Category Archives: Accessories Sold Separately

Downsizing my work planner (continued!)

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There’s light at the end of the tunnel! I am mostly moved into my smaller work planner now, and have some additional details and snaps to share.

To recap from last message:

  • I am still mostly following my old system (detailed in just under one million words, here).
  • The new size is the FranklinCovey Compact.
  • I’ve hand-drawn some pages for the remainder of this year.

Here’s some of my hand-drawn weekly pages in the vertical format on the Compact size (4.25″ x 6.75″ – which is slightly wider than Filofax Personal size).  Federal holidays impact our order shipping, so they are most definitely written into my planner.

weekly work planner format

my hand-drawn weekly work planner

As before:

  • top row is items with a specific time,
  • middle section is Do or Due Today, and
  • bottom row is lists for This Week, not tied to a specific day.

I still fill these weeklies out at the beginning of the week, with the objectives for the week.

Daily spiral 6″x9″-ish notepad still captures in the inbound messages, calls, things that pop up, etc.  Any of these type things that get turned into additional action items get transferred to wherever they belong. If they get handled on that day, they just get marked through on the pad and are not copied anywhere else. If there is an important item like phone number or email address, I do transfer that into the contact card or whatever before crossing through the note.

Aside from sizing down, the biggest change I’ve implemented is adding a 2-pages-per-day. This is in addition to my daily spiral notebook. You could say the daily setup is sorted by planned stuff, vs. inbound stuff.

The 2-pages-per-day is all new for me. I wanted this format to assist me in keeping focus and getting on task.

Let me assure you that when you go to an office, it’s better that you aren’t looking at your laundry basket near your desk. Likely you can’t do your laundry there, so you really have to reconsider doing laundry when you’re working out of your home.

So, I am using the 2-pages-per-day to schedule the work day, and also to time-log what I really did. The scheduling is most-essential items for the day and anything that has a real time. Each morning, stuff from the current weekly planner pages gets allocated into the daily plans. My current work has some routine, daily activities, so those are input into the hourly slots as part of my scheduled work day.

However, the time-logging is new to me. It’s just a simple input system where each time I start something new that isn’t already written into a time slot, I just scribble it into the appointment times. These are just simple entries – abbreviations even – and aren’t even down to the exact minute. But if I am updating invoices and decide it’s time to break for my sammich, I can jot down “lunch.” When I start researching and calling for pricing on a new service, I just scribble in “pricing” in the general time slot. It’s a new habit, but it is starting to stick. Oh, and when I would like to take a mental break and just make sparkly eyes at pretty planners online, yes, I have to jot “sparkly eyes” in the planner, too.

When spreadsheets and workbooks need updating, and it doesn’t happen today, or yesterday, or even all of last week, then there is nothing to disguise why I didn’t do it. It’s written right there on the pages.

So this way I am having better accountability about my objectives, goals, and slacking when applicable.  Part of my weekly review on Fridays is to look over these daily pages to help me stay on track.

Here is the simple format I am using for the rest of this year – times on the left; notes, lists, observations, tracking stuff on the right.

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Here’s the monthly format. These are a reassuring visual overview and reference – no heavy planning.

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If it’s late at night and you need something to help you sleep, you can read all of the detail on my work planner system here.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Also related: Running a Work and a Personal Planner

 

My Work Planner and Notebook System (unabridged)

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Author’s note #1: Ironically, I’m presently in between assignments right now so I’m not working for someone else. Either way, this is my tried and true system for many years now. I am working on several business ventures of my own, and I still use the below system, although I don’t have meetings and conference calls right now as illustrated below. Anyway, If I were working for someone else right now, I would probably have continued to procrastinate writing this post!

 Author’s note #2: I formerly used the almighty A5 size planner for the same purpose as described below. I switched last year from A5 to a US half-letter-sheet size for convenience. I wouldn’t have switched from the A5 if we used the same standard sheet sizes here in the US! My A5 was the rare, gorgeous, calf leather, tan Sandhurst Filofax which I’ve owned for 17 years as of this writing. I am still hoarding it, which is just plain wrong, and I know it.

A5 sandhurst

still in captivity – my sandhurst

I wanted to write this post because I have written about my system before on my blog and on comments to other ones here and there. I thought I’d delve into detail on my system in case anyone finds a helpful morsel or tidbit. My last post, Running a Work and Personal Planner, briefly mentions the content of my work planner, so here is the whole enchilada, unabridged.  You’d never know from reading my rambly posts that I rarely say two words in any of the work meetings!

 And now, the guest star…

Work Planner

Workhorse. Weapon of choice: FranklinCovey tangerine-y, zip binder (my first zip binder!) with slim rings.

Classic/Half-Letter size with 7 rings. Franklin Planner calls this Classic; DayTimer calls it Desk. DayRunner has one too. These all use the US half-letter sheets (5.5” x 8.5”) and are similar in size to an A5 although they are not the same size sheets or hole punch formats.

fc work planner

 

This entire planner is centered around one element: the Weekly planner.  Every work action I need to tackle in a week goes on here. It requires some ‘syncing’ but that is part of what feeds the Weekly and it’s the bit on which I thrive.  The key method for this planner is that it’s managed week by week. Hardly anything gets populated in advance in here (because it doesn’t act as my calendar).

  • The ritual is I typically fill in the week on a Monday morning. A Friday afternoon or weekend might work for others, in my case it just tends to make sense based on the ridiculous amounts of work email received over the weekend, redefining your Monday “when you get in this morning” priorities, or their piece of the puzzle they worked on over the weekend which is now back to your court for the next action, etc.
  • The Weekly format I use for work is vertical columns week-on-two-pages.
  • I use these weekly sheets as more of a planner (less of a calendar).
  • I hack this format into my own custom weekly format, as I’ve described before on other blog comments, but for those of you who are interested and haven’t seen that description before, I am rehashing it here. I came up with this hack-format about 10 years ago and it provides me great comfort.
    • I completely ignore the timestamps. I sort of write over them if writing on a line that has one.
    • Every week, I use a ruler (usually the page-marker-ruler because it’s right there!) and a semi-bold black felt-type ink pen and draw a few horizontal lines to create my custom sections on the planner.
hacked weekly planner

custom hacked weekly format

  • I put my timed appointments and meetings on the top section (I just handwrite the time of the meeting), or anything that is truly time specific. This handwritten time stands out to me enough since I don’t have back-to-back meetings all day. I like it top-of-page because I don’t usually get to control my schedule and this highlights where I need to be when and what I need to prepare for.
appts on weekly hack

appts – timed – sched (as hacked)

  • The section below the appointments, I write in deadlines and rather inflexible must-do-today stuff. I call this section “DUE or DO TODAY.” There’s most always going to be more than fits there, so we will get to how I manage that in a few minutes.
  • The lower section is used to group stuff for this week. Each column might be just one subject/project, or it might be items that are similar in nature – it’s free-form and I just adjust it each week as needed. Sometimes I put a heading or title at the top of these little lists, but not usually because I already know what they contain.
  • Saturday and Sunday don’t get drawn on because I don’t need them for work unless there is something out of the ordinary that requires weekend work. These can be used as bonus spaces for more lists or notes.
  • I jot down the entries from my Outlook work calendar, this helps me mesh my work timed appointments with everything else. Just the time and topic, not all of the other details that are already in Outlook – as mentioned in my previous post.
  • The new emails, flagged emails, Outlook schedule and any shared project lists or project software are all reviewed to extract what’s due this week, deadlines, special arrangements, etc. etc. and filled into the weekly pages accordingly. This is not everything under the sun, but rather is focused on my work that I need to do. I don’t replicate every piece of every group project here, just what I need to focus on, my work, etc.
  • This planner is dedicated to work and as detailed in my previous post, I add (sync) only certain personal to-do’s in here as needed (such as a dental appointment in the middle of the work day).

 

sample of my custom-hacked weekly plan

sample of weekly plan as hacked

Other Key Tools

Additionally, I stick a large, lined 4″x6″ sticky note on the week and I write on there those messy reminders and little stuff that must be done or remembered that week (THIS is my place for that little stuff that we all never really know where to write down).

  • Every week gets a fresh sticky. I use a Sharpie or similar marker to write across the top WEEK OF 4/3 – 4/9.
  • At the beginning of the week, the sticky note goes on the right size of the planner so that it only covers up Thursday-Sunday. On Thursday, the sticky moves to the left side to only obscure Monday-Wednesday.
weekly jumbo sticky note sample

weekly jumbo sticky note sample

I stuff a trusty notebook (or steno pad) in the planner (perfect fit). This notebook is my “daily planner” and capture device.

  • Each morning I write the date across the top of a fresh page and fill in the musts for the day (many of which were deadlines or tasks already recorded in the weekly planner, so this is copied to the daily pad). This becomes the big blown-up version of the day. Sometimes at the end of the workday, I will start up tomorrow’s page – especially when I didn’t finish key items for today and need to roll them over or there is something wildly important that I need to be sure stays on my radar in the morning.
  • Now that the pad is populated with today’s focus and agenda, I work from that Daily pad for the day. Weekly planner stays open on my desk for quick visual reference throughout the day, and it goes to all meetings with me. Throughout the day, depending upon the ebb and flow of things, I might pluck a few more things off the big weekly view that I can knock out or follow up on today.
daily notepad-planner for post

daily notepad – planner – capture

  • I typically devote both facing pages if needed for the day. The priority list is on the most convenient sheet and then I usually add notes/capture on the other page. When I don’t use much of a page, I will just append to it the following day instead of turning to a new sheet.
  • This pad is invaluable to my day because it’s unstructured and spacious enough that I do not worry about running out of room for the day’s stuff. The size, (about 6”x9”) is also a very good measure of about how much I can actually do in one day.
  • This pad is where I jot down the zillion little things that come up, transcribing voicemails, etc.
  • The flexibility of the notepad allows me to turn a page just use more pages if needed. I just make sure to put the date at the top for context.
  • At day’s end, or in the morning, any of these things that are still undone get transferred to where they belong (the weekly planner, or the next day’s list or into a future date or project list or whatever).
  • After everything has been transferred, the previous pages get clamped with a binder clip. This is the signal that there is nothing left lurking back there that still needs attention. If I don’t complete the transfer for a day or few, the pages remain unclipped until the capture and transfer is complete.
  • You could easily use daily sheets in your planner for this, but it’s the simple portability of the notebook pad that make this work for me. When I worked in an office, I carried this pad with me everywhere and left the planner at my desk almost all of the time, except for meetings in which case I would also bring the planner. Having that pad with me all of the time was great because it seemed even when I just went to the kitchen for coffee, someone would ask me for something or I’d think of something that needed to be done, so I could always capture these requests and thoughts.
  • The other reason I favor the separate notebook over the sheet inside the planner is that I can see my Daily and my Weekly at the same time. If both are buried in the planner, then you have to flip back and forth to see both. This works fine for some people although the system I’ve got going works best for me because I am very This Week focused and I want to be able to see it all of the time!
  • These pads I choose usually contain about 80 sheets, so they last about three months and are usually slim enough to stuff into the planner.
  • Tip: the best ones ever were steno pads with colored sheets. They are quick to spot on a busy desk.

 

Observations and Other Bits

  • The key to this and any planning system is to review everything and make sure anything undone is transferred and not left behind.
  • My system of planning includes re-writing when things don’t get done and also recurring items, and I am OK with that since I choose to use a handwritten system anyway. To me, I like the writing – it’s part of the process and it works well with my mind. When I am faced with rewriting something that didn’t get done, it is another opportunity for evaluation of this item. Even the re-writing of items is part of why my system alleviates stress and worry – everything is accounted for. Here I decide – does this stay on this week’s lists or do I just need to store it on a Remember Me list, etc.
  • It is used in conjunction with project lists that are part of our company’s shared systems. In no way does my planner take place of those master lists and project lists. I do not handwrite long project lists and timelines in my planner. It’s just my week full of detailed things I will be doing and following up on. It’s also a clear illustration of the week’s deadlines and priorities – across all of the things going on that week, not just one project or subject at a time.

I have the Monthly calendar sheets as well. These are great for overviews. Typically, I only put in what I call “highlights” – the deadlines or major events overview. major work deadlines (like go-live or launch dates), and things like that. Even if I wrote nothing on them, the ease of flipping to that visual tool in my planner and being able to see the days and dates so quickly at any time is unparalleled in convenience. I really don’t use the Monthlies at work much day-to-day but they really shine when I’m in a meeting or on a conference call. At a super quick flip to the monthly tab, I can see exactly which day of the month that event begins, the big important dates, etc.

A few other sheets in my work planner that include some pertinent info that I refer to often, along with extra sheets in case I need quick access to note-taking.  Nearly all meeting notes are taken on my computer or iPad, but every once in a while when that is not an option, I go to the blank sheets in my planner. I’ve been to some meetings at meals or coffee shops where it was easier (and more engaged) to write in my planner than on my iPad.

I keep some cheat-sheet pages in my planner. These are those nuggets of info that you need access to when your computer is frozen, the network is being rebooted, or the Internet is down. IT professionals will assure you the Internet is never down. But you know what I mean. For me, these nuggets of info include a printout of the company phone list, cheat sheets with log-in info for a few people who routinely ask me “what was my log in again?” for our shared project software, the card number details for the credit card I need to use frequently for company purchases but I am not the cardholder, and the hotline emergency number for reaching IT when the Internet is down. It is important that I have this number handy because of the swarm of Internet-less people that crowd my desk with panic eyeballs as wide as boiled eggs looking at me like I am the last human on a zombie-crawling island, because I am the only one packing a planner.

Using my work planner system is the least stressful way of planning (and surviving) my day and my week.

Thank you very much for reading. 🙂

Tips for using a mini Filofax tiny planner

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I love, love, love my tiny mini Filofax planner. It makes me smile as well as anyone who sees it!

Here are a few ideas if you are trying to downsize into a mini (these might even help folks who are aiming for the pocket size, too!).

Sticky notes – if you are a user of sticky notes (I’m an avid user), there are two sizes that work very well in a mini right out of the box. One is the super-cute, square 2″ x 2″ and  the other is the 1.5″ x 2″ size (which I refer to as the pat-of-butter format, especially because I favor the light yellow ones). Another option is to slightly trim down the larger square 3″ x 3″ size. They will fit the height of the page (up and down) as is, although they will hang off the side of the page if you don’t trim them down.

Writing – it really makes a difference if you use fine-point pens or pencils. I have excellent results with fine ball points, although I make equal use of fine mechanical pencils, Sharpie fine pens, and Le Pens.

Sheets – there are 20-ish lines on a Filofax-branded mini sheet. Update: Our vanilla folders note sheets we started making after I wrote this post are about 18-ish (we chose slightly larger line spacing). Some packets might have another line at the bottom, depending on where the paper was cut. So, 18 to 20-ish lines plus the empty space at the top margin.  Sometimes when I am making long lists or writing from my stream of thought, I remove the sheets from the mini and just write on the page. This makes the paper feel much larger!  I also keep a packet or stack of the empty sheets nearby in case I just need to grab one from there to start writing. Sadly, I don’t believe there are any Filofax notepads in this size. Update: we make the notepads now at vanilla folders, so no one is sad and everyone is happy.

Abbreviate – I can be really OCD about writing things out but oddly I have over the years come up with some abbreviations that stuck with me and I like them. Some are silly and some are just utilitarian. I like to jot, say, “hair 11a” on the day I have a haircut at 11:00a. An old boss of mine liked to use “HC” for his haircut appointments in his pocket-friendly planner.  I also have a 2-4 letter code for all names of my bills or banks. Other codes I use frequently: “can” (cancel), “mtg” (meeting), “cc” (credit card), “dc” (debit card), “reg’n” (registration) and “wkg” (working).

Further to abbreviating, think about what details you really need to include – are you writing down extra info that you really already know in your head? If it’s redundant, keep it as short as it can be to remain useful.

Hacks – Some talented folk have gone so far as to make card holders for their mini Filofax planners. Even if you don’t use yours as a wallet, you might want a card holder insert for bits and bobs or stamps!  Check out these tutorials from Jamie and Sharondippity, some of those clever crafty souls who were kind enough to make a guide for others.

Insert a sheet for overflow – if you are needing to squeeze in a little more info in your week or month, you can always stick another sheet in there. It’s funny how on a larger size planner that doesn’t appeal to me, but it is completely perfect to me in my mini. I think it’s because I know I am only putting what I truly need in my mini, and so it’s worth putting the extra sheets in if they have earned their place.

Routine review and cull –  If you’re tight on space, look carefully at what you are toting around with you in that tiny planner! A mini Filofax is not a file-it-and-forget-it system. Some items worth keeping might be kept at home, maybe they’ve become not-necessary at this moment but will again, or maybe they’ve fallen out of date or use right now. I keep a ‘scrappy mini’ (very scrappy) in my room where I love to keep an overflow of past items that bring me joy to see but are not part of my current planning. I actually keep lots of my old sheets and ticket-stub-type things although I don’t keep them in my main mini.

Rotate and refill – Add and remove upcoming weekly or daily calendar pages instead of trying to put them all in the mini. Philofaxy had a post about an on-deck binder to record more advance items on sheets that are not ready to move into your main planner yet. You could also record them as a note or sticky at the end of your current calendar sheets and make the transfer when you rotate in your new sheets.

Transferring to smaller binders – When moving down in binder size, if you have something that is just too large for your new smaller planner, consider using a color copier to reduce the image and then trim it down to size. You can do this with handwritten lists (instead of rewriting), photos, sticky notes, and possibly even some calendar sheets if you can hole-punch them. I had several items I wanted to squish into my mini (a sticker of the state of Alaska, a mall photo booth printout, handwritten sentimental notes, etc.) and was able to assemble several items onto the copier glass, then reduce them down to color copy onto one sheet of paper, which I then cut out for my tiny planner.

Mine is not a super-cute planner with photo-worthy, beautifully decorated pages, yet my planner is super-cute to me. It’s quite messy sometimes yet as long as I can read and understand everything in there, then it’s doing its job. If I write something in once, I have to leave that note in tact; if I rewrite it again elsewhere just to make it neater it will lose the original impact it had in my mind. Strange, I know! But it’s a helpful observation.

Using the size planner that works for you is clearly the most important factor in choosing your format. If for any reason you’ve decided to downsize there will be an adjustment period. Happily though, there will be a day when your eyes see the planner size in a new light. At first, against the stark contrast of your larger binders it can certainly seem a stretch. Although once I cast a critical eye to my larger binder pages and realized that my content was not filling up the pages inside it was the push I needed to give the smaller format a go.  The reward was a delightfully small compact planner that is easy to keep with me and doesn’t weigh down my purse or travel bag (and always makes me smile!).

I hope you find something helpful in all that tiny planner enabling. 🙂

Thank you for reading!