Organizing My 2016 – Back to the Future with a Paper Planner

I’m an early adapter of technology. I love gadgets (see Apple watch on wrist). So, I’ve tried quite a few programs to do my to-do lists, brainstorming notes, etc., as well as calendaring and address book. It has worked well for addresses and calendar (which would be perfect if Exchange would play more nicely with iCal). But, for to-do lists, note making, and general planning, I haven’t come up with something that really works. What I want, ideally, is to keep track of what I need to do, but reduce the amount of needless fretting and spinning in circles. Additionally, taking notes on my iPad works well for group meetings, but for one on one meetings or small groups, I feel like a bit of a jerk doing that.

So, I’m moving back to paper for some things. I got a personal Filofax for Christmas and set about organizing it. I think I have it just about where I want it now. I’m sharing with you here to get any ideas you have on how you organize to get things done!


The Filofax that the Mr. got me is this red Saffiano beauty. And I’ve set up an adorable dashboard page (the post-it is just over my name) to go along with the pretty cover. Since the dashboard is laminated, I’m using the back of it to hold post-it notes and flags.

IMG_2176Behind the front dashboard is a section to capture random jottings that I need to file away later. I also have been sticking post-its that I write when I’m away from my planner to this section until I get them settled.

And then is the section that will likely be the heart of the planner for me, the to-do area. This section planner page (and all of the others, as well as the bookmarks) is laminated for sturdiness. I’m using some principles of the Getting Things Done strategy currently and have categorized the to-do lists by where I need to be to do them (@home,@work, @phone, @computer, @car). This section also includes a list of major projects going on, and a list of things I need to delegate to others.

I’m still working out in my mind the very best way to organize the to-do lists, and even simple things like whether I want to cross things out or check them off. I saw a system today that used 4 boxes for urgent/important, urgent/unimportant, non-urgent/important, non-urgent/unimportant (or something like that). That also seemed sensible to me, because my long lists don’t have much in the way of prioritization going on.

3865E74F-1D09-4B50-98C1-6BDAD962457DFollowing that part of the planner, I have an area devoted to lists of things that are not exactly to-dos, but still take a list form. I am a list maker from way back, so this section will also get quite a bit of use. Because I’ve been searching for the right way to take lists with the phone or the computer, my list making has been a little bit random of late, so hopefully this will help me get back into using them effectively.

To make it easer to find things within it, I have added bookmarks for meeting plans (items I want to include on agendas), waiting for (things I delegated and now am awaiting), someday maybe (things I would like to do eventually, but they haven’t really made it to the to-do list level yet, and shopping (no picture, but it’s a red-checked tablecloth pattern). Within each of these areas, I am expecting there to be multiple pages related to different contexts (like work, home, etc.), but I am planning on letting that evolve on its own as time passes.

Then comes a short section for notes. I suspect that I will end up taking most of my notes in a larger Daytimer that just has notepaper in it currently. It’s a bigger area for note taking and provides more room for storage. I have tried moleskins for note-taking in the past, but the binding tends to get in my way.

Then there is a section for jotting down media that I want to read/watch/listen to, purchase, or review. And the last section that I added is for records related to whatever. This might be receipts, expenditures, etc. I’m not quite sure yet.


The calendar pages follow. I’m mostly using them to jot notes of things that I want to do on specific days that I don’t have in the electronic calendar, or things I need to add to the electronic calendar. These pages will likely evolve and may end up as meal planning pages or an exercise diary. I’m just not sure. To reduce space needs, I just have the first 3 months of the year in the calendar for now.

I then have six dividers for the six most important or complex projects that I have going on at any one time. They are listed and numbered in the To Do section, but I have the breakdowns of what each project includes and additional notes in these sections.

IMG_2184 IMG_2185At the back, I’ve added a cute folder page and a binder clip to hold an additional pencil, since the planner only has one pen loop. While the folder page is cute, it’s a bit of a space suck because it is card stock on top of manila folder paper, so that may have to come out.

And then there is a notepad of paper. That was there to start with, so it remains for now.

So, that’s what it looks like right now. I would imagine that it will change over time, as I find out what parts are working well for me and what parts aren’t. At any rate, it was fun craft work to organize it and make the pretty pages!

What is your organizing method and how is it working for you?

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