Day Grid Balancer: Assessment 1

Day Grid Balancer: Assessment 1

Day Grid Balancer It’s been a week since I first started trying the new day grid balancer form, and in practice I found that it didn’t quite mesh well with my expectations. Partly this may be due to the long weekend and the surprise visit of one of my best friends, which meant that I didn’t adhere to the daily schedule I’m striving to put into place. Even when factoring that in, I think I can still say with confidence that there are several aspects I didn’t like about the form:

  • Filling out the little day balance grid was confusing because my categories didn’t quite fit what I was really doing. They are not named quite right, even for me.
  • I wasn’t quite clear on what kind of things I should list. In hindsight I see I was mixing up several categories of task: things I want to “make time” to do, scheduled meetings, and ongoing projects. The sheet is also a little cramped for writing any more than a few words per item, though perhaps this is a good thing.
  • I had a tendency to just want to use the day balance grid to just check things off to try to complete the figure, instead of noting time.

In short, I wasn’t very clear myself on how I wanted to use the form, and this might also be due to imprecise expectations. On the other hand, I also knew that the first week run was unlikely to be quite right, which is why I’m doing this review. There were some useful insights:

  • There’s something kind of fun about the day balance grid that I like. People have commented it reminds them of Tetris® in its shapes, and perhaps that gives rise to the expectation of fun.
  • Merely checking off a box does make me aware of the other areas I could be balancing, which I think is a good thing. The current design of the sheet, however, doesn’t leverage this very powerfully. Perhaps a single larger diagram is the way to go.
  • Having notes on what I did every day to achieve balance is very helpful in remembering what I did.
  • My mindset was that of achieving balance through completion, not through doing. This may be because I feel I am bootstrapping a lot of projects to get new work lined up, and I perceive a long sequence of intermediate steps that will take time to complete. In other words, I’m “finish fixated”.

That last point regarding completing versus doing is somewhat subtle; I’m thinking that some actions are inherently good because it is about the time spent in the process itself, and other actions are good because they “finish” something that needed finishing. For example, I’m told that fishing is quite relaxing, and that it is not about actually catching a fish and (as I used to presume) getting to eat it. If one is results-focused, then spending lots of time fishing and not catching any fish would be a big waste of time. However, for someone who enjoys the experience of fishing itself, the entire point is to be immersed in the pleasure of the activity itself.

So there are at least two elements of balance that I should be considering:

  • Maintaining a healthy variety of achievements, which lead to balance of multiple prerequisites for security and happiness. This the working assumption behind the design of the current form.
  • Remembering to engage in both immersive and results-oriented experiences. This is a distinction that is probably important to note.

So what should this form even do?

And even more important is to decide exactly what this form delivers. I’m not really sure yet. If I look inward to see what it is that’s really on my mind, it’s that I transform myself into a higher-performing version of myself so I can get my languishing projects done. Just about all these projects are related to either creating new business machinery or creating new ways of interacting with people en masse, which is also beneficial to me. The net result I expect from completion of these projects is more opportunity, both financially and socially.

So why even worry about balance when there’s so much to do? The assumption I am testing is whether balance leads to consistent productivity. My gut says that this is part of it, and I keep coming across mentions on other blogs and books that seem to confirm this. Consistent productivity in my case is a matter of maintaining consistent momentum and motivation. I know certain activities inspire and energize me, and I know others drain me. When I am not getting things done AND not constantly exposed people energy pre-mixed with optimism, my motivation wanes.

If I leave this balance issue up to chance, then it’s pretty likely that I’ll have inconsistent days of productivity. This may actually be an acceptable choice, but I am also feeling that time is short and I need to get my ass in gear. Hence, the creation of a new form to help me track what I’m doing and improve my mindfulness. Improving mindfulness is, perhaps, the main point behind this form.

I’ll probably take a second pass at this in the coming week. I’m also very curious about other people’s experiences using the form. Feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll try to address the feedback as much as possible in the second draft.

19 Comments

  1. Corrie 10 years ago

    I’m not sure if a “day” grid would work for me. Maybe a week grid? I’m a strong proponent of workless weekends, so I’d probably want more of a weekly balance overview. Reminds me a bit of some baby-related knowledge that I’ve come across now that I’m responsible for feeding a baby—babies instinctively eat a balanced diet – but they don’t shoot for a baby food pyramid each day, but manage to get the nutrients they need over the course of a few days or a week. They might chow down on blueberries one day and then only want chicken the next.

    Just my way of integrating random parental knowledge with cool, grid-based forms. ;-)

  2. johan 10 years ago

    i personally feel it can be quite difficult to achieve balance everyday, especially when many of our interactions these days require quick turnaround.

    would creating a Week Grid Balancer help?

    some thoughts on this:

    1) trying to fill out the empty sheet on a monday could be good motivation to getting started for the week

    2) it acts a better snap score card mid-week to how you have been trying to balance your life

    3) “plan your day with ETP, end your day with WGB”

  3. Daryl Furuyama 10 years ago

    Hi David,

    I was wondering about your thoughts on using the “theme” section. I noticed that you used it for writing “Memorial Day”. I couldn’t really find another use beyond that.

    I’ve been using my mod for about a week as well and I think the “theme” section is actually a good space to put the date, rather than on the top section. I need to be reminded of the date for each day of the week and I think it would be useful.

    I’ll probably get around to revising it tomorrow. I can use the extra space from the top date section to add more “actionable items” lines. Can’t wait to see how your revisions go!

    As always, here’s the link to my mod if you wanted to check it out:
    Weekly Awesomeness Form

  4. Lynn O'Connor 10 years ago

    Since I downloaded it late last week, I just started putting it to use yesterday. I am doing with it what I mentioned—that is, already it forced me to think about the WEEK, rather than just “today.” Thinking about the whole week, led immediately to thinking about the month. This has been seriously lacking in my “productivity” efforts. I thought the week planner was going to be helpful and it is.

    Doesn’t matter what details you change (and I’m looking at the weekly awesomeness modification now—thank you Daryl, I will try that out too), I have my own replacements for “create” and “converse” since they don’t exactly match my “in the moment money making” activities (teaching and activities related to graduate school teaching, & consultation -for individuals and groups), whereas working on research/articles is maybe “create” and is also money making but of another kind. I have a grant that pays me for research/writing, but I determine the expectations of productivity, whereas in teaching and consultation, others are determining expectations and perhaps judging productivity.

    All of this is possibly irrelevant to what I want to say—which is that simply trying out this form/forms is providing something I have needed but didn’t quite know how to conceptualize the path to getting it (weekly and monthly planning, three month planning, six month planning). I’ll let you know what happens.

    An observation: Some people (eg me) seem to need a tangible, graphic, & concrete methodology to learn to do a facet of productivity. The methodology has to be attractive, accessible, and stress free (meaning private, there is no way to “fail” because the method is implicitly and explicitly revised by doing). Conclusion: However this form ends up, participating, using it, is providing something I need. I think I will also need something equivalent for month/3 month/6 month etc planning.

  5. Cricket 10 years ago

    I agree with the weekly totals being more important than the daily, but I also like seeing the daily values, so I don’t reach the end of the week before realizing a problem.

    I use a very different layout. I use one page a month, with dates down the side, and tasks (grouped by balance type) across the top. Some (clean kitchen, do laundry) get checkmarks. Others get time. It’s easy to see the current balance, and see what to do next. It also rolls over weekends better than one sheet per week.

    Currently, balance types are: Household, Personal Improvement, Exercise, and Long Term.

    I have another grid for weekly tasks, with weeks down the side and tasks (grouped by balance type) across the top. Again, some (clean fish tank) get checkmarks, others (write novel) get minutes. Some get both—I want to know how long it takes, but also have an end goal (inbox to zero).

    Tasks get subdivided and combined, and moved to a different balance type, every time I rewrite the sheet.

    The current experiment is an attempt to combine the two sheets. It’s based on my daily grid, but without pre-filling the dates, so I can use more than one line. It also has columns for weekly, monthly, and long-term-project. Task and time get written in those columns. The downside to this is it doesn’t include a list of weekly tasks, so some might be totally forgotten.

  6. Amanda Pingel 10 years ago

    There was a post recently on Zen Habits about doing more with less, and one of his recommendations was to have only 2-3 projects going at at time.  “Project” is defined as something that can be completed in a week or two. 

    As a Scanner, I have a tendency to have a whole bunch of things going at once, and to skip from one to another often.  Which is fine; it’s my way of doing things.  But I’m experimenting with doing so in a pre-planned and focused way:

    Each week, I’m working on ONE project.  This week I’m working on getting my website up and going.  Next week I think I’m going to plan out my garden.  The week after that might be getting my profile set up on Elance.  But I’m only working on one per week, kind of Blitzkreig fashion, and then moving on to another.

    So that’s what I would put in the “Theme” section, if I could ever remember to print one off on a Sunday, instead of getting to Tuesday and remembering that I wanted to use that form this week.

    Amanda Pingel

  7. Jimmy Liew 10 years ago

    I downloaded the form last week and used it everyday for past whole week.  I also printed and binded in a book, it will be easier for me to keep track of my daily task.  The only thing I like the most is the day balance grid.  It helps me a lot in archieving balance in my daily life.  Before that my daily task filled with only task, and I always has an excuse for doing house work, exercise and sleep.  With this form, it reminds me “work-life-balance”.

    I am looking forward to see any improvement of this form. Thanks David.

  8. alan 10 years ago

    A few unordered comments from my first week+ of putting the day grid balancer to some use.

    * I’ve found that tracking tasks accomplished on the sheet doesn’t work for me; I already have a very simple but functional task list that I keep during the day. For my use, the lines to describe the work itself doesn’t really fit nicely into my work day/week.

    * I think this means that I could ditch most of that space and replace it with a larger group of balance boxes. I do still like the “theme” sections for setting out my intentions for a week.

    * Since my 9-5 job isn’t necessarily about creating things, I changed the “healthy” category to “creative / healthy”, thinking that either one will contribute to my overall physical and mental health and therefore happiness. This way I get to give myself credit whether I go to the gym or practice the guitar. Both are good for me.

    * I changed up the weekend arrangement. I like the idea of some structured time during the weekend (keeps me from just lounging around if I’m not actually intending to do that), but I wanted to make it a very different visual structure from the work week. So I renamed some of the box categories: I tried “social” and “discover” to try to capture some of the kinds of things I might want to focus on for my weekends, and I reoriented the shape of the “robot” to be something a little more organic—I started going for a kind of spiral, but ended up with (I know it’s corny) a kind of boxy heart shape. Fun.

  9. serena 10 years ago

    A black and white version!!  I only use a black and white laser printer.  There is way too little contrast.  The page prints a pale gray and is almost impossible to read.

    And if I were to really dream big: a half size (‘classic’) sheet, 5.5” x 8” would be fantastic.

    Thanks for the ideas and inspiration.

  10. spirilla 10 years ago

    Some random observation:

    I like how the page looks, especially printed with a colour printer. It’s a pleasure to check it out, and still it’s not so functional in the end in my view.

    I have a feeling that planning out the 24 hours in a day is a bit too ambitious. I’ve never managed to plan out the 24 hours in a way that didn’t make me panic. perhaps one might aim for a minimum balance? at least 4 hours sleep, at least 2 hours creative work, at least 1 hour outdoor etc. and all the other hours free. How many hours could one then plan? That would bring inevitably to prioritize. All those activities are too distracting IMHO.

    I normally sleep 7/8 hours, so there’s really no need to check it every day. Cannot be bothered.
    It would probably work best to identify the 2/3 areas where each of us feels that there’s a lack of balance (mine would probably be exercise) and focus only on those, determining how often in the week and how long to tackle them.

    I understand this has a major draw-back, it cannot be generalized, each of us would have a different one. Or?

    I wonder what I am supposed to do for 4 hours every day with my home (I share a flat and pay the rent for one room and am mostly out)

  11. Amanda Pingel 10 years ago

    PS: I did, as I mentioned in the first discussion of this form, modify it to include an entire week’s worth of stuff.  I also put boxes around my cute little shapes, which (due to the tetris-like shapes) gave me 2-4 “extra” boxes for times when I went over the “required” amount in a given category.

    I think the point of this form is that you HAVE to categorize your time in one of these categories.  If you’re doing laundry, all well and good—that’s part of the “home” category.  But if you’re (say) posting your new status on Facebook within 11 seconds after you posted your last status, that’s not work, that’s not health, that’s not home…. it has to be marked off in the “happy” category.  And if whatever time waster you’re doing right now is NOT the happiest thing you could be doing, maybe you should log off of Facebook/Twitter/BBspot/American Idol, and do something that you’d actually want to mark off in the “happy” section.

    That’s what I think is the benefit of the form.  To ask yourself, “Is this what I want to be doing?”

    @Cricket: is there any way we could see your weekly grid? It sounds cool.  I don’t know how one goes about this, since I don’t really want to post my contact info for all to see, but I’m hoping we can come up with something.

    Amanda Pingel

  12. Amanda Pingel 10 years ago

    PPS:
    I finally printed off a sheet, and brought it to class, in hopes that I’ll remember to start using it next Sunday.  As I sat down, my classmate said, “Is that a fun game?”

    I do think everyone has to select the amounts of time they want to use for themselves: apartment renters WILL have a lot less than homeowners in the home slot.  So this might be a particularly good one to have a modify-your-own excel version.  Or maybe a blank grid, and everyone can draw in their own Tetris shapes.

    Another way to use this style of form would be to balance among several goals.  So if you were an employee with several projects, you might have OK work-life balance because you only work 40 hours a week, but you might want to balance out paperwork, Client proposals, Client follow-up, and phone calls WITHIN your job. 

    Or as a small business owner, you might want to be sure to balance current projects, potential future projects (marketing), and overhead stuff like accounting and bottle-washing.

    Sorry to post so much, but I’m really excited about this form—I think it has a lot of great potential.

    Amanda Pingel

  13. deb 10 years ago

    David,
    I tried using the form last week. this week I dropped because is a very short one with a trip in the middle.
    I think the main problem I had with this form is to determine if it is a planning form or an evaluation one. For me planning requires a lot of detail, yes that departs from a grand picture, but needs to be cut into little pieces to be manageable. This form was good to kind of plan to have some balance day or week-wise…(maybe too much blue on a tuesday and orange on a wednesday depending) and add a bit the operative details. … However, I find the form much much useful for the evaluation part, or the bigger picture. To me it was about having realistic expectations and then making an examination of how the week went about, this is because for the execution/planning/operation/details I use other forms… like the order up. I think balance really is something that unlike billing time is hard to measure precisely and is much more a feeling. I’m not saying that is a creation of your mind, because even if you think you have a great life, one day or another your body would crash down for spending 20 hours in the office… but it is really about feeling you are getting there. for this the nitty details or extra space you feel was missing for me was unnecessary. I think this form, maybe redesigned to be about the bigger picture planning/desire and evaluation of balance is a really great tool to be supported by other forms of concrete time allocation.

  14. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Corrie: That’s a very interesting tidbit about babies naturally eating what they need for a balanced diet. I wonder what happens as we grow old? Maybe we can remind ourselves to listen to our needs. I think the idea of a week grid would work better too, at least for some applications. Ponder ponder ponder!

    Johan: I like #3 “plan the day with the ETP, end it with the WGB”… maybe I am trying to do too much with one form.

    Daryl: It’s eerie how similar our design aesthetic is! :-) The drive toward awesomeness is a worthy goal. I had broken down the 10,000 hours into 5 sublevels, which might seem less daunting to people. Each higher level could also break down into their lower-level constituents (e.g. 1000 hours is comprised of ten 100 hour stints, which itself is comprised of 10 10 hour stints). That could be a pretty cool ladder to visualize. I would probably also make it somewhat variable-rate to make it more “gameable” in a satisfaction kind of way. Just talking out loud.

    Lynn: It sounds like the form is triggering the desire to create a clearly visible support structure. Almost like a game board, perhaps. And I’m seeing a pattern that there’s a desire to visualize overall achievement toward something, rather than moment to moment. I’ll have to think about this timescale. We’re almost starting to talk about ideal training / learning structures to maintain consistent progress.

    Cricket: Your system sound fascinating. Would it be accurate to say that you’re interested in metrics to measure your performance, beyond just getting stuff done?

  15. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Amanda: I like the idea of choosing a main focus as “theme”. How do you measure or judge, if you do this at all, whether or not your chosen project is done or successful? Or is the idea just to put in the work for the week and accept whatever progress that was made?

    Jimmy: Thanks for the feedback! So how did you end up using the day balance grid in the day-to-day? Maybe it just needs to be a large poster. I could imagine a map that one just fills in as things get done, every week. It might make for an interesting browser-based game…sort of a Day Balance Grid Minesweeper :-)

    alan: Those are useful adaptations. I think trying to force all the tracking onto this sheet is, uh, forced. There are better and more capable systems for doing that. So the impression I’m getting is that a useful form (based on the comments so far), is to visualize balance throughout the week, and this form becomes more of a piece for reflection.

    Serena: I’ll make a black and white version in the next round for you. 5.5×8 might even work for the design…we’ll see how it goes.

  16. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Amanda PS: Yes, that was the intention, to force people to categorize (and in essence justify) the time you are putting into it. I think the daily format, though, prevents it from happening because the emphasis is more on tasks rather than the balance diagram. I can imagine that the revised form would be more like a freeform crossword or word discovery puzzle, one that grows as you fill things in. The tracking need then becomes a logging of what you did to get it done.

    Amanda PPS: I got the same comment about it looking like a game. I think I will want to play that up in the next design.

    deb: Yes, I’m with you after seeing all the comments. Big picture form! I guess that’s what balance is all about in the end…so finding the right amount of daily reflection is the trick. The task-oriented approach is too heavy-handed. From the feedback, I gather that people already have a good sense of what they are doing, it’s just a matter of finding the perspective that allows them to qualitatively assess whether balance is being maintaining. In that way, this form is also a preventative tool. Hmm.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone!

  17. poscogrubb 10 years ago

    I enjoyed using this form this week. Things I liked:

    . the title is awesome.
    . top three things to accomplish.
    . long space for “other things”
    . theme of the day
    . recording how many hours of sleep I got each day

    Other thoughts:
    . the form needs a space to write the date number for each day.
    . the grid of boxes don’t really fit my style, but I love that sleep is at the bottom: it’s the foundation of your day.
    . that led me to think about organizing the grid like the nutrition pyramid or pyramid of needs. put the most basic or time-demanding stuff near the bottom. a well-balanced day will look like a pyramid. or put work on one side, non-work on the other side – a well-balanced day will look symmetrical.

  18. CricketB 10 years ago

    Earlier in this thread Amanda wanted to see my grids. I finally made a legible version, and put it up on my own blog. http://cricketb.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/task-charts/

    These grids help me balance daily tasks vs weekly physical vs weekly vs monthly vs longer term vs self-improvement. I should add a column for bedtime. They also help me balance tasks within each category, so I don’t spend all my time on one subtask while ignoring another.

  19. Sea 10 years ago

    Is there a way for me to fill this form in electronically? I’ve tried downloading the editable versions, but I don’t know how to use the software so that I can transform the blank spaces to accept text typed in from my keyboard. Is there something simple that I’m overlooking? Is there a way to make this so that I can store all my entries electronically, rather than write them out longhand?

    By the way, I actually thought the first draft was perfect. Categories are good, and the mix of verbs/nouns seems just right to me. Love it that sleep is included, and love the colors. Thank you.

    Sea