My experiences with just 2 forms

As a long-term DIY Planner user, I've discovered that I really need just two of the templates for most of my needs (ToDo, Waiting For - both from the core package). Read my short summary here:

What your the maximum number of different templates / forms that you actually put into use?

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I'm still working on it, but I have these so far:

* Dated Schedule card - on the front, the date and slots for the hours of the day. Also an area for repetitive reminders that are pre-printed on the card (birthdays, holidays, standard actions). I use a mail-merge to generate this. On the back side, a "Task Plan" which is a four-column list. One column is checkboxes, the next is Priority, then the task name, and finally a time estimate column. Each morning of the work week, I list out the items that are on my agenda for the day, estimate how long they'll take, determine priority, then transfer them to the schedule on the reverse to 'make an appointment' to do each item. Then I track my adherence to the plan with notes on the schedule.

I know David Allen says you shouldn't put to-dos on your calendar, but I find that making an appointment to do certain tasks helps to make sure they actually get done on the day I intended for them. This is more the "Julie Morgenstern" method, and it helps me get over my procrastination. When I plan my day, I take all the actions that won't fit into the time alotted and stuff them into the next day or two's pockets so I'll revisit them later. This way I don't have to look at or think about a giant daunting list of stuff I couldn't possibly get to today, but it's still recorded and tracked so I won't forget about it.

* Do It card. A simple index card with checkboxes and lines running in the landscape direction on both sides. For to-do lists, especially project-related actions and stuff that comes at me ad-hoc.

* Be There card. For identifying meetings and appointments--things where my presence is required on a specific date/time. This card is neon yellow so it's easy to spot. Contains the name of the meeting, date/time, location, and agenda items. During the meeting I take notes on this card also, so the topics discussed and conclusions are all on that meeting card also. If I have more notes, then I overflow onto a "Note to Self" card.

* Note to Self card. For stuff that isn't necessarily actions. Just lines on both sides of an index card. There's room on the header bar to indicate the topic of the card.

* Voicemail card. For writing down the contents of the messages folks leave on my voicemail and track whether I've dealt with the issue or not. Spot for date/time the message was left, who left it, the callback number, the message, and a checkbox for whether it's done. There are spots for 3 messages on each side of the card (I don't get that many voicemails each day). At the top of the card I note the date/time I picked up the messages.

* Blank card. For drawing designs for something I want to build, or brainstorming, or just writing down something that doesn't really fit one of the other forms. It's the equivalent of a sticky note, just not sticky.

I also use a one-page-per-month Classic size calendar (calendar on the front, 'to do this month' on the back).

I created all of these forms myself from the widget kit. I like my index cards in landscape format because I don't like to abbreviate. :) And I seem to have fairly short lists most of the time. In my previous system (an index card box) it was one card = one task, so this business of cramming more stuff onto a card is new for me. Still not entirely sure I like it yet. :)

I have a few pre-printed cards for certain reminders: stuff I do daily or weekly or monthly. They're just prewritten lists on a card with no lines or checkboxes, basically.

Anyway, I'm with you on keeping the number of forms low--but I do find that having the right tool for the job makes me much happier with the task. The voicemail card is a specific example of this. I used to write them on plain old ruled index cards, or on the preprinted 'calls' section of classic day pages, and I was never quite happy with it. It required extra 'looking' to figure out what needed to happen with each message. Now I've made myself a specialty form just for that task and just looking at the form gives me a happy, in-control feeling. It's kind of silly, but it's the right tool for the job. You don't use a pencil to write a check, and you don't use a ruler when you need a paperclip. It just works better. The Be There card is the same--I can use it for hair and doc appointments as well as meetings, it's highly visible, and I can take brief notes on the same card so they are portable and yet linked to the date/time and topic of the meeting. Tailored to the task.




that's an interesting walkthough of your reliable system! I was experimenting a while with "unplugged" (paper) calendars, too. However, I really depend on alerts, because it makes me feel uncomfortable to work in a "flow" state of mind and maybe miss an appointment... Now I'm using the Lightning extension to the Thunderbird mail client for that, and I'm satisfied with it. I found that I don't need a paper calendar because generally, when I am offline then I am on my way to an appointment and I'm not likely to forget that. ;-) Of course, you can put "Be There" cards into your 43 folders, that's a nice advantage.

There is no dedicated "Voicemail" card for me, I keep everything in my "blank paper sheets inbox" and transfer it into the right place (ToDo/Waiting For, depending on what I need to do) as soon as I have a spare minute; quite handy if I get caught by a call and don't have the time to pick the right form ;-). How do you handle email that has similar content ("How about a meeting...")?

I'm curious what you use the "Note to Self" cards for? Are they reference material? Maybe/Sometimes items? Or do you use them as generic inbox?


Alerts & Note to Self


I use alerts too--all of my meetings are in outlook and it reminds me at a couple of different intervals before each meeting. But I've had long stretches where my email wasn't working (due to server problems at work), so I have this as a backup.

As far as folks asking for a meeting in an email, well, they are usually folks who send me a meeting notice in Outlook. If not, then I go to my outlook calendar, create the meeting in my calendar, then fill out the yellow Be There card and stuff it in my planner. If I can't do that right away, then I flag the email for follow up so I don't forget to deal with it. I might even set a reminder if it's really urgent.

The Note to Self cards are for whatever. Overflow meeting notes, reminders for myself that I need to go to the plant tomorrow instead of working from home, phone messages I take for DH, random thoughts.. I could just use plain ruled index cards, but the note to self card is just prettier. :) It's also ruled narrower than a standard off the shelf ruled card.

Ack! I forgot a card! It's the Buy It card. For shopping lists. It's got the word "Where" in the header as well as the card title, so I write which kind of store in the top right, then the list of stuff to buy below.

I should note that I've put cutesy little icons in the titles of my cards. Buy It has a sack of money, Be There has a clock, Note to Self has little decorative swirls (all of these are from the standard Wingdings and Webdings fonts). I need to find an icon for the Voicemail card. Forgot to stick a phone on there. :)

I tried a few other cards, like a generic "What/Where/When" card, but I wasn't entirely happy with it. The idea was that there was white space between each of the words, so "What" might be 'meeting' and "Where" could be 'Joe's Diner'..etc. I might go back to that if I work a little harder on the formatting so there's more room and less title.. Note to Self was a revision of this idea, but I'm chafing on that one too.


Cards I Use

When I first adopted the Hipster, I was enamored with so many of the cards. However, in my daily usage I have found just a few cards to be necessary.

Agenda - This is my favorite. Since I have several people with whom I need to meet, I use the agenda card as the list of discussion items. I printed the "Note" template on the back of this card to record decisions and assignments made.

Project - When a task requires multiple steps I like to brainstorm on the front side of this card. I print the "Actions" template on the back of this card so I can record the very next physical action to be taken.

To Do - I like the double-spaced version so I can write large. I carry a half dozen of these sorted by context, i.e. @ computer, call list, emails to send, etc.

Mind Map - I have diddled around with this one quite a bit. I like the map, but I also like to incorporate some kind of "Action" plan on the back. For a while I printed the "Note" template on the reverse side, then the "actions" template. Now I just leave the other side blank.

Notes - Again, I like the wide ruled card so I can write large. I don't use these very often anymore, but probably will start again once my "pocket briefcase" from Levenger arrives.

Blank Cards - I keep a good supply of these handy for those times I don't want to think of a context, and I need to capture a thought quickly. I've also gotten into the practice of making mini table tents out of blank cards to serve as reminders to myself, e.g. "reminder: garbage day today". Its a cool trick for me.