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).

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?

additional planner pages, quo vadis principal

The main pages of my planner are well known (thanks to my almost daily photographs), however, what else lies within the covers? This post will provide a brief tour of additional planner pages that are often overlooked, and changes I’ve made to them.

The Cover

img shows brown-black desk with keyboard, notebook, and pen. notebook is "Texas", a faux suede Quo Vadis planner cover in charcoal black. .

I use the faux suede (vinyl) cover that arrived with my Trinote back in 2013. Quo Vadis calls this style “Texas”, and mine is in charcoal black. It’s held up much better than I expected; while it no longer looks new, it is still presentable.

Inside front cover

The front spread is where I keep post-its. It’s also where I often forget about them while I’m planning. They are most helpful when I’m at the library or Starbucks and need a post-it, stat!

I also wrote up my watercolor recipe for the color of tea. Do I need it? No. One day I was playing with my watercolours and wanted to see how much white I needed to add to the yellow when I doodle the sun. It evolved from there as yellow is also the colour of Twinings’ Earl Grey box. I now often draw herbal teas as a leaf instead of a square teabag.

Personal notes page

There are many entries I do not complete and some which are in my own personal encrypted code.

Why? What if I lost this notebook? I try to be careful, but as I do often work in public spaces, it could happen. While I blur things in my posted photos, those aren’t how they appear in the book, nor is my blurring necessarily infallible. I’ve had to trade-off usability verses encryption.

Is my encryption hard to break? No.

Will I teach you? No.

If it’s something that private, I don’t record it here.

Front Notes Page

Here in the front is where I keep random information such as the hours of certain stores. I also have phone numbers that I keep in my cell that I don’t have memorized.

Time Schedule

I’ve struggled with this spread, which is a surprise given my love of time blocking. I now have post-it notes that fit better with the time grid (thank you scissors) and am slowly working on using this regularly. I had been writing in pencil, and while that works, it wasn’t as flexible as I’d like. This still isn’t quite right, but I’m looking at it more.

Current Anno Planning

Other than blocking out the Jewish holidays and 6-month dentist appointments I haven’t been using this as much as I used to. It’s a bit narrow for me to write daily events such as dinner and I prefer to keep that record with the rest of my day. I may begin to record my morning inbox count here; by recording it within my daily notes, it often becomes lost. It would be interesting to see if there are trends.

Future Anno Planning

I haven’t done much in the 2017/2018 Anno Planner beyond marking out that I need to get my car inspected in August and the 10th annual Paine to Pain is tentatively scheduled for October 8th. The slightly darker grey boxes are the Jewish holidays I need to remember to schedule around (Pesach in 2018 is at the end of March).

Revised Back Pages – Monthly!

Until last week, I mostly ignored the back pages. I was tired of schlepping a different sized monthly calendar around, even though I really liked to be able to lay it out next to my weekly. I’m waiting for the Monthly 4 to be available; I’ll have to figure out a new cover solution then. In the meantime, I printed up a 4 week layout through August and pasted it over the reference pages of Practical Information which I haven’t used since I began this planner last July.

Ideal? No. Good enough for now? Yes.

It has simplified what I need to keep track of when I go running off somewhere other than my desk or the dining table to plan. The layout proved useful last week when I realized how very little time there was before Pesach! My default google calendar view is three weeks, so that was a surprise!

Back Notes Pages

Here is where I do pen and watercolour tests. I haven’t figured out what else to write in the pages that isn’t in my always present log book, but they are there.

Three-year calendar

Here I highlight the Jewish holidays, there really isn’t space to do much else.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some of the shyer pages of my planner. Do you find yourself puzzled by pages in your planner? Let me know, I believe together we we can find a solution.

planner status, December 2016 edition

I’ve received many messages over the past few weeks, “What are you using in 2017?” and until last week my response was, “I don’t know yet”. I’ve decided and my solution may surprise you. This post will cover the current system, the proposed system, and how I’m using the notebooks. It is a long post so I decided to split it into two parts with another post next week covering the smallest of the notebooks.

Current planner system, December 2016

  • Quo Vadis Principal® Academic Year planner: weekly planning, time blocking, and … daily log-journal
  • A5 Muji Monthly notebook.
  • Clairefontaine A5 grid clothbound notebook: client/project work log
  • A6 grid notebook: todo list, daily punch list, and meal planning.
  • an inexpensive composition book: for brainstorming

Proposed planner system, January 2017

The same as I’m currently using, that’s a very nice feature of using an Academic year planner!

As the current log books fill, I will switch in new ones. This is the last of the A6 notebooks I purchased in Budapest this summer, so I’ll switch to the easier to acquire Muji A6 grid. When the client/project log is full I will upgrade to a different Clairefontaine A5 grid, but I can’t talk too much about that new import yet.

Really, no changes?

Ok, the biggest change over the past few weeks was to finally work out a system for identifying tasks that are personal, PennyWise Consulting, and little acorn creations. I tried quite a few things the past few months. Different colour pens, markers, and brush pens. The colours I mentally identify with each business don’t work very well on paper as they are similar in tone. As expected the solution was simple and is effective in monochrome or colour.

The Shape System

I chose shapes to represent each. Oh simplicity, you make my heart sing. It’s easy. A square shape represents PennyWise Consulting. It’s similar to the current logo so there’s consistency. little acorn creations is a triangle, let’s say I chose it as it is close in shape to a capital A. Finally, personal is a circle, I draw them in a way similar to how I write the Hebrew letter פ, the first letter in my name. (I used a פ for a long time but this is easier). Books are represented by a diamond. This is where I really like this simple outline system. Just the shape means a task (or a book I want to read). A dot in the middle indicates that I’m working on it, ⟐. A fully shaded shape ◆, means the task is completed. Wow. That makes it sound much more complicated than it is.

What about the Hobonichi?

I really enjoyed it, but I used a considerable amount of budget on notebooks and planners in 2016. So much so I spent into my 2017 budget, so unfortunately I’ll have to skip for next year.

How I use the Quo Vadis Principal® Academic Year planner

It took me a while to figure out this new-format-to-me planner. I think I’ve finally settled into it, and I am not using it at all as I expected. The biggest change was when I realized I could, thanks to correction tape, switch Saturday and Sunday. Once I got used to seeing the planner this way, I no longer notice the somewhat the odd order to my week.

example of PSG mods to Quo Vadis Principal planner page

I’ve tried using printed labels to pre-populate routine tasks, but I found I actually like the process of writing it out by hand. I no longer try to track all the routine tasks in my notebooks. To my surprise I found two android apps that work well enough for me and I’m happy enough with them that I now track this digitally.

Instead of using the task sections for phone calls, emails, and notes I use these sections for big-topic work items. Here I record a blog post & its general topic, themes for what I want to photograph and post to social media, and when trash/recycling pickup is.

In the schedule area I write out my time blocks. While I have a weekly master plan, I found it is easier to sketch it in during my morning planning session.

The open expanse, solved

The middle area perplexed me for a while. The lines bothered me. I tried splitting it into 4 sections with the fourth as household projects, and tried to use the tasks as intended. That didn’t go well. I finally decided to use it as I was using the Hobonichi … as a sort of “diary/journal” … with doodles! I record the weather with windchill. I keep track of what I drink during the day as I am skilled at being dehydrated. Oh, the water drop with the 3 small circles? I decided that is how I’ll designate seltzer. We drink liters of seltzer.

It feels really good to doodle freely.

It works out because I don’t need to doodle and draw all the time, and the space was begging for use. The lines (which are faint in my photocopy) no longer bother me and I find them useful to help size my coffee & tea mugs.

What about that small A6 book?

Next week I’ll write about how I’ve sectioned the notebook and how I learned that no matter where I write daily tasks, writing them all down in one list while my coffee or tea cools.

Want more planning?

On the PennyWise Consulting blog yesterday I announced a new project I’m developing, but I need your help.

I received my QuoVadis Principal® planner from Karen at Exaclair, the FTC wants you to know.