At the start of 2018, I moved to a completely different system. It’s essentially an analogue system plus google calendar. I use an A5 daybook that collects all my notes, projects, tasks, meetings, etc. The setup is derived from the Bullet Journal.
I initially remained digital with projects and tasks, because of emails and reminders. But no more. My workflow is as follows:
- Set up your notebook using the Bullet Journal method.
- Bullet journals work with “collections” which are pages in your notebook that are allocated to specific collections. I have one for my master project/task list. This list contains all my projects and tasks that need to be done in no particular order. I currently have around 120 of those.
- Each month I create a two page spread, with the month calendar written in the centre of the two pages like you would get with a small calendar.
- I highlight any major appointments for that month, but it’s not too crucial as I use a google calendar for my proper schedule. It just gives me an overview.
- Each month I move items from the master project/task list to the month two page spread. These are firstly items that must get done this month and then I move to should and could get done. I underline in red the must get done items.
- At the beginning of every week. I diary block time adding the items from my monthly spread to my calendar for that week.
- Items that are projects usually get a separate page or pages, when I start the item. This is another page in my notebook and the page number is written beside the project in the monthly spread.
- Items not completed in the month get re-evaluated and either put back on the master list, or more usually added to the next months spread or sometimes deleted.
- Once items are moved to the monthly spread they are crossed off the master list to avoid duplication.
- As the master list progresses I can add more pages anywhere in the notebook and just reference them in the index at the front of the notebook
Last month I knocked 30 items off my list. Another 10 where moved to this month as not completed.
I like this system for a number of reasons.
- I find it easier to sit down with my notebook and think than in front of the screen.
- I can quickly get to work anywhere as I do not need a computer.
- The monthly spreads become a record of work done.
- Because writing embeds information better in my brain, I’m finding I’m actually remembering more about what I’m doing as a whole and am surprised at the amount of details I know about my projects. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised about how I seem to know where everything is in my notebook and rarely need to use the index.
- Most of my information is always with me when I have my notebook, which is everywhere.
- Notebooks are freeform, I can write, draw, stick things in and use colour to my hearts content.
- The diary blocking deals with my earlier reminder problem. I only diary block the current week so I don’t get ahead of myself and allow myself space in case things change.
I note about emails. When I used OF I thought it great to be able to link emails in. The problem was that I did not sufficiently think through what the emails required. I just knew it needed to be done and threw it into OF. This created massive friction as I would nearly always need to read the email again and if I was on iOS this was not possible. When I now add email tasks to my list I will write in the task or project required to complete this and reference the email. If the email contains a lot of information I need I will print it and place it in a clear plastic sleeve in my supporting docs folder. This will be noted in the task so I know where to find it. I could of course do some of this with OF, but I personally find reading off paper is about 10x faster than from a screen. I now do most of my thinking on my desk with the computer off, and only go to the computer to do computer work. For the first time in 3 years, I’m not chasing my tail, but am actually many times ahead of the game, even during extremely busy weeks.
As much as I love tech, I have never found myself very productive with it.