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There’s no inherent structure to work. Work has no inherent unit. We make units; we make tasks, and projects, and milestones, and goals. But nothing about those is inherent in the nature of work. Tiago Forte
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Discussion Forum > L&O Accountability Grid, Daily, with Mini-Diary and Excuse Log

LAO Accountability Grid, Daily, with Mini-Diary and Excuse Log

It works, and easily combines several motivational tools.

I've used one for four weeks. It's survived travel, sick days, exam week, and camp-packing stress. It helped rebuild momentum on several projects that had stalled, and encourages me to do go back and earn just one more checkmark.

The grid has days on one axis; fields (tasks, areas, projects) on the other and enough room in each cell for a word or two. I make a new one each week. For most areas, I do a different thing each day. E.g., bathroom sink, toilet, tub, floor, and whatever else needs doing. (Stay in the room, bored, until I see something, like that towel bar I've been meaning to fix, and do it.)

Each and every cell is filled in each day, with Done, Details, or the Reason (or Excuse) why I didn't do it.

Some lines refer to other lists, such as Recurring Tasks or Phone Calls.

If the weekly one-off list is large, I scan both the grid and the weekly list. If it's small, I might use a field that says, "Something from weekly list," or even "Second thing from weekly list." It varies with week.

++++

Why does it work?

It combines several other tools, such as "points per day" and "don't break the chain", a brag board, and, most importantly, an excuse log, into a single sheet. (Well, two if you have a lot of projects.)

(Excuse log only works if you fill in each and every cell every day.)

It encourages the Often part of Little and Often, which is a problem for me.

Daily tasks are written once, not copied every day.

Projects which have not been done today, or for several days, are easy to see.

The chart makes daily and weekly review very easy. It's all on one page.

The mini-diary keeps track of when I did things, especially recurring tasks where you ask, "When did I last do it?"

++++

Specifics

Currently, I have 30 fields. The number goes up and down, as they get added, removed, combined or expanded. There's plenty of room for more, so I can change it on the fly.

Every field gets an entry every day. If it doesn't get a checkmark, or "skipped with reason", it gets an excuse.

Some fields are for general records. (Appointments all day. Sick. Packing.)

Some are "tidy this room, again". Stand in the room until you see something and do it. Easier, more flexible, and more complete, than working from a set list.

Some fields are negatives. (Time spent on FaceBook.)

Some are subdivided, if there are parts I'm tempted to skip, or want to makes sure I don't leave all the tough bits to the end (pull one thistle and one easy weed), or I want to speed it up (one weed, a second weed, a third weed).

Some get status reports. Number of email left in inbox. Is it growing? Why? If so, why, and can I do something about it?

One is "recurring task list". Do at least one, and look ahead for critical tasks.

Most of the list-working methods will work.

+++

The chart doesn't replace my weekly list of one-off tasks, and the catch-all list. One of the fields is "see urgent task list". Another is "review and planning". That means one of: Weekly review, Purse/meeting book, Catch-all list (feeds urgent list), or any planning task I can think of.

Some activities can earn checkmarks in more than one column. If I help my husband helps fix the towel bar, that counts as bathroom for the day, do something with husband, and nag him. (Yes, he asked me to nag him. Otherwise, he doesn't get things like this done.)

I tried it on the computer and tablet. Opening the file interrupted the flow. (How many times will I repeat that experiment?)

Penciling in which task to do each day didn't work. I need more flexibility. Looking at the recurring task list each day combines accountability and flexibility.

A field for "one big thing" had mixed results. Some days it encouraged me to take a deep dive into something complicated, or make more progress than usual on a big but simple project. Other days, it became an excuse, or even pressure, to do that when there were more important smaller tasks to be done.
July 6, 2017 at 18:16 | Registered CommenterCricket
I used to include eating each meal. That helped me when I was time-logging. Eating took more time than I thought. However, I never forget to eat, so don't need that as a reminder. (Eating veggies every day, though, is worth a field. Carrots make an ok bedtime snack.)
July 6, 2017 at 18:20 | Registered CommenterCricket
This is timely for me. I was using a daily checklist. The list was no longer than 1 page with 1 entry per line. Then I fit as many days on the page as I could, until I wanted to rewrite the list or ran out of room (to update what was on the list). I would use a dot for completed and/or not-applicable today items, or F for failed.

I started using the system from nuntym's "Combining and Improving on DWM2 and FAF" post at http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2677931 and I moved the checklist to being items in the list, however there are several disadvantages for moving the daily checklist into an autofocus style list for me. (Rewriting, flipping pages constantly, not having a clear view of whether I'm being consistent, losing items somehow [forgot to rewrite?], forgetting to do some daily items for a couple days.)

So I was planning on adding a daily checklist to that system, and doing it your way would be an improvement on that as well!

MrBacklog mentioned that he also has a daily checklist that he moves forward through his list on a post-it note.

In terms of logistics, I found that having the checklist in its own dedicated notebook which always lays open on a horizontal surface works best. Page flipping for something so frequently updated and referred to is annoyingly slow. Using a pencil might be even better because I wouldn't have to remove and replace the cap on the pen all the time.
July 7, 2017 at 18:24 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Sorry it was actually Dino who mentioned a post-it with a daily checklist. http://markforster.squarespace.com/forum/post/2676829
July 7, 2017 at 18:32 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Cricket:
Any chance you can post a pic of your list? That'd help me see what you're doing!
July 8, 2017 at 18:40 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
Don, Much as I hate having two active books on my desk, I'm beginning to agree with you. I did it for a bit, then thought, "Inefficient!" and stopped.

Try leaving room for more than F-Failure. The built-in excuse log is incredibly useful. It helped me stop making excuses for some things, change systems so other things got done more often, and, this week, convinced me that the reason was I was too drained rather than too lazy.

Tommy, none of my lists are suitable for pics right now. I'll create something.
July 14, 2017 at 20:47 | Registered CommenterCricket
Here's a picture. A lot of it is codes. The charts aren't intended to be read by others. Most of the benefit is in the doing, not analyzing weeks later.

http://cricketb.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/daily-task-excuse-grid/

Password is "mf".

That week I experimented with a schedule, for appointments and a rough plan. I have mixed results with that method. I tend to be too optimistic and overwhelm it.

The next line is hrs apts, meaning hours away from home due to appointments. Looking at that often turns "too lazy" to "no time", which has a very different solution. Open circle means I wanted to highlight it as not done (often to remind me to do it the next day). One of the excuses is "tired, run?" wondering if I should not plan to do as much on the days I run. Ex is excercise. (Common excuse is Rain or Heat. Solution A: Get up earlier (nope, didn't work). Solution B: Treadmill (worked))

It also shows my ambivalence about knitting and meditation. I know they're good for me, but in the moment they feel like a waste of time. My current knitting project also requires concentration. Res means resisted. Focus means I didn't think I could focus enough to do the work (without making too many mistakes). Wednesday I tried, and make a mistake (that I didn't notice until the next week, so I had to pull out several hours of work). FB/MF means hours on FaceBook and here. Too many hours could be a cause of less progress elsewhere, or a sign that I need a break. Pocket/Feedly is a reading backlog, with a goal of 50 items per day, which I met. Untangled is a non-fiction library book I was stalling on. "Long" is because I hoped to do one long session each day, but didn't specify which in advance. Near the end of the week, I kept fewer notes.
July 14, 2017 at 21:41 | Registered CommenterCricket
Thanks for posting yours. I just completed 1 week using the grid. (Along with a D2WM list *a la* nuntym.) I was on vacation at home this week so it was purely home stuff. Funny coincidence that last night I also had the thought of circling the missed spots. Instead I just wrote "no". I'm not very good at coming up with the excuses.

Day 1 nothing missed (I used ideas from that day for what to put on the grid). Day 2 I "forgot" one thing and didn't have time for two other because I spent a lot of the day on a big project. Day 3 I "forgot" something important and then two were from being "too busy", and I skipped workout because I had "no plan".

Day 4 was good except for workout because I had "no plan / time" again. On days 5-7 I've been reading a book about getting in shape to get a plan. Since we're back on day 1 I will probably at least work the same exercises I did last week.

Day 5 I got a call from a creditor that I had forgotten about from 5 years ago. So days 5-6 were stressful straightening that out. Fortunately I had lots of free time to address it. I missed 3 things on day 5: "being lazy/stressed", "just not doing stuff", and "not doing stuff/call from [creditor]".

Day 6, "busy day" x 6 items.

Day 7, I simply wrote "no" on 2 items.

Now if you look at trends across different types of items, there is something worth considering. There are things I would do anyway (weigh in, get ready [shower, get dressed, etc]) which don't necessarily need to even be on the list. There are things I would do as needed although it's nice to be reminded to consider it (take out the garbage/recycling, laundry). Things that I would normally do less often but I have seen benefits doing it every day instead (check my bank balances and transactions). Establishing new habits (brush teeth before bed).

The things that I have been simply saying "no" or "too busy" to are related to cleaning up messy areas that I normally procrastinate on. For example, "make bed" is on my list even though I don't care that much. I have "clear breakfast bar" (a horizontal surface which is centrally located and 3.5 feet off the ground, so it is convenient for keeping keys and wallet and keeping open my notebooks and checklists); it tends to attract all kinds of items like a magnet. Also a task to go through old boxes in which I have thrown items into ("work on 'time capsules'").

I could easily find time for the missing cleanup-related tasks by doing those instead of youtube/Reddit time.
July 15, 2017 at 16:29 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
I forgot to mention a few notation enhancements I've adopted. I draw boxes for some items to make them like checklists, and multiple boxes if there are multiple items in the same grid spot.

Also to make it easier to see what's not done yet, I draw a right border on the grid boxes for completed items. The lines connect up with each other as adjacent areas are completed. It's similar to how Mark and many of us connect lines between crossed out items on the left side of a normal autofocus type of list.
July 15, 2017 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
I find even things I always do need to be on the grid because :

1. Habits that I've held for years sometimes drop silently. This includes things that I have evidence of doing regularly, like running logs and pill organizers that empty on schedule.

2. When I look back at the day and say I didn't do anything, I can look at the routine things I did do and feel better, which helps break the inertia.

3. When I go to check them off, I see the other things in the list.

4. Making groups of checkmarks reinforces the group as a single habit.

+++

I have several rooms like your breakfast bar. My goal is "one day, plus one thing". So, everything that arrived in the last day gets dealt with, plus one more thing. That works surprisingly fast, and it's non-threatening. Doing it that often also forces me to look at the system. Why aren't I putting things in their official homes? Often, it's because the official homes are really bad places for them.

I find working on a few time capsules, one piece per capsule per day, works better than one at a time. In theory, it takes longer to get one done, but I find this way lowers resistance. One thing from that box A, doable, earn checkmark. And one thing from box B, doable, earn checkmark. Not too many boxes, though. That gets physically messy.

+++

Sometimes YouTube and Reddit time are distractions. Other times, I think they're a symptom. I deleted a video game from my tablet, and the next day downloaded (actually bought, not elibrary) three novels. (Currently, resisting packing for a week away.)

+++

Two weeks ago, I reversed the order when creating the chart. Instead of boring, routine stuff first, I put projects and resisted things first. Successful experiment, in that I learned something, but I won't be repeating it. I had hoped it would put pressure on those things, but instead it broke a successful pattern of starting the day with small routine physical work.
July 17, 2017 at 1:32 | Registered CommenterCricket
First day back after travelling, and I'm very happy with this system.

I often feel overwhelmed after travelling. This morning, I couldn't even sit down and create the grid for the week. Yep, feeling of overwhelm way out of proportion to reality. Normally, I look forward to planning, since I know it helps me relax and focus. Setting up the computer was even more overwhelming.

But! I had internalized much of the routine, and believed it was worth the time to continue, even things I often put off as not urgent, such as self-care (meditation and journal) and "day plus one" for each room. Those things are important, and I knew nothing on the computer had to be done before lunch.

So, to work, taking advantage of flow, and roughly alternating short and long, physical and sitting.

Two hours later, I have journalled, meditated, unpacked (that was the +1 for two rooms), and done "1 day +1 thing" everywhere. When I finally made the grid,1/3 of it was already done. When I checked my recurring tasks page, I had done everything that didn't need a computer. Even better, I had not spent any time on distractions.

So, the grid, and the focus on small wins, is a good training tool. I don't see myself graduating from it--I need the safety net--but I do see an improvement in how I work when it's not available.
July 24, 2017 at 19:58 | Registered CommenterCricket