Emergent Task Planner 2007 Discussion

Emergent Task Planner 2007 Discussion

Wow, Lifehackered Again! I am getting to know my host, FutureQuest.Net under situations that would normally be bad, but again I’m super impressed with their proactiveness and willingness to work with me to keep the shared server stable. They are one of the few hosts that I found that no one ever seems to badmouth. They are pricier than others for what you get in terms of disk space and bandwidth, but it’s good to know they are actually keeping tabs on things.

But I digress. Put any comments related to the Emergent Task Planner 2007 updates here, as the current page is being redirected to a static web page to try to keep the load down. Thanks for your interest!


  1. zzap 17 years ago

    FutureQuest.net, eh? I might have to check them out. I’m currently with DreamHost; really good service, fast and uptime is 99%+ (although 99% is often overlooked – that means that for every 100 hours it’s up, it’s down a whole hour)—they’re a little pricey, but you get what you pay for; don’t you?

  2. Jim Rutherford 17 years ago

    Hey Dave,

    The links to the PDF’s on the static page seem to be broken.  I eagerly await getting my hands on this – it looks awesome and is just what I need!

  3. tommy 17 years ago

    I could use a whole notepad of this.

  4. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Jim: Try it now (you might have to flush your browser cache). I was optimizing out some stuff to reduce server overhead and optimized a little too much :-)

    Tommy: Hm, that’s an idea. I wonder how much it would cost to pre-print and ship something like this.

  5. Brad 17 years ago

    This looks really cool, and it’s obvious that you put a lot of work into it.

    However, it’s not really “emergent,” is it? The Emergent Task Timer “emerges” with a pattern out of the work you end up doing, but this Task Planner is very prescriptive in its specific layout of the day.

    I just started browsing your site, and I think I’m going to give the Emergent Task Timer a go. I played with Merlin Mann’s concept of the dash for a while, but after a few runs (I used (20+5)*∞) I usually get off-track with remembering to reset the timer. Keeping myself at a constant 15-minute “checkup” looks like it will be easier to maintain.

  6. Michael 17 years ago

    I’d really like for you to read that post closely and take a good, long think about yourself and your life.

    Do you see the complete absurdity this GTD cult has turned into? An “Emergent Task Planner” to complement the “Emergent Task Tracking” complete with “time boxing”.

    How the hell can anyone get anything done using these 50 forms to plan to get things done? You’re giving people bureaucracy for their personal lives. What the hell has happened to humanity?

  7. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Brad: I was thinking it was “Emergent Planning” in that it’s more tactical than strategic. In other words, I just decided what I needed to do today, as opposed to a longer-term plan, in which a deliberate pace is being set. So what “emerges” is the short term action plan, as opposed to deliberate execution of a grander strategy. I see what you’re saying, though. The main reason is probably I just liked “Emergent Planning” as a name :-)

    Michael: If you’re looking for me to slap my head and exclaim MY GOD I HAVE BEEN SUCH A FOOL, well, you’ll have to stand in line :-) Everyone looks for a different solution to their problem, and I happen to be sharing mine. One person’s bureaucracy is another person’s necessary structure. The basic problems I’m trying to solve for myself is maintaining context from day to day (something that’s tough for me) and keeping a clear view of what’s going on. You may be one of those rare people who can do it without resorting to todo lists. I’m one of those people who likes making diagrams and lining up information so I can see what’s going on.

    The humanity that matters to me is being able to create things that are helpful to people. Some people want structure. Some are excited by the idea of a customized form that can be applied to their own lives, and make certain invisible aspects of their day-to-day activity more tangible. This is what pervades what I try to do. You may disagree with the methodology, but that’s fine. What’s interesting to me is trying to make things work a little better, in the way I know how, for people that are around me.

  8. Brad 17 years ago

    from Michael:

    Do you see the complete absurdity this GTD cult has turned into? An “Emergent Task Planner” to complement the “Emergent Task Tracking” complete with “time boxing”. … What the hell has happened to humanity?

    I certainly hope you don’t think anybody (David himself included, I bet) prints out every one of these forms every day and spends an hour filling them all out. I look at it more like an immense toolbox, presented all throughout the blogosphere: a form here, an interesting technique there, etc.

    Each day I look at my workload and apply just the tools I think will help me to tackle it. There’s a small stable of things I’ve found help if I use them regularly, but there’s no point in attempting to apply every tool known to mankind to every problem.

    Even if you’ve got a whole toolbox full of complicated tools, the job you need to accomplish might not require their use. Putting a piece of paper up on a cork-board still requires just a thumbtack.

  9. Anneliese 17 years ago

    Michael’s correct in that it does take time to work on these forms. But, if I spend 30 minutes a day working on forms (which I don’t spend that much, maybe just 5 or 10) and then it motivates me to work for many hours, then that’s great. Because I have severe problems with procrastination, and will easily blow off the entire day without realizing it.

    So, the forms save me time. They also help me focus. And I really like the Concrete Goal Tracker, because it is a positive focus. Instead of thinking I didn’t get something done, I think of the important things I did get done, and that helps me feel better and so then procrastinate less.

    Yes, it would be ideal if I didn’t have these problems with procrastination (and depression), but I do, and it is literally ruining my life. If I have to fill out a few forms a day to achieve what I want to achieve, I’ll do it!

    David, you don’t seem bureaucratic to me at all. I definitely feel you’re creative and putting you and your work out into the world, which is one of the defining qualities of humanity. I’m grateful.

  10. Michael 17 years ago

    To be fair, my polemic is a bit unjust. If no one uses all of these forms and these forms are not intended to be all used in tandem, then my previous comment should be ignored.

    I do have a system to organise my life; I use iCal’s ToDo lists and calendar with icalx.com and netvibes.com and I’m a big fan of GTD in general and have used some of David’s forms (I printed the single page calendar and glued it to my notebook), and I didn’t mean to criticize people for writing to-do lists, organizing their lives, etc. What I meant to say is that this particular post struck me as really going too far. From the overly positive and superfluous neologisms (time boxing = writing a to-do list, perhaps?) to the overly specific forms (Emergent Task Planning and Emergent Task Tracking? Now that’s just funny), this particular post reminded me too much of the IRS.

    That being said, I very much appreciate David’s ideas and his sense of style, and I look forward to reading more and looking at more forms. Perhaps an Emergent Task Designing form is in the pipeline? A boy can only dream…

  11. Michael 17 years ago

    Any chance of a smaller version?  I love my pocket moleskine notebooks, but this design is awesome.

    Congrats on getting lifehacked too.  That is how I found you.


  12. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Brad, Annelise: Thanks for adding your perspective! I’m glad that you’re taking the forms in the spirit with which they’re intended. There are a lot of ideas that are fun to float out there…and since I never know what will strike a chord with someone, I just keep pumping these things out and seeing what happens. It’s very gratifying to see the ideas take root and mutate into new forms.

    Michael: You’re entitled to your opinion. I could probably boil down the basic concepts to a paragraph. A lot of the time I’m not sure just what to call the ideas that are floating around in my head; time boxing, for example, is terminology I came across AFTER I released the ETP when someone mentioned the concept in a followup concept (it was new to me), which itself was based on a prior form that I was calling Menu of the Day, itself based on a much older post. Time boxing isn’t quite the same as a todo list, but an interaction between philosophy of action versus completion. Or, to put it in simpler language, “To Do List + Pencils-down Deadline”.

    That said, I’m glad that you’re raising these criticisms…it’s great to actually look at these tools and ideas critically, and see what shakes out.

    Michael asking about smaller ETP version: That’s an interesting idea. Since it’s a PDF, you might try just printing the form using the “2-Up” option from withing Acrobat Reader.

  13. Guilherme Meneghelli 17 years ago

    Hi man! Congratulations for your organization system.
    I’m brazilian and I’m using your system, I pretend translate and keep your copyright, do you like the idea?

    Your system is helping me a lot of.

  14. JaFi 17 years ago

    A lightning bolt in the head. I had been struggling with the terminology of “task”. Then I realized it’s being used in the context of project. Duh (sound of me smacking forehead)!
    Maybe I’ve drunk too much GTD kool-aid but in the PCEO context projects are tasks, and sub-tasks are either sub-projects or actually next actions. Love the forms and hopefully with this realization I’ll be able to better utilize them.

  15. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    JaFi: Oh, that’s an interesting insight!!! Thanks for posting that. I’m still a little confused (I discovered GTD after I made the first few PCEO forms). I’ll review the GTD terminology one of these days and see if I can’t make some of the forms more compatible with that process.

    In my context, I think of a “project” as “a collection of activities culminating in a desired outcome”. Those activities are the “work units” in my collection, and I think of these as “tasks” that also produce some kind of tangible and useful result. There may be “subtasks” that themselves are part of a task, but they don’t necessarily produce tangible or useful results, but just have to be done. This is a very production oriented mentality (it’s where I’m coming from)…I can see why it would be confusing in the GTD universe.

  16. JaFi 17 years ago

    In GTD anything that takes more than one single step is a project(or sub-project, which can also be thought of as a dependency). The absolute smallest single next thing you can do is a next action.
    Vacuum living room is a project if it involves multiple steps – a) move furniture b) spot clean
    c) run vacuum
    Vacuum living room is the next action if it’s the next single step to take.

    Things you think are atomic next actions can turn out to be a sub-project. For example spot clean – could be a sub-project if it means – find cleaner, find brush, make trip to store to buy cleaner, research how to remove red wine stain etc.

    The idea is to really understand how many different things (and by association time) a seemingly simply
    “vacuum the living room” will actually take to do, and make you think through the scope of it. Are you really thinking “just run the vacuum around the room and get up stuff” or “clean the carpet as throughly as possible”?

    Call John is a next action if you have the phone number handy and are ready to call about whatever it is.
    Call John is a project if you have to look up the phone number, get the name of the book you promised to tell him about, and put together a list of other items you want to cover while you have him on the phone.

    So using that perspective – a task can be a next action but is more often likely to be a project. Sub-tasks could be next actions or sub-projects/dependencies.

    Does that make sense?

  17. Brad 17 years ago


    I understand exactly what you’re talking about, though not everyone needs to break tasks down that far (and some might need to divide them up even further!)

    In fact, five months ago I wrote a blog post on this very subject. I think each person needs to figure out the task granularity that works for them in determining their personal division of projects/tasks/next actions.

  18. Dave 17 years ago


    Love the E.T.P. and am using it to help focus my day.  Only one suggestion—- the lunch and dinner box throw me off.  I had lunch today (f’rinstance) at 11:00 and now I’ve got a huge blank box at 4pm when I would prefer the boxes.

    I wonder if there’s any interest in an all bubble-day version and just use a “C” box to represent

    Thanks for all the forms!

    (sorry if this is a dup post – I tried to send and it locked up)

  19. Nico 17 years ago


    I’ve been a fan (and user) of the ETP for many months now, and it still takes me 5 minutes on average each time I’m looking for the PDF’s. A clear link from your home page would be great. That, and I should really make a bookmark of the PDF page ;-)

    Thanks for this invaluable tool that made my life much more efficient. (And I keep procrastinating about writing a blog post about my experience with ETP ;-))