a few thoughts about the Life Noted planner

Life noted PlannerAt the end of July I began to put the the Life Noted planner through its paces. Today I have many more thoughts and opinions than I did three months ago! I like it and am pleased to see companies innovating and adapting to changing needs. I found that this format fixes some things that haven’t worked for me with the Principal.

It’s not perfect, but neither am I.

This post will explain things I love, things I wish to change, and how I use it throughout the week.

3 things I love about the Life Noted planner

example month of Life Noted PlannerMonth View: I really love having a month view as an integrated part of the book. It’s simple and there’s space to write other things I want to record. I appreciate the consistent Monday start on both month & week pages and that key holidays are included and unobtrusive.

Quo Vadis Life Noted, weekly pageEqual size day boxes: Let me repeat that: every day has the same size box. This means that the the “flow” of the week is Monday – Thursday on one page and Friday – Sunday on the other. This fits with how I work and the rhythm of my week. For contrast, the Principal splits it Monday – Wednesday, Thursday – Saturday, and a tiny Sunday.

Todo list boxes for time blocks: This was a surprise for me. I have repurposed the four check boxes as key focus for my work-day time blocks (two hour slots 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, and 3-5.). I like to see how well I do on keeping to that part of my week’s plan.

3 things I want to change about the Life Noted planner

The Coil: This is something I could change today if I felt a strong desire to do so, but I’m determined to try and work with it. I detest the coil binding. Yes, this means it lays flat. However, it adds a slight bulk that is results in my leaving the planner on my desk and I only use it there. If you don’t like it either, coil-less options are available at Barnes & Noble! I found one in a store and determined I like it better, but not enough to buy another one.

Find the month: I find it challenging to find the month pages amid the week pages. I’m not sure if there is feasible way to address this, however it’s not a big issue — I found a solution that solves it for me. I added flags to each month page, they stick out a little bit from the edge so I know where to turn. I also placed a brass page marker on the current month.

Time schedule: I miss having the time block schedule that is in the Principal. I often fill it up with postit notes as I map out the time arc of my week.

The first few weeks

In the beginning I tried to mimic the same way I used the Principal. That didn’t feel right to me.
example week of Life Noted Planner

My next attempt was very detailed with my icon task entry. I wrote too much and duplicated too much of my electronic task system.
example week of Life Noted Planner

A week with my Life Noted week planner

It begins with a cup of tea.

I add in the things I know about — recycling schedule, appointments, blog post topics.

Then I add in other important things that need extra reminders (such as medicating foster kittens).

After that, I work on the day’s time blocks, sometimes I split them into one hour slots. They are filled in during my morning planning.
example week of Life Noted Planner, starting to fill out

I use whatever pen comes to hand. Standardizing on black makes that easy.

example week of Life Noted Planner, as of Thursday morning

Events I don’t attend or tasks I no longer need to do are struck out. On occasion I use correction tape, if I made an error not that something was cancelled.

For the curious, a dot ( · ) is a task, a circle ( ○ ) is an event (à la bullet journal), and X or ( ● ) means it’s completed. My system differs from there — I use a / as I begin work on a task and > if I purposely reschedule it. The dots ( · ) and ( / ) that are left at the end of a day mean I didn’t work on them or they weren’t completed.. This helps me during my Friday review so I can evaluate the why things didn’t happen. Sometimes I’ll sketch in tasks for the next week during this review session.

Final thoughts

First, I’m sure you may be wondering where is my beloved Principal? As I expected maintaining two planners in parallel was a pain. It comes out each Friday during weekly review and I use it more as a journal of that week. It also gives me a space to doodle, I miss doing it every day, so we’ll see how that practice evolves.

I was surprised how much I like using this format to plan the arc of my week. It took some trial and error to figure out how I wanted to add things to the page, but now I like it. Why? I’m no longer trying to do a zillion things on Monday (er most Mondays) but instead using the entire week. It’s become an integrated part of my work. It now has my highest honor — I don’t think about it anymore, I trust it enough that I can use it.

Many thanks to Exaclair for providing a review copy of the Life Noted planner (the FTC wants you to know).

planner status, July 2018 edition

QV planner, penat.work planning grid, tablet, rhodia goal book, composition book, and Life Noted plannerIt’s been a while since my last planner status post. Why? I’m still using the same system! (and to my surprise, the same goalbook). This week started a new volume of the Principal so I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts.

I often believe that the best compliment I can give my tools is when I unintentionally ignore them. It’s not I don’t use them, it’s when I don’t have to stress about if they’ll work. They are a part of my systems and I can focus on my work. After the past year, it’s wonderful to have something that isn’t stressful in my life. With recent shifts in what I do, it’s even more imperative that my planning management system work without my actively thinking about it. (Why do I have a strong desire to reread The Phantom Tollbooth right now? ;) )

However (isn’t that always the way?) Quo Vadis has a new planner out this year, the Life Noted. When they asked if I’d give one a spin, I said yes. Why? It has some features that are missing from the Principal that I think would help me out. The most significant of those is monthly planning pages. I’ve been using my planning grid and it’s great (I’m biased) but I’d like something that’s part of the planner without needing a glue stick.

How will I give this new planner a chance and also not cause my systems to train wreck in the process? I’m nervous but have a plan. (Does that surprise anyone?) I will do my morning/evening quick review sessions with both planners, at least for August and September. Then the Life Noted will be my schlep around planner and the Principal will live at home, open on my desk. I’m eager to see how this goes and will report back in October.

While I’m including some photos of the new planner below, if you want to learn more about the Life Noted planners now and see some early reviews, please visit the quovadis blog. And if you’re curious how I set up a new planner, I wrote about it at pen at work.

Many thanks to Exaclair for providing a review copy of the Life Noted planner (the FTC wants you to know).

Rhodia Goalbook as logbook, additional thoughts

It took me about 80 pages and four months to completely settle into my Rhodia GoalBook and feel that we were working together. Yes moving in went seamlessly, however it took me quite a while to feel comfortable with the book. There are a few things I do wish it did differently, and that’s ok. No issue is frustrating enough that will keep me from using the book, or ordering another one.

Let’s go through the book as I’m currently using it.


The leatherette softcover is putting up with my abuse well. My current cover is black and it doesn’t look beat up yet. I often put random sticky notes on the cover of things I absolutely must not forget about and they seem to stick well.

If you look closely, you’ll see an elastic cord. Inside my front cover I’m keeping a tomoe river paper notebook for when I want to spread out and plan. I’ve found that the outside is great to hold a sheet of my Rhodia A3 paper folded up. It is why I like the ISO standard! I’ve been using that to draft reviews and blog posts. It’s also helpful as I can spread out and check my notes.

contenu | contents

I sort of wish this section would be auto-numbered so I could just fill in as I need, but I do like that I can fill it out how in a way that works best for my methods. There are 22 lines per page of contents which only covers 132 pages. So I’ve chosen not to record my daily log.

What will I do differently? I think I’m going to dedicate each page of contents to the different things I record. A contents page each for PennyWise Consulting , Pen at Work, and little acorn creations. That will make it easier to quickly find what I’m looking for. It will be a cross between a table of contents, and an index.

Dated Monthly

I haven’t used this section yet at all and I like a method for utilizing it that I described earlier this week, I’ll divide each space into four and use it to track key habits I want to build. Exactly what habits, I’m not sure yet. ;)

Undated Monthly

I think I’m going to continue to use this as my content calendar/archive section. It’s working for me so I might as well continue. If I’m still using this volume when it comes time for the Q4 content calendar again, I supposed I’ll just tape a sticky note over 2017 and go again.

The rest of the book

There’s a lot here, 224 pages in fact.

Double Bookmark

I keep one on my current daily log and the other travels throughout the day to my various key project pages.

page numbers

Many years ago (I think before Bullet Journal was an official thing and I was just the weirdo who logged everything in a notebook), I was looking into an auto-numbering stamp but didn’t want to spend money on it. I love that these are becoming common. When I number by hand, I almost always miss a page or two!


The Premium “R” 90 g ivory paper is wonderful. It holds up well to most every pen I toss at it and also enjoys watercoloring. Which is good as that’s what I’ve been doing in some of the unused spaces in older pages.

I know I love my grid, but the grey dots are delightful. Dot grid allows much more flexibility without needing to resort to thicker markers for drawing lines. I can use a light grey marker, such as the Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen (it’s either N45 Cool Grey 10 or N65 Cool Grey 5, I need to get both pens together and compare). In any case, I don’t need a thick dark line to help it standout from the grid. The dots are great.

I love that I can use each page however I wish. Perhaps I’ll start using it in portrait mode, but then switch to landscape to squeeze in a few more notes.

I’ll devote a few words to the rounded courners. They help protect all the pages. It might seem like an unimportant detail, but they really do make a difference. To my eyes this notebook still looks close to new after over four months of use. That would not happen if the corners were square.

What do I wish it did differently?

I’m not really sure. I don’t think it’s a fault of the goalbook. I really do wish my Principal was A5 format so that I could easily pair them together. I also sometimes wish the paper was white because seeing the correction tape against the ivory paper is jarring, but that’s not a big deal. I also wish there were pages devoted to my preferred monthly layout but I can draw those if I really want them.

goalbook details

  • A5 softcover leatherette notebook
  • 90g ivory paper, super smooth, acid-free, pH neutral
  • 240 pages: 224 numbered dot grid pages, 6-page table of contents, undated annual calendar, undated monthly calendar
  • Available in 16 Vibrant Colors: Silver, Black, Chocolate, Taupe, Beige, Anise, Turquoise, Sapphire, Iris, Purple, Lilac, Raspberry, Poppy, Tangerine, Orange & Yellow
  • list of US retailers

Exaclair USA sent me a goalbook many months ago in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know. I’m planning to purchase a volume of my own as soon as I can decide on a cover colour.

planner status, november 2017 edition

It’s that time of year when my planner and notebook posts are popular. I am pleased to report that my systems are mostly the same as they were a year ago. I am still pleased with my Quo Vadis Principal, it kept me sane while I assisted my mother and has helped me readjust back to regular work. I still have an A5 logbook, I’m currently using the Rhodia Goalbook, and an inexpensive composition book for brain dumps. The A6 notebook is still in use, but only for meal planning. The biggest change is I’m beginning to trust a few electronic tools and trying to more forcefully separate personal from work.

Continuing in my systems

  1. Quo Vadis Principal® Academic Year planner: weekly planning, time blocking, and … daily log-journal
  2. Rhodia A5 dot grid clothbound notebook: client/project work log
  3. A6 grid notebook: meal planning.
  4. an inexpensive composition book: for braindumps

What’s new

The technology consultant is using technology! I’m relying on and trusting google calendar more. It was easier to help manage all my mother’s doctor’s appointments, so I got into the habit of using it. I also shifted from my very customized todo.txt to todoist. I like the google calendar integration it offers and how it worked more seamlessly across devices than my previous ad hoc method. Plus trying to get the most karma points I can every day was a great boost when it felt like my life was only about poop. (Trust me, you don’t want to know.)

There is another notebook that I’ve added to the mix however it’s not for planning, it’s for recording. I’ll share more about that soon.

What I hope to modify

I want to move to a single highlighter colour. While I love being able to see (without reading) what day of the week I completed tasks in my planner, I’m tired of running around making sure I have the correct highlighter. The challenge is I prefer grey and that’s not the easiest refill to come by and why I abandoned it years ago. I guess the easier alternatives are green or blue, but then I have to choose. I’m not sure I can handle the use whatever after my system existed for so long.

I’m also likely going to stop with the morning planning posts to instagram. Editing them is taking too long each morning and delaying my actual planning. I will stop them for the final two weeks of November to see how that impacts my work and go from there.

What are you keeping the same or hoping to change for your planner?

new logbook, initial thoughts

Rhodia recently released a new notebook, the goal book. I was in the process of moving into my next logbook, a my essential grid, when everything in my life turned upside down.

As my life slowly finds its new normal, I am revising my techniques so that I can stay focused and not overwhelmed. I was delighted when Karen and Sunny offered to send me a notebook to review (the FTC wants you to know).

The notebook arrived last Friday afternoon. I may have exclaimed the most over the dual marker ribbons that are already finished to prevent fraying.

goalbook & weekly review

Beyond the ribbons, what are my first impressions?

I really like it! This was the easiest notebook to simply open and begin using. While I’m still not completely positive how I’ll use all aspects of the goalbook, I quickly became comfortable using it. The ivory paper is easy on my eyes and I like the extreme flexibility of dot grid.

Over the weekend I began to configure and “move in” and found this to be the easiest notebook to switch to. Honestly I’m not quite sure why there was no friction despite already wishing I had planned and begun a few things differently. As there will likely be multiple pages for certain big topics, such as books to review and blog post topics, instead of one entry per page (as in the my essential notebook), it makes more sense to list multiple pages for each topic entry.

I am maintaining the daily log of my business activities as normal and have the project-specific notes (in bullet journal language, collections) as they come up. Blog post topics will be recorded in the two-page calendar spread. To my surprise, the anno log isn’t yet in use.

I’m curious to see how I handle fiber-arts design in this book. Due to the large changes in my life I haven’t been able to create new work yet, but as everything settles I’m getting back into it.

It should be interesting to see how my system evolves as I use the goalbook. Thank you Karen and Sunny for the review copy!


goalbook calendar

goalbook content index

goalbook log

goalbook details

  • A5 softcover leatherette notebook
  • 90g ivory paper, super smooth, acid-free, pH neutral
  • 240 pages: 224 numbered dot grid pages, 6-page table of contents, undated annual calendar, undated monthly calendar
  • Available in 16 Vibrant Colors: Silver, Black, Chocolate, Taupe, Beige, Anise, Turquoise, Sapphire, Iris, Purple, Lilac, Raspberry, Poppy, Tangerine, Orange & Yellow
  • list of US retailers