Going offline with personal organisation
July 8, 2015 5:17 AM   Subscribe

I have good systems for keeping myself organised online, with a combination of calendars, to-do lists, and notetaking. When I look at the time I spend staring at various screens to manage my life, it's scary. I want to try going back to pen-and-paper organisation. What tools or methods would work best?

Currently I use:

Google Calendar with multiple colour-coded calendars for kids, personal, work, and holidays;
Google Keep for to-do lists;
Google Drive for almost everything else including notetaking.

I've tried Sticky Notes on my laptop (i.e. the computer version of Post-It notes) but they didn't work for me. In the past I've also tried Remember The Milk and similar apps/online organisers with short-term success. Google Calendar and Keep have been the most useful tools to date.

I need to keep using my email, which is my main communication tool, but I'd like a compact and easy-to-follow paper system for keeping track of my schedule and to-dos in particular. I carry a plain notebook and write lists or short notes from time to time, plus I'm often in meetings with brainstorming sessions or hashing out small details for larger events, so pen and paper is more convenient than a laptop. The most important thing for me is time management, as I have many different and often conflicting activities, plus I need to keep track of my kids' schedules.

Ideally it wouldn't be an expensive solution, since I don't want to invest a lot of money until I know it's a system I will stick with.
posted by tracicle to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Bullet Journal?
posted by allison00 at 5:35 AM on July 8, 2015

Seconding Bullet Journal.
posted by freshwater at 6:37 AM on July 8, 2015

Before going digital, I used a Franklin Planner... (I'm considering going back, the novelty of gadgets is starting to wear off!)

(and, tracicle, I MISS the old days of MonkeyFilter... :-\ )
posted by HuronBob at 6:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call me a troglodyte if you will, but I've been using a Franklin Planner quite happily for 20+ years. I love having my calendar, to-do lists, billing records (for my consulting practice), phone numbers, and more all in one place and accessible even when my computer is shut down. I would recommend getting some training in using the planner, if you go that route. I'm sure there are ample YouTube videos available, so you wouldn't necessarily need to attend a class.
posted by DrGail at 6:55 AM on July 8, 2015

I used Day-Timer or Franklin for many years. Now, I love my Planner Pad!
posted by jgirl at 7:10 AM on July 8, 2015

I like the Action Method's journal, which has space for a to do list of "action steps" but also a "backburner" page for bigger projects or things you can't get to immediately. It also has space to make lists to prepare for meetings and gridded pages for sketching out ideas.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:19 AM on July 8, 2015

Related. (There is bullet journal love there in the comments.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:32 AM on July 8, 2015

I use a Hobonichi Techo planner and the Bullet Journal system for a personal calendar/agenda/daily notes.

I also carry a Field Notes notebook and a (fountain) pen at all times.

I’ve kept a written journal most of my life in various forms and for the last year I have been using a Seven Seas Tomoe River “WRITER” A5 Journal.
posted by vkxmai at 7:40 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've tried Bullet Journaling, but I found it difficult to do when I have to keep track of multiple schedules. I prefer to have a VERY visual warning when they conflict.

I ended up getting a Moleskine cahier weekly planner, with the week on one side and lined paper on the other. I draw a line down the center of the week page. My schedule goes on the left, everyone else's goes on the right. On the lined paper side, it resembles the daily module for Bullet Journaling.

Since one of the things I also do is take extensive notes at seminars and info sessions, I glue a notebook inside of the back of that planner. That's also where the longer term Bullet Journal-style stuff goes. The front of that book has an index with topics and page numbers. When I put things there, I note them in the index, and on the date in the planner part of my Frankenbook.

Also: If you're looking to test a system relatively cheaply that can incorporate pockets and bookmarks and whatnot, Staples has customizable notebooks that make it fairly easy to start fresh if you realize something's not working for you.

And if you happen to also be a fountain pen junkie, Moleskine cahiers suck for us. Either go to a very fine nib, or a different paper. I have this existential crisis every year, and may try a similar but larger Rhodia planner in 2016. The Hobonichi Techo that vkxmai mentions is another possibility.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't stand bullet journals, they drive me bananas, especially the lack of any ability to forward plan.

I use a Filofax, and I love it. Mine has my calendar, an expense tracker, my to-do list, goals (short-term/long-term/bucket list), a reference section (for contacts, account numbers and such), and a miscellaneous section for brain dumping and notetaking. And there's a whole range of calendar inserts- I have four days per spread, but you can totally get day on a page, week on two pages, or whatever suits your fancy, either from the official Filofax store or an Etsy shop.
posted by Tamanna at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the responses so far! Like gnomeloaf, I need a visual reminder of any potential conflicts, so having a month-view or week-view calendar would be especially helpful. For that reason, I'm not sure about Bullet Journalling -- but it could work in conjunction with another system?

Any other suggestions?

Oh! And I'm not in the US -- but I'm sure most products are available or I can find something comparable in Europe.
posted by tracicle at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2015

You might like this planner. Each weekly layout has five columns with blank headings you can customize (e.g. you, husband, kids). I just ordered it but mine has not arrived yet. I plan to use the columns to track my work schedule, writing projects, workout log, general to-dos and one-sentence journal.
posted by JoannaC at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2015

One of my favorite things to do every year is browse Mochi Things for a scheduler. This one in particular got me through grad school ridiculousness last year - it has a yearly, monthly AND weekly plan, as well as room for note-taking and to-do lists.

I also find that having one of these huge monthly notepads on my desk is a super fast, useful way to reference my impending tasks. It can also function in a similar way to Google Cal if you code your tasks with different colored pens.

This whole site is basically dedicated to organizational things you didn't realize you needed until now!
posted by thebots at 10:13 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Putting in a vote for Passion Planner. Milennial generation marketing and Kickstarter buzz aside, I remain impressed. It was exactly what I wanted in terms of combining to-do lists with a calendar.

You can download a blank version for free to see if you like it.
posted by nightrecordings at 2:16 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Personally, I prefer the bullet journal but you might also look into Erin Condren Planners, they have quite a large following and are very customized.
posted by AnneShirley at 2:52 PM on July 8, 2015

I've been bullet journaling with serious modifications, like going ahead and making a page a day for future planning, setting up a full month at a time, etc.

I also make copious use of the printable pages on moleskine's site to I can have various other sorts of pages (graph paper, packing lists, etc.) and glue those in. I also tend to cut out and glue pages that stay the same or similar long term when swapping out notebooks.

Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks are a great upgrade from moleskine's paper for fountain pen users.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 3:09 PM on July 8, 2015

Arc or Circa (from Levenger's) disc planners are nice because they fold flat but you can insert pages. From many Facebook planner groups, it is my understanding that the Levenger's punch is better than the Arc punch. I'd love it if Planner Pad would create a disc refill!
posted by jgirl at 5:34 PM on July 8, 2015

I have a very specific unicorn when it comes to a calendar planner -

Monthly view at the beginning with a Sunday start, with weekly views after.

BUT, the weekly view has to start on Monday and only take up one page - the other page needs to be blank. (This is where I write my to-do lists and whatnot.)

The closest I've ever come to finding this is a Muji planner and even there I have to re-write the monthly calendar so it's a Sunday start.
posted by Lucinda at 9:08 AM on July 9, 2015

OK, I found a half-price Filofax-type binder journal, ripped out most of the included pages (clients, gifts, wines) and bought some Filofax inserts including a full-year view, week on two pages, and three sets of note pages, each a different colour. I'm going to try to bullet journal thing but still use the calendar. For the last two days it's worked well. I'll be pleased if I can keep it up until the end of the year, when I can decide what to keep and what new inserts I can cram in there.

Plus I was suckered enough by some of those youtube videos to splash out on cutesy post-it stickers and highlighter pens, plus a notebook to go in the back pocket (and then a notebook inside THAT notebook ad infinitum).

Thanks everyone for your excellent advice -- interesting how overwhelmingly the bullet journal concept came up!
posted by tracicle at 6:39 AM on July 10, 2015

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