Paperheads, paperazzi, papists ... what does your paper task system look like?

Paperheads, paperazzi, papists ... what does your paper task system look like?


The format I flirt with in a bound notebook is an unholy hybrid between bullet journal and GTD.

First Spread

  • Monthly calendar on left page (though I maintain a digital calendar, might help to write things down)
  • Projects lists on right page.

Following Pages

  • Context lists (3 or 4?)

And then!

  • Daily pages with time bar down the side of the page allowing for scheduling of meetings and tasks
  • Each daily page also explicitly calls out 3 wins for the day.

Notes and inbox items for the day start in the space under the 3 MITs, then move onto following pages.

Then another daily page. Etc…

The start of the month gets a new calendar/projects spread and new context list pages.

This way there’s no wasted pages in the notebook, no awkward page allotments for different sections, and very little overhead to think about in organizing.

Like I mentioned, I’m flirting with this idea … still in Omnifocus for the time being.

How about yous guys?

(Joe Buhlig) #2

Here’s what I’ve learned with my paper system:

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify. One project list and very few working task lists.
  2. I need to review and write out a daily task list.
  3. Rewriting the project/task lists weekly is a must.

I say this because it needs to be crazy easy to add to it and review it. It also needs to have the flexibility to break the structure as I want.

That said, I have a six-page system. Two pages for my project list and goals for the week. Four pages for my contexts and task lists. Each of those pages are halved so there are two lists to a page. That’s the bulk of it.

Once a week I look over these lists and rewrite them to clean them up. Daily, I check off the ones I’ve completed and add new as they came up.

I like the simplicity of this but at the same time I keep some other material in my notebook as well. The higher horizons and my personal scoreboard are in there as well. But at the back I keep my “Thinking” pages. That’s just random brainstorming that gives me no structure whatsoever. I like that. :blush:

(Manolo Marquina) #3

This is so interesting. I just came here because of your recent podcast episode. Now, i would love to see some pictures of your notebook pages to get a better understanding of the organisation in it. Would that be possible?


Re: newsletter — I was hoping you’d share your setup. But!

I was also hoping to see if other guilders had systems they were working.

I just bought a giant A4 leucctenburg notebook that I’m considering using. Big enough that 8.5x11 papers can fit in the pages. Big enough to paste things into it. But not so big that I wouldn’t take it to places I would take the regular size.

We’ll see if it works. But first we’ll see if I have the chutzpah to soil this thing with writing.

(Mike N) #5

I’m currently giving paper another go. I’ve been testing ideas the last week and have my planned structure for an 8 week trial.

I have digital planning and task assignments occurring at work in excel plans, Asana, and other pm tools depending on the org I’m interacting with. Paper will be the hub to capture, organize, and prioritize all of the inputs.

I will use a digital calendar and note upcoming items on paper. Random thoughts will still be captured via drafts, dictation, etc. and transferred to the relevant place in the evening.

My journal will stay digital as I like my system of referencing previous entries. If i was journaling on paper it would be in a separate notebook in case of notes being taken for a legal hold.

Long term lists will be stored in ulysses and ideas that I want to save will be typed up there at review points or before moving notebooks. Work notes and critical project information will get put in the relevant internal systems.

I have separate sheets for each project I have and a generic sheet for each functional area - random work items, one off house stuff, etc.

I’ve been using the 12 week year over the last 8-9 months and I have found it to be too long of a window for the pace that my life is shifting, particularly the day job. I’m stealing Shawn Blanc’s 6 weeks + 1 week catchup + 1 week down concept, but running it with the scorecards and trackers of the 12 week year. So, I have one work objective, one home / family objective, and one health objective to get done in the next 6 week block.

I have one sheet with the top level goals for each of those blocks and the summary score card. I have a separate sheet for each objective with what needs to be done to meet items. I am then building a weekly layout that has the items that need to be accomplished for each of those objectives on one page and other items that need to be done this week on the right page. I’m expecting to rewrite the objective sheets and project sheets regularly and obviously produce a new weekly sheet each week.

Each night I’m building a daily list for the next morning. This includes looking at the weekly list focusing on the key objectives first and then grabbing items from the other list based on due date, priority, etc. Occasionally, I’ll rough out a day’s schedule as a sidebar.

I’m using something similar to the future planner from Bullet Journaling to capture items for future months and a waiting on / committed to sheet to track due dates of items in one central place.

Work meeting notes are generally taken on a legal pad and will type up what is necessary to keep and add relevant details / tasks to appropriate project sheets. The notes are then shredded. Thinking through projects is being done in the main notebook other non-day job notes are take in the main notebook.

There is a daily evening review of the key objective list, weekly list, waiting on / committed to list and random catch lists for items. Weekly review will involve parsing through all of the above mentioned lists and active project lists to assemble the new weekly.

Currently using one the giant sized baron fig confidant’s, a field note while out, and baron fig dot grid post it notes for all of the things that one would use sticky notes for. I like to write my main focus for the day on the post it and place it over the remaining list, so when I wake up in the morning and open the book all I can see is the most critical item. Also use them on my blackboard when thinking through a project.

It could be the new system honeymoon phase, however I already feel more in control of what I have going on and have cut down on what I’m trying to do in a day. Hopefully that lasts.

Starting a 6-8 week year tomorrow operating this way and will see how it shakes out.


Questions for The Joe!

  1. How are you using your daily page vs. the context/task lists?
  2. Why do the thinking pages at the end vs. after the last used page (assuming this would be the daily page)
  3. How have you refined your context/task lists for paper vs. Omnifocus?
  4. Goals on the left page of a spread, projects on the right?


I forget where you said this, but the idea of computers being tools vs. places to be is a really powerful way of thinking about all of this. It’s helping me to clarify some of my own swirling and abuse of tech.

(Jeremy Wells, EA) #7

For a few months I’ve used Michael Motta’s journaling system. I also added a Moleskine daily planner: I jot down MITs in the daily entries (left) and use the lined page (right) for weekly reviewing and reflection. Except for recurring tasks for which I need a notification (taking the trash out) or calendar appointments, it’s made Todoist irrelevant in my workflow (and I was pretty wedded to Todoist for quite a while there).

(Joe Buhlig) #8

I’ve been keeping up with the hPDA method on this one. So I don’t do a daily page in my notebook at all. I look over my contexts every morning and grab the ones that need done that day. But I also make sure to keep seven notecards in the hPDA. One for each of the next seven days with the date at the top. If I commit to doing something on a specific day this week, I put it on that card.

I like keeping the project/contexts in one area and thinking in the other. It gives it a nice break. But I think this question is predicated on having the daily pages in my notebook which I don’t do. Am I understanding that correctly?

They haven’t changed much at all:

  • Anywhere
  • Office
  • BCC (Church IT work)
  • Thinking - I finally got this one to work with paper.
  • After Hours
  • Errands
  • Agendas
  • Waiting

Opposite. :laughing: My eyes go left first and I typically want my projects list first. Not sure why, though.

I believe this was on the Whims episode where I first told the world about it.