One of the more popular things I’ve posted online is my Hacked GTD Moleskine system. I first posted my system over four years ago, back in 2009 and have frequently updated it. I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately so I figured it’s time to update it again. Here’s a list of the products I typically use.
I’ve been using some sort of a planner system since I was in junior high, 30 years ago (no I’m not super anal or super organized; quite the opposite). The problem I have with traditional organizers and day planners was that they weren’t flexible enough for me. So I decided to make my own.
This post is intended to tell you how and why I use this system but still make it flexible enough so you can customize it to your own individual needs. I like Moleskine notebooks but there are loads of alternatives out there that will work.
And while there are loads of digital ways of accomplishing what I’ve done here (Evernote is probably the most versatile), I find writing things out with pen and paper is still superior and the forced time away (even if it’s just a few minutes) each day to gather my thoughts really helps.
My Day Map
Every single day I have a day map that tells me what are the three things I HAVE to get done today, what are the three things I have to work on (i.e. make progress but won’t complete) and what three things did I get done that I didn’t plan on (i.e. fire drills).
Yes sometimes you have more than three things but I find that most days II’m lucky to get three things done and three long term things moved forward (which entails multiple small tasks). The trick is to appropriately size what you write down.
On the bottom left you’ll see a place for me to “return and report” how things went This is where I match up what I had planned vs what really happened. It’s also where I think about what I could have done better.
I also include a manual breakdown of the scheduled meetings I have. Yes, I could just rely on my electronic calendar but I find this also allows me to mark what I did when and make notes about things that happened.
The blank version of my day map looks like this.
My 3 Things Page
You’ll notice on my schedule page I have three things written down on the top and the bottom. These are things I want to do everyday and every night. They are:
- Exercise: I try and do some small workout in the morning and walking in the afternoon/evening.
- R/P/P: Stands for read, ponder and plan. This is where I start and end my day with some reading, pondering on my day and planning.
- Write: I write every morning for an hour and try and write in my journal (yes I keep a separate journal) every night.
My Completed Day Map (all fictitious)
My Weekly List
Next is a weekly check list. This is where I cary over everything from the week before that isn’t done yet and write down any new tasks that come up during the week. At different points I’ve used the red pen to denote new tasks but I’m not consistent about that.
I tend to use work and work misc stuff on the left and personal stuff on the right. This is probably where I hear about the most variations in the system. Some people get more granular, some people have one continuous two page check list and notes. Do what works for you.
This is the part that tends to get the most attention and makes you look uber organized. On the outside of my planner I mark sections for things like Day Map, Projects, Meetings, Personal, Ideas, Misc, and then use the Post-it colored flags to bookmark the page accordingly. This helps me like an index so I can go back and find pages quickly. I also use the stiff Post-it tabs to mark each week across the top.
I frequently receive messages from people who tell me they’ve adapted my system to fit my needs and nothing makes me happier. If you’ve posted your own version of this online please share it in the comments.