Play “Guess the Form”

Play “Guess the Form”

I’d recently corresponded with Dana Ditomaso, who had contacted me about getting the unlock code for the ever-mysterious Resource Task Quantizer. She wanted to work something up for her design studio, Liquidesign, up in Canada. Since I’m interested in seeing how people adapt the forms for their own use, I said sure. Later, I got a set of really cool forms that she’d expanded to keep track of the ongoing jobs…it was very gratifying to see these design ideas put into the context of a working studio, much in the way the Blue Flavor guys have with their nifty PCEO-inspired timesheets. Makes me feel useful :-)

Now, I happen to be in a project and resource planning kind of mood, so I combined elements that I like into a form based on the Resource Task Quantizer. While I like the intention between the two-piece Resource Task Quantizer and Scheduler, it’s really too cumbersome; this is the point where software starts to make sense to ease the burden. The last thing I want to do is spend more than a few seconds fiddling with a form. The whole point is to make the information easy to enter and easy to scan, to gain large efficiencies for relatively little (but important) effort. That’s a golden moment, and I try to design it into everything I make.

Project ProjectorI happen to be in a experimental mood too, so instead of making a form and releasing it the usual way, I’m going to release this early design. It’s actually a 3rd draft, but I’m throwing out a picture of it to see what you think it does.

The inspiration for this comes from a conversation with an artist I had when I was in design school. I had just graduated, barely, with my masters in Electrical Engineering, and was 100% sure that being an engineer was not for me. I talked my way into the MFA program at RIT, joining the company of studio artists and graphic designers in the pursuit of digital media. While I had a good electronic art porfolio, my engineering mindset was that things were for something, had a distinct purpose, and had proper methods for their use. You can imagine how this puzzled my classmates. If you can’t imagine this, it’s worth seeking out a bunch of artists and posing the same questions. It will be good for you.

Anyway, I was talking to an artist about a piece I liked, and asked what it meant. She said that it was up to me to determine that. She just put it out there, and while she had her own ideas about it, for her the art happened in the mind of the viewer. I can’t remember the artist’s name unfortunately, but the conversation pops into my head every once in a while, when I see the novel use of something in a way that it wasn’t intended. It makes me happy, though there was that time I saw Dad use the tip of my treasured Wustoff 8″ Chef’s Knife to hack open a can of tuna when he couldn’t find a can opener. Serves me right though, for all his stuff I messed up when I was a kid.


Take a look at the picture of the form. Tell me what you think it does, or SHOULD do. Let your imagination run wild, and I’ll incorporate the feedback into another iteration of the form. ARGUE ABOUT IT! Here it is again (click to see it bigger):

Project Projector Thanks for playing!


  1. Tyler 13 years ago

    Dave, I take a copy of the planner as it is, looks like it would suit me well.  No revision required.


  2. Dana Ditomaso 13 years ago

    I think it’s a project overview for a three week timeframe. I like it a lot! I can already think of how I’d use it in project planning…

  3. Bill Peschel 13 years ago

    I think I’d like this form, because I could get three week’s planning done on one sheet.

    The one thing I would change about this form (and your Emergent Task Planner and Concrete Goals Tracker) would be to shift the columns around. I’m left-handed, so it seems more ‘natural’ to put the bubles in the CGT and the 3 major tasks in the ETP on the far left side.

    Same with the 3-week planner. Move the calendar column to the right side.

    Thought just occurred to me: I’m a fan of Getting Things Done, and I just saw that I could incorporate Next Action instead of using for titles the big projects (one of which has been going on for 10+ years!). Using Next Action means I’ll feel more like things are getting done, rather than stagnating (which it does after 10+ years!)

    Right now, I’m fidding with your CGT and ETP this way: I’ve folded the CGT in half and slipped the ETP in my clipboard upside down. The CGT helps me keep track of the long-range goals, while the ETP forces me to focus on the “three tasks” I need to do that day. (Since this is my part-time work, I don’t use the bubbles down the side of the ETP; in fact, if I had 50 bucks to spare, I’d probably get you to combine the two forms into a one-sheet).

  4. y0mbo 13 years ago

    This form is exactly what the compact calendar is missing!

    I’ve printed out the compact calendar a few times, but always seem to run out of space to do anything useful with it.

    (To me) This clearly articulates the process of planning a project or work.


  5. Robert France 13 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    This really is the “Compact Calendar” on steriods for project managers and freelancers, or anybody with tasks and deadlines. Hey who isnt these days!

    When I first looked at the form, it reminded me of the A2 deskpads you often see, but then if it was A2 you could fit the whole month and many many extras. It was only when I looked beyond the form and seen your shades (cool) indicating that it’s letter size.

    For the 3 weeks at a time, I have to say this is good. 20/21 days is an average length of a working month??? So the B/W version would have no visible weekends, only days where there is manpower. Hence 3 weeks only shown.

    Fantastic concept (as with all PCEO+). Cant wait to see the first release.


  6. penny 13 years ago

    Dave, I’m drooling. I’ve been staring at some 11×17 figuring out the best thing to do with it.

    Of course you provided the perfect answer!

    I do think I’d like a small line or box to put any bits associated with each day. (in the middle section)

    (Such as to add to 31 Dec – Dave’s bday. party @ 8p)

  7. Henrik 13 years ago

    Project planning.

    It would be great to be able to use a modification of this form to plan human resources needed for a project.

    And how can you have time to do work AND come up with these brilliant designs and ideas of efficiency?

  8. Peter Flaschner 13 years ago

    Dave – I love it! The three week window seems a bit random. Four would probably be more useful for me, but I recognize the space limitation you’re working with.

    Are you using illustrator to do these?

  9. Rob 13 years ago

    I think you’re on to a winner here. Looks like it’s going to be a great planning tool. Personally I need a lot of space for listing Projects/To Dos (eg. 23 items on list for today!) But I love it. Can’t give more practical feedback without a test drive, but really looking forward to it.
    Regarding 3 week view, if the Day Names were left blank and backgrounds as a lighter tone, these could be used as they are in current version or filled in to give four working weeks [Work Days only]. Just a thought.

  10. Karl Whealton 13 years ago

    Enforced multitasking.  You plan the 3 tasks you are going to do simultaneously for each section of each day of each week.  The tasks associated with each plan are all related, even though all 3 sets are going on simultaneously.

  11. Karl Whealton 13 years ago

    Actually I think it is a detailed way of doing reverse planning.  You decide what you need done at the end of the bottom week (here ending 2/18), and plan that week realistically based on the actual number of hours in a week.  Then you plan the middle week (2/5 – 2/11) so that you will have the prerequisites done for the bottom week.  Last, based on what you need to be able to do for the middle week, you plan the most immediate week.

    This way you have a realistic plan based around more concrete tasks and detailed times for the next 3 weeks.

  12. Dave Seah 13 years ago

    all: wow, great feedback! you’ve come up with amazing ideas I didn’t think of either! And to answer some questions:

    henrik: it only takes a few hours per form idea at a time, and I count it as work :-) these tend to get born as I face particular problems…scheduling is one of them.

    peter: yes, it’s a funny arbitrary interval. I could squeeze four in, or drop back to two. I’m tempted to drop to two in the next variation. I’m using Illustrator to make these, yes.

    karl: those are great ideas twists on this! Making reverse planning explicit is a great idea. Forced multitasking is also awesome!

  13. Phillip Ingham 13 years ago

    Dave, love the idea of this form!

    To me it completes the picture, bringing all the important bits of forms together on the uber sheet

  14. Liz I 13 years ago

    Please don’t drop back to two weeks on the next iteration. For those of us (raises hand) who are lost in minutiae and panic, that three week interval would help us gain some perspective.

  15. y0mbo 13 years ago

    I agree with Liz, keep the 3 week interval.

  16. ashley 13 years ago

    this is a great idea! can’t wait to see the final outcome :)

  17. Donnell 13 years ago

    Excellent mash up. I can use this form immediately.

    I’m checking this website frequently in hopes of your posting a beta version.

  18. C. Huai 13 years ago

    Hello Dave,
    this is what i’m looking for right now!!
    i’ve been trying your emergent task planner and its awesome!! positive progression i have now. but i realized that i need something to give me an overall picture as well since the emergent task planner only limited to daily plan. i’m looking fwd for something which allow me to list down 4 weeks plan, i see that the example you have now can fit 3 weeks only. it’ll be good to be able to serve as a monthly short term planner

  19. emp 13 years ago

    Yes, I, too want this form!

    Drooling all over my keyboard right now.


  20. Henrik 13 years ago

    We’ve been guessing and guessing and we are all about to burst: please give us the form, the explanation and all the info we need to successfully use (and perhaps abuse) this wonderful little form…

    Pretty please with sugar on top!

  21. ashley 13 years ago

    sooooo, how’s this coming along?


  22. Mark Ayers 13 years ago

    Guess the form response.

    This is a time and task planner/tracker for a three week slice of the year with a year view to place the slice in context.

    I’d use this. I’d like space below the three week slice for notes and/or a column between the year and the weeks for more year in context notes.

    I’d use two actually, as I am tracking my personal and professional life in greater detail lately. I have an eye to consolidating the two into a single life. Tools for that are limited.

  23. Lynn O'Connor 13 years ago

    I’ve been trying to enlarge the form enough to print it, so I can try it fully. I think this form may serve to educate and inform me in exactly what is my weakest area—I simply fail at planning over and over again, I have more than I can do in a given week, I don’t think about deliverables by week, everything is by day in essence, and I HAVE to teach myself the fine art of planning at this point. I suspect that this form might be my own Personal Planning Educator (PPE), much as you have given us all our own CEO through all of your forms.

    Speaking of planning, this relates to post earlier this week, and over the weekend or end of last week —the impulsive (and or artistic) vs. methodical, or scientific creation-type method of working. I am a real live scientist (whatever that means) and I kept singing into the airwaves as I was reading these blogs, “How about the impulsive-creative scientist/artist” which is a good description of some of my work habits. Let me be more specific. I move into a study on impulse or spur of the moment creativity. In years past, that meant racing out to our local university, to the classroom of a psychology Professor to collect data from 700 students all at one. Then we changed to collecting data online, and I get a new study up on line—I don’t know if you have seen our online anonymous studies, some experimental and some correlational; to see them go to

    “Life in the office” is an experimental design, and “Emotions and Personality” is a correlational study. Having confessed how my studies, and those of my students happen, it gets even worse. I do the same thing with data analysis. I do it quickly before I write a proposal to present at a peer-reviewed scientific conference. I most often make a proposal to do a “poster” presentation. These can also be seen on a page of my lab’s web site. Then I stall around sometimes for some years, until the impulse comes over me to write the study up for publication. The proposals for conferences force me to do the initial data analysis. Next, the development of a poster or short talk presentation forces me to do the serious data analysis and short article-type handout, along with the poster. These activities are all done rather impulsively, lets call it moving by the seat of my pants, or taking advantage of my creative (artistic?) scientific nature.

    I don’t do anything in a very methodical manner, even though it is all science, from my first wave of impulsive, artistic, idea or conceptualization which leads immediately to a study (though getting studies online takes a bit of time and is being done by our web master/data management person who is at this time my husband David Stiver (he’s an archivist, researcher (library type) and designer, kind of person, in both habit and training—he has an MA in communication. Nothing is well planned in terms of beginning-to- end planning, although the inners are in some way planned. But a great deal is impulsive/artistic scientific method. This gets back to the first part of my comment. I do more than I can do, being an educator and scientist, in addition to having a small private consulting and psychotherapy practice, all carried out with very poor planning, nothing is for “next week” its all “today” day after day, even when I end up doing nothing but reading productivity etc. blogs, Science, Nature, and the National Enquirer, all of which are equally valuable for me (well maybe not the National Enquirer).

    So I need that form very much, to help deal with my impulsive/creative scientific method. I hope this isn’t too confusing. But as others have indicated, I need that form and I need it now. Only after I try it in my real life for a week or two, will I know if it is working as my PPE (Personal Planning Educator). I need help learning how to plan and not having everything driven by my impulsive/creative scientific method—so please let us have the form to try out for a while. I think you and I have something of the same problem, though you seem years ahead of me in terms of planning your projects. One problem may be that I have so many other things to do (and I just started a psychology, impulsive scientific psychology blog, I would love for anyone interested to check it out and see what they think, and give me feedback. If its ok to provide the link to my blog Dave, let me know and I’ll send it out to you and your readers. ‘’

    Thank you for sharing so much of your process, and for giving me a way to consider my real work problems (without making me feel guilty) and providing me with the beginning phases of structuring my work day.  One more comment, on my sleep experiment: I’m on day 8 and the last two days I didn’t awaken until 7:30 which happens to be a little critical back sliding. It takes me an hour to really wake up, warm up my joints etc, so rising between 5:30 and 6:30 AM just has to happen. 7:30 AM is a little too late, though it sure is better than it was 9 days ago.

    Please release the form as soon as you can stand to do it. I need my PPE! My weakness in planning may save me from boredom, but its still a weakness and leaves me with months and even years sitting on data without publication and only the yearly series of conferences with poster sessions where I present my latest data allows me to keep my CV hopping, and also ensure ownership of my production.


  24. Del DeVries 13 years ago

    Great concept form:  full year in view, 3 weeks of days for a combination of current actions, commitments, and a visual view, plus project priorities and details.  I visualize it working to clear the mind by logging the big picture and the big projects for a near term.  Not a day or week or a month, but a significant amount of time.  Reiniforces the idea that progress and significant achievements are possible … but also emphasizes the necessity of accomplishment within the time window.

    Good work!  I’m looking forward to your “release” of the form.

  25. Robert France 13 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    Is this still on your radar screen??