The Printable CEO™ VII: Resource Time Tracking

The Printable CEO™ VII: Resource Time Tracking

Task Resource Tracking Lately, I’ve been struggling to keep track of multiple deadlines on multiple projects of multiple types. Yeesh!

Although I had everything listed that I need to do in a big text file, thanks to my earlier GTD pass, I have yet to overcome that feeling of paralysis that comes from knowing what to do next. Additionally, I find that I don’t have a good sense of how much time I have available in the future. This is really important for maintaining my pacing and for my work as a freelancer; if I don’t know what time I can book in the future, I may create problems

The ability to easily visualize available time is what’s on my mind right now. To that end, I’ve made a new two-part form called The Resource Scheduler Parts 1 and 2.

The Intangibility of Future Time

I read in Stumbling Upon Happiness that a bigger reward in the future doesn’t tend to seem as valuable as getting a reward right now. This got me thinking: if we’re wired for immediate gratification, perhaps this is one of the root challenges in developing discipline. I think the challenge can be met through visualization; if you have the means to visualize how far you have to go before you get the reward, the waiting is much easier.

I also heard an episode of The Infinite Mind, covering The Science of Winning. One of the interviewees, Jim Fannin, described how top executives not only visualize the steps to the goal, they also visualize the steps working backwards. The effect, Fannin said, was like illuminating a runway to the goal. The ability to work forward to and backward from the goal stuck in my mind. How could I reinforce this type of thinking in a form?

In my mind, I can picture time as a conveyor belt that flows continuously past me. For me to feel productive, I need to make sure there’s “stuff to do” on that conveyor belt at the moment I’m able to do something with it, assuming I’m ready to handle it. That suggest the following principles:

  1. Ensure that only one thing is at a given place on the conveyor belt at a time, because I can’t process more than one thing at a time.

  2. Have some idea of what’s coming, in what order, so I can be mentally ready to handle it.

  3. Maximally load the conveyor belt so I have plenty of things to do, but not so much that I’m overwhelmed.

Now what is loaded on the conveyor belt of time? Projects and tasks.

Representing Projects and Tasks

Projects and Tasks Projects are, in the terminology of GTD, merely a list of related things to do. The Resource Task Quantizer is essentially a project management sheet, and is a mashup of several earlier Printable CEO™ forms:

Furthermore, the form is split into top and bottom halves:

  • TOP: Project meta information such as the description, the specific deliverables, the timeframe, and the reference jobcode.

  • BOTTOM: The list of specific tasks related to the project. As you fill in bubbles, you create a record of how much actual time was used, relative to your estimate.

It’s pretty easy to estimate how long something will take once you have some experience. If you don’t, then just guess and keep track of it for next time. Each task is allowed to take up to 4 hours; if it’s longer, you should break it down further. It’s in your best interest to make the tasks short and concrete. Incidentally, there’s a reason why the project meta information is at the top of the screen; it’s designed to work with the second form that represents available time.

Representing Available Time

Conveyor Belt of Time The second form, the Resource Scheduler represents one week of time. Why one week? This is a useful limit, because it emphasizeswhat’s happening right now. I’m keeping in mind that it’s the imminent events that engage our sense of urgency. It’s also easy to plan a week in advance with confidence; two or more weeks gets more hazy. The idea behind this form is to represent and assign available time for a given person. I want to be able to see at-a-glance what’s been assigned, and whether or not I really have enough time to get it all done. Here’s how the form is laid out:
  • The left lists key deliverables, labeled D1-D7. Each item allows you to mark a date when that deliverable is due. There’s also a bubble group that marks the day of a deliverable. The reason for this, rather than writing a date, is so you can see at a glance what is due earlier, on what day. Try it and see.

  • The right shows an available time grid, which uses the timeblock sizes that I first implemented in the Emergent Task Planner and Menu of the Day. I only list A-C blocks, which are 4HR, 2HR, and 1HR in duration respectively. Each day of the week has 12 “productive hours”, spread across 3 blocks. The blue blocks are 9-5 workday blocks, assuming an 8-hour day. The red blocks are overtime.

Using the Forms Together

You’ll notice that the key deliverables reference a jobcode. For me, the jobcode refers to an associated project. There’s a Resource Task Quantizer (RTQ) sheet for each project. The jobcode is also used for billing purposes and both paper and electronic filing. Procedurally, the “task assignment game” works like this:

  1. When you start your week, review each Resource Task Quantizer sheet (basically, this is a list of your projects and their associated tasks).

  2. Pull the next immediate task out of whatever projects need to be worked on. This is up to you, but is also determined by any deadlines you may have noticed.

  3. Write the task down as a key deliverable on the small Resource Scheduler form.

  4. Count up the estimated hours for each key deliverable, due date if applicable, and write that down too on the small form.

  5. Assign the blocks to the grid, and make sure everything fits.

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p>The Resource Schedule is your What Should I Be Doing Now? sheet. You should track the individual progress on each project using its associated Resource Task Quantizer sheet.

Deploying the Forms

Clipboard This is the part I really like: The two forms are designed to overlay on a clipboard, so you can keep your weekly resource grid visible in context with the actual project information.

The Resource Scheduler (the small form) covers the project meta information of the Resource Task Quantizer. Most of the time you’re not going to be referring to this information except during review, so reusing that real estate makes sense. When it’s time to review the project, just pop your stack of RTQs off the clipboard and browse through them.

Resource Scheduler at TopHere’s what the clipboard looks like with the Resource Scheduler Form clipped on top, overlaying the Resource Task Quantizer.


Resource Scheduler at TopIf you have a legal size (8.5×14) clipboard, then you can tape the Resource Scheduler at the bottom, and you can then flip through the RTQs a little more easily.


DOWNLOAD THE FORMS

» Download The Resource Scheduler
» aka Resource Time Tracking Form 01
» filename: PCEO-RTT01-Scheduler.pdf

» Download The Resource Task Quantizer
» aka Resource Time Tracking Form 02
» filename: PCEO-RTT02-Quantizer.pdf

Enjoy! Please leave any feedback below.

22 Comments

  1. Ross Hill 13 years ago

    ~“It’s easier to wait if you can see your progress”

    I remember reading that this is why there is a loading bar when you boot up your mac. If you look closely you’ll realise it loads in a fixed amount of time and always takes the same amount of time to run. They put it in just so to make people feel better while they were waiting, regardless of whether you are waiting an extra 10 seconds while it says 100%.

  2. penny 13 years ago

    Dave… You ROCK.

  3. Michael Montgomery 13 years ago

    David,
    All these printable forms are great. Really, magnificent work.

    But there’s an assumption for a printable form. In my case, all these printed forms just seem to pile up, while the one tool I actually use is my trusty Moleskine.

    I know there are lots of GTD/Moleskine posts out there, but they seem awfully complicated.

    How might the principles of the Printable CEO be used in a non-printed form?

  4. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Ross: Great observation! On the loading bar, I remember it actually takes LONGER with the use of the loading graphic (back then, it added significant overhead), but it seems faster because you see something moving. Maybe it’s the ability to predict that puts us at ease.

    Penny: Thanks! :-)

    Michael: Yes, that’s the assumption I’m making. I file away my sheets as records of what I did during the day just because that’s what I do.

    I agree that the principles of the Printable CEO are pretty universal; it’s just that I don’t have the time to focus on developing software solutions at the moment. My assumption has always been to move these ideas to software solutions and databases, but in the meantime prototyping in paper is fast and fun. :-)

    The general idea is to keep information available in context to the work you’re doing, visualize the workflow, show trends as they emerge, and avoid double entry of data. That’s really it.

  5. Rob 13 years ago

    Looks really cool!  I’ve been looking for something paper-based to use as a weekly dashboard of tasks and goals.  I’m definitely going to give this a try. In fact, just the thought of using a new ‘toy’ makes me excited about all those projects I’ve been procrastinating on!

    Question though, I noticed in the clipboard screen shots the RTQ has the original CGT boxes.  Out of curiosity- did they not work well on this form?

    Thanks for more great forms!
    -Rob

  6. Karl Whealton 13 years ago

    This looks fantastic.  I was actually just thinking yesterday that I needed an elegant way of planning out my upcoming week.  This is a really great addition to your portfolio.  I’m looking forward to putting it to work.
    You also make a great point about seeing a project as steps scrolling scrolling back from the delivery date.

    Thanks!

  7. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    Rob: Sharp eye! Yes, I realized as I was working on this that most of that stuff (lifted directly from one of the task order up cards) wasn’t very useful, and I found I just needed extra space to write. Have fun with it!

    Karl: Thanks dude! Let us know how it works out for ya!

  8. Bill Peschel 13 years ago

    Thanks for the effort. I’m going to give this a try as well.

  9. Michael 13 years ago

    As a procrastinative (my newly coined word of the day) person, I see your resources as neat waysof keeping one’s self in line. However, as a student, these forms don’t totally work for me.
    I would really appreciate some time of time, resource or task planning tool for students. Do you know of one (or two :-)?

  10. Jan Lukacs 12 years ago

    Dave, if you decide you want to go digital, go ahead and try our time tracking service at
    http://www.paymo.biz
    I think it’s quite usefull for some people, and best of all it’s free for small organizations.

  11. M Stotsky 12 years ago

    This is an interesting way of looking at time.  I downloaded the PDF’s and the smaller form has “2007” hard-coded into it… is there a 2008 version?  In any event, thanks for the ideas.

  12. Chris Gunther 11 years ago

    Any change we can get a 2009 update on these?

    Thanks

  13. Ian Stanley 10 years ago

    Has anyone seen anything similar for managing the deliverables/activities of a team (of 8)?

  14. Will Thomas 10 years ago

    Dave,

    I have been following your blog and for some time, and have been using ETT and other forms intermittently.

    Your NEW stuff is exactly the kind of thing I need to keep me moving forward.

    Just need to figure out a way to integrate it with the principles of Mark Foster’s work (markforster.net) and then I am set!!

    Respect!

    Will

  15. Tyler Drake 9 years ago

    Any chance of making a version with Sun-Sat (instead of Mon-Sun)…and possibly (this is really minor) with an “H” instead of “R” for tHursday?
    I know that the “R” is commonly used due to its more pronounced sound…but my university uses “H”. Again, that’s really minor—either way doesn’t bother me =).

    Thanks again for the PCEO forms—awesome as always!

  16. Scott 9 years ago

    I look forward to the 2011 update Thanks Dave!

  17. Liz 9 years ago

    Can’t believe how long it took me to try this one out – it’s perfect! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for 2011!!

  18. Ben R 8 years ago

    To simplify things, can we get the line in the Resource Scheduler relating to date changed? Rather then lock in there a year, allow people the freedom to write one of:

    Date from / Date to Week / Year (both as freetext)

    Making a change like this means we dont have to come rushing back every December/January asking for an updated version.

    Thanks.

  19. Author
    Dave Seah 8 years ago

    Dang it, I keep forgetting to update this thing. I am going to do it RIGHT NOW.

  20. Author
    Dave Seah 8 years ago

    The forms have now been updated for 2011. Adjusted typography, cleaned up the layout, and added editable form fields to RTT02. Also, no more year field.

  21. Piet 8 years ago

    Dave, I absolutely love the design of these forms. I really can’t think of any other forms that are more appealing and beautiful.

    Keep up the great work!

  22. Roy Francis 7 years ago

    For my own purposes, I’ve created a set of monthly calendar tabs that configures the Resource Scheduler my calendar planning tool:

    http://wp.me/p15af2-1v