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Ford Squares

I recently wrote an article about President Eisenhower, which led me to the topic of Eisenhower boxes.  What, you ask, are Eisenhower boxes?  It’s a productivity system where you break down tasks into four categories: do, decide, delegate, or delete.

So every day you wake up and divide a piece of paper into four quarters.  In the top, left square, you write what needs to get done today.  Not tomorrow, not next week, but today.  Meaning, you are not going to bed until this task is complete.  To the right of that box, you write things that are important but not urgent.  If you get to them today, great.  If you get to them tomorrow, that’s fine, too.  But they need to get done at some point.

In the bottom, left square, you write things that are not important but they’re urgent.  The article lists it as things you’d delegate to someone else to do.  My understanding is that it’s stuff that is time sensitive, but if it doesn’t get done, it’s okay and you’d let it go.

Anyway, the square that really throws me is the bottom, right for not urgent and not important.

If it’s not urgent and it’s not important, why would I write it down?

I still keep my bullet journal, but everything that needs to get done goes into my journal so it’s not always exactly clear what needs to get done today and what can wait until the next day.  The past few weeks have been unusually busy, and I’ve been tackling my to-do list by creating Ford Squares.

It’s an easier system.

You take a piece of paper.  You fold it in half three times and then unfold it so you see eight squares.  You put the days of the week at the top of each square.  And then you look at your large to-do list and start scheduling tasks on certain days.  So it’s no longer a huge to-do list; it’s just one or two tasks per day.  If I complete the daily list, I allow myself to work ahead and grab something off another day, but I have zero feelings of guilt if I only accomplish the things that are in the single square.  It helps me to say “no” to things because I can see that the squares are already full.  And it also helps me to feel calm because I can see that I will have all the cookies baked for Chanukkah by X date because I’ve scheduled one batch for each evening.

I’m calling my unfancy system Ford Squares.  I’m sure someone else has already invented this, but I’m still keeping my name.  It’s not as brilliant as Eisenhower boxes, but you also don’t need to make hard, categorical decisions.  It’s just Monday or Tuesday.  Two tasks or three.  And when life goes back to a normal pace, I’ll go back to only using my bullet journal.  But until then… Ford Squares.


1 a { 12.03.17 at 8:34 am }

I…just don’t ever schedule that much that I need a tracking system. And if I forget something, well, I live in America and there’s always a last minute option available somewhere. But your system sounds better than the 4 boxes.

2 Working mom of 2 { 12.03.17 at 12:34 pm }

The bullet did NOT work for me, just added another layer of stress…this would likely do the same. Adding another daily task I don’t have time for. I guess I’ve settled for “as long as we make to dr appts and pay bills on time we’re ok”.

3 Cristy { 12.03.17 at 6:03 pm }

My graduate advisor taught me this scheme. Given there was always so much to do, it was easy to get caught up focusing on the small stuff, neglecting the things that were really important (data analysis was the big offender). I still make my to-do lists this way and swear by the system for saving my sanity.

Ford squares. Very nice!

4 Cristy { 12.03.17 at 6:22 pm }

Oh, and the 4th Square use to throw me too. Until I realized that there are so many things that were making it to my “to-do” list that actually weren’t going to help me complete my thesis or advance my career goals. That faculty search committee meeting? Or a new department seminar? Those I could delete as I was writing and preparing to defend. It helped writing it down for me to justify though as there was pressure not to.

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.03.17 at 8:15 pm }

I like this idea, and I like that the name of it is yours.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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