Living in Harmony
Living a balanced life is a hard thing nowadays. Between plowing throught the stacks atop our desks, responding to urgent requests for meetings, and spending goodly amounts of time commuting to and fro, it's difficult to keep track of the big picture, allocating enough of our energies to those non-work issues which are truly meaningful to us. Spending time with family, reminding oneself of exercise, and seeking ways to replenish our inner selves -- all these get lost as we plunge head-first into our action lists.
We need to reach an equilibrium, figure a way to allow all of the various facets of our lives to work together. This is the purpose of the Harmony form. (Yes, Hipster PDA fans... there's some shiny new cards ready to download below.)
Stephen R. Covey wasn't the first to point out that there's more to life than a nine-to-five job, and that all of us have various roles to fulfill, along with many goals we can set to provide for well-rounded self-development. (You need only wander through your local bookstore's self-help section to understand why this is the most profitable subject for publishers today.) But you have your calendar, your action lists, so you're all set, right? The problem with many generic forms and calendars is that there's no dedicated prompts to plan for such things, so you completely forget about anything other than the teetering pile on the corner of your desk and the fires raging out of control. That's where the Harmony form (and Hipster cards) come in.
Let's take a little tour before we begin, shall we? You can grab the Harmony in both classic and A5 sizes from the aptly-named D*I*Y Planner 3 Classic/A5 download page, or you can snatch our brand-spanking-new Hipster PDA cards (still in draft form) right here:
- Harmony (draft), 1-up PDF, for printing onto single index cards
- Harmony (draft), 4-up PDF, for printing four to a page of card stock, then cutting (works for all printers)
- Harmony (draft), graphics version, for pasting into your favourite layout program
(Yes, consider these a sneak peek into the D*I*Y Planner 3 Hipster PDA Edition. Sshhhh!)
Update: Note that these templates are now available in their finished form in D*I*Y Planner 3. You should download those files instead. (Harmony is in the Core package of the Classic/A5 version, and in all the main Hipster PDA Edition kits.)
Note that, due to obvious size restrictions, not everything is on the hPDA size card. The final release version has a double-sided card for those who prefer to do a lot of planning. I'm going to refer mainly to the full-size form here, so look for the icons I mention.
Starting up top, we have the word "Harmony". Believe me, this wasn't an easy choice. There were dozens of good suggestions from DiyP3 helpers, many of which sounded far more professional (if not oblique), but I finally decided on the new-agey harmony, because this is ultimately the main purpose of the card: ensuring that all the various goals, aspects and roles of our lives function in unison. Since I remain the benevolent dictator of this project, I opted to go with my gut here. And "Harmony" it is.
Surrounding the Yin-Yang symbol are four goals to set, loosely modelled upon Covey's "Sharpening the Saw", but designed to be rather more flexible when using other systems such as Mr. Allen's fine GTD. (Plus, I have to admit that I much prefer an ancient symbol of natural balance to a jagged and rather wobbly cutting tool. No offence to saws everywhere... they come in useful when putting up moulding.) The idea is to set one major but attainable goal for each of the four areas. Follow the icons, here:
- Head and arm = physical goal, such as a daily half-hour walk, 15 minutes of weight-lifting with dumb-bells, swimming for 20 minutes, or so on.
- Word balloon = social or emotional experience, such as spending a night out with friends, setting a date with your wife, joining a club, or touching base with friends that you haven't seen in a year.
- Light bulb = mental goal, such as learning how to change your oil, solving a NYT crossword puzzle, finishing a good book, or writing an excellent productivity-related article you'd like to submit to DIYPlanner.com.
- Star = inspirational or spiritual goal, such as reading a good self-help book, seeking the wisdom of an elder, volunteering to feed the homeless, finally attending the local church/mosque/synagogue/grove, or putting together a top-notch planner that's going to revitalise your life and work.
Note that few of these generally have any direct bearing on your professional life: they are there to help you to move forward and become a healthier, smarter, wiser and more beneficial member of society.
The section with the telescope is for you to write down your chief goal for the week. Think "vision": if you had one underlying and major goal to achieve this week, what would it be? Don't mince words, here: be direct, be assertive. Writing this down can help you keep your mind returning to the thing that matters most at the moment.
The flag and the areas below it (well, on the classic/A5 form) are for your flagged projects. Let me explain. If you use GTD and paper, you probably keep returning to your project lists, checking to see what the main items are, and then using these to feed your next actions. Out of sight is out of mind, however, and unless you check these project lists very often, you can lose track of what has to be done. Use the flagged project areas to write down each major item to be completed and its key objectives. Then, using these to focus, fill out your next actions lists (on whatever form you use for that -- I use Satellite Action Cards). For example, you may flag "Q3 Sales Report by Friday", with objectives including a professionally-designed kit, Joe collation of last month's sales figures, and district managers' status reports. These flagged items might trigger the next actions "Call art department to reserve Thursday afternoon", "Call Joe about store #2's missing inventory" and "Email Bill to get his behind in gear".
Now, there are some mysterious half-egg spaces bordering equally mysterious blank headers. While you can use these for more flagged projects on your hPDA card, the larger classic/A5 form has these specifically designed for roles. Remember that we're trying to live in harmony here? Well, we all do things outside of our work lives. You might be a parent, an employer, a spouse, a volunteer, an artist, a productivity geek, a hobbyist carpenter, and so on. Use the first half-egg and write down "#1", the second "#2", and so on. Then, beside each one, write down a role you want to pursue for this week. The to-do items accompanying each one are there to set a few doable objectives. For example: "#1, Parent, Watch family movie on weekend, Go to hockey game, Buy matching set of baseball mitts".
For those of you wondering why I didn't pre-fill those eggs: some people might rather have more room for flagged projects instead of roles, or use codes or symbols rather than numbers (e.g., "home" or house, "church" or cross, stick figures, and so on). The idea here is to be as flexible as possible, just like the rest of the D*I*Y Planner.
So, now that we know what each part does, how does one achieve a state of harmony? I'm going to leave Zen precepts to more experienced purveyors, and just advise filling out one of these per week during your regular planning sessions. Remember: it's not a rigid framework, a legally-binding form to shackle and intimidate you, but rather a series of prompts to encourage planning and musing. Face it with a weekly calendar so you can see at a glance (or a flip) what ought to be done to lead a balanced life, based on those roles and goals you set for yourself.
Even if you don't follow those objectives or goals exactly, just the act of considering your self-development and those roles important to you should take you a step or two further on your journey towards fulfillment. And that's why we're all here, right?
Take care, be kind, and live a good life.