The Paper Path

We're not going to get into the whole cliché about how we're all different. Let's just say that the instructions and templates provided in these files are a starting point to implement a highly-customisable do-it-yourself planner system, based primarily on Getting Things Done, but flexible enough for almost any methodology. Yes, you heard me right: a planner, with actual paper (5.5"x8.5" or A5 paper, to be specific).

At this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Why are these people even advocating using paper in today's day and age: what with Palms, PocketPCs, TabletPCs, super-cell phones, groupware, wikis, Personal Information Managers such as Outlook, and every other digital data manipulation tool out there?"

Well, while paper-based planners certainly aren't for everybody, there are plenty of reasons to consider one.

  • You miss the quality experience of writing using paper and pen, as well as the additional focus it lends you.

  • You find it far easier to write down your thoughts or notes on paper, rather than struggling with PDA hand-writing recognition, or typing while others are trying to talk.

  • You can't afford a portable digital organiser (such as a Palm or a laptop), or feel that it lacks a personal connection to you and your work.

  • You haven't come across a good digital workflow for getting your notes, your calendar, your contacts, your to-do's, and everything else to work seamlessly and intuitively for everything you do.

  • You're an endless tweaker, and often spend so much time tinkering with "productive technologies" that you actually get nothing done.

  • You're an organisational geek who thinks Day Runners/Timers/etc were created by the gods, fountain pens are fit for worship, and the toting of leather-bound collections of cool templates instills you with a profound sense of empowerment.

  • You're a disaffected techie who seeks to escape from the digital realm once in a while, and would even prefer stone-hewn tools to facing another machine. (How many viruses or spyware programs have you been forced to eradicate from your clients' machines today?)

  • You find that the creative and technical halves of your brain don't always function as a team, and that handling technical work via a computer while using paper for creative work is one way to make peace between the two hemispheres, therefore increasing your effectiveness in both areas.

  • You're an organisational junkie constantly searching for new systems to explore.

  • You're 'old-fashioned'.

  • Further thoughts on this topic can be found on the designer's blog, especially the entry "Paper? Ain't that extinct?"

So if you fall within one of these categories (the designer has been all of these, at some point in time in the past), you might consider giving pen-and-paper planners a try. To give you a head-start, this handbook will help you build your own do-it-yourself planner, using a set of forms (or templates) to organize your thoughts for most organisational activities.

Few needs are similar, and the approach must necessarily vary. For example, you have very little financial work to be concerned with, but often have a full slate of project planning and management tasks to perform. Or you may be a project manager or account needing to keep track of every number. You may have very few appointments on your calendar, instead having very hefty to-do lists, or every moment of your day could be tied up in meetings. We've tried to consider as many circumstances as we could, but there is only so much we can do with limited time and resources.

This document is filled with random thoughts, vague ideas, potentially dangerous procedures (you may lose a finger or two), seeming contradictions, and perhaps even some functional and practical advice. This is not meant as a user-friendly be-all-end-all guide to implementing a planner system. It's a starting point to help guide you in one of many possible directions. (One of which could actually be the right one for you. Or perhaps not.)

We encourage feedback. Don't be afraid of letting us know what you think, or sending along any ideas for these or other templates. The designer, Douglas Johnston, can be reached via his contact form.


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