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Today’s Plan: A shortcut for planning your day with a text-based list and Fantastical

Get the 📆 Today’s Plan shortcut

Do you ever practice time blocking or hyper-scheduling? Even if you’ve never heard of these terms, you probably do use the technique. It simply involves planning your day in advance, assigning blocks of time to the tasks you want to complete or the projects you want to work on.

Although it’s a hard habit for me to stick to, I do find the practice useful. It was particularly valuable when I was preparing to write my comprehensive exams. At the time, I had hundreds of readings to do, and it was difficult to know when I was done” with any given reading—there was aways another question about it to investigate, some other concept to commit to memory. So, I found it valuable to create lists of the readings I would do in a given day. In order to make sure I actually reviewed each item but saved time for the next one, I committed each reading to a block of time in the day. As long as I spent that much time on the reading, I could move on and do the next thing. This fostered a feeling of momentum and helped me stay motivated to keep studying.

To make the process of developing these schedules easier, I automated it.

In the morning, I’d sit down with the list of items I wanted to review and develop a simple bulleted list for them. It would look something like this:1

  • [ ] Start reading eCommerce User Experience” at 9:15am
  • [ ] Shower at 10:15am for 20 minutes
  • [ ] Start reading The Hole in the Whole” at 10:30am
  • [ ] Start reading Data Integration” at 11:45am
  • Lunch at 12:45pm
  • [ ] Start reading Data modeling” at 1:15pm
  • [ ] Start reading A relational model of data” at 2:30pm
  • [ ] Start reading Emancipating instances from the tyranny of classes” at 3:45pm
  • Supper at 5pm for 45 minutes
  • [ ] Start reading The influence of notational deficiencies on process model comprehension” at 5:45pm
  • [ ] Start reading Do ontological deficiencies in modeling grammars matter” at 7:00pm
  • [ ] Start reading MAD Skills” at 8:15pm
  • [ ] Start reading How do practitioners use conceptual modeling in practice” at 9:30pm
  • [ ] Review inboxes at 10:30pm (shortcuts://run-shortcut?name=New%20daily%20review%20card%20in%20Trello)

As you can see, the list includes both tasks (- [ ]) and simple bulleted items (-).

I’d then run the text-based list through my Today’s Routines shortcut. In a few seconds, thanks to automation and Fantastical’s natural language parser, I’d have a simple list in my calendar of the day’s schedule.

It’s pretty simple. Here’s how it works:

  • The shortcut receives text to start. The text should be a bulleted list like the above. Some of the items may be tasks, but it doesn’t matter.
  • It splits the bulleted list into separate items.
  • For each item, it checks whether it contains a task (- [ ]) or an event (-). If it begins with neither of those syntaxes, it ignores the line.
  • If it is a task, it uses Fantastical’s natural language parsing to add it to the specified list in Reminders (you tell the shortcut which list when you install it) for the specified time of day.
  • If it is an event, it uses Fantastical’s natural language parsing to add it to the specified calendar (you tell the shortcut which calendar when you install it) for the specified time of day, duration, location, and whatever other metadata Fantastical will process.

Sometimes I’d include links for the tasks or events. An example is the shortcuts:// link above (which you won’t be able to open, unless you have a shortcut titled New daily review card in Trello”). When I tapped the event or task, I could then easily go straight to the materials I was dealing with for that block of time. This was nice as I could just use Fantastical to drive my day, going to the calendar and only the calendar to get to whatever I was doing next.

That’s it! Pretty simple. Enjoy!


  1. Yes, that’s a link to another shortcut. I’ll explain!

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