Manage Time Like Cal Newport - Plan-Actual-Revised

The Plan-Actual-Revised method (PAR) was used by the author of Deep Work Cal Newport. In Cal’s daily life, he uses a notebook to record his schedule. Simple as that, with a pen and a notebook, Cal can plan and reschedule his daily arrangements. In addition, he can revise and review them afterwards.

According to Cal, he would divide a paper into three columns:

  1. The first column is for PLANning;
  2. The second column is for ACTUAL arrangement;
  3. And the third column is for REVISion.

Each line will be set as a time block, for example, a line can be 30 or 60 minutes. In this way, we can put each activity into a one-line block or a multiple-line block according to needs.

Naturally, the duration of each activity is visualized. Therefore, we can have a vivid impression of each activity.

Why do we need Plan-Actual-Revised method?

Sometime, strictly sticking with plan can make us anxious. Instead, constant rescheduling time can make you feel having more control of time, and feel more relaxed.

As pointed out by Cal, this method

make(s) sure that I am intentional about what I do with my time, and don’t allow myself to drift along in a haze of reactive, inbox-driven busyness tempered with mindless surfing.

The similar point can be found in Jake Knapp’s comment, who is the author of Make Time:

‘The constant redesigning gave me a handle on how I was spending my time, showed me when my best writing time was, and helped me establish a routine.’

In addition, with reviewing the past reschedules, this approach can help us build a ritual by finding suitable time blocks for different types of tasks.

How do we apply Plan-Actual-Revised method?

Day before:

  1. Divide a page into there columns;
  2. Set each row as a fixed duration, e.g.: one row for one hour;
  3. Fill activities into the first column according to planned duration;

During the day:

  1. Reschedule activities if any change happens;
  2. Review the planned and actual activities;

When do we apply Plan-Actual-Revised method?

  1. If a fixed schedule doesn’t work for us, we may give this method a try;
  2. If our daily tasks involve many changes, this method may work better;


With a lined paper, we can follow Cal Newport’s approach to manage our daily tasks. This approach may release our stress, and help us build a long-term ritual.

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