September 25, 2007

GTD, Now Habit, 7-Habits Update: The Weekly Schedule

Posted in 7 Habits, GTD, Procrastination, Productivity, Work at 12:55 pm by a11en

It has been some time since I’ve talked about productivity, so I thought it might be time for a new post. Since my work has been heating up, and I’m trying to finish up a serious breadth (and depth) of work in my research, I’ve also updated my productivity tools. What I’m going to tell you about here, is only one new aspect of my tools, one that I’ve been meaning to re-try for a very long time.

Remembering Covey’s 7-Habits (my first reading)…

The first time I read Covey’s 7-Habits book, I was struggling with my work and direction. Even though I was a bit brain-numb after the incessant use of “paradigm”, the book touched me deeply. The advantage of my first reading, is that I read it on my own time, and on my own prodding. In my opinion, this is the way all productivity books should be read. If you are not self-driven to read them, it will only be painful. One of the important aspects that hit home was Covey’s discussion of the weekly schedule. The weekly schedule as Covey describes it has the advantage of David Allen’s GTD Weekly Review. Focusing on your Roles and Goals for each role, Covey has you set up your weekly priorities and ToDo’s in such a manner as to forward your long-term goals on a weekly basis. The idea being that if you are not furthering every aspect of your life that is important to you each week, you will feel stagnant in that area, and therefore, unfulfilled.

Covey also suggests your week should be viewed all at once (say on a single 8.5 x 11″page). The advantage of this is a longer-term view which keeps you moving through the week, but on a tight enough view that you can get your work done. The daily view often hyper-focuses us, and when we hit the 5pm clock hour, we suddenly realize we missed doing something for the morning meetings. So, viewing everything over the whole week allows us to prioritize a bit better. Sure, there are other methods than this, but this is a simple method and I suspect it works well whenever it’s implemented. I found it to be true for me…

A top-down view of my direction at the time I read 7 Habits was very important to me to re-invigorate my focus and drive in my work. Doing so through the weekly Roles and Goals allowed me to see my week’s work together as a whole, and subsequently that week’s work as a part of the longer-term goals I had laid out for myself. The time-period I consider one of my more productive set of months was when I was xerox-copying the blank weekly schedule located in Chapter “Habit 3- First Things First”. This Chapter was so influential to many, that it eventually became a second book by Covey entitled the same. Certainly for me it hammered home some very important ideas. [Like the time-quadrant.] So, with merely a set of xeroxed sheets, I was making good headway in juggling my days. From there, and it’s success, I purchased the Franklin-Covey planners, and moved away from that simple one-page form. A mistake for me. Having the printed out sheets may help some, but for me, not seeing my week all together really hurt my productivity. I just couldn’t get into the planner.

So, for many years I’ve thought about that sheet. In fact, a good friend of mine, who had success with the Franklin-Planner after I described in crude terms the majority of the first half of Covey’s book, was using it as well with good success. Missing it, I finally decided to make another one from scratch (since I couldn’t find my old printouts and xeroxes). I had a few new goals for the sheet, which I’ll describe here, and how they fit together.

If you are interested in a downloadable pdf of what I worked out, please see the very bottom of this blog post. It’s not perfect yet, and so it’s a bit hard to release something that is not perfect, and I haven’t checked out to see if anything is copyrighted etc, adding more difficulty to tacking it up here for download. But, if you request it, I’ll likely do so, unless I hear from someone that it’s illegal for some weird reason.

My new goals- The Now Habit, and PCEO…

The Now Habit’s Unschedule

Another influential book I’ve discussed here, is the Now Habit. One important aspect of the book is an understanding of the time you have during your day. [Many procrastinators believe they have all the time in the world- that they can do something "later." Consequently, most procrastinators appear to have very poor conceptualization of time; at least in the way they fit in to the whole "time" thing. Surely, that is true of me.] Fiore’s concept of “The Unschedule” is an attempt (and a great one) to help procrastinators see where their time is going, and how much time they have to accomplish things. In particular, everything *other than* work is scheduled. So, you can look forward to this or that time off, etc., and you can see your blocks of time available for work (if you so choose to work). The start of this process is to track your time during your day, and attempt to see how you spend your time (say for 2 weeks before starting the unschedule). Then, you plan your week with time-blocks, for the items that you would like to do (having fun, eating dinner with your hottie, sleeping, breakfast, etc.). So, in this respect, Neil Fiore’s work also has a week-view focus. Similar to Covey, he suggests not putting everything in your schedule. [Both allow for set-time appointments etc., but not for work-tasks that can be done at anytime.]

So, automatically, when I do this one-page form, I’m going to be using the unschedule with it. The form needs, therefore, a 24 hour view of the day. So I can see all the available time. I’m often using extremely late hours as well (for various reasons, one being that I’m unfortunately a night-owl). (24 hours in the day, check) [The full sheet is show below. The left hand column is for Weekly Priorities, Roles and Goals, and Sharpen The Saw tasks. The upper half of the rest is for daily tasks that require focused time, and daily tasks that only require a check-mark. The lower half is a 24 hour schedule, colored for the UnSchedule.]

The Printable CEO…

David Seah‘s Printable CEO forms have been intriguing me for a very long time. They’re a bit like the DIYPlanner.com pages, although their focus is more on tracking projects and time spent on projects. I’ve played around with a number of Seah’s forms, never finding one that I really liked the bestest (probably my fault). But a number of things about Seah’s forms have hit home for me. One, those darn time-bubbles. What a wonderful idea. Bubbles. You see, for long projects that require me to do tons of work on one subject, I never get to cross these off. But, give me 15 minute bubbles, and couple that with a work-dash of focused 15 minutes of work, and all of a sudden, I can sit there and focus for 15 minutes, and scribble in a bubble. Something just feels good about filling those bubbles in. Very non-test-like. More like- “Yea! I filled in a bubble!”. Positive reinforcement and focus- ah… very very nice. The form I used the most for this was his Task Order Up (3×5) forms. I would set up the 4 major tasks that required over 15 minutes of time each and attempt to work through those during my day. Usually that was with a work-dash, and with a hyper-focus attitude towards the work. So, I wasn’t really using Seah’s forms properly, but the killer-app was working really well for me.

The rest of Seah’s forms look fantastic, but that one idea really was the “killer-app”. So, bubbles are required… not to mention a task-area. (check) [Covey's schedule has a task area above the schedule, so we're already seeing synchronicity- now we just need to add bubbles.]

I decided to take a few tips from the Task Tracker, and add bubbles to the day’s view below the schedule. This means the very last thing on the page is a row of subdivided bubbles, larger than the 15 minute bubbles, signifying hours. I’ve noticed a wonderful benefit to this. At a single glance, I can see how many hours in the day was spent on a focused task, and if I look above, in the task area for that day, I can see which task can be associated with that time. [Attached is the task-section of each day show. One bubble corresponds to 15 minutes. Once a row is filled (or equivalent), a 1 hour bubble at the bottom of the sheet can be filled.]

Bringing it all together…

So, the basic basis was the productive tool of the Weekly Schedule of Covey’s. The idea of Roles/Goals which to me tend to focus the multiple higher-level views of David Allen (5,000ft +, etc.) are available on the left of the schedule. Right now, there isn’t a direct link to context or to project views. I’m assuming that on this sheet you’ve chosen some Quadrant 2 type tasks that are not specific in time, other than you’d like to get them done that week. Ostensibly, you’ll choose these items from your Context list or Project list of GTD’s (I like to use OmniFocus for this), but this is a quick way to see your focus for the week/day in a quick glance. For getting more done, I’m hoping to use 3×5′s of printouts of OmniFocus tasks or OmniFocus directly as a normal GTD system would. So, see this form as an advanced calendar (that you fill in yourself), not as a whole system replacement.

With this schedule, I can look at my UnSchedule (colored pencil outlining in my week’s schedule area to see my blocks of time), I can track my progress on each task for the day, and see a final tally of the important task’s work at a day’s and week’s glance. I’m also using it to overlay what I *actually* do during my week, and see how I’ve been bad at my unscheduling. So, if I say I should sleep from noon-8am, and I actually sleep from 2am-8am, I can see that immediately throughout the week.

The bubbles are also becoming a bit like Sienfeld’s Chain Of X’s approach in some senses. If I see that I’ve been good the past few days, I’m more likely to want to see more filled bubbles across the bottom for the current day. Nice little side-advantage. [Sorry no bubbles are filled in this form- I scanned it last week before I started filling it.]

I’m still tweaking space etc., as a one-page week view is always very difficult to fit everything in. But, for now, it’s going fairly decently. I’m finding my old success again, renewed by these new concepts, and finding that creating the new week’s page helps me to review my weekly goals and tasks (ala GTD).

One final note- this sheet gets punched into my Circa notebook at the very back. I’ve been editing a number of short journal-article like papers which I try and complete with every major item started in my Thesis work. So, this becomes a very rough overview of my work. It’s worked so well, that I often refer to it while talking with microscope technicians and others interested in my work. So, I’ve found I frequently am carrying this Circa around with me everywhere, hence making it a natural place to keep this schedule. [Not to mention I can print out the schedule on paper that my fountain-pens love.]

(Just between you and I, I don’t have many bubbles on my form for today… ach. So, I better do some good tomorrow and the next day to make up for it.)

Earworm: “Brandy Alexander” performed by Feist from Bonnaroo 2007, Manchester, Tn

Edit, Thursday; September 27, 2007, Here’s the first version for your perusal (pdf, 160 kB): WeeklySchedule ver.1

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49 Comments »

  1. How about a copy of that weekly planning form? Thanks

  2. a11en said,

    Hey Craig! Thanks for dropping in! I’m going to wait 1 day in-case David wants to come by and yell at me for using his bubbles!! :) I’ll try and get it posted early tomorrow. Actually, I gotta figure out how to post the darned thing anyway. ;) Probably take me that long to figure it out.

    BTW, it ain’t too fantastic, but it works for me. Funny thing, is you’d think that Stephen Covey & co. would have posted a single sheet form something similar to this ages ago. You can xerox the two pages from his book like I used to do years ago, of course. You can also get a free “starter” kid for the Franklin-Covey system from their website somewhere. But, it’s not the simple 8.5×11″ form like this. It’s definitely hard to write everything down for the day, but I’m not really trying to use it for *every* task. But, that might be one of the holes in this system.

    Sorry to make you wait, I just want to get some feedback incase Seah thinks I shouldn’t post my form, or something. :) Hope you understand. Will post as soon as I figure it out and/or tomorrow hits, though! [I'll post something, that's for sure, but it might have to be slightly varied if someone gets frustrated- like Covey or something.]

    Stop in anytime, man!
    -Allen

    ps- would love to hear about any situations you’ve had regarding the same type of form, or your own productivity. Feel free to tell me/us all about it!

  3. james said,

    Hello,

    My name is james and I’m trying to track down a planner template based on the original 7-habits weekly planner template.

    I would be infinitely appreciative if you could send me the template you’ve developed.

    Thank you.

    james.

  4. a11en said,

    Hi James,

    If you check out the very bottom of this blog post, you’ll find a crude pdf version of the template I drew up. It is not exactly a 7-habits template, but it’s similar. It is also not exactly like Shea’s work, as I don’t tally bubbles the same way, etc. But, it appears to work for me. The pdf should be editable in adobe illustrator- and I suggest you feel free to alter it to suit your needs.

    I’ve often wondered why the 7 habits folks didn’t release a good version of the weekly form from the book, it’s clear they would like those who understand 7habits to give it a shot. The only thing I can think of, is that it isn’t conducive to selling pre-printed forms? Don’t know.

    I will say that the pre-printed forms are working very well for a soon to be Prof. friend of mine. [Covey product.] He doesn’t print his own forms like I do. I also must admit to not being good about my little form for about 1/2-1 month right now. In fact, I think it’s time to jump back into the form this week.

    Hope this helps, James, don’t hesitate to drop in anytime.
    -Allen

  5. Miguel said,

    Good info! How can I get a copy of the weekly planning form?

    Thank you

  6. a11en said,

    Hi Miguel- please check out the very bottom of this post. Thank you for your input! Let me know how things are working for you! :)

  7. Richard said,

    Hi,

    I would like to get a PDF of what you came up with. I am struggling along with GTD, Franklin Roles and Goals, Quadrant II, etc. and, yes, starting to read the Now Habit for “guilt free play”, etc.

    Also, FYI, I like Peter Turla’s stuff, it seems he originated or assembled stuff that Franklin-Covey later claimed as it’s own.

    Thank you.

    Richard

  8. Jon L. said,

    Dear Allen,
    Thank you for your wonderful time management tips. I last read Stephen Covey’s personal management series 6 years bac, and even developed my own weekly planner based on his ideas in First Things First.

    This subsequently fell out of use and 6 years later, I find myself struggling to manage my time. I lost the template I developed 6 years ago and somehow stumbled upon yours while searching for similar templates. The time bubble idea sounds really good and I can’t wait to get started on planning my week!

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve developed!

  9. a11en said,

    Hey Jon!

    Thanks a ton for dropping in, and for your very kind encouragement. I don’t really deserve much of an accolade, as the page is quite simple, and combines elements from a number of different systems (who more properly deserve the credit). :)

    Please let me know how you’re getting on with your struggle. I’m finding that all of us who are interested in productivity are interested in it mostly because we aren’t very productive yet. :) So, we’re all in the same boat, I fear!

    A few thoughts for you- try and track your times as much as possible for the first two weeks of using a week-view… for instance, mark down sleep/wake times, out the door times to work, travel time, etc. etc. This type of information is useful for the “UnSchedule” of Fiore’s. The idea is to block out all the time that you can’t work. This allows you to see visually what time you have *to do work*. [Even if you don't schedule each work task- see Covey for non-scheduled tasks -v- meetings etc.] But, the psychological effect of seeing a relatively accurate representation of how little time during the day you have to work may really help you in your planning. [It's helped me a ton.]

    Also, the bubbles feel excellent when you fill them in. Try and keep those bubbles for times when you are really hyper-focused and on-track. Timers help with that (hate to say it, but it’s true). I have to force myself to stay in the chair for 15 min. straight at a time for a single small bubble (up top on the form). :)

    Check out the PCEO series by Seah for some cool project tracking sheets. David does some beautiful work.

    Sorry to have so many suggestions. ;) Please do let me know how you’re coming with things, and if you made your own, how you’d change it! :)

    Big cheers for getting back on the wagon! I fall off very frequently!

    ps- if you haven’t yet read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, you must! :) It’s an excellent read. It will influence you easily as much as Covey, and the beauty of his book is that it’s not system specific- it merely helps you to understand how to more properly use your brain and process things well. Very very highly recommended. :)

  10. Ken Rosier said,

    Hi, I was also struggling with scheduling forms antil I found this post http://www.wrike.com/blog/11/13/2007/Make_Wrike_a_part_of_your_7_habits_for_becoming_highly_effective. This really seems like a tool Steven was talking about. I;ve been using it for just 2 weeks now but I can see results already.

  11. Jon L. said,

    Dear Allen,

    Thank you for your very detailed response.

    My first week went pretty ok! Your weekly schedule worked brilliantly for me, for the first time in several years, I was able to wake up each morning with a clear idea of what I would be doing for the day ahead. I liked the fact that your template breaks down each day into 24 hrs (instead of 12), i have that bad habit of working till dawn too — and most templates don’t have space for your to plan beyond evening.

    I’m having problems filling out the entire schedule — my first week’s schedule was barely half-filled, and I hope to fill in more and more as I get used to your system.

    And I see the satisfaction you get shading out those little bubbles. I have a bad habit of concentrating on work for 15 minutes then taking a super long break of 50minutes. Now I try to get myself to shade 4 bubbles before taking a long break.

    Thanks for recommending that book. I just grabbed it from borders and I’ve set aside 2 hours to digest it next week. I’ll be giving your other suggestions a try, and will let you know of my progress. If you don’t mind, I’ll reserve any suggestions I have for your template until i’ve had a few weeks’ use.

    Cheers for now.

  12. a11en said,

    Hey Jon!

    Wow! Thanks so much for the wonderful update!! First, let me tell you that I’m just like you- I just decided to make up a sheet to help me do what I needed to do. If it works for you, well, that’s just amazing. :) And, honestly, the kudos for of all this go to the wonderful people who made up each part, I just slapped them together (with very rough glue indeed).

    The most important thing about all of this, Jon, is that you find something that works for you. It doesn’t have to be what I do, or my pals online here, or any other blokes… just what works for you. :) So, I applaud any changes you make to how you work with this if it works!! :) That’s the critical step. It’s self-management after all.

    I’d *love* to know what would work better for you. I bet that it’s quite likely you have some of the same problems I have with the form, but I’ll reserve my comments on how I was having trouble until you chat about what you liked and didn’t. If you go so far as to do so, I’ll try and make up a template that works better for you in thanks. :) It’s a joy when anything that I talk about can help someone. My old pal Pankaj got some great use out of my Stephen Covey discussions with him. Took to it like a fish in water (in fact significantly better than I was ever able to!). He was off to the races, and is easily going to make a very effective professor in the very near future. [Seeing that transformation was quite cool! I wish I was able to do the same!] But, that’s likely for a different blog post. ;)

    I suspect we’re very much alike- I stay up fairly late, working until all hours… sometimes not working (doing fun stuff for myself when the day is quiet, and everything is hushed… it’s a fun exciting time, actually… nothing screaming in my ear, my time is my own at night…) I think that’s why I abuse the time at night, in fact. Oh, I can get in the groove sometimes. [See 43folders.com and the work-dash- that's been very effective for me.] But, often, I’m taking the time for myself. And at night, that can be hours on end. :) The thing I’ve never quite come to grips with, is that time spent at night is time taken away from the next day… there’s no way to eek more time out of the day. There just isn’t. Ugh. What happens to me, even if a due-date is coming soon, is that I stay up musing about the project, etc., but never actually doing a single action on it at all… until the due-date looms mightily over my head like an axe… then finally, I do my best for a small period of time right before the due-date. [The Now Habit very effectively discusses this very thing.] A horrible problem. :) That’s procrastination for you. :)

    BTW, GTD is (like most productivity books) very much just verbalizing things you sort of know in your head already. But, often we just ignore them. Like the concept of the “next action”…. often our ToDo items are just too complex. That complexity (like buy larger hard-drive) stops us from doing the task! The real list for “buy larger hard-drive” is more like: “Check going rate for GB/$”, “Decide on Size of Drive Needed”, “Search for companies that make size of drive needed”, “Search for lowest price online”, “Buy hard-drive”. :) It’s horrible, eh? But, honestly, if we just see “Buy larger hard-drive” on our to do list, we’re totally putting it off. Because we don’t know those inbetween steps we need. Those are the “next actions”. So, make your ToDo List brain-dead simple. It will really help you get more things done as you look at your list.

    But, that’s just one example of a GTD-ism that is excellent. There are many other important ones.

    Ok, sorry for the long message. There’s a ton to talk about in all this stuff. :) I want to help and support your attempt to get back on track here, and just don’t know where to start with all the various topics!! :) Ha! So, I think I won’t inundate you with more info, I think I’ll let you read and seek out some of these excellent concepts. 43folders.com is great, and the fellow David Allen has “David Co” which has a number of free docs online (no templates I think). Finally, DIYPlanner.com is excellent if you like to print out calendars and things. [I altered some of their items for a while there, but nothing really stuck.]

    I find that I need 7 Habits/Covey to make me think about the “big things”… and I need GTD / David Allen to help me think about how to do the little things on a day to day basis. [He's the nuts and bolts guy.]

    Sorry for the super-long reply, Jon! My best to you!!
    -Allen

  13. a11en said,

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for dropping in. The web-software looks interesting. I’m not a huge proponent of web-software, or really software only for organization. [Paper sometimes is perfect at certain times.] But, thanks for the link and letting others know about it!

    GTD is more about how to work with tasks, rather than which program/method you use, so if the link helps someone, that’s excellent! :)

    -Allen

  14. Nancy P said,

    Just saw this and decided to download it. Thank you very much for sharing this with me!

  15. Cindy said,

    I’m really excited to try out your weekly schedule. I tried to download it, but it says file can’t be found. Can you help?

    Thanks!

  16. a11en said,

    Hi Cindy!

    Hmm… that’s very strange… the download was available to me just a moment ago. If you haven’t tried in a while, try again. Let me know if you still have problems.

    -Allen

  17. SSW said,

    I too miss this weekly approach that I was using on paper. I’m now moving toward no paper and am having problems finding this same method for Outlook which is what I use at work. It has daily tasks, but the weekly approach they have just doesn’t cut it for me. Any suggestions? thanks!

  18. Gary said,

    I prefer – and miss – the original 7 Habits Weekly Schedule because, not only did it help one define their roles and goals, it helped to train in the weekly process of planning and scheduling your priorities and balancing your roles. If anyone knows where I can find the original, please notify me by email (garyfeister@yahoo.com). The closest I’ve found yet is the one at DIYPlanner.com, but it is slightly modified and doesn’t follow the original planning process. Thanks!

  19. Francis said,

    Please email your version of the weekly planning form.
    Thanks

  20. Patrick Amato said,

    nicely done

    • a11en said,

      Patrick- Thank you for your comment, sir! Please come back anytime! I appreciate your thoughts!

      My best
      -Allen

  21. chris h. said,

    do you know where i can download a copy of Covey’s original Weekly Schedule? We have a program developer who has recommended we use this but so far all i’ve seen is a photocopy of the original straight out of the book.

    • a11en said,

      Hi Chris- they used to have non-dated sheets for F-C on the F-C website… but for the life of me, I can no longer find them. I used to zerox off the page from the original 7 Habits paper back book. :) Eventually I made something in Excel, and then most recently, spurred on from that, I created this form for myself, incorporating the other things I found important, as can be read above. :) So, I’m sorry, this is a long way of saying that I don’t have a link to share with you for that. Search high and low at Franklin-Covey’s site, and you might find one!

      [And I'm also attempting to stay a bit anonymous on this blog- mostly due to not having a full-time job at the moment- and who knows how they'll feel about the whole "blogger" thing... so, I'm sorry I can't e-mail links (from other comments), etc.]

      Kinda pains me, actually, because these posts I’d love to migrate over to my non-anonymous site. these have all gotten more interest than most of the blog. :)
      -Allen

  22. DK said,

    Hi, I think your schedule is excellent but am having trouble printing it from the link.You were very generous to share it so I was wondering if you possibly email it to me if you have a free minute?thanks so much!

  23. Aymon Fournier said,

    I have read the 7 Habits up to chapter 4, and was wondering if you could give me detailed instructions in how to use the bubbles, and shading, which are not part of the 7 Habits. 7 HAbits says to plan quadrant II activities based on your roles and goals, but how do you use the 4 bubbles, and the the bubbles on the bottom? Also how do you use the split? I thought it was very strange as well that they did no sell anything resembling what they taught in the book in terms of planners. I also could not find any software that incorporates the 7 habits either. Please teach me how to use your wonderful calendar and I will forever be indebted to you!

    • a11en said,

      Hi Aymon,

      The bubbles come from David Seah’s wonderful ideas (graphics designer I believe). So, for the way to use them, I defer to their father’s comments on his blog (see links above). However, I will let you know how I use them, and you can decide if my way is a good way or not for yourself. :) [Ultimately, you can use them however you feel like using them- a little flexibility in your system is important- and it needs to work "for you"- so alter these things to suit your needs and you'll love your system more, and probably use it more.]

      For how I like to use them, the covey method isn’t key… think of the Covey method coming first- i.e., how you decide which task to work on should be related to your roles and goals and also your Quadrant II tasks (etc.). So, let’s say I have to write a paper- it’s due in a month or two, so it’s Q2 right now – important but not yet urgent. The paper belongs to my “researcher” hat, so I know it’s in amongst my balanced life-roles. I need to get work done on it this week to feel I’m moving forward on it. So, I drop it into my task list (say to the left). When I want to work on it, say on Wed. at no specific time, I place it in my Wed task column. (you could just place it there to begin with if you wanted of course) Perhaps drop a “Q2″ beside it so you know it’s something useful for you.

      Now, let’s say you want to get a 1/2 hour done on it- but it can’t be any old half-hour, it needs to be focused work. [you can get a lot done if you don't do other things for a half-hour] A timer can really help… and it goes right in line with the bubbles. On the line you dropped “paper writing” there are 4 bubbles… that’s 1 hour of time the way I use them: a bubble for every 15 minutes.

      Now, when you’re ready to get writing/working, get everything setup- bathroom break, water, open the document, or the web for searching (careful of side-tracks on the web), and then grab a timer. Set it for 15 minutes. You’re gonna sit down for 15 minutes, not moving, getting 15 minutes of important focused work done. When that timer goes off grab a pen or pencil, and fill in a bubble for 15 minutes of good focused work done. Set the timer again, 2-5 minutes or so for a play-break. Feel free to get up and replenish your water, or surf the web a bit, anything fun (I suggest getting onto your feet to get the blood moving again). The trick? You’re gonna sit back down after that 5 minute play buzzer goes off, and do another 15 minutes of focused work! Do that 2x for 30 minutes, or 4x for the whole 1 hour bubble row filled! :)

      Now, when you’ve done an hour on any project that’s important enough for focused work, scribble in another bubble at the bottom of your day. When you’re done with the day or the week, those bubbles at the bottom will show you how much focused worktime you were able to accomplish on the tasks that you felt were important.

      They become a bit addictive in the end, and you get some positive feedback for the amount of time you’ve worked. IF you’re a procrastinator, you’ll also get a bit of negative feedback if you realize you’ve only spent 15 min. focused time on the project you wanted an hour on. [Feel free to use multiple lines for multiple hours of time in 15 minute blocks.]

      Basically, you can use it however you want (colored bubbles for specific projects?)- it’s really all up to how you want to use ‘em! :)

      If you’ve never tried a work-dash (what I explained above with the timer), I strongly suggest you try it even once. Any old timer that works will be fine- but a silent one probably won’t help (you won’t notice it). Try and shove the timer out of sight so you can’t see it ticking away (especially for writer’s block etc.)- just loosely obey the call to “take a break” when it comes. [You can always reset it for another 15 and keep going if you're on a roll.]

      One of the benefits of the work-dash is that it helps the procrastinator actually “start” something. 15 minutes is a small commitment, and knowing a break is right around the corner makes it easier to feel comfortable starting harder tasks. [Make the play time longer, or the total time shorter if you still have trouble starting.]

      I’m sorry to anyone who was asking for an e-mailed copy. Please let me know if it isn’t possible to download it with the link above. I am not e-mailing copies because I try to keep this blog anonymous if possible. [I find it helps me write more freely- although I'd love to migrate everyone over to my non-anonymous blog!] I’ll have to think a bit harder on that point.

      Cheers, Aymon, and I hope this helps- please don’t hesitate to write any more questions. Please also let me know how you get along with both the book and my little schedule. BTW, for the nitty gritty of how to make the organization work, I do suggest you try also David Allen’s getting things done (which can easily be incorporated into Covey’s approach). I found his book more enlightening than Covey’s First Things First book, which appeared to be a slightly expanded form of the chapter of the same name in his original book. Although, it’s been a long time since I’ve read both, and they are both on my bookcase.

      Good luck!! – Allen

      ps- if you get off the horse with your schedule for any reason, remember to just get right back on- it doesn’t matter if you didn’t do it one day, or one week- doing it period is going to advance your work and life accomplishments!

  24. Aymon Fournier said,

    You should write a frickin’ book man. This is the most personalized response I’ve ever had from a human being ever! Thanks so much, I can’t wait to get started using your system. Thank you for explaining everything so thoroughly.

    • a11en said,

      You’re too kind, man. :) I was worried I was blabbing on and on. (happens sometimes to me) I’m very happy my reply was useful for you, Aymon! These ideas aren’t really mine, I just put them together somewhat.

      It’s confession time- I haven’t been using my weekly schedule for a while now… I think it’s because I’m having one of my old anti-organization slumps. When the going gets rough, it’s easy not to put things down in a schedule or list (GTD) properly, and you tend to just focus on a single task to the detriment of all else. [ach] So, I better get my act together and pull out the schedule again!! :)

      That PDF should be able to be edited in Adobe Illustrator or similar program (try inkscape for a free vector drawing app). Please modify it however you like- it’s more important that it works for you, rather than is exactly the same as everyone’s. :)

      BTW, if you are a procrastinator (I’m horrible at avoidance of tasks that are icky), I suggest you purchase or borrow a copy of the Now Habit by Neil Fiore. It’s fantastic. It might not solve your procrastination, but with an understanding for why you are procrastinating, you can help to reduce it substantially.

      Good luck, Aymon! You’re already a step ahead because you’re looking at how to be more efficient and how to leverage your time to get more important tasks done! So, pat yourself on the back for that!! It’s important, and every time you use your organization habits, get some joy out of it- pat yourself on the back, take a coffee or doughnut break while you schedule: some positive reinforcement of your decisions to organize. :)

      [BTW, nothing above is meant to be a personal slight- I'm talking from my own experience as a procrastinator!! :) I just know how evil it can be, and I feel for anyone who has that bug like me. :( ]

      Stop by anytime, Aymon! Do let me know how you are doing with the schedule. Don’t be afraid to say it’s not working too well- it’s hard to change a habit like this. [I know only too well!] :)
      -Allen

      ps- Thank you for your kind reply also!

  25. Kris said,

    What is the difference between “Weekly Priorities” & “Roles & Goals” … also why is there a separate section for priorities and commitments… why aren’t priorities schedules under commitments? Just confused how to use this.

  26. a11en said,

    Hi Kris,

    Thanks for dropping in! I don’t have a perfect answer for you, ultimately it depends on how you want to use it. It’s more important to get things done than to worry about exactly how to do it. ;) [As Merlin Mann would say, it's not about the coffee mug, but the coffee.]

    But, here’s what I was thinking when I put this together…

    Roles and Goals differ from weekly priorities in that a Role/Goal is something you do to ensure you have every aspect of your life (roles) accounted for in your week. These types of tasks tend to be forward looking, and not time-critical right now (Q2). Maybe buying roses for your wife, bringing home something neat from work for your kid, or reading to them etc. You can put these off, but ultimately if you don’t continue forward in all your roles in life, you will feel unfulfilled. [Read Covey's 7-Habits for more understanding of this.]

    It differs from weekly priorities only in that I find weekly priorities are the things I *have* to do- not necessarily Q2 type things- this is the drudgery- the things you must do this week without respect to your roles etc. (although they likely fit in your roles, so you could have placed them there also)

    Finally, regarding your question about priorities being unscheduled… this is on purpose. It’s important to keep your weekly view clear of non-scheduled items. This is critical for being flexible in your day as items arise. You could of course make priorities for the day in your daily schedule, but it’s usually not important to do something specifically at say 2pm. You could do it anytime before your next meeting that day, including 8,9,10am etc. But, you want to know it’s a daily priority, so it can sit on top of the day’s schedule. (either in the time-tracked portion or below) Covey also discusses the need to not place non-scheduled items in your schedule. It’s more important to schedule actual meetings etc., in your “hard-landscape” and the items that aren’t time-fixed need to be placed elsewhere.

    I hope these comments help a bit, Kris. I also hope the start of this comment didn’t frustrate you at all. I mean it in jest of course- we all want to have tools that work for us, so if you find this method/sheet/etc. doesn’t work for you, please feel free to change it and make it what you need for your work. The ultimate goal of course is to get work done, and if this page helps, that’s wonderful! If it’s weird and complicated, or doesn’t “feel” right, definitely don’t worry, just keep searching for what works for you, and do your best to continue being productive and moving every aspect of your life forward towards your goals and dreams! :)

    Wishing you a very productive, relaxed, and fun week next week!
    -Allen

    ps- thanks for stopping by!! I’m very glad you found my post!

  27. [...] ideas, thoughts and immediate action items are clogging your mental arteries. I’ve been using this planning sheet from searching4arcadia, which is a mixture of principles taken from Getting Things Done, The Now [...]

  28. Terry Roberts said,

    Early on, Stephen Covey had his own planner business–and the planner materials he offered were GREAT…. A few years later he went back to work for Franklin, and I fear the best of what Covey offered has been compromised to fit with the styles and emphasis of the “Franklin” part of it all.

    I would love to see your one-page weekly planner dealie.

  29. Looking for that original planner template. I appreciate your blog. Do you know where I can get planner page?

  30. a11en said,

    Hi guys!!

    Remember – check the very very last line of this blog-post for the planner page I made up!! I’ll have to try and make it easier to see!!

    -Allen

  31. a11en said,

    Terry-

    That was my experience with Covey’s products as well. It seemed the early journals were really focused on the 7 Habits aspects, and that when they combined (did Franklin buy them??) it became a strange and weird mix. While I appreciate Ben Franklin’s original ideas on productivity, I find it difficult to use well in a day to day system.

    However, if you are selective, and use them as you see fit, you can make the system work nicely for you. Remember- it’s all about getting more work done, regardless of the system you use! Hell, if post-it notes on a huge board in your office is working for you, then stick with it!! :)

    (going to yell a bit below for everyone (not you, Terry) – plug your ears! ;) )…

    PLANNER PAGE IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST- LOOK CAREFULLY!- LAST LINE!

    (ok, you can unplug your ears now!)

    Thanks a ton for dropping in and reminding me about F-C and Covey’s system- you’re absolutely correct!!

    Cyndi, nice to meet you as well!!
    -Allen

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