The Daily Productivity Planner: Plan Your Day By Your Productive Capacity

Update: The most current version of this aid is available on the Free Planner page. This post references an older version.

Hot off the press!: the [download#2#nohits]. This aid is a companion to the Productivity Heatmap and allows you to plan in detail how you’re going to execute the tasks for the day.

I’m taking my own advice here and releasing this before it’s perfectly spaced and arranged. Before I describe the Daily Productivity Planner in detail, I must give credit where credit is due.

The giant whose back I’m standing on: David Seah

I must credit Dave Seah for inspiring me to create this aid and giving me awesome templates to start from. Dave’s forms have been great for helping me to work, and I still make use of the Emergent Task Timer on those days that I wake up with no clue what to do. But I had a hard time using the Emergent Task Planner because I did too much fiddling and scratching and confusing myself. Note that this is probably operator error, but nonetheless, it wasn’t working very well for me.

Those familiar with his forms will note a lot of similarities. I pretty much scalped his Notes Block, since that worked well for me. I also picked up his Emergent Task terminology, since unexpected tasks emerge every day and require attention. Lastly, I’ve always liked the way he uses text to describe the boxes, and I’ve emulated that in this design.

(Dave, you’re a great teacher and thanks for indirectly mentoring me for the last few years. Let me know if this is too close to some of your stuff and we’ll work something out.)

What’s the basic concept of the Daily Productivity Planner?

The main thing I’ve been trying to do is to focus my day first by major projects, then by tasks, and then figure out when I should do what. The DPP has all of these elements covered.

There are five work areas to the DPP:

  1. The Projects in Focus area
  2. The Supporting Tasks area
  3. The Productivity Sorter area
  4. The Emergent Tasks area
  5. The Notes Area

The Notes area is self-explanatory. The rest could probably bear some description.

The Projects in Focus area

This block is intentionally small. Trying to plug too many major projects in one day tends to leave us overwhelmed with how much we have to do. I give enough space for three (3!) projects. If you can get three major projects done in a day, then you’re doing better than a lot of people are.

(Sidebar: I’m using “project” in the broad sense, meaning some key product or service that needs completion. Whether something is a project or a task is a post for another day.)

Notice the colored boxes? Those correspond to the level of productivity this project needs to be slotted for. Projects that require the most productive horsepower get an “X” or “check” in the red box, whereas tasks that need to be done but require less juice get a yellow tick. It’s hopefully self-explanatory why there are no green or grey boxes.

The Supporting Tasks Area

These are the tasks that directly support the projects you’re working on. The boxes mean the same thing, as some tasks require more productive capacity than others. I’m using tasks a bit broader here, too, so the task “Respond to Email” may include the sub-task “Check Email”, “Sort Email,” and “Respond to Email.” I’ve intentionally left it broad so that you can manage the tasks at whatever level you need to, e.g. sometimes you really need to list every step in the process and sometimes you don’t.

The Productivity Sorter Area

Productivity Sorter Area

This area is where the rubber hits the road. You’ll notice that the colored blocks are there but that I’ve also added a green block. Since the default use of this area assumes that one block is an hour, there’s twelve hours represented. During that period, you may go green on productive capacity, and that’s good to know so you don’t plan to work during that time. Take a power nap, stretch, meditate, exercise, or do something besides work unless you absolutely have to, i.e. the Boss is standing over you watching and clocking your work.

The colored blocks label that block of time based off your results from the Productivity Heatmap. Of course, you may not have liked the whole heatmap concept, in which case you can use the blocks to indicate something else. Just define what the colors mean and drive on!

You’ll also notice four gray lines in each block. The default context for those blocks is that they’re fifteen minute increments. Using them this way, you can just quickly write the task down on the third line and understand that you plan to do the task at thirty minutes on the hour. Alternatively, you could see the lines as listing all the tasks you want to get done sometime in that hour. Either way works, as long as you’re consistent with the usage.

Lastly, the boxes can be linked by arrows, brackets, circles, or whatever way makes sense to you as you plan. I tend to group several of the boxes because I like to schedule large blocks of time to work on projects, but that’s just me.

I’ve intentionally designed this area to have some flexibility so that as much usable information can come from one sheet as possible. You may not need twelve hours in focus, in which case you can just cross through the boxes you don’t plan on using. Hopefully the versatility here is an advantage and doesn’t lead to indecision and confusion because indecision and confusion are counterproductive.

The Emergent Tasks area

Emergent Task Block

It’s relatively common for tasks that need to be completed to pop up in the middle of the day. This block is the place to dump those tasks. If it’s one of those that requires more capacity to complete than some of your other tasks, it may bump them. Otherwise, it can sit there until you have time to deal with it. This area is helpful because it gets the task off your mind while you work or it makes you re-prioritize your work to complete it if it has to be done. It remains empty during your planning process so that you can review it later on to see what tasks you planned to do and what tasks you didn’t plan on doing–it’s helpful for future planning.

Closing the Time Management Loop

The major weakness of the Productivity Heatmap is that it’s just a recording and evaluation aid. The information pulled from it is only partly actionable because it’s too general. The Daily Productivity Planner takes that information and fits it into the other major components of time management: planning and execution.

And, as I type this, I just figured out how to present the Special Theory of Productivity that I’ve been stewing over. Look for that one to come out in the next few days!

Give this planner a try and let me know how it works for you. Feedback (good, bad, or otherwise) is greatly appreciated.

Grab it here if you didn’t already: [download#2#nohits]

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  1. says


    My brain is spinning as I try to come to grips with this. I will definitely give it a try next week and get back to you re. usability. I particularly like the box for emerging tasks because this is a part of life, and it minimizes stress and improves productivity to make note of items that pop up and must be dealt with at some point. After it’s recorded you can forget about it until you’re ready to action it.

    My only concerns are not with your system, but with me. I think I will have lots of fun filling this out, but sticking to it, well that’s another thing. I’m such a fly by the seat of my pants girl, I still have trouble really implementing productivity ideas. Like reading about them though!

    What do you think – should we all use systems or should some of us stay organic and free? Whenever I have tried to implement a system such as this, I wonder if I’m trying to change my natural personality.


    Kelly@SHE-POWER’s last blog post..I?m Going to Spain!

  2. Charles Gilkey says

    @ Dave: I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving the nice comment. It means a lot to me, seeing as much as I owe you for the inspiration for this.

    @ QRW: Thanks for letting me know you liked it. I favor paper based ways to track this stuff at the moment, probably because the minimalism of it. Nothing to fiddle with, no distractions, just a list of stuff to do and when it needs to get done. I’m looking forward to your feedback on it.

    @ Ed: I’m not sure what you mean by source. Do you mean the data in the actual way I created it rather than the PDF? If so, yes I plan to after I get some more feedback on it. I’m doing it that way so I don’t have multiple data versions to fix and release. If you’ve got Omnigraffle, I’ll go ahead and shoot it to you. Thanks for the great feedback.

    @ Kelly: Thanks for the detailed feedback re: the Emergent task block. I’m glad that resounded well with you, as it works pretty well for me, too.

    I think that the organic and free mentality is a system as much as more methodical ones. I think we should all, at the very minimum, think about our productivity and make the choice whether we are going to remain natural or try to enhance our personality.

    I also think that you’re right on the money that you are trying to change your personality, since I think we change who we are by practice. If we practice productivity, then we’ll change to become more productive, assuming we continue at it. Some parts of our natural personalities need to go, other parts are part of things that make life harder for us.

    I guess all I can say is try it and see if you’re becoming more free and fulfilled due to your increased ability to get things done. If not, this (or any) productivity system may not be for you.

  3. Charles Gilkey says

    @ Chris: Not yet. I’m in the process of developing it. Thanks for the feedback, and stay tuned!

  4. says

    thanks for helping me plan productively and according to priority – I can actually manage to sort out my life!! I like the practicality of your concept! Its Schort, Schweet and Schimple!

  5. Charles Gilkey says

    @ Twinkie: Short, sweet, and simple, with or without the additional ch, is the best compliment that could be given for this product. Thank you very much for the feedback.

  6. says


    You’ve done a great job with both of your planners – I can already see how they will positively impact my life. My only suggestion would be to make a post that would show us how exactly to use the daily/weekly planners.

    Take a typical week and write down the tasks to show us how you would prioritize them. Show us how the tasks/projects would be listed on both the daily and weekly planners. It would be beneficial to include some high priority tasks as well as some low priority and emergent tasks.

    I really like what you’ve done but I just need a tutorial on how exactly to apply them to my life. I think once I see the planners with sample tasks listed on them (as a reference), I will be able to take full advantage of them.

    Either way, GREAT work!

    Charles R.s last blog post..The way is simply to suffer

  7. Charles Gilkey says

    @ Charles R.: That’s a brilliant suggestion. I’ve been thinking of writing a users guide to the planners, but it seemed a bit overkill – why would a supposedly simple planner need a user’s guide? But then again, if we right, we’re having to relearn how to schedule our day, so the guide is more on how to do that than to simply use the form. This request is high in the queue – hopefully it will be out in the next few days.

    • stacey thornton says

      Yes I agree a tutorial would be helpful. I have been trying to decide for weeks on which planner to get that would be useful in life as well as business. I have just recently discovered I am a multipotentialite and am determined to get myself into action this year to reach all my important goals. Your blog has been very enlightening and I appreciate how you have given definition to and broken down certain things, and although I love to read I am a very visual person and learn through demonstration and examples as well. There is a lot to learn or unlearn and a tutorial on your planners, especially this one would be awesome! If you have already done this, then please point me in the right direction. ..Thanks for all you do.:-)

      • Charlie Gilkey says

        I’m glad you found us, Stacey. I’m in-progress on the tutorials – we needed to redesign some of them first to update them to our current language and it was only going to make more work to provide a tutorial for an old design! Be on the lookout for some tutorials in January.

  8. says

    Great stuff! I can’t wait to put it to use. I too am a big fan of Mr. Seah’s work. I agree that a user’s guide might be overkill. I do think that maybe two examples (a corporate-type heavy schedule versus a more open ended type of schedule) would be much more helpful. Thanks!!

    Jo Anns last blog post..This is dedicated…

  9. Charles Gilkey says

    @ Jo Ann: Thanks for the kind words. Dave is awesome, isn’t he?!

    When I roll the redesign of the Weekly Productivity Planner out, I’ll come back around and give some real use examples.

    Some of my recent posts have been more theoretical but still relevant to using the planners.

    I appreciate your time and patience!

  10. Thao says

    I wanted to printed the Daily Productive Planner but it appeared 404 error. So I wonder if the link is broken. Thank!

  11. DN says

    I think the same way you felt about dave’s when you used it is how i feel about this system. there are a lot of parts to it and like you its probably the operator at fault. i wonder if there is a youtube video of someone demonstrating how to use your planning sheets? thanks again

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