Emergent Task Planner Feedback Round 2

Emergent Task Planner Feedback Round 2

I hadn’t originally planned on making these additional tweaks, but all the excellent feedback had me revisiting the time boxing to take different schedules into account.

The original restriction behind timeboxes is from an older form, Menu of the Day. It was specifically designed to force myself to plan in boxes of time so I could maintain a “regular” schedule. This concept of boxes is also key in The Resource Tracker/Scheduler: once you can chunk tasks into standard sizes, it’s easier to “pack” days looking forward without screwing yourself.

Although this past timebox work was the foundation of the ETP, I’ve slowly come to realize that it is a separate product. This comment from Jason Langenauer is the one that broke the mental logjam (emphasis mine):

[…] Also, as I start at 7am, the lunch “breaks” in the day planner don’t align to any real break in my day – I just mark in a half-hour block when I take my lunch. I’d say almost certainly remove them, as people’s lunch times and lengths will vary, but I think they also provide a useful visual cue to find yourself in the day. Without them, it’d be difficult to immediately go to a certain time.

Emergent Task Planner Timebox Revisions


What I liked about Jason’s comment was the insight that yes, people’s breaks tend to vary (a point made by many others), but the additional insight was that the timebox design makes it easy to see where in the day you were. This was not something I had considered specifically in the original design, but it came along for free because lunch and dinner create temporal landmarks in the day, creating natural boundaries between “morning work” and “afternoon work”.

Taking these two observations into account, I’ve made the following adjustments:

  • Single customizable AB strip. You can use the C, D, and E bubbles for those shorter tasks as before, but for longer tasks use the AB strip. Not only does this give us a bit more writing space, but it finally frees the ETP from the tyranny of starting tasks at a certain time. That was my original intent, but for a general-purpose planner sheet it’s more appropriate to lift that restriction. For more structured environments (9-5 workplaces, schools), I can develop different forms.

  • Changed terminology for breaks: Several people pointed out that they take breaks at different times. Keeping Jason’s comment in mind, I left the “break” times colored orange, but marked them as midday and evening instead. Now they’re markers, not commands to eat or take a break. The implication is that you’re probably going to eat during those times, but now it’s up to you when you want to do it, and for how long.


I have yet to call printers and fulfillment houses, and I’m behind on several other personal goals from my Groundhog Day Resolutions. However, as this project is one of those goals, I don’t feel I’m doing too bad because progress is being made. I’ve also gotten some interesting contacts from a couple manufacturers of notebooks and pre-printed “Post-It” pads.

  • A company called Myndology contacted me to let me know that they license the Atoma Binding System from Belgium, which is apparently the original licensor for Circa and Rollabind notebooks! Myndology also make some really cool flashcard products held together with rings…drool! They are sending me some samples in the mail, so more reports as events warrant. It would be awesome to have a Atoma-based planner system :-)

  • A promotions company called Adlib Advertising showed me their printing on “Post-It” pads. There’s some interesting things like this executive set, which might be interesting for some kind of single-task based system, but I’m going to have to think about it. I could see this being useful for another kind of scheduler-based system. In the meantime, I’m just mulling over the possibilities.



p>The next ten days will be very busy for me as I close out several billable projects, so I’ll not be posting very much until after Memorial Day (May 29th).

Have a great week!


  1. Jim Rutherford 15 years ago

    May I cast a vote for anything that resembles a post-it!  I am a post-it junkie, and would purchase any of your products if it came backed with that semi-sticky goodness!


  2. andre nosalsky 15 years ago

    Hi David, what software do you use for design?

  3. Dave Seah 15 years ago

    Jim: Such passion!!! I’ll have to look into it now! Anything for DMM :-)

    Andre: The old standby, Adobe Illustrator CS2, with Photoshop CS2 for extra saucing.

  4. Luis 15 years ago

    Hi David-

    Not sure if this has been commented on before, but in using the time blocking I find that I naturally just use the first column in 15 min increments(E)and block out how many 15 min blocks I need.

    I definately estimate the task before hand, but for me it flows better to see it all in one column.

    Does anyone else use it this way?

  5. Samuel Kordik 15 years ago

    Hey Dave,
    I love the changes for the time boxing.
    As far as bindings go, I like the idea of the tear-off sheet held on with the gummy stuff on the top. I don’t like the idea of a post-it note style backing for a large sheet because the paper doesn’t “flow” as easily (it tends to get stuck on things; I guess this is the point.)
    I tend to use multiple columns but I frequently end up sub-dividing one of the larger boxes into 15-min increments. I like having multiple columns because it is easier to see the visual blocking of time.

  6. Ricardo 15 years ago

    Hi David

    I’ve been following your evolution of ETP and other PCEO gear and thought of another variant to try:  in the past, I’ve used a mindmap to draw out my spread of job responsibilities (not tasks though, I’ve used all manner of to do lists for that).  In the software I use for mindmaps, and the way I tend to lay things out, it ends up as a plain circle of entries.  I wondered whether it’s possible to make an online ETP which takes the form of circular clockface, with tasks on each hour/30 minute/15 minute radius – the whole list rotates around the centre and the task you’ve planned to be on at any one time sits on 3 o’clock.  This would obviate the need for a 15 minute timer and give the user a sense of pace as the further you get beyond the time by which you should have done the task, the more difficult it gets to read.  I’m sure it’s a breeze to code up….

  7. Paul 15 years ago

    David –

    Thanks for the ETP, it’s been a real help in my current attempts at organization. When I first started with the ETP I had my wife adjust the form so that the free-form box is the entire bottom half of the page, positioned perfectly for quick scribbling when folded in half. I’m not sure if anyone else is as determined a paper-folder as me, but since I’m always in need of scrap paper, it’s worked out great. Thanks again!

  8. Jeff L 15 years ago

    Dave, great to see you making progress on this.  Hope you had a good weekend.