(last updated on September 20, 2014)
Back in 2009 I was preoccupied with “life balance”, and tried to visualize the hours as a kind of funny grid, which resulted in the Day Grid Balancer concept. I released it as Creative Commons, unlike my other forms, to see what would happen. Would I get any feedback at all, or see any mashups come back? It took a few years, but recently Frank Magnotti sent me a great breakdown of how he made the DGB his own. After I asked if it was OK to publish them, he went through the trouble of writing them up as a formal article; here’s his approach to modifying the DGB to suit his needs:
GUEST POST BY FRANK MAGNOTTI
I love Dave’s Life Balance Sheet and Emergent Task Planner templates. As an effectiveness coach, I’ve suggested these templates to clients to help them get focused and organized on their work. I made a few tweaks to the template to better suit my needs as well as help perpetuate what I teach. Here are the changes.
1) I changed the top from Tasks to Big Three Primary Projects.
In GTD, Tasks are 15-minute action items, whereas Projects are the big picture behind the tasks (i.e. “search for ‘emergent task planner’ on Google” is a Task, “Create my productivity system” is a Project).
Every week, you choose three of your most important or highest leverage Projects every week and focus on those first and foremost. Then every day, you use the Emergent Task Planner to choose the three most important tasks (MITs) to do that day and write out a rough plan.
For best results, choose a Project that can be done in a week. If you have a bigger project than that, break it up into a smaller Project that can be done in a week.
2) I erased the “Estimated Time” for all Projects.
As humans: we suck at estimating timeframes. The farther down the line we estimate, the worse we are at it (i.e. we may be able to estimate how long that report will take to create today plus or minus 30 minutes, but guesstimate a product development timeline and one ends to have undershot 2-3 months). So I eliminated the Estimated Time part because, frankly, I’m going to be off.
3) I replaced the other tasks for a Quick Plan for how to tackle my Primary Projects.
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” — Henry Ford
Instead of spreading my focus by adding more projects to the mix, I write out a quick roadmap of how to get from where I am now to accomplishing my Primary Projects.
While this sounds time consuming, it’s a very quick process. Let’s say one of my Primary Projects is to Clean Out The Garage. I’ll imagine myself getting the job done and start listing that I need to:
- Buy a few boxes & shelving units
- Take stuff that’s movable out of the garage
- Shopvac the garage floor
- Assemble shelving units for stuff
- Start moving my stuff back inside, placing everything I deem as clutter in the boxes
- Call the Salvation Army to pick up the boxes
As you can tell, this isn’t a fully comprehensive list of what must be done. However, it gives me a decent enough roadmap to follow so that when it comes time to clean out the garage, I’m there with the above plan of small tasks rather than the huge prospect of “Clean out the garage”. Comparing the two, which plan would you most likely to follow?
4) I added a section called THIS WEEK’S THREE TINY HABITS.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.” — Jim Rohn
If you want sustainable results and/or improvement in your life, you won’t get it by doing a lot of positive tasks one day. Eating an apple a day will keep you healthy. Eating 10 apples one day, then never eating apples after that doesn’t have the same effect.
This section uses the Tiny Habits principle taught by Dr BJ Fogg, the director of the Persuasive Tech Lab in Stanford University. He teaches that in order to create lasting change, we need to make habits EASY to engrain by making the habits themselves easy to do. Tiny Habits have the following format: After I
An example I’ve used is one Dr Fogg suggests: After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth. Flossing one tooth is very easy to do, especially if you take some time to make this habit easier (putting the floss next to your toothbrush instead of in the medicine cabinet, putting the trash bin closer to you so it’s easy to get rid of the floss when you’re done, etc).
This post is about the Life Balance Sheet and not building new habits (this could easily take another post altogether). If you want to learn more, you can take Dr BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits course for free at http://tinyhabits.com/.
5) I replaced “CONVERSE” for “SUSTAIN”.
I maintained the same concept as David’s in building your client base, following up on work and what’s owed to you, etc. I changed the verbiage to more suit people who don’t regularly deal in sales or marketing and yet need to perform follow-ups, which is basically everyone with a job.
6) I added to both HOME and HEALTH, to HOME/SELF and HEALTH/OTHERS.
I tell my clients to take an hour every day to get better at their soft-skills or what they do (their jobs, their parenting skills, their business skills, etc). I could see Home & Body filling this spot, so I simply added the words. Also, David mentions in his original description of the Life Balance Sheet that Health includes your relationships and family — your relationships’ healths, so to speak. So I’ve included Others to make this clearer.
Breaking it into HOME/SELF and HEALTH/OTHERS also further solidifies David’s idea to have the logical and emotional sides of the asymmetrical grid come together. I feel that writing it out a
You Don’t Need It All
Admittedly, the entire Life Balance sheet has overwhelmed a few of my clients.
“I can barely keep up with my projects, and now you want me to color in boxes as I go?! I don’t have time!” “This is way too organized/orderly for me. I can barely keep my date book up-to-date, nevermind another weekly organizer…” “I already use a productivity system to get things done. Is another template really necessary?”
Let me tell you what I think in this regard: The purpose of this sheet is to draw out a quick roadmap of how you want your week to go. You don’t have to use EVERY field or bubble in this template to prosper from it. The main points of this sheet are twofold:
- It helps you focus on just three Primary Projects at a time, so your week isn’t “eaten up” by all the interruptions that are bound to fill your day.
- It reminds you to strive for a balanced life, one week at a time. If you notice you’re working extremely hard at your job, but your health or sleep are suffering for it, just looking at the little robot-shaped pattern within each day will remind you that this balance is important for your long-term growth.
Using this Life Balance Sheet should help you focus every week on what you most wish to accomplish. Over time, you’ll start seeing your Goals and Projects start to come to completion.
Thanks for sharing your notes with us, Frank!