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Recommendations for combined scheduler/GTD todo iPhone app?

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  • Recommendations for combined scheduler/GTD todo iPhone app?

    Hello all-

    I recently got an iPod Touch (basically an iPhone without the phone service) and am wanting to migrate from my old paper-based system to a digital one. However, I have modified the "standard GTD" system to meet my own needs, and I haven't yet found a good iPhone GTD app that works with my modifications. I've read the reviews on a lot of them (the app store needs some serious organization or better keyword searching, but I digress) and I've downloaded the free trial versions of a few, and I've even bought a few full versions. However, I'm quickly realizing that I could spend _way too much_ time or money searching around for a perfect or close-to-perfect app, so I'm asking anyone here who could make a recommendation.

    Let me start by explaining my modification to the "standard GTD": I put many of my next actions on my calendar. Yes, yes, I know, the calendar/day planner/scheduler/whatever is suppose to be sacred territory in GTD systems, but I've found that that doesn't work for me mainly for two reasons.

    First reason, GTD seems to classify all things-to-do in a binary fashion (either "have to be done on a certain date" or "can be done whenever you have the time, context, and inclination") and in my job and personal life, things to do are _trinary_ --- a few "have to be done on a certain date", a few "can be done whenever", but the majority are "can be done whenever inclination permits but only in a certain window of time and definitely have to be done by a certain date, so you'd better _make_ yourself so inclined sometime in there, if necessary, plus you'd better keep it in mind somehow for those days when making appointments or agreeing to additional tasks so you don't overschedule too much for the same time frame". For example, "pay bills online" can't happen before the 20th (because my bills haven't all arrived yet) but has to happen by the 24th (or I'll end up past the due dates). On my old paper-based system, I'd put "pay bills online-due the 24th" on my calendar starting on the 20th and then again everyday until the 24th. If I actually did it on the 20th, I would cross it off on multiple days. If it didn't so happen that day that I felt like doing something in the "home computer" context, no big deal, it was already on the calendar for the 21st. If I saw that my calendar/to-do list was starting to look full for the 23rd and 24th, I'd have a constant reminder right there that it would be "better" to "pay bills online" on the 21st or the 22nd, even if it wasn't strictly "necessary" to do it on one of those particular days.

    My second reason for combining my schedule and NAs was that, if they are separated (even just being in different sections of my day planner), then I when I go to choose something to work on next, I get focused on something in whichever section I look at first and forget about what's going on in the other section. If it's 1pm and I'm ready to move onto a next task after lunch and I look at my calendar and all I see that I've got a meeting at 4pm where I'll be brainstorming ideas with a colleague, I'll start brainstorming ideas at 1pm, even if there are two tasks on my next actions list that would be a better use of my time. If I looked at my next actions list first instead, I would have gotten involved in those two tasks instead and risked forgetting about the 4pm meeting. Only when I have a complete list in one place of _everything_ that I need to be doing (within a certain context), whether those are appointments, date-specific actions, time-frame-constrained actions, and whenever-actions --- only then can I and will I scan through the whole thing and reasonably prioritize about which action to work on next.

    In summary, in my old paper day planner, I would have one page per day with reminders, appointments, and any next action with time-frame-constraints written on that day, and on the page opposite it would be a page (divided up into sections by context) with all my "whenever" next actions. (I had removable pages, so the "whenever" page could just get switched around and the contexts reused until the page was a huge mess of scribbles and crossed out stuff, at which time I would recopy all the not-yet-done stuff onto a new "whenever" page.)

    This is what I'm hoping to find in a digital iPhone app. The home screen would have a schedule with appointments and every action that had anything association with "today" visible _and_ a list of next actions by context visible without having to flip screens (I could probably handle scrolling). And it would be easy to see future dates, including the next actions associated with those dates. Setting up tasks to repeat is a definite need as well. And some way to back-up to either a desktop app (Windows, not Mac) or a web-based system. Would-be-nice-to-have features: able to see all tasks (not just next actions) by project, sub-projects, ability to have a task moved from non-actionable to actionable automatically depending on another task completion or by date, ability to sync with a desktop/web-based app so I can enter new data via a real keyboard at times, a way to keep track of someday/maybe projects including tasks associated with them, and search.

    The apps I've already tried so far: Action Lists (no "today" view and no easy way to see upcoming tasks, but it's got nice repeating task features and sub-projects), Nubi-do (no way to schedule at a certain time and tasks on the homepage are listed by project, not context), and Firetask (nice set of built-in contexts and context icons and can see upcoming tasks and due dates, but no way to schedule something at a certain time and limits each project to exactly one next action, which are the only ones that get displayed on the homepage).

    Anyone got any suggestions for me?

  • #2
    There's a definite trend away from the all-in-one Outlook approach. Take a look at Pocket Informant, though- syncs with Google calendar and Toodledo. Also, I have found that it's best to stay away from apps that are not rated tops in their categories. A 4-star app is usually a lot better than a 3-star app, and anything less than 3 stars is almost certainly going to disappoint.

    p.s. You're asking a lot of a pretty small screen; an iPad might work better for you.


    • #3
      Thanks for the recommendation. I hadn't considered Pocket Informant because the info in the app store didn't make it seem like it would really keep track of task/project associations instead of just a bunch of random tasks, but I'll try it out.

      Unfortunately, the iPad is too big to fit in my purse, and when I have my bookbag/briefcase, I'm already carrying my laptop for work. I think it would be possible to fit everything I want on the iPhone screen (with scrolling) - the apps I have already tried show plenty of info, just not the info that I want or organized as I want.


      • #4
        Thumbs down on Pocket Informant

        Well, I tried the free "lite" version of Pocket Informant, and it does a good job of organizing tasks into projects. However, it still separates the daily schedule and the list of next actions by several clicks.

        And it also suffers from the "there can be only ONE!" next action per project problem. I'm seeing this a lot in the apps I've looked at so far; are the programmers just being lazy or was there something in GTD that I missed? (Guess I ought to read it yet again.) Are all projects suppose to be linear, nothing ever done in parallel? I've got lots of projects where I could do several different tasks at any time to advance my project - when "cleaning out the garage", must I really decide if I want to "throw out the old wire fencing" before or after I "mount the new tool hangers"? I think I'd like to have both on my NA list, so that I can be reminded of both and decide when I head to the garage whether I would rather fetch my power screwdriver and level or if I'm more in a mood to put on work gloves and get poked by wires.

        Thanks again to the person who mentioned Pocket Informant. Any more suggestions?


        • #5
          i think pocket informant matches what you need best.

          but you are looking for an agenda application. currently i only know pocket informant does that.

          i dunno if anyone tried Awesome note and if it integrates well to the thread starter's needs?


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