Paper And/Or Software Work Planner System
October 10, 2017 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Help me work out a paper or software system that works for planning my work tasks?

Currently I use Evernote for random lists(gets messy though), Remember the Milk for household chores/errands and Business Calender on my Android phone for personal appointments.

I am now looking for a daily/weekly/monthly planning system that would work well for work tasks. My situation:
* I would like it to be able to list daily, weekly and long term goals. Some goals have indefinite deadlines.
*some goals are repeated every week (work-related social media obligations)
*should have some kind of calendar integrated so I can see upcoming events on a monthly basis (certain special events like festivals affect my workflow so I need to plan ahead)
*am open to both paper and software solutions but I am not technologically inclined and have trouble with complicated systems
*I have terrible illegible English handwriting yet I'm a sucker for fancy stationery. I just ordered a glass dip pen set. I live in Asia where I have plenty of access to pretty washi tapes and stuff. Not sure if I really want to fall down this money and time-sucking rabbit hole but part of me wants a instagram worthy planner or something :/
* I would like personal tasks like dental appointments and laundry separated from the work stuff.
*Should I set up a work tasklist in Remember the Milk (tagging with "work") and just use that together with google calender for the special events or is there a better solution?
*I do not have room on my desk for something that takes up a lot of physical space so no huge traditional paper desktop planners
posted by whitelotus to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Online: trello is great, very easy to use, you can make lists for any categories you like (I have some for work and personal, this week, today, etc. and different boards for bigger projects, some shared), you can use butler to automate and customize, and I like to move a card into the Doing list (and then Done); there's something about this symbolic start that gives momentum.

Paper: bullet journal. Lots of inspiration online for how to set it up, from bare bones to an opportunity to use ALL the calligraphy and washi tape you want.
posted by meijusa at 9:26 PM on October 10


After years of using OneNote for this, then a few months of a completely text-based system I developed based on Bullet Journaling and GTD, I've finally switched back to full analog using a knockoff Midori Traveler's Notebook with the text-based hybridized system I came up with for Notepad.

I've done this because I find great pleasure in writing things with my nice fountain pens and I'm at a place in life where finding pleasure in things is rare enough that I will seize any experience that allows for it with two greedy hands.

I'll explain my rationale and my tools, but this will be a bit long. Sorry.

1. Why a Traveler's Notebook?

I started with an A5 Leuchtterm1917 and it was great. The paper is nice enough to show off sheen in my fountain pen inks, the size is basically perfect, and the pre-numbered pages save me a LOT of time indexing my BuJo collections. But where it falls down is that it's a concrete book, and when one is full, I need to copy my permanent collections over to a new book. So, for instance, I have a "permanent" calendar that has a list of every birthday, anniversary, and meaningful holiday that generates action items that would need to be copied to a new notebook. I have my collections of chore lists--my daily 15, weekly, monthly, and yearly household tasks. I also like to keep lists of frequently referenced information, like my fountain pen "inked" journal and a running list of art supplies I want for my twice-yearly Blick order.

So to solve all of these problems, I decided that the Traveler's Notebook format would greatly reduce the amount of information transfer I would have to do when finishing a bullet journal. (A discbound system would also work for this, but I tend to be rough on the rings when I throw an ARC notebook into a bag with other things.) So, just for simplicity, I decided to go with the standard Traveler's Notebook size because inserts are easy to find on etsy, JetPens/Goulet Pens, in craft stores that sell Prima and Webster's Pages, and amazon. My current setup is as follows: one permanent collections insert, one standard rapid logging/calendar/habit tracker BuJo/GTD insert, one notes insert, one GTD-style projects/brain dump/someday/maybe insert, and one Kraft folder. (I also have inserts for sketching, painting, and journaling, but I keep those in a separate TN.)

2. The BuJo/GTD hybrid

I'm an artist, but I don't go crazy in my planner with paintings and doodles and ephemera. I follow the minimalism tags for BuJo on instagram and find those to be just as pretty as the washi'd and painted planner artworks other people enjoy making. I follow the basic BuJo system because it is flexible and simple, text based, and satisfying. The daily logging concept is extremely useful to me and has been ever since I kept a daily work journal as a unix sysadmin. What I bring to it from GTD is the regular review and the basic concepts of task and project planning as well as someday/maybe and brain dumps. In my system, a task is a concrete, doable thing that may be part of a larger project. I indicate project related tasks using a hashtag system. So, #xmas or #inktober. Those are just there to make pages quickly scannable if I need to remember when I ordered my cousin's present or called my lawyer or whatever.

So far, in terms of solving the BuJo collections transfer problem, the only insert that is frequently changed is the daily logging insert. That's because, in addition to rapid logging and calendar spreads, I also do habit and cardiac symptom trackers as well as food intake logging. When my notes insert starts getting full I look to see if any of those notes should be transferred to a permanent collection. Usually the answer is no. My projects and brain dump insert is filling very slowly, so I don't foresee having to do much information transfer in the event of needing a new insert.

3. My Tools

Again, I don't go nuts here. My permanent collections insert looks a bit fancier than my daily rapid logging insert, but all I use are some pens, two very pale highlighters, a ruler, a pencil, foam box eraser, correction tape, a set of small post-it notes and flags, a TN sized pencil board, and one drawing template for making quick hexagons, circles, and boxes. I have a modestly sized pencil pouch that holds every single thing I need. But all you REALLY need is a pen. I'm a stickler for straight lines and perfect circles, but it's not necessary at all.

4. Archiving and Search

The main advantage of using Notepad (technically I used Visual Studio Code, but whatever) is search. Digging through indexes and tabs and keywords written on paper is just not going to be as efficient as a find operation performed on a few .txt documents. How much this matters depends on how frequently you need to reference older information and how frequently you archive information. I don't need to go back to things all that often, but when I do go looking for something in an old Moleskine or composition notebook I put a flag on the page. I figure if I went looking once, I will probably look for it again.

5. Linking Analog and Digital

Sometimes my projects have online resources and/or references associated with them. For those I just put in a pointer to "Pinterest Board X" to "Pinboard Link Collection Y" on the project page. I also reference dropbox folders, folders on my computer, even stuff on my phone with similar indicators.

6. Comfort

Some people find that linking books with rubber bands by their covers rather than their paper centers makes them easier to write in. I use a pencil board while I'm on the go to deal with writing in a thick book, but I'll also pull out inserts to write in, especially if I'm referencing another insert while I'm writing.
posted by xyzzy at 10:53 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


I'm currently using GQueues, which is not very widely known, but it works well enough. I'm paying for subscription (25USD/year) to have subtasks, but maybe you wouldn't need them and would be happy with the free version. I combine this with Google Calendar and Evernote, although Evernote is optional - a piece of paper or anything I look at regulary would work just as well.

I have several different projects (or "queues" as they're called in GQueues) set up, one in a folder called "Personal", another in "Work". Some of the projects are actually more like long-term goals. I have a hierarchy of tasks for each project. Some tasks get deadlines/due dates, others don't. Some tasks are recurring, on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis (from daily vitamin reminders to doctor checkups every 3 years). The tasks can be sorted by deadline, so I can see what's coming up. Tasks can also be tagged if you need a third perspective (besides projects and dates) - I use tags for people I'm working with and am waiting for, and I use "next action" tag to remind me what I'm supposed to be working on. The tasks with deadlines/due dates are visible in my Google Calendar (and I get a notification for them on my phone).

I use Google Calendar for appointments, events, drinks with friends etc. These go on a separate sub-calendar, so I can switch between them and tasks or show both at once.

I do regular weekly/daily planning: on Sunday evening, I sit down, look at all my tasks and events and write out a rough outline of my week in Evernote. Every night I do the same process for the next day. I use Evernote because it's my go-to inbox/mental backup, but to be honest, Trello or Moleskine or anything you like looking at would be fine.

I have the same stationery problem as you, and I solve this by using fancy papers and washi tape and pretty gel pens at work for writing down short notes about what I'm currently working on. I don't really need this (because Evernote), but I like having an excuse to use pretty stationery.
posted by gakiko at 3:51 AM on October 11


Is there any reason why you're not considering tools like Todoist or Asana for this? They're more or less made for exactly what you're doing, minus being paper-based. I too love dip pens and nice notebooks, but I also love meticulous organizational systems that can encompass work and personal tasks and are flexible enough to scale down to minor errands or up to long-term projects. And I love not having to recopy components of complex projects just to have a sense of For me, I use a paper notebook for daily notekeeping, records, jottings, drawings, archives (of ticket stubs, etc), and for my daily to-do list, which I typically transfer over from Todoist the night before. Then every Sunday I go through my Todoist projects and give a completion date to anything that hasn't been assigned one, then weed out or refine tasks that've been hanging around for a while.

If you're not already making use of a notebook on a daily basis--if you've transitioned to solely computer-based systems over the past decade--then slowly reintegrating a notebook into your daily life and organically figuring the ways it's better suited to some things than digital (and digital is better for others) may take a while, since other people's systems are never quite a perfect fit.
posted by tapir-whorf at 3:58 AM on October 11


Ooops--mid-sentence typo! I love not having to recopy components of complex projects just to have a sense of how they've changed over the days/weeks/months since beginning 'em. When I used paper-based systems, what always stressed me out was the lack of flexibility with evolving projects (or just the constant flux of quotidian tasks, which are forever being crossed out and replaced, etc). With Notational Velocity (the lower-fi version of Evernote), while flexibility is baked in, clear visual hierarchy isn't. In the end, the only way to solve this (for me) was to use task/project management software.
posted by tapir-whorf at 7:37 AM on October 11


Thank you everyone for taking time to share your systems in detail. I have decided to go with a software solution because I fear going overboard with the washi tape and stickers and spending more time and money making my planner beautiful than getting work done.

I will be checking out Trello and Asana as suggested. I like the intuitive interface of Trello but am troubled by the fact that I can only utilize one powerup at a time under the free plan.I know the card repeater and calendar will be important to me so this is a negative.

I'm not sure how Asana deals with the calendar functionality and repeating weekly tasks. Can anyone comment on this issue?
posted by whitelotus at 6:28 AM on October 12


Dave Seah's Productivity tools. I use the emergent task planner very day.
posted by brappi at 3:17 AM on October 17


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