A dual manual-time-stamp calendar in Dynalist (and a crucial macro)

In this post I want to give a quick show and tell of a manual calendar system I’ve been playing with in dynalist.

Firstly, why do this? The first answer is freedom. A manual calendar in dynalist, rather than primarily using a service like google calendar provides far more freedom - It provides you the same freedom to scribble all over your future days that a paper diary does - but with the benefit of a digital system.

The second answer is the benefits that come from having your calendar in the same system as all your projects and tasks. This makes it firstly really easy to link to specific projects, bits of information, notes, tasks etc on future days and to ‘send’ things to future days also. Personally I also like having my recorded past (e.g. life logging, previous social events etc) to be available for search in dynalist with all my other stuff, rather than in a separate system.

When in calendar form it looks a bit like this:

Each day I bring the current day into my @Today section, and copy over my ‘hours of the day’ which then ends up looking a bit like this:

I put any fixed events in the right slots and work downwards throughout the day filling this out with a plan / tasks completed / conversations had with important people etc. At the end of the day it goes in a ‘Past’ document which I use to check e.g. what happened at a previous meeting etc etc

You might have noticed that I also use dynalist date stamps in the calendar for the day and for important events - this is of course for sync with google calendar. If I worked entirely within dynalist this wouldn’t be necessary, however I do a lot of work out and about with my phone where it is much quicker to check a google calendar widget to see when my next meeting is than to boot up dynalist and go to my calendar section.

One issue you will have when operating a dual manual-automated calendar like this is that when you create a new event, you have to physically nest it under the correct day AND put the correct date and time in the time stamp - there is potential for error here (and it’s a bit annoying).

However I’ve come up with the following macro for phrase express which automates this. It relies on you having a date stamp on each ‘day’ in the calendar. If you place your cursor in that day and press the shortcut it will create an event nested under that day with the correct date and with the cursor in the correct place to type the time of the event. Importantly, this will work EVEN if you have text after the date stamp in the day bullet (e.g. this would work wherever you put the cursor in the day in the image above which has ‘Family coming’ written after the date stamp).

Code (you can just copy and paste this in to phrase express I believe): {#CTRL -chars a}{#LEFT}{#CTRL {#SHIFT {#RIGHT -count 5}}}{#clipboard -copy}{#RIGHT}{#CTRL -chars a}{#RIGHT}{#ENTER}{#TAB}{#CTRL {#SHIFT -chars v}}{#CTRL -chars a}{#LEFT}{#CTRL {#RIGHT -count 3}}{#RIGHT -count 2}{#SPACE}

So, if I place my cursor anywhere in that day bullet like so:

and press the macro, this happens instantly:

So the cursor is in place for you to enter the time if there is one - then just press ‘end’ to go to the end of the bullet text and type a description of the event. This hugely reduces human error when creating new events and makes the whole thing flow far more easily … without this I think I would find this too frustrating to maintain.

The next thing I would really like to automate is when an event is rescheduled … I haven’t quite figured out a good way to automate the two steps required (physically moving the event and changing the date stamp yet) - any ideas welcome!

Any questions regarding how I handle any difficulties with this system also welcome!

Thank you,


I would argue the other case here, I prefer google calendar since its much more flexible and has a far more useful UI / widget on android, thereby giving me freedom of choice. (that is where I manage all my events and meetings)

I see the benefits of this, but I rarely ever write deadlines unless its imposed on me (from boss, from friends, etc)

I do agree with you on this point… but the challenge here, at least for me, is that dynalist isn’t a social sharing system , and if I do socially share on instagram / facebook, my philosophy is to have the least duplicate data as possible

Also, it adds alot more dataentry

Also, how are you getting “hours of day” . I still cannot find this feature anywhere?

I see the use of this as well, for minutes on meetings / conversations, if you have lots of meetings. But I personally prefer bullet journal styling and tagging everything under that day only, with that client name instead (this allows me to take notes on other things and that specific client at same time)

✪ Week 13
✪✪ Day 1
✪✪✪ @ClientTag @wordpressDevelopment
✪✪✪✪ Minute notes, log notes, etc
✪✪ Day 2

I decided I don’t have enough important meetings and dates that I just ended up disabling google calendar syncing. I only use the “!” parameter for finished tasks now. I have a friends wedding coming up so I just added it on my phone’s google calendar widget manually

I think for me, if I had a lot of conference calls and meetings to meet, I would just forego an entirely different system, but that’s just my preference

I’m still using the #W13A #03 convention for my hard date stamping and its working very well

I took a lesson from evernote’s tagging conventions I learned. All nested bulletpoints are very well defined, hierarchial folders that have few exception ot them. Notes that belong in potentially many folders are treated as tags instead.

Like in evernote, you might say “IS this photo categorized by” : cancun vacation in mexico, $persontag1, $funnystory2, etc? Why not all 3 tags

I see where you are going with this… its just not my personality type. I believe in just using seperate google calendars and views in my android phone. I like to think im a simple person

I’m a very hands on guy, sometimes I’ll spend, 5 minutes on dynalist a day. Other days its like 5 hours. It just depends on my schedule, which is very hard to predict, so I don’t predict it

My philosophy is dynalist needs to, excuse my language, be my ***** . (I couldn’t think of a simpler way to get the point across). Basically, dynalist doesn’t control me, I CONTROL IT.

I decided to just plan out all my schedules and important list checks by day, week and month conventions
under my SOP (Standard operating procedures)

As far as maintenance goes, I only do the following routine:

  1. Add a new day under the week. This forces me to spend at bare minimal, 5 minutes on dynalist each day even if i had no time, which promotes good habitual behavior. A lot of times I’m building things and taking DIY-photos or doing busywork, so time is of an essence to me. If I skip a day, I will be sad when I see a gap in my days in the week, and my punishment would have to be rewriting it manually, since I can’t phraseexpress it.

  2. Summarize what I did that week. Sometimes I’ll forego 2-3weeks before doing it, but I still do it on a sunday. I’ll summarize each day if possible, but at minimal, the entire week. What I do is put the week at the top of the list, with my goals / projects / tasks inbetween my archives + current week. This forces me, to move that week to archives eventually

ugh maintenance work

What I do is make dynalist a ***pain in the , to work with unless I clean it up every now and then. I think the phrase is called a “tickler”. I’m a perfectionist by personality, so I hate the idea of something sitting there unorganized and cluttered, and it bothers me, but sometimes I have no time to fix it.

At the same time, I only want to do maintenance by programmable time frames. These are days and weeks. I generally don’t care a lot about months, and I treat a month as 4 week numbers. Because my workcycle resets every sunday, so I have my whole entire framework revolving around that

I hate doing maintenance work with a passion. I was raised growing up doing the most pointless maintenance work you could potentially imagine, and it felt like torture at times, so its ingrained in my head to avoid it like the plague

Well those are my 2 cents on writing time stamp macros, sorry if my words are vulgar/crude and to the point, I meant no offense

merits of theorycrafting / past reflections

I just feel like I went through the exact phase as you when I used to theorycraft many successful gaming guides, theorycraft notetaking on onenote, theorycraft on evernote, and just theorycraft exponentially. I mean there was a alot of value in it in lessons learned though

I’m not saying this is your case, but is just from my own personal experiences

again i don’t mean any offense by any of this. Everyone is different and your systems are perfectly valid, there’s no right or wrong system, but there is an optimized system for each personality type.

When I used to write gaming guides for fun in the past, people would always say “There’s no such thing as optimized build for the Druid/Gunner/Whatever class! Your wrong [insert my username]! Each class is best depending on the user!”.

In reality there is, its just nobody could accurately measure which one was best (exception: darwin-evolution-PvP-competitions-which-build-really-works-trial-by-fire), since it depended on so many factors that nobody for sure knew the right answer 100%.

Sometimes I just sprouted a bunch of nonsense and I gathered a ton of loyal followers in past online video games (I don’t play much of anything anymore though)

Sorry I just had lots of things on my mind on reflecting the past, i meant no offense again

Hi Vincent,

Don’t worry I take no offence, as I think I noted in my post there are disadvantages to my approach (like it taking two steps to reschedule an event). For me they are far out-weighed by the advantages. Like I said I love to ‘scribble’ on my future days … when I come to a day, I often have 10-15 thoughts about various things that day … from those scribbles + my current task priority list, I make a plan for that day, then attempt to follow it - this requires huge flexibility and freedom which nothing else I have ever tried can give me (other than a paper diary) - of course if someone else doesn’t have these needs then the extra effort involve in maintaining a manual calendar will make it not worth their while.

RE the ‘Hours of the day’ that is literally just a list I’ve made - The calendar is just a unicode symbol. I just copy and paste one of these into my day every day - it helps me visualise my day which again is helpful for me but maybe not for everyone.

I agree also that maintenance is not fun, I find myself very resistant to it - I therefore try to do this first thing in the day when I do all my hardest work (I seem to have the most will power for the first 2-3 hours of the day).

RE the evernote tags thing, I agree with you generally about the benefits of 100% tag-based systems, and in the past I thought I would never ever use folders again … however I have come to see that there are some disadvantages, particularly in an outliner …

Firstly, when you want to see everything in a tag, you have to run a search, whereas everything in a folder can be seen on a single screen without being in seach mode. In search mode my default all the lists within it are not expanded … you cannot save a search with pre-specified lists expanded (a specific ‘view’ of that search), therefore if you for example had a ‘today’ search, every time you ran this all your ‘today’ lists would be collapsed and you would have to open it again, which isn’t fun …

Secondly, tagging can fall prey to laziness … if I don’t tag an item before I move it out of my inbox, I may never find it again. With folder-based organisation I am FORCED to put it in a specific folder, so laziness is impossible … so this is not a theoretical problem with tags, but a behavioural one

Thirdly, my visual memory is often better than my memory for which tag I used for something … so often I find it much easier to just click through a few bullets to find what I want than to wrack my brains for which tag I used.

Before I give the wrong impression, I am an extensive user of tags generally and IN THEORY they are a far superior organisation system than folder - however for practical and behavioural reasons (mainly the 3 I have just outlined) I think a combination of both is best.

Thanks for your response!


thanks for the extensive reply

I’m sure your system is very optimized specifically for you and works well, and that you’ve spend a lot of time researching it extensively

I just find that, when I have a great idea to jot down, I’m not in front of a computer half the time. And I don’t have a ton of meetings and appointments, so calendar is minimally used for me.

okay that makes sense, I wasn’t sure if that was like a specific thing in dynalist i missed

IF it keeps you motivated that does make more sense, I find that I will get super lazy. When i want to focus, i take a sticky note and stick it in front of keyboard, with only 2-3 items on it i want to do for the day.

I agree with you that tagging can fall prey to laziness, which is why I only enforce tagging on my bullet journal daily tags only, since its just so sporadic and I have no idea what I’m going log

Everything else behaves more similarly to hiearchial bulletpoint style

Real estate is definitely valuable. I neglected to mention that I only have two different tagging methods

  1. the whole folder is a tag (this is project notes)

  2. Tags that are in my daily notes

This way, if I had to look up something pertaining to that project, its either in my daily notes or project notes, which i search for both globally

I wish this was a implemented feature, but it could get messy automating all of this too. Also, at the same time, I try not to enforce too many tags outside of daily, for this reason of constantly collapsing and uncollpasing as you mentionoed

yes it definitely can, which is why I only use it in my daily inbox only as the only place ienforce it

I literally , cannot take daily notes, at least with my rules setup, unless I tag it with something even if its a super generic lazy tag @work @home (think of these as unsorted tags)

I agree with you here. I seldomly search for tags actually, maybe once a blue moon i might do it (because, when you write it down, there’s a high chance you’ll remember it anyways). Not only that, I generally remember what week or day I jotted it down anyhow, so I will search there too. And, since I am going through and rereading my notes once a week, it makes me less likely to tag search. The only global tag wide searches I do regularly are my week tags, most people just use “Edited within 1 week”, but this starts at the day of the search, not necessarily monday-sunday like mine

But all the same, I try and tag it anyhow.

The closest analogy is like email inbox. Do you archive it by category, or just leave it alone? I mostly leave it alone, generally write detailed subjectlines, and learn how to do specific search functions (from: user, sort by date, etc)

I agree with you, I have a mix of both. My Standard operating procedures (SOP) does not really use any tags, its all hierarchial bulletpoints

Most of my project folders are just hierarchial bulletpoints

The only thing i enforce tags heavily is things that do not belong anywhere / am not sure where it goes, so I dump it in daily log / daily summaries


Hi Steven do you have screenshot of your setup so I can what you are talking about…

Hi Dwayne, I’m afraid I’m not really using this method anymore - I still think this is a nice approach for certain lifestyles but mine now involves a lot of recurring meetings and scheduling from other people so I’m forced to use a more traditional digital calendar. I miss my old dynalist one :frowning:

PS When my days are more my own, I set up a new day from scratch and create a plan in dynalist however.