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Experimental and Theoretical Psychology

Home Page > Research > Plan-a-Day


A tool for the diagnosis of planning competencies

by Joachim Funke & Thomas Krüger (1993)


With "Plan-a-Day" (PAD), we present a new diagnostic tool for assessing planning competencies. The instrument is based upon classical "daily errands" tasks, but is at the same time optimized with respect to several aspects:

  • Semantic embedding is done according to a working environment. Subjects have to organize tasks like having a talk with a customer in the cafeteria, going to a meeting at the meeting hall, or picking up the daily news at the internal post office.
  • Besides a training unit, there are two daily plans to solve. This repeated measurement should increase reliability of indicators.
  • The different tasks have one of three types of priority (without, with low, and with high priority).
  • The daily tasks are constructed in such a way that you could not solve all tasks for the day.
  • There exists a "Joker" which can be used once during each day and which allows to drastically reduce driving time between the different locations.
  • Based on the data registration during the planning phase, one can construct process oriented measures of planning competencies. This overcomes the currrent limitations of result oriented measures.
  • The implemented tasks can be easily changed.

The interface from PAD (i.e., what subjects see on the screen of their PC) can be seen here, together with a short excerpt from the instruction. As you might see, a high-resolution color screen is necessary for optimal presentation.

General instruction to the subjects

This is what subjects read before they get confronted with the tasks:
Imagine that you were a plumber. Your task is to prepare your schedule    
for two fictitious days. You are to accomplish as many tasks as possible 
in a small town. These tasks take some time and may only be possible 
only at set times. In addition, the tasks differ with respect to their 
importancies. You must also pay attention to the time needed to cover 
the distance between two places. Altogether you have 40min time to 
make a schedule for each of two days. After 20 min for scheduling 
the first day the tasks for the scheduling of the second day are 
presented. If you finish the schedule for the first day ahead of time, 
you may begin work on the next schedule. In that case the time saved 
is added to the time allowed for the second day. A map of the town 
is presented on the screen. The time you need to go from your actual 
location to a particular place appears at that place. In order to 
arrive at a place, you have to key in the MARKED LETTER of that place. 
You have the possibility to use a car once each day. Using a car is 
three times faster than walking. 

Upon arrival you will be asked whether you actually intend to carry out the task belonging to that place. Your day starts at 10am. Every action you have taken will appear on the righthand side of the screen. There you can see at what time an action took place and how long it took. At the top of the screen your total working time (in min) appears. If you want to change your plan you can delete your last action with DEL. Previously deleted points can be reinserted with CURSOR DOWNWARDS. At any time you can get a general overview of your tasks with F2. If you press F1 a summary of these instructions will appear. With E you can either move to the next day respectively or finish the program. If you arrived at a place ahead of schedule, you can wait at that place by pressing W. With A you can use the car once per day. Pay attention to the fact that only the results are scored and not the time needed. There is no advantage in finishing earlier. Therefore use the whole 40 min. Don't hurry at the cost of accuracy!

Example Task List

To give you an impression about the task demands, here you see one of the very simple tasks used for training. Please note that the locations in the English version are slightly different compared to the German version. Here are the training tasks:

	Practise the following three tasks now, please:

1. Between 10.15am and 12.15pm you have to pick up raw material from the plumbing supplies. This takes 45 min. IMPORTANT

2. Between 11am and 12pm you have to deposit checks from recent jobs on the company's bank account. This takes 30 min.

3. At 12.30pm you must be at Mr Kingsley's. A broken water pipe needs to be repaired. You should be finished by 1pm. VERY IMPORTANT

The complexity of these tasks can be easily changed by decreasing or increasing the amount of tasks or by introducing restrictions.

Current Applications in Neuropsychology

PAD was used and explored in some German rehabilitation centers (NTC Düsseldorf; Rehazentrum Godeshöhe, Bonn; Städtisches Krankenhaus Bogenhausen, München; Kliniken Schmieder, Bodensee; Neuropsychologische Tagesklinik des MPI für Neuropsychologie, Leipzig). The primary purpose of the PAD in this area is neuropsychological diagnosis and treatment of planning disorders with patients having frontal brain deficits.

Also, applications in the area of planning disturbances due to a diffuse deterioration of the brain functions (e.g., Korsakoff symptoms) could be possible.

Applications in Personnel Selection and Training

PAD was designed originally for the analysis of planning competence in the management area. For example, the locations used in the PAD daily planning tasks stem from a more commercial context: You have go to the office or you have contact with a customer in the cafeteria, you have to go to the administration building or to the secretary.

The construction of PAD was based on daily errands tasks which are common in the context of an Assessment Center.

Program Availability

Currently, PAD exists in different versions:
  • PAD (German DOS version; for general research, assessment, and selection)
  • PAD-Reha (German Windows version, as part of RehaCom; for research in neuropsychology, assessment, and training with patients)
  • PAD-Eng (English DOS version; for general research, assessment, and selection)
  • PAD-Pol (Polish DOS version; for general research, assessment, and selection; produced with the help of Anna Masko, Bonn, and Marcin Sikorski, Technical University, Gdansk)

For research purposes in scientific contexts (not for commercial or private use), we can give you a copy of the DOS program version. Write a short email to one of the authors and explain in short the professional background of the planned work. Also, a written statement about the non-commercial use of PAD is necessary.

For clinical purposes, a training version PAD-Reha is available within the REHACOM-Software from Schuhfried. Please direct your questions to this company.


Funke, J. & Krüger, T. (1995). "Plan-A-Day": Konzeption eines modifizierbaren Instruments zur Führungskräfte-Auswahl sowie erste empirische Befunde ["Plan-A-Day": Conception of a modifyable instrument for the selection of managers and first results]. In J. Funke & A. Fritz (Eds.), Neue Konzepte und Instrumente zur Planungsdiagnostik (pp. 97-120). Bonn: Deutscher Psychologen Verlag.

Kohler, J. (1997). Das "Plan-A-Day"-Programm. In S. Gauggel & G. Kerkhoff (Hrsg.), Fallbuch der Klinischen Neuropsychologie. Praxis der Neurorehabilitation (S. 348-357). Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Kohler, J.A., Krüger, T. & Funke, J. (1996). Diagnostik und Therapie von Planungsstörungen mit Hilfe von "Plan-A-Day". Poster presented on the 11. Jahrestagung der GNP, Bad Wildungen, 3.-6.10. 1996

Kohler, J.A., Poser, U. & Schönle, W. (1995). Die Verwendung von "Plan-A-Day" für die neuropsychologische Diagnostik und Therapie [On the use of "Plan-A-Day" within neuropsychological diagnosis and therapy]. In J. Funke & A. Fritz (Eds.), Neue Konzepte und Instrumente zur Planungsdiagnostik (pp. 167-181). Bonn: Deutscher Psychologen Verlag.

Nellen, S. (2002). How humans solve scheduling problems: Analysis of human behavior in the Plan-A-Day task. Heidelberg: Unpublished Diploma Thesis (PDF-File available).

Nellen, S. & Funke, J. (2002). The role of exploration and forward checking in human scheduling.
Poster presented at the Cognitive Science 2002 Conference, Fairfax, Virginia, August 8-10, 2002.
(64 KB)

Schenck, W. (2001). A connectionist approach to human planning. Heidelberg: Unpublished Diploma Thesis (PDF-File available).

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Last modified on 08.04.2004 by JF.