Living in Harmony

Harmony CardLiving 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:

(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
  • 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.

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I like this form a lot. Not

I like this form a lot. Not to throw a saw into the yin/yang (ouch!) but I'm wondering to what extent the four categories you settled on are used by various organizing systems. You gave your source of course but one of my repeating efforts in my life has been to resolve this question of what excatly is important in life (beside organizing work related tasks), what you should really spend your time on outside of work. I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts on the matter.

With work it's best to just start.

What is important

"what you should really spend your time on outside of work?"

There is no across-the-board "SHOULD" for everyone. Everyone has his/her own values. For some, perhaps 'relationship(s)' has higher value, for others, spiritual pursuits, for another, he/she seeks physical or adventure efforts.

What do YOU value? That will help you determine what YOU "should" be spending your time on.

- a coach

whew. for a moment I thought

whew. for a moment I thought your title was a wayne's world reference. I'm going to try these cards out. I find the hipster works better for me size wise.

All the world's a stage...

First things first, anyone not familiar with the idea of social roles may wish to look up Mead (George Herbert), Blumer (Herbert ) and Goffman ( Erving). Although rather dated from an academic view I think they make an interesting talking point. In fact one could refer to their work as paradigm. :P

Robert try this simple execise, it may help. First envisage yourself as a precious stone, perhaps a diamond; every aspect of you life cuts a new facet in your personality. Feels good doesn't it? If you were a real diamond however, you would reflect something back to the people who helped shape you. Better make a couple of lists. In the left column I want you to write out all the parts you play (husband, father, evil genius, etc) under the title 'HATS I WEAR'. The right is your 'STEERING COLUMN', here you can put all the thing you feel you should or would like to do in order to improve your 'REFLECTIVITY.'. (Or enjoyment of life).

Try to except Lauren is correct, there is no 'should' in life (unless your spelling really is abysmal). The trick is to enjoy yourself as best you can while trying to help others to do the same.

Now repeat after me: "Gnomic missives, a guru make".

Install a rose shrubbery in my honour.

Only use 'party' as a verb.

...Or you could get a big bowl of icecream and use the common sense bits of my post to help you fill in Doug's new form.

Weird, inkblot, mirror response

Sorry, but my post above seems to have gotten some sort of weird, inkblot, mirror response from everyone. I guess it was too open-ended. I wasn't asking for help for myself, I don't need a coach in this area. I was asking about, within the context of planner/organization systems or philosophy in general, how others define categories, groupings, etc. that go into or define "Harmony" in terms of a fulfilling life.

With work it's best to just start.

catagory titles

I love the harmony template. Its going to work perfect in my hipster. Here's how I have my hipster set up. It might help ya (rkfoster) with some brain storming on how to incorporate that aspect into your planner. Basically my planner is in 3 sections. The first section is has a few contacts pages and a year calendar. The next section is my "Goals" section. Keep in mind I'm a mother of 3 small kids, and I work part time, and I go to school full time. I'm sure my "Goals" section is going to be labeled different than everyone elses. In this section I've basically catagorized different aspects of my life and keep large "goals" in each index card:seasonal family traditions, spiritual, health and fitness, home (organize, clean and simplify), children, school- each class, personal projects (as if I had time, LOL, here is where I list things like put home dv movies in dvd format), and financial. The last section is the calendar section- monthly, weekly, and daily.

Anyway, I go through my lists on each goal card when I plan for the week, then delegate all week. Its the best way I've found to not "drop the ball" when it comes to things like spring activities and other traditions when I get overwhelmed with school. This also gives me the space to remember myself and plan to do things for myself.

Hope that helps. :)


I saw this and knew that this was something to help balance. However, when I saw it, I didn't quite understand the symbols - thus, came here.

Thanks for making such a great template to add to my organizer. It is hard to find such great templates to place in an organizer, that is why I frequent this site so often.

Although I know this isn't the quick fix solution, putting your weekly goals and wants out on paper like this definitely helps!

Well, that's a whole 'nother story

That question seems quite different than the first..."one of my repeating efforts in my life has been to resolve this question of what excatly is important in life"...mind if I take a stab at it?
I really like this form, and it is similar to what I have asked my kids to do. I was inspired by the SIMS game and the little green bars that tell you when your character is hungry, stinky, bored, etc. I had my kids sit down and write down what they liked doing, what things they thought they SHOULD do, what they do because I tell them to, and what they dream about doing...I told them to approach this with the SIMS game in mind. So, that is my answer...I group things into what I do because I like doing it, what I do because if I don't I might feel guilty or fear some consequence, what I do because I know the consequences of not doing it, and what I long to do.

If only Covey was so simple

I had not seen an explanation of this template before, I might actually use it.
I have been trying to expand my GTD practice with Covey concepts, but while I have read all 3 GTD books several times, I have not been able to finish the Covey book, even the audible version, it is a hard read. I wonder if the shortened version of the Habits is easier to swallow, I got the unabridged version on audible.

I have picked up bits and pieces of good Covey ideas from blogs and forums, but nothing that can simplify the whole system in a way that can help implement it right away, like with GTD. Sharpening the Saw is something I had been wondering about. If I never implement or understand it completely, Harmony seems like a good substitute, thanks.

Covey looks complicated on purpose

I think it has giving the author a justification for writing and selling more books and books on tape. In an "attempt" to clarify his concept, Covey created associated merchandises which sprung the creation of Covey stores. And made him very wealthy.

The best thing is to read the 7 habits with a dictionary, all I can remember is that he uses quadrants for squares and so on.

His habit of using complicated words when easy ones would do, drove me nuts and I gave the book away to a local library.

With this site, I found out that organizing is not that complicated.
Using various tools (toys) and templates, one can have fun putting some order into one's life.

There are basically two ways of doing things, with calendars and some kind of filling system for paperwork.

And some kind of note taking system for writing daily thoughts, ideas and outlines for big projects in the work or personal area.
The work and personal area can be subdivided as much as one wants.

One can have a personal:
Knitting or other Crafts dairy.

Pet Book
Which contains: photo album, health record keeping, food preferences/allergies, favorite toy.

Personal or Spriritual thoughts notebook.

On the go house repair/cooking/baking supplies jotter.

I don't get complicated or pompous Mission Statements.

The only one everyone should have is to do good and not to do harm and that's pretty much what people and the world need to be happy and function well.