The Emergent Task Planner

Stay focused on important daily goals in the face of unplanned chaos!


The Emergent Task Planner (ETP) is a paper-based daily planning sheet designed to keep you focused in the face of chaos. Start the day by declaring what you want to get done, and the ETP helps you stick to the plan by with task, time, and scheduling support.

Because it’s paper, it’s easy to keep your task list in view without fiddling with computer screens. Portable and always-on, with ample space for note taking, the ETP is designed to make your day more productive by serving as an anchor for your mind.

You can download the free versions to print-out at home and try it out. There’s also versions you can buy if you need something extra-special.

Elements of Productivity

The ETP is designed around three ideas:

  • Focus – A small set of important tasks is more likely to get done.
  • Assessment – Estimating and tracking task time helps you allocate your time more effectively.
  • Time Visualization – There are only so many hours in the day. By showing you the time you have left, you can see whether your planning is realistic or not.

The ETP, refined continuously since 2006, is designed to meet several usability goals:

  • Fits on a single piece of paper for easy portability and archiving.
  • Highly-tuned visual design helps find what you are looking for rapidly.
  • Encouraging language helps keep expectations realistic to lower stress.

How to Use It

Instructions click the image to see it larger, or view the instructions in PDF form.

  1. Write-in the date and hours of the day at the top and left-side of the form with your favorite pen.
  2. Write-in three tasks you want to do, more if you are feeling optimistic!
  3. Block-out the time to do them in the day grid on the left.
  4. Keep notes of interruptions and unplanned tasks as necessary.
  5. Review at end of day, and prioritize what’s left for tomorrow.

You don’t have to use the Emergent Task Planner exactly this way, of course. Its main purpose is to keep you grounded about your time and tasks. Remember, it’s a challenge to get even one thing done on purpose when working with other people! Use these sheets to get a handle on where the time is going.

More Information

The first version of the ETP was posted in September 2006. For a historical overview of its development, read the original post. Enjoy!

If you would want to contribute a translation, download this ETP Translation Guide, and submit it via my contact form as a file attachment. Please READ IT CAREFULLY.

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