Tasks vs. Calendar Events

I get a lot of emails from readers asking me exactly how I distinguish between tasks and calendar items. In a perfect world, a task is an item you need to do and a calendar item represents a place you need to be. However, the way I work makes things a little muddier. 

For example, I like to schedule appointments with myself. This helps me manage big projects. I will often schedule a block of time on the calendar for a big project. Something like, Thursday 10 AM-12 PM, ACME contract review.

So now that calendar event shows up in my calendar but I’ve also got a collection of tasks related to that contract review in OmniFocus. So how do I resolve that? It really isn’t that hard. I will go into the project view in OmniFocus and select all related tasks to the contract review and set their deferred date to Thursday at 10 AM. Then the tasks disappear from my active OmniFocus list until that time and I don’t think about them anymore.

The trick to all of this is being honest with yourself. If you set these appointments with yourself to manage big projects but don’t keep them, you lose faith in your system and the wheels start falling off. Treat those task-related appointments just as sacredly as you would an appointment with your boss. If something comes up that requires you to move that appointment, go ahead and move it but follow all the necessary steps. Reset the appointment in your calendar and move the tasks in your task manager.

Another advantage of setting aside blocks of time for big projects is that it gives you a more realistic view of how much you can actually get done in the day. If suddenly you see yourself completely blocked and there are still significant tasks left on your list, that should be a warning sign that you’ve got a problem.

So to answer the question, I generally am a purist and keep tasks in my task list and calendar events in my calendar. When I do use the calendar to block time for an extensive set of tasks, I will simultaneously move all of those tasks to the designated time and date.