How I use Google Forms in my Workflow

by Harri Besceli3 min read26th Jul 20204 comments

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Note-TakingProductivityTrigger-Action PlanningSoftware ToolsPractical
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I use google forms* a lot and they are a key part of my workflow. I have different forms to review my day, add to-dos and track my habits and typically fill out 3 different forms per day.

This post gives examples of forms I use and why I like them.

*[I actually use airtable forms rather than google forms. They are functionally pretty similar - I just said 'google forms' in the title as I expect it's the kind people are most familiar with.]

This is an airtable base with templates for some of the forms I use.

Forms I Use

Meta Form

This is the one I find most useful and I fill it out ~5 x per day, taking a minutes or so each time. It is composed of just two text boxes 'Thinking' and 'Next Step'. Situations I'll use the form.

  • Deciding what to do: I don't know what to do next. I open the form, list options in and decide what to do.
  • Noticing aversion: I feel averse to doing something. I open the form, write down what I'm averse to and why, and what to do about it.
  • Planning a task: I don't know how to go about doing something. I open the form, make a plan for the thing, and decide on the next step.

One of the main reasons is that it allows me to fully switch tasks from eg. 'trying to do something' to 'planning how to do it'. If I don't switch tasks properly I can end up half-heartedly trying to do something whilst having a vague feeling that there's a better way of doing it. Also, just having the form makes me more likely to 'go meta' and think strategically about what I'm doing.


Task Inbox

I use a form as my capture method a la Getting Things Done - basically a method to capture anything that I might want to do at some point. Once it's captured in the form, I know that I'll review this later, and so don't need to worry about it until then. Forms are fast, which feels important for my willingness to use the capture system.


Time Tracking

I use a form to track my time and prefer this to time tracking software like toggl and clockify. The main reason is that forms are easy to customise. In the past I've experimented with writing out a plan for each block of work time, and retrospectively rating my productivity after completing a block. I've found this much easier to implement in a form.


Why I Like Forms

I use forms in cases where I want to either capture information, or go through a specific thought process, and where it's important for me to be able to do this quickly and at low cost. I think forms are a great for this because:

1. They make good habit-actions. Opening a form is a concrete action which is easy to make into a habit. For example, with the meta form, it feels a lot easier to create a habit of [if I notice I don't know what to do -> press cmd + 2 (to open the form)] than [if I notice I don't know what to do -> work out what to do].

2. They are fast. Forms are quick to load and open which is particularly useful for processes that I do often (eg. task inbox) or sometimes feel reluctant to do (eg. diary). To make opening them fast I create a chrome shortcut and create a hotkey (this process for windows or using Alfred for mac). Having hotkeys is really useful.

3. They add structure. Forms give structure to the information you add or the thinking you do. In the 'Meta' form I separate out input boxes for 'Thinking' and 'Next Step'. This separation forces me to decide on a next step, which feels useful and something I might not do otherwise.

4. They are clean. They only accept input, but don't show past input in the form itself (unlike eg. google docs where you can see the stuff you've previously written in the same place that you add more stuff, which I find can be distracting).

5. They are customisable. It's easy to modify the forms and experiment with the structure (eg. incorporating retrospective ratings into time tracking).


More Forms

CBT Form

This is a form to practice a simplified cognitive behavioural therapy process. I used to use this for noticing and processing negative emotions and thoughts. The boxes include:

  • What is the objective situation I'm responding to?
  • What thoughts and feelings am I having?
  • Are these reasonable?

Planning Social Interactions

I find it useful to make a quick plan for social interactions that I'm having eg. hanging out with a friend. For example, asking myself 'What would be fun to do together?' and 'What would be interesting to talk about?'. It's also nice having a record of the socialising I've been doing.

More

  • Ideas Form: Capturing ideas I've had that I want to think about more later.
  • Article/ Book Notes Form: The low barrier to taking notes makes me do it more than if I'm taking notes in a doc.
  • Predictions Form: Again, having a low barrier makes me do this more often. I have this set up so that I automatically get an email reminder when I expect the prediction to have been resolved.
  • Habit Tracker and Diary Forms: Tracking daily habits and doing a daily self-reflection.
  • Forms Form: Recording ideas for more forms, my favourite platonic forms and whether I'm on form.

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4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 7:10 PM
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Can you give me a away to copy your templates into my own Airtable workspace?

Sure, messaged you with a link

I registered here to say that your idea seems very exciting and I'm eager to try it! Also, I would like to ask for a of copy your templates too.

Would you mind elaborating on whether (and if so, how) you use airtable to aggregate your forms into information (eg how many tasks you completed in week, how much a recurring task takes you on average)?

When I first saw your post I assumed you would be aggregating your forms in excel or google sheets. How is airtable different?

Happy to hear - this link should enable you to duplicate the base, if you click the dropdown menu next to 'Form Examples' at the top (it might ask you to sign up to airtable first). If that doesn't work I can dm you a different link.

One of the main reasons I prefer airtable to eg. google sheets is that I find it much easier to categorise and analyse the data. A lot of the functionality is fairly intuitive, and requires a lot less formula knowledge than eg. google sheets.

For example with my time tracking data it's fairly easy to create different views that organise the records by date, by project, by duration etc.

The airtable template gallery gives lots of examples of how the bases can be structured for stuff like that.