Planner peace… it’s not just a pipe dream. I’ve finally found the Holy Grail that combines the bullet journal with the Getting Things Done system – with an added dash of rebel tendency strategies. The key for me was separating the planner from the “grand ideas” parts of the system, because trying to cram all my visions into one book was just… no. Not possible.
So that’s how I came up with a self-contained three tier system for 1) day-to-day planning, 2) more long-term dreams, and 3) crazy-ass scribbles.
The video below explains all this in detail with a concrete example at the end, but the short version is that the big A4 “messy books” contain all my random scribbles and drawings and almost diary-type brain dumps about things that pertain to my teaching, my research, my home projects, and my creative hobbies. In the two smaller A5 “maybe books”, I gather all my ideas in someday/maybe list form. Finally the black A5 “master book” functions as my planner, with a calendar section, weekly spreads, and lists of projects and next actions.
The point of the system is that there are binding threads connecting all these books, and I don’t write any good ideas on random slips of paper or in loads of different notebooks that get lost or forgotten – no, it’s all in the self-contained three tier system where each book has its own theme with different project areas that are separated and signified by tabs in different colours.
3. The messy books (A4)
(Yup, I’m starting from the back, with number three, and saving the numero uno master book for last.)
So two of the messy books are for work. The port red one is for teaching, and the green one is for research. In these I jot down messy ideas concerning courses I teach and the studies I conduct. I could use ordinary, ugly, cheap notebooks, but these Leuchtturm ones actually make it more fun to work, so I think the expense is worth it.
To keep track of where I’m writing about what, I use tabs in different colours that signify different courses and studies. That way when I get an idea for something new, I can just turn the page and start writing, bullet journal style, and still have a structured and easily navigated book.
The other two messy books are for home. The black one is for duty type projects like car maintenance, paperwork, and renovation. The blue one is for creative projects like writing, photography, and social media, and that’s where I plan out my books and brainstorm videos like the one below.
2. The maybe books (A5)
The maybe books are for more structured lists of ideas, a place where I go to see if there are any good ideas I feel like acting on. This is where the system becomes an actual system, because the maybe books correspond to two messy books each. One maybe book is for work (port red) and contains someday/maybe lists for both teaching and research, so it combines the ideas I brainstorm in the port red and moss green messy books.
The other maybe book is for home (pink), and it contains someday/maybe lists with ideas that pertain both to the black duties messy book and the blue creative messy book.
The tabs in the maybe books correspond to the tabs in the messy books, so that for example, a pale purple tab signifies writing in both the maybe book and the blue messy book. This way I can easily find anything to dow with writing and easily flip to the right spread.
1. The master book (A5)
Finally, it all comes together in actual planning and carrying out of tasks in the planner.
This is where I keep all my current and time specific projects and tasks. Nothing goes in here that isn’t important right now or within the next month. No grand ideas, no long-term dreaming, just the day-to-day deadlines and appointments, notes for meetings, and brain dumps that will be irrelevant once I process them and turn the page.
Want to know more about how the system works and how I combine the Getting Things Done system with bullet journalling concepts? Please watch the video below, where I explain all this in more detail, with an extended example to show you exactly how I use the system in real time. The video contains references to my books.