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David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment
For a while now I’ve been using products by a guy named David Seah.  I really like his stuff and I’m starting to think it’s because he as a similar thought process to my own.  If you become a regular user of his products or a regular reader of his blog the first thing you’ll notice is that Seah is not afraid of revision – in fact he welcomes it.  He’s always tinkering with existing products and coming up with new ideas to share with his readers.  I am constantly wanting to change and refine how how I do things so it’s really refreshing to find another tinkerer.  I think my “change things up” habbits drive my coworkers nuts.  I’ve started to notice a look that seems to say “okay, what did Megan change this week?” whenever someone has to cover the desk for me.  Nice to know I’m keeping everyone on their toes.

Anyway, I’ve been consistently using some of Seah’s products for a while now.  The one I use the most often is the Emergent Task Planner which you can buy from amazon.com or download free from Seah’s website.

 The Emergent Task Planner uses a single 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper to plan your day and is part of Seah’s Printable CEO Series.  On each ETP page you get a 14 hour schedule running along one side of the page,  spaces to list 9 tasks to complete, a grouping of bubbles to help you track how long each task takes (each bubble represents a 15 minute increment and you get to color it in!)  and a section for notes.

The 14-hour schedule is something that Seah has been fiddling with for a couple of years.  The first iteration of the ETP had the schedule along the left side of the page, but then he moved it to the right.  For the 2010 updates, he’s moved it back to the left – which is where I prefer it.  Since its inception in 2005 the ETP has been finely tuned with Seah’s little tweaks.  He’s cleaned up the header, and refined the language and found a way to make everything fit on the page while still leaving you enough of a margin so that you can use a hole punch.  It’s a great design and as a tool I feel like it just plain works.

What’s also great about the ETP is its flexibility.  From reading Seah’s own instructions, the comments on his posts and a couple reviews it’s clear that everyone uses the ETP a little bit differently.  Here’s an example of what one of mine might look like at the end of the day:

I fill in my form kind of organically – how it looks at the end of the day depends on how my name goes.  I start by filling in the things that I have to do every day – my regular morning tasks, giving my coworker her break twice a day, my 1 p.m. lunch break, my daily clean up time, etc.  Then I’ll go through the major tasks list and write down everything I want to get done for the day.  I use Seah’s suggestion of adding a vertiical line among the bubbles to estimate how long I think each task will take.  During the day when I’m filling in my bubbles I’m always interested to see how close to that line my bubbles are.  Sometimes my guess is spot on, sometimes I way underestimate while other times I way overestimate.  When I finally get my weekly and monthly review habit down, this will really come in handy.  I’ll be able to see where my time is going and to plan better for the future.

I tend to use the notes section for a number of different things.  Sometimes I use it as a list of things that I’ve actually completed, sometimes I leave myself notes to review later like “I need more time for X task” or “I forgot to do X”.  I also like to leave myself notes about the flow of the day.  I’ll make myself notes if I have a conversation with a co-worker or if I feel like I’ve been spending forever answering the phone.   If a task ends up taking way longer than I anticipated these notes help me figure out if it was because I was just having a high traffic day or if I ran into some kind of challenge with a particular item.  Other times I do some journaling or doodling.  It just really depends on my mood.

When I started using the ETP last July I was using the free template.  This year I decided to buy myself a Christmas/New Years gift and actualy bought them from amazon.com.  I gotta say, it’s totally worth the price.  I absolutely love the quality of paper – it’s a more heavy duty than printer paper and my pen just glides over it (like silk!).  The for sale version is also a little more colorful – each page is printed with vibrant blue and orange.  The free versions are either solid blue, solid green or black and white.  If you’re pinching pennies the printed versions certainly get the job done (and does it well!).  Seah’s put that little bit extra into the purchase version to make it a nice step up in quality. If you shell out the $12.50 for a pad you won’t be dissapointed.

Seah has a variety of different planner pages, the Emergent Task Planner doesn’t even scratch the surface.  For now I’m not really using them too often, but I have been known to pull out the Daily Grid Balancer.  I have an idea to incorporate it into my weekly review.  Once I’ve been more consistent about that I’ll make sure to throw up another blog post.  In the mean time, do yourself a favor and check out davidseah.com.  If you’re looking for something unique, well designed and fresh to help you track your productivity, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy.
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