierarchies. GTD was originally designed to work on paper, with separate lists for actions and projects only loosely connected. Can I learn to be okay with that? How would that affect weekly reviews?

I need to think about how to implement just the parts of GTD that I find valuable, and be willing to let the other stuff go.


Originally published at Jeff Kirvin.