How to Turn a Simple Blank Notebook Into a Powerful Work ToolAUTHOR: Lori Wade
Whether the pandemic has your normal organization spiraling out of control or you’re simply ready for a new approach, the fresh slate of a blank notebook can be a welcome respite from the sticker-filled, reminder-packed planners that are flooding the market today.
When you choose a blank notebook, you can create a convenient, customizable planner to organize your life — in a way that actually makes sense.
Let’s take a look at how you can use a notebook to help anchor your thoughts, plan your day (and week), and allow yourself to thrive with the confidence that you’re not forgetting errands, appointments, or to-do list items.
First things first: get a notebook (and other supplies) that you love.
Think back to when you were in grade school. Remember how excited you’d get to use your new supplies? The feeling of opening unused binders, fresh pens and pencils, and blank notebooks was a clean slate for the year and gave you inspiration and motivation to succeed.
A fresh, new notebook that you love, as well as a new set of pens, can recreate that feeling in your adult life.
Take your time when choosing a notebook. Think about the cover design, paper size, and notebook-style that make sense for your needs, and get searching. Don’t just pick up any old notebook you come across at the store.
Prioritize one that’s suited to your persona or activity, and preferably, keep our environment in mind by choosing an eco-friendly notebook made of recycled paper pages. The more thought you put into your choice, the greater the chance you’ll stick with using your notebook as an organizational tool.
Next, choose your organizational format.
Whether you’re using a blank notebook as a way to manage a team that you supervise, to keep track of your own work-life, or as a blend of personal and work-life organization, you’ll want to choose a format that makes sense for you. One of the great things about choosing a blank notebook is that you’re not committed to one method of organization. Play around with these options until you find one that resonates with your needs.
Organizing your notebook into boxes, much like a desktop calendar, can be a viable option. One of the benefits of using a blank notebook is that you can make boxes larger on busy weeks, and smaller on other weeks. You may choose to place boxes for an entire week over two blank pages or spread out your week even more if necessary.
Prefer long expanses of blank spaces, allowing you to continually add to daily lists? Vertical columns may make the most sense for you. You can break down your day by the hour if necessary, or simply put tasks in order of importance.
Page per day
For many busy professionals, to-do lists are never-ending, and it can be helpful to have a full-page per day. With this method, many professionals prefer to separate their tasks into three categories: must complete today, must complete this week, and ongoing tasks.
Your next step: start brainstorming your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
It can be tough to come up with everything you need to do in a day, week, or month. Having several brainstorming or mind mapping sessions to begin to fill out your planner can be helpful to start your personalized organization process. It’s normal to get excited about a new organizational format and want to complete your weekly and monthly task lists right away, but you’re likely to forget something in an effort to get it all done at once.
Don’t just let your planner get bogged down with the things that you have to do — also include the things that you want to do. Whether that’s spending more time with family, working on your health, or getting out of the office at a reasonable time, your planner is a great place to track and record progress toward your personal and professional goals. When you get organized, you’re likely to find some hidden pockets of free time that you can put toward a more fulfilling life.
Make a weekly date with yourself — and stick to it.
Organizing your work and personal tasks isn’t a one time project. You’ll need to keep coming back to your planner week after week. Set a time each week (many people prefer Sunday afternoon) to take a look at the week ahead, add tasks, and remove items that no longer apply. Don’t forget — record your planning date in your planner, and think of it as an appointment you can’t miss.
Trial and error is everything — keep what works, change what doesn’t.
When you’re testing out new methods of getting organized, it will take some time to get it right. Don’t beat yourself up when something doesn’t work as well as you thought — that’s what the freedom of using a blank notebook for the organization is all about. Simply change to a new format, try again, and reevaluate after you’ve had some time to discover what methods work best for you.