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How do you plan your days? What journal or agenda is the best to increase productivity?

Personal organization is as critical for success as the workplace organization is.  Being organized helps improve time management, which increases productivity.  There are so many electronic and hard-copy planners and agendas on the market to help you to organize your tasks and meetings, that it is easy to be confused.  I goggle planners, and I got 520 million results!  There are generic planners, customized, different sizes, colors, and formats.  They can be daily, weekly, or monthly.  Some are specific for projects, marketing, blogging, personal items, academics, and others.  Journals, agendas, or planners need to work for you if you work fine with any of those on the market fine, but if not, this article is for you.

Through the years, I used almost every planner or journal on the market while looking for my perfect match. I needed a system to plan, execute, and follow-up on my personal and business goals and projects.  I hated those planners with tight formats.  They pretend that every day, week, and month are the same!  You have plenty of space to write every task, meeting, and activity to the hour, but little to no space to write your thoughts or ideas.  You either end with a bunch of empty lines (which is waste) or give up on your attempt to organize your life.  The third option is to persevere, observe, learn, and design the system that works for you.  That is what I did.

Years ago, I learned about the Bullet Journal Method, created by Ryder Carroll.  His book, The Bullet Journal Method:  Track the Past, order the present, design the future, is an international best-seller.   The official web page describes the method as the mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. For me, the best part was that finally, I had a tool that I can customize my way, that gave me total control of what I want to include, or not, how many pages I want or need for this week, or even be creative and write quotes, make drawings, or put a fun sticker here and there.  I could use the very formal, very bore classic black ink or as many colors as I want.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, I have been experimenting with different formats for years.  My goal is to have a planner-journal to keep me organized, productive, and mentally sane.  I managed to combine my entire self in one book, my personal life with bills payment included along with my business goals tasks and projects.  I have a very colorful, organized, and informative book that is as diverse as I am.  It works because I created a process to work with it, a standard that, if I follow, is effective to guide me through my days and help to plan, execute, follow-up, study, and redesign my tasks, projects, and goals from dream to accomplishment.

I start with my goals divided by quarters or by months.  That is my baseline for projects and other activities because it ensures alignment between goals and tasks.  Every month I listed my tasks, events, confirmed projects or contracts, personal appointments, and others.  Some of these goals come from my business plan and others from projects.  I allocated each entry within a specific week of the month.  At the beginning of every week, I will revise the corresponding list to add or delete items.  I decide which weekday I will work on each of those items.  Be realistic about the number of tasks you assign for a day, count with interruptions, unexpected meetings or phone calls, and things that don’t go as planned.  I found that my weekly tasks list is no more than six items, one for each day plus one, just in case I can get ahead.

You can create your system and design your agenda too.  Start with a plain, cheap school notebook, and draw whatever you want your agenda to be.  If you don’t like it, tomorrow create something else.  It took me years to get to a point where I feel good with what I have, but as a CI student and practitioner, I know that I will change it sooner or later.  The best planner or agenda, it the one that works for you! Do not give up, keep trying until you find the right one.

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