On the Road to Pre-Printed Emergent Task Planner Sheets

On the Road to Pre-Printed Emergent Task Planner Sheets

Emergent Task Planner Prototype Last week I promised myself that I would get off my ass and get a version of the Emergent Task Planner ready to price out at a printer. I’ve actually ended up with a new design.

The Emergent Task Planner is, based on the number of links it seems to get, one of the more popular Printable CEO™ forms, so this seems like a good design to create a physical product from. The goal is to look into producing and selling nicely-printed ETP pads, to see if people find the cost and convenience worth paying for. Because this is a product test, I won’t be making this specific version of the Emergent Task Planner available for PDF download right away; it’s going to be tweaked for whatever press process I end up using anyway. Don’t worry, though! There will always be versions available for download.

The purpose of this post is to get a bit of feedback from the public on the new design. I’ve already incorporated some feedback into this layout, but there are also a few new things that are worth going over. If you’re not familiar with the Emergent Task Planner, the 2007 Updates post will give you some background.


Daily Notebook For the past couple months I’ve been going to a coffee shop every day to do my daily planning. I brought a notebook with me to scribble in, and I found myself naturally working with the Emergent Task Planner layout.

Interestingly, I tended to draw the ETP in order of my thinking: first, I’d fill out the date, then I’d enter the list of things I needed to do. Finally, I’d draw a simple schedule on the right hand side. Notes I would scribble on whatever space was leftover. Because of this, I decided to swap the left and right sides; the major tasks + note area is now on the left.

I also got rid of the “hours” summary box because I needed the space lost from making room for three ring binder holes on the left-hand side of the paper. Personally, I never used it; it was a feature I introduced because one person requested it and I haven’t heard back whether it was that useful or not.

New Emergent Task Planner Layout Because this design will be printed on a real press, I am starting to introduce color sparingly into the design. Because I’m using small colored type, I have to be careful about the number of colors I use in the design so the screen frequency doesn’t cause the letters to break up and look terrible. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve had to have anything printed on anything, and we certainly didn’t have the cool high-resolution digital presses that are available now, so I’m looking forward to finding out what’s possible.

New Emergent Task Planner Details I’ve kept the idea of using 3 or 4 plates in the back of my mind, and they’ll might be custom rather than process color. For example, I’d like to use a base gray plate instead of pure black; this will give me better solid grays. Then I might use a green plate and use tints for that. The question is really whether I should drop the blue plate, or change the orange time boxes for a variation of blue-green. Or, it may be that with a high-enough resolution, process color will be able to deliver the quality I want and will be cheaper. Sticking with one or two colors would be cheaper still, but that isn’t very sexy.

ADDITION 5/13: The reason I’m thinking process color is because this opens up the use of more interesting imagery!


It was suggested to me that I look into producing tear-off pads with the glue at the top for shipping reasons; you apparently can qualify for media-rate shipping that way. I haven’t had much feedback at all from real users about the Emergent Task Planner, so this is your chance to let me know:

  1. If you’re interested in some swanky pre-printed pads at all, and…
  2. How you archive your sheets (binders? envelopes?)

These sheets should work well in 3-ring binders and for those of you with Circa/Rollabind punches. I’m also open to suggestions for alternative form factors; I will get around to making an A4 version if I figure out European fulfillment.

Any feedback at all will be appreciated. Thanks!


Now that I have this design waiting in the wings, I have to turn my attention to this website to make it easier to navigate. The navigation here has been horrible for a long time, making it difficult for people to find things like the forms, what I do, and interesting content. So I have to do something about this quickly.

I also need to make a second writeup for the Emergent Task Planner, and provide some more succinct instructions for use. This would be a nice pamphlet to include in a shipping product; black and white will work fine for that to keep costs low.



  1. masukomi 17 years ago

    Speaking as someone who did pre-press work for years I’d recommend going with spot color not process color. It looks like you’d only need 4 plates (green, red, blue, and some grey). Given, I haven’t worked with presses for over 12 years but back then spot printing was almost always cheaper (even for four colors) when you were doing relatively small runs (which I suspect you will be).

    3 ring vs. top glue… Personally I’d like both (3 ring holes and glue along the top). Have a pad i can use and should i want to stick it in my binder I’d just rip off the sheet. I made up a bunch of pads of staff paper that way and it worked out quite well. If you have a spare pad you can stick it in a binder for safe-keeping too.

    As for actually buying it… I’m not sure I would just because WHEN i do something during the day is rarely ever an issue for me. Usually, I just need to make sure the thing gets done today. Although I guess if i DID start using it some more of my personal projects might actually get done… I DO like the time stuff moved over to the right though. It felt weird to me on the left.

    While I’m not sure I’d buy this particular pad I’m sure that one or more of your other sheets I would buy, like maybe the Resource Scheduler, especially if it was perforated.

  2. Amanda Himelein 17 years ago

    I, personally, prefer such things to come in tear-off pads, because it gives me the most options.  I can put the pad in my binder.  I can tear them all off and put the pages in my binder.  I can just toss the pad in my car and always have a sheet available.  I can archive it in folders, binders, or just in the individual pads.  I can tear off yesterday’s sheet or just flip it up to reveal a new one.  It gives me flexibility, which allows me to stay semi-organized, even when I’m not fully organized.  If I buy a bunch of loose-leaf sheets, I guarantee at least 25% will be lost.

    However, in the interests of full disclosure, I will probably never buy one of these pads.  Like you, I can’t help tweaking my tools, and so I have my own design.  So if my advice contradicts others’, you should ignore mine.

    Best of luck to you!  I think you’ve got a great product, and I think there are people who would pay for it.  (Heck, I’d pay for it, if you could make it reflect my tweaks every day.)  Now all you have to do is make people aware of it so they can.

  3. Elliot Murphy 17 years ago

    I’m glad you are working on this, I will definitely buy some pads, especially if they are on archival quality paper that I can be sure will last a while in my files.

  4. Lou 17 years ago

    I’ve found your sheets useful for tracking emergent features for software products, tracking build times and secondary tasks (like surfing the web while builds occur) – in efforts of minimizing the impact on my day. In fact, since using your techniques I’ve managed to convert many managers towards your website.  Personally, I’d prefer tearoff pads – I don’t use 3 ring binders.

  5. B 17 years ago

    I think the tear off pads will offer the greatest flexibility.  I like to keep a calendar pad on a clip board to jot things on – and this takes it to the next level.  The “what else” section is great – it is important to be able to add things and adjust on the fly.  One thought is a way to indicate what you should do next and what is complete.  The time box on the right is key for billable work – I only use it for that, or for tasks I really want to track the time for.  Keep it up!  Unlike Amanda, I probably will buy one :)

  6. hornbeck 17 years ago

    I archieve all of my ETP’s in a small folder with no holes.  I would also be very interested in purchasing some preprinted versions that look nicer than my laser printer versions.  Thanks for making my life easier as using the ETP I have been able to manage my time better as I am seeing where I have good productivity through the day and where I slack off.

  7. Chris 17 years ago

    I would be interested in tear-off sheets.  I’m actually making my own “pads” of the ETS on 5×7 two-ply ( 110lb folded over on itself ) cardstock.  I just bind them using a binder clip and pull one out when I need it.

  8. Bernie Thompson 17 years ago

    Thanks so much for these tools, David!  They’re awesome.

    I like the tear-off pads with glue at top, 8.5×11. I archive all my papers in binders, so the 3 ring holes are perfect. I’m not a customizer, the current ETP form has suited me well. I don’t think the left-right switch of the content will be a problem. I don’t mind loosing the hours sum.  If you need more space (and I could use more for time-associated notes), I could also loose the .5, 1, 2, 4 hour columns in the time planning area, because I find myself always just drawing lines down through the 15-min increment boxes to note when work was done.

    I’d be a buyer of the pads, if the cost is near to/less than color laser printing—ETP is a great match for the kind of independent project work I’ve been doing.

    Thanks again, David!

  9. Freds4hb 17 years ago

    HA HA! You’re doing it! YAYYYYY!!!
    I like the tear off top and 3 hole punch together as you know. The format changes are great, they really add to the functionality and stay clean the Dave Seah way (hmm is that a tagline again?)

    I’m so stoked you’re going forward on this, it looks like that demand you feared really is there after all!

    You already know how to do fulfillment. I was reading my four hour workweek book (its already here and I’m halfway through it, so much data to digest). There’s fulfillment data in there that is awesome.  Also, tricks how to do it when you’re not sure.

    Dave did you go back to the four hour work week site and see the bonus site material, extra chapters and more.  It’s really cool (bonus web data for a book, how fun!)

  10. Freds4hb 17 years ago

    Oh and of course I’ll be buying some (and what great gifts for our unorganized friends!)

  11. Rob 17 years ago

    For me, the existing design is perfect, as was the 2006. I use all features, including hour summary. In practice, my day-to-day tends to emphasize time tracking over pure planning. Hands down, your design is the best, most reliable, convenient, actually implemented and kept on using method I have seen in twenty years of time keeping (engineer -> lawyer).

    Personal Preference: I like the schedule on the left side—marginalia can overflow from the note column; also, I can see, comprehend and connect schedule, schedule notes, and stuff in “what else is going on today”.

    I like the idea of a pad as an idea. I don’t think that I like it better than what I do now—print 10 sheets at a time, top punch and put into a two prong folder (blanks on left side, filled-in on right side), one folder per month. Also, I keep a few copies of some of your other forms on the left as well (e.g., quantitizer, goals tracker, compact calendar [used extensively as note paper]). Regrettably, I have a hard time imagining using (or finding a place for) a single purpose pad.

    Now to complicate things (you invited comment), what about a note pad using the compact calendar as a watermark down the left margin. I can see that edging out the standard 8.5 x 11 legal pads we use at my office, particularly if you saw a way to add a touch more of Seah styling.

  12. Jason Hoffman 17 years ago

    Just a quick comment: the thing I find most annoying is that I do have to download them and print them myself. I’d easily pay as much as $39.95 for a stack of 100 to come my way in the mail.

    And I love the redesign Dave, very nice work.

  13. Melissa 17 years ago

    Hey, David!

    Would you consider shipping to Europe? I’d love to get my hands on one.

  14. Katrina 17 years ago

    Hi Dave,

    I currently print themout a week at a time and put them on my clipboard.  So glue at top and binder holes – gives me plenty of options.

    I would defintely buy some and recommend to my associates.


  15. Mirta 17 years ago

    Dave, what can I say, we DIYers cannot help but to love your work, … This etp form seems to be even a better fit with my line of doing things – send the it over (.pdf and/or .doc), pretty plz! :D

    Now to answer your dilemma(s): As for pre-printed version, I am more interested at digital ones – I am quite satisfied with my printing solutions, etc. But I have noticed most of folks out there prefer ready-made solutions, whether due to the lack of knowledge, time, or willingness for DIY. I would need more space (and time) to elaborate this, but previous statement alone is a good and proven starting point for defining your potential market segments and strategy. Of course, a bit of more dedicated market research and testing is needed to confirm these premises, and fine-tune them for your particular case, followed by targeted promotion.

    Anyway, although I would undoubtfully support PCEO as a good product – for myself, first – going from handmade to mass production is a big step, especially when dealing with tangible goods. I see you’ve already thought of that. Interestingly, for some time now, I have been thinking about expanding my business with some printed products as well, so I have been giving it a lot of thought too.

    Please forgive me for the need to emphasize the importance of a correct cost-calculation (including what parts of production would you outsource (if any) and what will remain within your domain, as well as for the storage policies (paper, ink, final goods)), potential and target market size, reasonable sales and profit estimate, etc. It is a great thing (skims a lot of initial cost, now and every time you change something) if you are willing and able (skills, software) to prepare PCEO in a form acceptable for digital printing (if you did the same for your business cards, you know itćs usually .crd – best if CorelDraw 12 – or .pdf, converted into curves, CMYK colours), so the (digital) printing supplier remains within lower-level operations (and costs), ie. loads the file, calibrates the colors and prints out the order.
    Before you do anything major, may I suggest you pre-print sample series yourself or arrange for 5-10 copies with your intended supplier, and then present them to most-prospective customers. The idea is to, ideally, get them to pre-order, so you already know where your pre-printed pad goes. Perhaps you can offer them standard and customized versions – ie. standard would be non-altered, as is, and customized might range from replacing your logo with customer’s company, to insertion of company-specific reminders or alterations. So would be the price range. And there is still always a room for disclosing where the actual credits go (designer and printing house), just in smaller print. Perhaps you’ll even come up with the new ideas to offer to the them (and the whole DIY community as well).

    Hope this helps a bit – there’s much more where these came from (experience + marketing & management studies).

  16. Mirta 17 years ago

    Sorry for some mistypes in the last comment…

    As for question 2, I am in Europe, therefore I use A formats (A4, etc.). Storing would depend on what I did with the info written on them. Ie., if I processed all the necessary info – transferred them to a more appropriate sheet of paper or place – then I would throw the paper into trash, or use it as a scrap paper.

    On the other hand, as long as there is something on this ETP paper to be processed, I would punch it with Rollabind (hopefully getting one these days), or store in a binder (2- or 4-holed) or envelope (transparent or plain A4+ for mailing).

  17. Beverly 17 years ago

    Just the other day I was scribbling in my moleskin at the coffee shop and started thinking, what if Dave made the ETP into little carry around note books? And now your post.

    Actually, my work load has been tremendous lately and I’ve been wrestling with some organizational control issues:
    Now with the ETP process I print out a set each week, and file a daily sheet into a 3 ring binder each day – with the hours per project totaled and circled.
    I think I could adjust to the right side time sheet and I like breaking it up into the 3 task approach – The design is simple and effective.
    Also, while the color is attractive, it is not imperative to me since the design functions successfully in black and white.

    While I would buy the pads, I can’t help thinking how the filed task sheets create a work journal of sorts, and I’m wondering how a moleskin/day-planner format work?

  18. Ben 17 years ago

    I’d consider purchasing them if they included a lined back side for my journal entry for the day. Or, it could be a grid… in light gray ink.

  19. Benny 17 years ago

    I would be very interested in purchasing them.  Also, I’d prefer the pad with glue at the top, without holes.  I’m fairly new to the ETP, but I plan to archive them in a Circa notebook.  Keep up the good work!

  20. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Wow, lots of great comments!

    I’ll process them while I’m down in Davis Square tomorrow morning at a coffee shop, but I can see a lot of interesting things to explore in the next post.

    With any luck, I’ll be talking to some local print people soon.

    I like that idea of having stuff printed on the back, so I’ll have to get that priced out.

  21. Lynn O'Connor 17 years ago

    Great! We’ve all been waiting for you to do this. I use the ETP almost every day, its helping me face my difficulty with planning, making it very concrete and obvious. I use both 3 hole notebooks and circa, so I would like the space on the left, so I can punch whichever I’m using for a day’s planning. Right now the ETB are in a “Next Action” circa notebook, side by side with my lists by context. I don’t keep them however, although I should and reading these responses made me see the wisdom in that. I would buy them, I might not pay over $20 for 100, but I’d easily pay $30 for 300, on decent quality paper. I have been thinking over messing around with some that you have on powerpoint or .doc, to make them perfect for graduate students in clinical psychology, working on their dissertations etc. For me, they are just about perfect as they are, although I know I would like the rearrangement with the hard edged schedule on the right. I use hours strip on the right at the moment for the hard edged appointments I have, clients, supervisees, and students. I’m still having trouble planning all the rest, my own products, writing, research, etc. I say I’m going to do x, y, or z and then don’t do it. But using the ETP at least I know what I said I would do. I loved the idea of you making up a version in a small moleskin type book. I use that for my constant note taking by hand because it IS in a book, and won’t get lost. I’m still screwing around with what program should be my “note-taking” digital method. I wish I would settle on some decision. For now I am happy with Vitalist for my lists, a Circa or three-ringed note book for printed out lists and ETP for details, the CGT for keeping track of time spend on a big project beyond one day. I will definitely buy this product, for convenience and I suspect it might look quite a bit better than what my lasar printer produces.

    I would also like your mind around how to create something like this for a week, since I am having such a problem with planning beyond a day.


  22. Laurie 17 years ago

    David—I have been using the planner sheets for a few months and they have been great!  The changes have been very useful.  I have been 3-hole punching them to store them.  I use the total hours section at the end of the task but do not use the incrument bubbles. I like the daily schedule on the left margin .  But, if majority rules—I’ll bend.  Thanks again for your handy work—

  23. Lori Grant 17 years ago

    David, I can’t wait for your create a physical product that I can buy! My feedback is either the 3-hole or the tear-off pads. I would use both.

    I archive using binders. I’ve used so many different planners from Franklin Covey to Moleskine, but your forms work best for me.  Thank you creating and letting your readers download.

  24. Robert France 17 years ago

    Dave – Excellent idea. An a4 version would be the ultimate for us Europeans. Though in the interests of cost saving on the first print run. I would settle for the US standard.

    Interestingly enough I stumbled upon this. http://www.behance.com/Outfitter – Now I am not convinced about their methodology over ETP, as ETP works for me, but I do like the idea of having the option of Pad or Book. The idea of dot grids on the back page in the book, reflects in the cost.

    As for the total hours column, I use this, as this makes it easy to see what is billable hours per task at a glance. It does not need to be as wide as the current version, 2 or 3 bubbles wide would be sufficient.

    The daily schedule being switched to the right, is such a logical move.

    In place of the Week No and Day of the week in the header, I would love to see this blank. It would then allow me to give headings to my day’s. There are days where I am on site with clients, and there are days when I am working from home etc

    Awaiting your first in-print product, credit card in hand.


  25. Jess 17 years ago

    I’ve been using the planner for months now and love it.  I would definitly purchase pads of the planner sheets, and I’d also like them three ring punched because I archive them monthly in a three ring binder.  Also, like Laurie, I use the hour column regularly and only rarely use the increment bubbles.

  26. Jeff Torgerson 17 years ago

    I had taken an earlier version of your ETP and decided it was going to be a replacement for not only tracking my work, but keeping basic notes as well.

    I took the PDF and printed multiple copies, then I ran over to Kinkos and had them spiral bind the ETP with a black plastic cover and back.  I then use a blue post it ‘tab’ to track my TODAY location.  I can not only now track today’s stuff, but write things on upcoming days and go back and look at notes from previous days!

    This works like a champ..

    Now.. I personally like the empty white space below for what else is going on today, and I dont use the estimated blocks for tasks.  I just write tasks and try to put them on my schedule for time to complete each day.

    So, maybe you could sell the PDF also so I can go create my own sprial bind versions at Kinkos.  The tear off sheet just does not work for the way I use it.

    (with that said, the current version I have is working great, not exactly sure why i’d feel the need to upgrade to your new version for a cost, but for some reason it feels nicer to me)

  27. Corrie 17 years ago

    I think I’m breaking the rules because my comments don’t really have anything to do with the ETP pad idea (except to say that they look AWESOME!), but as a DIYer I would be willing to pay for an ebook or printed pamphlet for your “distilled thoughts” about the ETP and planning your day. Lots of this is in your blog already, but this goes back to the idea of getting paid for your “ideas”—if you can distill the thoughts and process you’ve gone through to get to the point of designing the ETP, that’s something that could be very valuable to me and the others of us who like to make our own forms. Just a thought I was distracted with this morning. :-)

  28. Jon 17 years ago

    Looking good Dave! Would defo buy some as you know :-)

    I must admit I am a blue man rather than green though.

  29. Jesse J. Anderson 17 years ago

    ahh, I’m actually halfway creating my own remix of the ETP which includes a similiar “dot grid” as this version.  Were you also inspired by Behance?

  30. Robert France 17 years ago

    Or was Behance inspired by Dave?

  31. kelley 17 years ago

    I would have a purchase order request to my bookkeeper before you say “they’re in” Honestly, just let me know the price!
    We have more than half of the office using the task tracker now, So I think tear off sheets would be the best, we could buy a few pads and all share them!

  32. Danny Smith 17 years ago

    Hi Dave, I’ve been using the ETP for a few months now (and your original form for bloody ages) and I’d love to buy some on a tear off pad.

    In common with a few other commenters I live in Europe and so everything I use is A4 size. On the subject of shipping to Europe perhaps if there’s a lot of interest you coud ship a bunch to someone and thay could send them on.

  33. Johannes 17 years ago

    I’m from Germany. I have been using the ETP for quite some time now. I print them out and put them on a clipboard. I archive them in manila folders.

    What annoys me the most (which shows how much I love the form) are the one hour breaks. I don’t work in 4-hour shifts. I start with 2 hours then have a 30-minutes-break and so on. So I would prefer all of the hour markings to be the same, from top to bottom so that I can decide for myself when to have my breaks and how long without “breaking” the design.

  34. emp 17 years ago

    Great stuff, definitely tear-off, so I can hole-punch them myself.

    Being in Europe, I also use A4, and pre-holed sheets would just be a hassle, as we only have 2 holes for filing papers.

  35. Jesse J. Anderson 17 years ago

    ahh… just noticed that your new design got rid of the TOTAL HRS box at the end of each task.

    Sad to say that without this I probably will continue to just print out the lasers because this is pretty useful for my workflow.  At the end of the day (I use this at my day job, not as a freelancer) I add up all my “bubbles” and throw the total hours in… then when I have a chance tto log the billable time I will circle the TOTAL HRS to let my self know that those hours have been tracked, that way I ccan take a quick glance through the last couple days to make sure I don’t forget to track something.

    Although now that I think about it this could possibly change as I’ve just begun using the Resource Scheduler & Resource Task Quantizer combination which could possibly erve to track hours in the future… but as of now these estimated hours are kind of vital to my workflow.

  36. Kyle 17 years ago

    I would have to selectable versions.  One with the scheduling on the right (new design) and one with it on the left (old design form, new design).

    I think a tear-off and 3-ring would be best for those who want versatility.

  37. Tanja 17 years ago

    I would buy pre-printed ETP’s. I’ve been amazed that there aren’t GTD-type pre-printed tools available.

    I would however like things like “tasks due today” “calls to make” …

    A tear-off 4 ring would be my preference.

    Great plan!

  38. Don 17 years ago

    <li>would buy a pad</li>
    <li>In Europe too (UK). </li>
    <li>already got behance (paid a fortune to get a ton of it over here).</li>
    <li>prefer A4</li>
    <li>prefer tear-off</li>
    <li>prefer un-punched (will punch myself if necessary)</li>

  39. Don 17 years ago

    PS I use a laminated mini calendar or whatever you call it (sorry forgot name) as a bookmark in my pads and would pay or like it if some those came free with an order. You could put other marketing material and detaisl on the back maybe on a ‘free’ one. Like a business card.

  40. So glad this is happening!
    * like the time circles on the right
    * prefer a pad with glue on top
    * no major opinion on three hole punch (maybe 60-40 toward yes on that)
    * it was hard to tell – are the lines tall enough for me to write in?  otherwise, just so glad to get these once you finalize things!

  41. Alison Pope 17 years ago

    I’ve been using ETP for a while now.  I started on A4 but I just don’t work that ‘big’ (for what ever reason???).  I’ve gradually downsized to a mthod that involves printing them 4-up on a sheet of A4 and then strapping the current day to the front of my Moleskine, with a stock in the pocket for refills.  I therefore probably wouldn’t buy a full sized pad but would be interested if you ever decided to do a smaller tear off pad (and fulfill to Europe – looks like you have a lot of fans over here too).

    Best of luck with your venture

  42. Mark Patterson 17 years ago

    Thanks, Dave—I love your site, info, etc., etc. In answer to your questions:

    <li>Preprinted pads: Honestly, not for the etp. I have a modified version I use (complete with the “concept stolen from David Seah at bottom!) that adds a few things: Daily, weekly, and monthly routine tasks (like creating an ETP, checking email, etc.), has 12 tasks, and does not use scheduling boxes as you do (although, I am still contemplating using them…)</li>
    <li>I archive my sheets using manila folders, one per month.</li>

    I use three forms regularly: The modified ETP, a modified Weekly Resource Scheduler, and the Emergent Task Timer. The ETT is vital to me, since my day is “interrupt-driven”, and I no longer have the luxury of devoting hours of uninterrupted time to specific tasks.

    All of these are archived in the monthly folder.

  43. Bospat 17 years ago

    Now that you are on a fitness mission, how about a fitness block?

    I use:

    Aerobics (Time/Type)
    Sups (Situps)
    Pups (Pushups)

    Maybe the bubbles could indicate reps/sets of 5/10 or time for aerobic activity….

    It could require a separate planner as well….