Writing Wednesday: How To Use Your Planner with a Notebook

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Planner with Habana 2

Today’s post fits in with several of our ongoing series here on Quo Vadis blog: the Using Planners series which helps give you ideas for ways to effectively use your planner; the Tool Box series which arms you with lots of time management tools; and our new Page Per Day Challenge series, where we will write a page for every day in 2016.

Specifically, today I’ll show you ways to use a notebook (any notebook) along with your planner (any planner) to better plan your day, take notes, record observations, and anything else you need to capture each day.

Several years ago I had heard of people using a notebook along with a planner, but couldn’t figure out what they could be writing in it. I understood the need for a notebook for meeting or class notes of course, but as a day to day tool I just didn’t get it.

Then two years ago I started using a notebook every day along with my planner, and have been every day since. I started off using the Bullet Journal method but quickly adapted it to my needs, streamlined the process and simplified it to make it easier for me to find my notes and daily records.

I’ll show you how I use my notebook along with my planner, hopefully it will give you some ideas but please adapt it to your own needs. There are infinite ways to use a notebook, and one size does not fit all.

First I start by looking at my day in my planner. I prefer a timed vertical format, as shown here in the Septanote (academic year) or Trinote (Jan-dec). The Minister weekly planner and Academic Minister also have timed vertical days. (Click on photos for a larger view.)

Column cropped


But you could do the same with a horizontal format like the Space 24:

Space 24 day

Or with an open format like the Scholar (academic year) or Hebdo Planning (same format, January-December):

Scholar day

I start a new page in my notebook each day. It’s best if I do this the evening before, so I hit the ground running in the morning. Or you can do it first thing in the morning, to plan your day. (This is a Habana notebook in the 6 1/4 by 9 1/4 inch size, which is the same size as the Minister, Space 24 and Scholar planners, making these especially pleasant to use together.) At the top of the page I write the day and date, and leave some space to note important events of the day and the weather.

Habana startI start by writing ONLY what I MUST do today. Nothing extraneous or optional. I write my scheduled events, and any tasks that absolutely must be done today. When I’ve completed those, I check my weekly lists to see what else I can fit in today.

As the day goes on I make notes, record wildlife observations, write about my kids, note things to follow up on, whatever else comes my way during the day. You can see I note things I need to bring along to appointments, results, meals, etc.

Habana filled in

At the end of the day, my page becomes an excellent record of my day.

Because I go through several notebooks in a year using a page (or more) every day, I keep a list in the back of my planner of the dates when I used each notebook.

2015-09-09 2015-09-09 001 001

Another way to use a notebook is as a satellite to your larger planner, if you prefer to leave it at home or work. (This is another Habana, this time in the 4 by 6 3/8 inch pocket size.)

Planner with pocket Habana

You can use your small notebook as a capture device, then when you get back to your planner you can fill in any dates. Be sure to synchronize them often so nothing slips through the cracks.

However you use your notebook, be sure to date your entries. You can cross-reference your planner with your notebook to expand on ideas, notes, sketches, charts etc.

Do you use a notebook along with your planner? What are your tips for using them together?

17 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: How To Use Your Planner with a Notebook

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This post is what I’ve been waiting for! I’ve used a bullet journal in some format since March, but have used a traditional planner my entire life. I’ve wanted to combine the two somehow, but felt I was being redundant or wasteful. I really loved with my bullet journal set up to be able to do throughout the day journaling (more personal than professional reasoning). So thank you for the “permission” because I guess that was all I was waiting for. Thank you thank you thank you again!

  2. This is what I’m basically doing right now! I recently tried doing BulletJournal in my TextAgenda to replace having a planner AND a notebook, but that didn’t work for me, because I need the monthly & weekly format for future planning. So now I’m using a monthly/weekly planner for date planning, and a BulletJournal for daily task management, notes, observations, lists, etc. It works pretty well, though for January I think I’ll try a Minister for the planner.

    • Stephanie I think you’re smart to keep a separate planner. I see people online all the time who are frustrated trying to make their Bullet Journal into a planner. There are ways to do it (lots of hand drawing weeks or sticking in printed pages), but the Bullet Journal system was not originally intended to be used as a planner. I heard a podcast awhile back where the creator Ryder Carroll explained it. He uses the month overviews to help him review what’s going and what happened in the month, but for planning he uses Google Calendar. I’ve found the system works more effectively with a separate designated calendar than trying to plan ahead in the Bullet Journal itself.

      • I wish I’d heard that interview–It took me a lot of frustration to get there myself, unfortunately! I finally realized that I didn’t have to force Bullet Journal to be the be-all-and-end-all of my planning. It’s flexible enough to be effective however I need to use it. 😀 Glad I finally figured it out! It’s made me more efficient this way!

      • The drawing of the monthly and weekly set ups was what turned me off from bullet journaling. But thanks to this post, I know how I can combine them and be less torn.

  3. I am LOVING my Scholar with a notebook. The Scholar stays on my desk at work and the notebook goes with me everywhere. I finally figured out how to make the anno-planner work for me (my brain doesn’t work that way… it took some time), so I tucked the monthly calendar into the back pocket of my notebook. I still need a monthly view and I just can’t run around without some kind of calendar. I’m in an A5 Leuchtturm1917 right now, but I’ll definitely check out the smaller Habana. Very helpful post, thank you!

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