Sunday, September 9, 2007

How To Use a Daily Activity Schedule

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes about a simple, but effective technique to help you get organized against lethargy and apathy. By scheduling your day and comparing results, you become aware of how you spend your time. This helps you take charge of your life. Burns notes that this technique is particularly helpful for weekend / holiday blues.

Summary of Steps

  • Step 1 - Create the Daily Activity Schedule table.
  • Step 2 - Fill out the Prospective column..
  • Step 3 – Fill out the Retrospective column.

Step 1 - Create the Daily Activity Schedule table.
To create the table for the Daily Activity Schedule:

  1. Draw two lines down the center of a piece of paper to divide it into thirds.
  2. Label the left-hand column “Time.”
  3. Label the middle column “Prospective”
  4. Label the right-hand column “Retrospective”

Step 2 – Fill out the Prospective column.
In this step, you list your activities. In the prospective column, write out an hour-by-hour plan for what you would like to accomplish. Your plans don’t need to be elaborate. Just put one to two words in each time slot to indicate what you’d like to do, such as “dress,” “each lunch”, “prepare resume” … etc. It should not take more than five minutes to do this.

Step 3 – Fill out the Retrospective column.
In this step, you compare your results. At the end of the day, fill out the retrospective column.

  1. Write down your actual activities. Record in each time slot, what you actually did during the day. This may be the same as or different from what you actually planned: nevertheless, even if it was just starting at the wall, write it down.
  2. Label each activity with an M for Mastery or a P for Pleasure. Mastery activities are those which represent some accomplishment, such as brushing your teeth, cooking dinner, driving to work, etc. Pleasure might include reading a book, eating, going to a movie … etc.
  3. Rate each activity with a 0 to 5 rating. For the Mastery activities, estimate the degree of difficulty in performing the task. 0 is easy where 5 is very challenging. For example, you could give yourself an M-1 for an easy task like getting dressed, while M-4 or M-5 would indicate you did something more challenging, such as not eating too much or applying for a job. Estimate the actual pleasure or the degree of difficulty of a task. For the Pleasure activities, 0 is no pleasure while 5 is very pleasurable.

Example Daily Activity Schedule
Burns includes an example of the Daily Activity Schedule technique:


Why Does the Daily Activity Schedule Work

  1. It undercuts the tendency to obsess about the value of various activities and to debate counterproductively about whether or not to do something.
  2. Accomplishing even part of your schedule will in all probability give you some satisfaction.
  3. You can develop a balanced program that provides pleasurable leisure activities as well as work. If you feel blue, add more fun in your schedule.

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