The Grid: Daily Planner for Better Time Management
Once you waste the first twenty years of your life you will be more careful about what type of activities you let in your everyday life. I was living irresponsibly till the age of 22. Clubs, drinks, all-nighters. Nothing productive. I was pursuing the easy life. Till one day the reality train hit me at full speed and changed my perspective. I was transformed. From a consumerist, I became a creator.
How to manage time? Question a lot of people ask themselves.
You can type in Google time management tips and tricks and thousands of articles will unfold before your eyes. Hell, you probably found about this article by searching in Google. But how you can choose the best article, book, time management tool, time-saving app, paid subscription based software that will keep you focused on your work?
The answer is simple, you don’t have to pick or to pay for any of the above.
What I found out about managing time is that this activity is something really personal and there is rarely a tool or a guide that will cover your needs on 100%. The people who write about time management and productivity, the people like me, are sharing their experience in the field. And as you can guess, we are all different people. Meaning, we don’t like the same things. I love black t-shirts and I wear them all the time but you might be a person who will prefer the grey color or how the navy blue makes your eyes glowing.
What I want to say is that you don’t have to read about what are the habits of the most successful people on the planet to become more productive yourself. You probably already know what you need to do but you’re not doing it for one or another reason.
For example: you know that checking social media every 10 minutes is only going to waste your time and distract you when you’re writing an important email but you do it anyway. You’re fully aware that smoking can literally kill you but you somehow block that thought.
An essential part of becoming more productive and more focused during your whole day is knowing how you spend your day. That’s exactly what I’m going to share with you today. My simple system that is helping me track and manage my time better.
What’s The Grid
As you already figured it out, it’s a simple system for time management. To be even more accurate, it’s my simple system for time management. I don’t want to convince you that it will save you hours if your day or that you will like it. You might hate it. I don’t know.
I want to share it with you because it’s helping me. And hopefully, you can “steal” parts from it and implement them in your life and become more productive. You don’t necessarily have to follow everything I say below, you can just copy parts of what you like and implement it in your life.
I didn’t even invent everything myself. The block-based system you’ll see below I copied from this article “100 Blocks a Day“.1 The layout itself is something I figure out on my own.
The rest is based on my repeating actions every day.
Currently, the grid is a single printable sheet that can help you measure your time better for a single day. It’s not designed for planning a full year or a month but I do plan to extend that in the future.2
Layout of the Grid
The layout of the grid is super simple, one piece of paper with 108 blocks.
On the left, we have the hours of the day. On the top, we have the minutes of one full hour. In the center, the blocks are placed in 18 rows. Each row is composed of 6 blocks and each individual row represents one hour of our day starting from 06:00 am. The sheet ends at 11:00 PM. Meaning, you can track 18 hours of your day. The rest of the time is dedicated for resting – sleeping. Not that you can’t extend it. It’s simply how I spend my day that’s why I configure it to look like that.
So, let me show you what’s the layout of my simple time management system The Grid:
As you probably noticed, there is one additional box on the right that I didn’t mention so far. The box holds few symbols that categorize our main activities through the day.
Categorization of your day
I’ve created 8 predefined activities for my day and they are all presented by different blocks. I will go through them briefly one by one below:
SINGLE BLOCK: One block equals 10 minutes.
SLEEP: This square represents the time we spend sleeping.
GET UP: The Get up symbol measures the time spent trying to get up. It also included the needed time for morning activities: cleaning your face, brushing your teeth, etc.
EXERCISE: The exercise box is used to measure the time you spend training.
BREAK: Use this when you’re taking a break. And more specifically when you’re taking a quick break from work.
EAT: The circle is used to measure the time we need to eat. When you’re eating, no matter if this is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, add a circle inside a box.
TRAVEL: The travel sign is used when you’re traveling. In most of the cases when you’re traveling from home to work or from work to home.
WORK: The most important block. This box means that you’re working. It’s major because only when we’re working we can achieve what we want.
OTHER: The “X” is for other types of activities: hanging out with friends; playing video games; reading; grocery shopping; watching television; etc. Passive activities.
Every day we start with 108 blocks. Who we are and how our life passes is determined by what we put inside these boxes. If you’re spending your day mostly doing tasks that aren’t productive or are not bringing you joy you will eventually reach a point where nothing makes sense.
If you’re spending most part of your day scrolling through social media and talking nonsense with people you hardly know, you will never be truly satisfied with your life.
On the other hand, if most of your boxes are filled with things that will make your future better, you will eventually become better at your craft.
Track your day
If you haven’t done this before, take your time and track one full day of yours. You can download a copy of my system The Grid by subscribing to my newsletter.
It will be best if you can fill the boxes on every hour so that you won’t forget what you did during the day. Once the day is over, sit down on the next day and reflect on how you’re spending your time. Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to hide stuff or tasks you are/aren’t doing because this way you’re simply lying to yourself. Next, ask the following questions:
How many of the boxes are filled with things that bring joy?
How many of the boxes are spent on things that matter?
How many of the boxes are spent to create something?
How many of the boxes are wasted on dull activities?
Think of boxes every time you’re doing something through your day. Going to work and coming back home requires 6 blocks, while working from home requires 0. Is going to work in the office worth spending 6 blocks of your limited amount each day?
What do you think is more important: spending 3 blocks to read or 3 blocks to watch television? Which one of those two activities is helping you more in the long term?
Going to the cinema to watch a movie will cost you around 18 blocks. How often are you doing this and what you can do instead to save a block?
Blocks as currency
You can also consider blocks as your own personal currency. Every day you have a bit above 100 blocks and you should be really careful on how you spend them.
Spending blocks towards things that will make your future life better is basically an investment. The blocks spend on unimportant tasks or things that only waste your time you can basically consider poison. In a sense, the more “X” you have in your daily spread the more unfulfilling your life will be. The more triangles filled with meaningful work “>” the better your future will be eventually.
Spending/investing most of your block currency on things that won’t give you any future value will be surely devastating to your future self. However, if you dedicate most of your time resource towards things that will potentially change your life, will change your life in a positive way. Like people say, you reap what you sow.
The Grid Daily Planner in Action
In addition to everything I said above, I think it will be best give you a real life example. Below you will see The Grid filled by me.
This is how a typical day of my life looks like:
At first glance, the above will mean nothing to you. I’m positive. Dashes, circles, triangles etc. But let me walk you through my day. I will start with my mourning routine:
06:00/07:00: My day starts at around 06:40. I set my alarm for 06:35. I have around 5 minutes to stretch inside my bed and get up. Between 06:40 and 06:50 I brush my teeth and I wash my face. Then, at around 06:50 I start exercising.
07:00/08:00: I exercise for around 40 minutes, till 07:30. Then, I take a shower. I prepare my clothes for the day and the meal I’m going to have for breakfast. The breakfast is around 10 minutes and usually, I check my phone while I eat.
08:00/09:00: I get my bike out of the basement and I ride to work. It’s around 10 minutes with a bike but I add additional 10 to get my bike, lock it once I arrive at the office and get to the top floor. Between 08:20 and 08:40 I chat with my colleagues and I prepare a coffee. Then, at around 08:40, sometimes a bit later, I start working.
09:00/12:00: Till lunch, I try to do cycles: 20/25 minutes of focused working with 5/10 minutes brakes in between.
12:00: I take one longer brake for around 30 minutes to have a lunch.
12:30/15:00: Again, I repeat the same circles: Working for around 25 minutes and taking a 5 minutes break.
15:00/17:00: The same here. Nothing really interesting. Working and taking a break. I might have a quick snack around 16:00.
17:00/18:00: I need around 20 minutes to go back home and once I’m inside I put my home clothes and I start writing.
18:00/19:30: I write till around 19:30 and take a break to have dinner with my girl. Sometimes I write till 21:00, even till 21:30. Other times, I go out with my friends, watch a movie, or read a book.
21:00/00:00: After 21:00, I try to rest and do the activities I just mentioned: watch a good movie, read a book or a blog post I saved during the day. At 23:00, the day is over for me. I close my eyes and I let myself enter the dream world.
Benefits of The Grid
The main benefit of this piece of paper is that it’s simple. You don’t have dozens of things to clutter your space. My idea here is to predetermine a couple of tasks during your day and focus solely on them. Of course, avoid everything else that’s only wasting your time.
I will personally suggest typing the word “F” inside a box when you’re spending time on Facebook. “IG” for Instagram and “T” for Twitter. This will give you an idea on how you’re wasting your life. I’m hoping you will be shocked because that’s the only way to start making a real change.
You can additionally extend the functionality of The Grid. For instance, you can easily track the time you’re spending on task A if you type the letter “A” inside a couple of boxes. Use “B” for task B and etc. I sometimes use “W” to track how much time I’m writing and after that, I add the letter “E”, for editing. This way I know how much time I’m doing these activities.
Our time on this planet is limited and how we spend our current days will determine our future days.
I’m really disappointed from people who don’t respect their time or others people time. I personally think that such people are throwing their lives in the garbage.
No matter if you’re going to use the method I explained above or not, if there is one thing that I would like you to take as a note from this post is that your time is your life. Don’t waste it because you’re basically destroying your own life.
Tim Urban, the founder of the site waitbutwhy.com is a really awesome dude. You need to check his Ted talk about procrastination and productivity.