View Full Version : Organizing a Paper Planner
01-21-2005, 12:37 PM
Any tips on organizing a paper planner for GTD? I've read David Allen's notes, but am curious how others do it... I am working with a 5.5 x 8.5 daytimer style planner...
01-21-2005, 01:40 PM
As odd as this might sound, before doing anything else, I would create as good an address book as possible. Not just the dozen or so most used addresses, but as many as you can...
Examples: Family, Friends/Neighbors, Employment (including previous employers), Utility comanies, Churches/Organizations, Financial (including banks and insurance companies), Legal/Medical, Local businesses (including restaurants). Don't limit yourself to name and phone numbers -- include birthdays, directions, hours of business. Try to include some additional information for each entry. It is this information that will make the address book valuable.
Be excessive here. Include the local donut shop, your barber, your children's schools (and their teacher's names). Be careful of including bank accounts or other information that could lead to identity theft (which is why I keep such information in a PDA protected by encryption).
Why do this before starting work on GTD? Because this information will be useful later anyway, for one thing. (I would advise using PC software to create the addresses and then print an updated address book whenever needed.) Also, the results of this step are measurable in terms of pages, proof that you are doing something to organize your life. (Don't discount psychology, trying to implement GTD can be frustrating, and an early victory in this might offset later setbacks).
01-22-2005, 02:55 PM
I am using the same size planner (Day Timer, I think ...).
At first, I followed the basic setup that David Allen describes on this site (under Tips & Tricks, I believe). Then I made some modifications after using it:
Instead of an A-Z address book, I printed out my three main categories of contacts from Outlook (these were already in there). I did this because I am used to looking at my contacts in Outlook, and I have views set up for each of my main categories. So I actually have 3 address book sections: customer contacts, people that work for or are affiliated with my organization (this is where I have my FedEx account number, etc.) and then Personal. Because of how my brain thinks, this works for me - it might not for you. I have a few blank spaces at the end of each category for additions on the run. Each section is behind its own tab. I also placed this section in the very back of my planner for easy access -- because of my next modification.
I added some slash pocket files that are sized for my planner. I have three: one marked 'Errands', one marked 'Reference', and one marked 'Support'. This is to hold documents that I might need to have with me. For instance, in 'Errands' I keep coupons I will use, my dry cleaning pick-up slip, etc. In Support I will place a meeting agenda, or some other physical piece of information to support my next actions. Reference is self explanatory.
These slash pocket files stick out past the tabbed pages, so by placing the address book directly behind these, I can easily and quickly access my address sections.
01-23-2005, 06:49 PM
There's a thread below about Plannerpads.com. You may get some ideas from that thread.
01-23-2005, 09:40 PM
Thanks, I'm checking out that thread. My problem right now is that with the calendar (1 week on two pages) and contacts, I don't seem to have enough room for all contexts and all projects using tabs for each one-- at any one time I have 30-40 projects going... is that unusually hight? They don't seem to make daytimers big enough. Maybe I need to move to a 3-ring system, but the size is a bit much to deal with!
The big weakness, of course, is in dealing with so many projects and lists of actions that aren't next actions (yet). It seems like the planner pads give very little room for all of these, but the biggest "problem" with GTD for me so far has been managing transfer of next actions from their home on project lists to the appropriate contexts when the previous action is complete...
01-23-2005, 11:26 PM
I'm just getting into the plannerpad myself - just starting with it............but a couple places I could see putting projects and NAs......using the Notes or Goals/Project pages in the back........then each week, you could put the projects or NAs you need to work on in the top or middle section of the weekly view.
01-24-2005, 06:37 AM
Have you had a look at the DIY planner pages site on http://www.douglasjohnston.net/weblog/index.php/archives/category/organisation/gtd/ ? This has a great set of printable templates created specifically for GTD.
01-26-2005, 06:06 PM
I have worked a couple of years with my paper planner and GTD. I have a daytime desk size and would not go anywhere without it. I have it setup the following way. Each line is a different tab starting from the front.
My short term goals (30 days)
My List (next actions, Calls to Make, ect.)
Daily Tickler List
Weekly Tickler list
Monthly tickler list
My address book
Open project (each project has it own page for notes or upcoming NA)
My 1 year goals
My Somday/Maybe projects
General Referance for work (budget info, ect.)
General Referance for home
Mom's info (My mother is in a nursing home list of her meds, doctors, ect.
Hope this helps
02-01-2005, 11:19 PM
I'm trying to start a paper planner at the moment. I went smaller, using a small 3.75" by 6.75" paper size 6-ring binder. It's the same size as a "portable" day runner, but only a few dollars in the notebook section for the binder and lined paper. (So yeah, this is a roll-your-own organizer.)
The thing I like about it is that it's small but not tiny: I want to be able to carry it in a coat pocket, but still do serious organizing in it. Maybe I should step up a size, but I want to try to live with the smaller size first. It's tricky to fit all the stuff in the little rings. I have another that has larger rings but it's therefore thicker. Also, it has a zip enclosure which I like but it makes it larger than needed. (My plain binder is only 4.5" by 7" and only 1" thick.)
So, to cope with smaller rings I've ordered the sections thus:
- project plans
- next actions (including waiting-for)
The idea here is that it's easier to add/move/remove pages in the center than the beginning/end, so it opens to the inbox. A few bookmarks make the inbox, calendar today, etc. easy to find. From the inbox, active stuff goes right into next actions or calendar, or left into the other folders (incubate etc.). Reference and contacts, which require few page changes, are at the ends.
Anyways that's the theory. I keep a couple of lists (shopping, movies to rent, etc.) on a PDA just because it's always in my coat pocket, and I'm going to try using the PDA to do voice record inbox (while driving etc.) in addition to paper inbox. I also have the email inbox and some email folders.
02-02-2005, 12:00 AM
The problem with paper calendars/contacts is there's never enough room to expand when you need to. This is something I think is really done better in digital.
I've seen something similar to the templates on Douglas Johnston's site before in other planners, and I was never crazy about them. They seem a little too rigid, too specific.
For calendars on paper, a binder style blank day-per-page works nicely. You can expand the day as necessary on to a second page simply by inserting another sheet in Days you don't use can be recycled by using a pencil and erasing the date, or just by writing "Wednesday" on it until you use it, and then dating it.
For contacts the same. Blank contact sheets, with the A's after an A tab, B's after a B tab, and add sheets as necessary.
For to-do, I like to keep it simple. Unlike David Allen, I don't find myself in an airport with just my cell phone and my Next Actions list - 99% of my actions can be done in one place - my desk, so I just have one list.
I used to be an obsessive organizer... seperating everything into various categories, but now I like to keep things simple. One contacts list that crosses all the areas of my life, one calendar, and one to do list... Well, one for home, and one for work and one for shopping anyway.
I guess my concept is to keep it simple, flexible, and keep it all in one place. If things get too big for one list - you start having 80 or 90 projects & next actions, seperate them into two lists, just as long as you really check both, and they have a logical division, like projects, next actions, and "waiting for someone else."
02-02-2005, 12:23 AM
and one to do list... Well, one for home, and one for work and one for shopping anyway.
At the begining of your post I was really afraid that you are browsing your single long to-do list in the shop to find out why you are here. But fortunately you are not orthodox but reasonable simplifier of things.
So I agree with you and your way of simplifying stuff.
02-02-2005, 01:19 AM
Yeah... I realized that I was contradicting myself when I said about the home, shopping, and work lists. When I started writing I was talking strictly about work, but I started to broaden the scope as I went along.
02-02-2005, 08:42 AM
I agree about blank pages vs. forms.
I have some contacts forms, with space for name, address, phone, fax, and a dozen other things, but most contacts I am interested in just name, phone, email, and sometimes address.
It saves space to just use a blank page and write each in manually. Additionally, if I have other notes for that contact, I can write them in taking as much space as necessary.
02-03-2005, 08:14 PM
This is a useful article by David Allen that helped me set up my paper system:
02-08-2005, 10:10 AM
Just a quick observation about paper planners. What in World do you do when you lose it?? (Mine was stolen) That's the main reason for a PDA. Seems to me. Otherwise I would certainly go with paper.
02-08-2005, 10:38 AM
You can fail to back up a PDA as easily as you can fail to back up paper.
For paper, I think I would occasionally use my digital camera to take a photo of each open page spread. This isn't onerous if the planner is small enough.
People survived with paper long before PDAs were invented. It wouldn't be the end of the world if you did lose data, though it sure would suck.
02-08-2005, 11:17 AM
Losing data would definitely ruin your day! You are correct about the PDA. Plus they can be $expensive. My paper planner was letter sized and big enough for a tickler system. In addition, I filed resource material in it. I lived through losing it but I guess one lesson learned would be to keep resource materials and the tickler "off site." We just have to guard them with our lives!
02-08-2005, 11:36 AM
I'm just getting into GTD but right now I have a "portable" 6.75"x3.75" paper planner supplemented by a desk-based paper system (e.g. files), a PDA (for digital voice recording and a few lists), and a computer (email etc.).
I am finding it hard to go with one tool as they each have their pros and cons, so for the moment I'm trying to use the strengths of each as appropriate.
I'd like to go full PDA but I've had data loss on the PDA before (e.g. iPAQ draining batteries overnight due to software problems) and I like to have a bigger work area (screen is small). On the other hand the PDA fits in my pocket easier and has voice recording, an advantage over the paper planner.
I typically organize my life in the paper planner (calendar, next actions, projects, etc.). I keep shopping lists on the PDA and take just the PDA when I'm out and about. During that time I capture into voice record (e.g. while driving). When I get home I process it back into the planner. This avoids the hassles of writing on the PDA (I still find iPAQ graffiti input a bit retarded). If I think I'll have some time to go through my planner, I take it as it still fits into a coat pocket.
02-08-2005, 12:10 PM
The tool decision is quite a conundrum. It has been one of the hottest topics on the Board. I made the decision to use the Palm M100 (got it for $40 on E bay) and I've stuck with it for 2 years. No paper. Lost one day's data one time when I droped it and the batteries fell out. (yep ...the M100 uses AA batteries)---No Problem, really.
I miss paper. I love to write. (I carry a fountain pen!) I will admit...I haven't totally converted to GTD. (Still need the two day Installation) But I have the project lists and the N/A lists. I still need to figure out how to structure my week. I believe we need to schedule our contexts. Perhaps I am just not intuitative enough. I can procrastinate with the best! I like David Allen's suggestion when installing GTD: "Block out two days when installing GTD." That's time mgt!
02-08-2005, 12:24 PM
I don't have the contexts quite like DA suggests. In fact my system so far is a little different in details, though similar in spirit.
For projects, I use a page each for my house stuff, by room (or garage or basement or car). This lists all the stuff I want to do in that area. It's easy to fill in: just go into that room and write down all the things you'd like to do. Some are imminent things (e.g. fix windshield wipers), some are do-later things (e.g. repair door threshold) and some are someday-maybe things (e.g. maybe paint this room). I just find it easier to consider each room a project and put down everything to do with that room together, whether it's a next action, a do-later thing, or a do-someday-maybe thing. I don't really have separate project plans here.
That takes care of all my around-the-house-and-yard stuff. I manage my work projects more like GTD traditionally does, with project plans and next actions.
In the next actions area, I collect more miscellaneous single actions. Things like make an eye exam appointment, have jacket repaired, burn 2004 photos onto CD.
So when I want to know what to do, I look first on the calendar. Then depending on how much time I have, I either pick up a small single next action, or flip to a project and do an action from there. I don't bother copying project actions into the separate next actions area, since I generally know all what has to be done, I just use the system to ensure nothing is missed through the cracks. If I really want to emphasize that an action is to be next, I use a highlighter on it. All actions are checked when they are done, or crossed out if they are cancelled.
My biggest problem is not knowing what next to do, but rather having too much to do and not feeling like doing it. For example I'm painting some bed headboard/footboard and have a few coats on one. It needs another coat, then I have to do the other. This is a major pain and I should be doing it in my free time, yet I avoid it. I'll spend time instead organizing my planner: thinking about doing things, instead of doing things.
02-08-2005, 12:33 PM
Ah....First of all, it is really discipline that is needed, and motivation will follow discipline. If you like what you do, you donít need motivating. The love of it is enough. Terell Owens didnít need motivation to get on that football field last night. It was something he WANTED to do.
But, if itís something you DONíT want to do then you need discipline. Discipline will make you do it, and once you do it enough, then youíll want to do it.
Put another way, discipline produces motivation, not the other way around. Act your way to better thinking, instead of trying to think your way into right actions...
We need structure and discipline!
02-08-2005, 12:34 PM
Of course, I am preaching to myself!
02-08-2005, 01:14 PM
Well I just finished cleaning my fish bowl so I'm Getting Things Done(tm). Yeah Just Do It(tm) that's the ticket.
02-09-2005, 06:56 AM
Re: what if you lose your paper planner?
When I was using a paper planner I would once in a while make a photocopy of the important pages. Low-tech back-up.
One time, I dropped my planner into a toilet (don't ask!) and the paper back-up saved the day.
02-09-2005, 08:11 AM
One time, I dropped my planner into a toilet
Sorry, but that is hilarious. I've never lost a paper planner and figured there was more of a risk that someone would steal a PDA than a planner. Yes you're backed up, but your wallet also gets a lot lighter.
I didn't factor in ... other events. :shock: