I have like many, struggled with trying to keep up with Outlook tasks, random notes in various notebooks, post-it’s stuck on every surface and never ending to-do lists. For a long time I struggled with finding my notes when I urgently needed them and forgot important deadlines and tasks. Through a lot of trial and error I have finally found the perfect system that works just right for me.
So for all of you looking for inspiration on setting up a solid and bullet proof planning system, here is a walk-through of my setup. Please take whatever elements works for you and your situation, and leave anything out that is not relevant or does not feel right for you. Everyone has different planning styles, so do not feel like you have to adapt this 100% in order for it to work.
Okay, here we go!
I have set up my business planner with the following sections:
- Meeting notes
- To do lists
So the first – and most important – section is my planning section. This is my main section (I refer to it as my control tower), and is what I have open on my desk throughout my day. This is a catch-all weekly overview of my schedule, planned daily tasks, weekly tasks, reminders and notes/tasks for the coming week.
I refer to this section every time I receive a task inquiry, a meeting request or any other task that pops up during my day. My layout is structured so that I can only assign 5 specific tasks to each day. For me, this is the perfect amount, as I know that if I add too many tasks to one day, I am in good chance of not completing them all. If I have reached my max. capacity for the day, I will add any new task either to any of the coming days, or to my general/weekly task list. When I complete my scheduled tasks for the day and have time to spare, I can go to the weekly section and pick any task from there that I find I have the time to complete.
My section for meeting notes is more or less self-explanatory. This is where I keep notes pages dedicated to specific meetings. I give each meeting notes page a number, and this number is added to my calendar overview as well, in the weekly schedule. This way I can always very easily refer back to the specific notes related to any meeting. On my meeting notes I always put down the date, topic of the meeting as well as who attended the meeting. This beats rumaging through Outlook to find the original meeting invite, checking the participants lists, or even jumping from email to email to find the one related to this particular meeting.
To do lists
This section is actually not my most used section in my work planner, although I do live for making to-do lists. I tend to keep very few to do lists outside of my main planning section in order to keep a good overview and not lose track of any tasks. In here though, I do have a master to-do list, which is a running to do list i jot down any ideas and possible projects I would like to look into some time in the future when I have more time, but that is not time sensitive at this time. This is also where I can make lists for specific events that I know I will only be working on for a short period of time, but requires more space than what I have in my weekly overview.
This is for everything that does not fall in any of the other sections. This is where I doodle during long web conferences, write content for larger tasks, brief notes from phone calls and so on. This section is not categorised or referenced in any way, although you could very well do so if this suits your planning setup and daily tasks.
This section contains the same layout as my Meetings section, but is reserved for my larger projects. This is where I tend to keep more text-heavy meeting notes and other information, and due to the complexity of the notes I like to have this in a seperate section. If I am running several projects at the same time, and will bundle my notes, so all notes related to the same project is bundled together. This helps me to avoid having to flip through pages to find the consecutive notes for the same project/topic. This section is also cross referenced to my main Planning section.
Like most people, I tend to get sudden lightbulp moments or ideas at random times throughout the day. This also includes during my work hours. And in order to not forget any genious new idea, or avoid dreaming the day away, I keep a section where I can note these things down. This frees the space in my mind and allows me to quickly get back in focus on my work related tasks and not be afraid that I will forget to try out that new recipe or buy milk on the way home. As dedicated as we might be to our work, we cannot control when we get ideas or thoughts that are worth holding on to, and this sections gives me the space to keep track of these things.
This concludes my first ever blog post, and I truly hope you have found some ideas that you can implement in your own work planner in order to help you be more productive and reach the goals you have set for yourself.
I will be going into more detail about my Planning section in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.
Wishing you an amazingly happy and productive day,