Just under a month ago, I started a new job with a new company. This gave me the unparalleled opportunity to figure out a new analogue system to keep track of everything I do at work. As always, I keep my work notebook separate from my personal stuff, because I take way too many notes at work to be able to fit that into my personal Travelers Notebook system.
It took me a good couple of weeks to figure out a workable system, but I think I’ve finally got it down. Here’s my journey.
Week one was all about orientation and getting settled. My boss was actually on vacation, so it left me plenty of time to get through onboarding to-do items.
At that point, I was rocking a modified bullet journal – not the full-on version, but a notebook with an index that marked out my to do lists, questions, and other various on-boarding things.
The to do page looked like this:
I had split it into three types of to-dos: professional work (HR trainings, online orientation, etc.), personal work (enroll in benefits and 401k, sign up for direct deposit), and things to bring to the desk.
Starting a job requires a LOT of lists, I’ve found. But by week 3, the need for the lists dwindled and I needed to focus more on project notes and daily miscellaneous stuff.
I started playing with the idea of a bullet journal, but I decided that approach wasn’t for me. I also realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep a paper calendar/schedule book like I did at my old job, because the company I’m at now is very fond of its meetings, and they change a lot. If I tried to keep that on paper I’d drive myself up the wall in no time.
Same with to-dos; now that I’m into working on projects, my to-dos are prioritized on a scale of 1 (critical) to 5 (very low urgency) – but as more assignments come up, those designations can change. Which is why I keep a color-coded spreadsheet that keeps track of the project, the client, the to-do item, the due date, the completed date, the priority, the status (in progress, waiting, etc.), who or what (if applicable) I’m waiting on, and any notes to remind me of what to do once I’m no longer waiting.
So, you ask, what’s left for paper to do, if I keep my calendar and my to-do list strictly electronic?
Plenty, as it turns out. I started out in a single notebook, but quickly realized that I have two major note-taking needs – – everyday stuff, and project stuff – – and they don’t play nice in a single notebook.
I didn’t want to keep the everyday notes in a bullet journal format because they’d be scattered everywhere, and these are kind of throwaway notes: little reminders or a record of things I did that weren’t big enough to make it onto the to-do spreadsheet.
And while I have the ability to keep project notes organized and color-coded in something like OneNote, I know that I learn and retain best when I write things down by hand.
So, two notebooks: one for what I call “dailies”, the throwaway notes that are good to have but not important enough to be bujo-ed, and another for project notes.
For the dailies, I’m using my Hobonichi Cousin Avec, which is nice because the pages are already dated.
For the project notes, I’m taking a modified bujo approach in my very first Leuchtturm1917 notebook. And this has its own classification system within.
I first dreamed it up in the single notebook, when things were feeling hectic and messy. I wanted logic and order, so I came up with this concept:
Each start of a new note would get its own formatting at the top of a page. And if the final page of notes took only one line of a page? Start the next note on a new page anyway.
Similar to the bullet journal concept, this allows for speed of scanning.
The note header format allows me to see at a glance what the overarching project is, what the topic is, the date I took the notes, and, if they were for a meeting, where the meeting was held (this is actually more so I can find the room if there is one, though usually they’re via Skype).
I then created a color key and format guide in the front of the book, to keep track of the color assignments.
Color assignments, you ask? Yep.
Each project gets associated with its own highlighter color, which further aids ease of scanning, since I can see at a glance which project I’m looking at notes for without having to read anything.
And I use the index in front to note the page number, project, and title of each entry, and highlight the project name in its associated color for ease of reference.
So there you have it. I don’t know if I’ll stay in this system forever, but for now it’s keeping me on track, and that’s good enough for me.